Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Cleaning the Bathroom

I had a list of things I wanted to do this summer.  I don't love "to do" lists.  Mostly they happen when I have too much to do and can't keep track of it mentally.  And I prefer my life to be so simple I can actually keep track of what needs to get done in my head.  (Except what I put on google calendar.  Obviously, I love google calendar.)

But this summer, with the kids finally getting older (Chana asked me why we haven't done homeschool trips in years, when so much of her elementary school education was done via trips, and I said, "I haven't been able to leave the house without losing my mind in the last eight years.") and me having free time, things I wanted to do kept occurring to me until I finally started keeping a list.  It is a delicious list, though.  It's a list of things *I* want to do.  Not as a mom, or a person in charge of a household.  But as a creative, intellectual human being who wants to stretch.  (Or merely as a person with some spare time.  For example: "bring broken necklace and bracelet to jewelry store to be fixed.")

One thing I didn't put on the list but did come about because of this new phase of life is that I ended up training the boys to clean the urine from around the toilet.  Their ages are 10 (adhd), 7.5 ,and 6 (mature).  Turns out it is the perfect time of life for these particular children to learn this skill.

Ages ago, before I had any sons, a friend of mine mentioned that the urine gets intense in the bathroom and that she had to clean it regularly.  So when the boys started using the bathroom, I duly got spray and kept it nearby and wiped up regularly, grateful for the heads up.  Instead of lamenting that life was this way, which I undoubtedly would have done without the warning, I just accepted that this was how things were, and handled it.  Whenever I came in to use the bathroom and it smelled like urine, a quick swish and swipe and everything is great.

At the beginning of the summer, I went in and smelled urine, and thought to myself, "Why am I doing this?  They are all capable."  I decided then and there to train each one of them.  I pulled Elazar in and taught him.  And then the other two, the next two times.

Get spray bottle and rag from cabinet.  Spray around toilet, including front and including walls.  Wipe with rag, especially near bolt caps.  Return rag and spray to cabinet.

And now, whenever I go into the bathroom and it needs a swish and swipe, I call one of them in.  So far they've done it about five times and I'm still supervising them.  I think one more time and Elazar can do it himself without supervision, and Aharon is not too far behind.

One of my friends (who also has three boys) told me that when she toilet trained her boys, she taught them to check for pee on seat and floor and wipe it up with provided baby wipes.  Another friend told me that her husband was taught to always put the toilet seat down after he wiped around the toilet bowl with toilet paper, and he modeled that for their two boys.  Perhaps one day we will move on to some of that.  For now, I'm delighted that when I ask one of the boys to clean around the toilet, they do so.




unschooling summer 2017

It's been a while since I posted.  I guess unschooling is doing its deep work.  (That's code word for I can't think of anything we've been doing that resembles classic schoolwork.)  Chana introduced Elazar (and therefore Jack) to Animal Crossing, which is an amazing game with a small town.  You build a house, you make money, you speak to the villagers.  Their talk sounds like mumbling and you have to read everything, and you write letters and respond to them, so they are using literacy.  I am still asked to help with spelling numerous times a day and Chana asks me lots of history questions and philosophy and literature and vocabulary and science.  (Oh, yeah.  I'm supposed to look up the causes of and the end of the great depression.  I already sent her an article explaining how scientists discovered that electrons behave differently when they are being observed vs. not being observed.)

Aharon (age 6) is in camp and enjoying parsha and davening.  He wants me to daven with him, but then I don't do it exactly like he does in camp and he screams.  He came home from camp with kriah sheets that are Hebrew letters saying English sentences, which is a cute idea.  I'm torn about it.  On one hand, it helps the children with reading comprehension and is fun to figure out.  On the other hand, I'm a purist and feel like it's better to read Hebrew words in Hebrew and get a sense of the language that way.  (I'm such a homeschooler--I have an opinion on the minutiae of education even when I don't even use either of those approaches with my own children.)  I put the sheets on the fridge with a magnet in case any of the boys wants to play with them.

Chana and I have made no progress in the expensive chemistry set I bought her.  I did go so far as to send her a list of experiments, of which she chose one, and then I read the lab on it.  Since we haven't opened the box, I don't know what the items or, what they look like, how to use them, etc.  If you know me, you know I hate science experiments and I finally had to embrace that part of my homeschooling personality and admit science experiments are not my bag.  And having an expensive chemistry set is like upping my game at admitting I hate doing science experiments.

We are reading Pride & Prejudice together.  She reads it out loud to me in a British accent and her Mr. Collins has me convulsing with laughter.  It's everything I dreamed about High School Literature: actually reading the book, discussing it as we go: character, plot, themes, turns of phrase, foreshadowing, symbolism.  And enjoying the book.

And we take long walks on the beach together.  I'm really focusing on not having any agenda for our time together.  The teenage years are extraordinarily tricky.  I feel like in a lot of ways I spent ages 12-15 putting out fires and worrying excessively about "issues" and wanting her to "understand" things and desperately hoping to impart my wisdom to her.  I'm carefully refraining from that now.  I just want us to enjoy spending time together.  I read Parent/Teen Breakthrough: the Relationship Approach last year and it said that things are really extremely simple: In each interaction, ask myself if my behavior/reaction will improve my relationship with my teenager or deteriorate my relationship with my teenager.

And in all the things I worry about her being able to handle and manage?  If it affects me, bring it up (in a way that will not deteriorate our relationship, of course).  And if it doesn't affect me, it's none of my business.  The entire rest of the book was to explain how to do this, because honestly, some of it sounded like a foreign language to me.  Sof kol sof, it is the most useful and wisest book on raising teenagers I've read so far.

I've mostly given up trying to convince Chana to learn Bio with me.  It's like every unschooling move I've made over the years.  Why do I keep going more and more towards unschooling?  Because Chana told me, over and over, in all sorts of different ways, that she doesn't like to learn that way.  She told me that she doesn't like to sit down and read from a textbook.  She does LOVE when something catches her attention and then she hunts down information about it and videos that show and explain it.  And then talking about it and explaining to to people, and then researching their questions and finding answers, and talking to more people about it.  That is a dynamic and organic and interactive and social way of learning.  And it feels completely different and more exciting and more relevant than learning from a text.

In the same way, she learned to read by wrestling with texts she was interested in reading.  Or learned bits of math because they caught her attention (probably her most favorite homeschooling lesson ever was when her father taught her binary one Friday night ad hoc during family snuggle.  And one of the oddest math things she ever did was teach herself how to divide polynomials at 3am to help some stranger online with math homework).  And how she delves deeply into philosophy and Social Studies because of conversations she has with people. I now have to trust that when different things in Science catch her attention, she will pursue them.

All that was supposed to be a short introduction to what I came here to write today!  I got distracted talking about unschooling high school.

Friday, June 16, 2017

4am fractions

Kiisu (that's Chana's Japanese name, which we have taken to using) took the CAT test this week.  As per homeschool regulations, 7-12 graders in our state have to be tested every year.

In my facebook memories from 2011, there was a post about testing reminding me why I unschool.

This year we were armed with a 504 and extra time.  (I don't know how to make this happen in homeschool.  It is only because she needed it for her 2 classes in yeshiva that she got this accommodation, which gives her extra time for testing, and since last time she took the timed CAT test she was unable to complete it in the alloted time, I applied it).  So when she needed up to double the time for reading comprehension because her preferred method is to read something slowly four times, she had it.

The Math sections drove her nuts a little.  The math was all things she's done and forgotten long ago.  Long division.  Fractions and decimals.  I'm pretty sure she got the required 33rd percentile but she was frustrated to tears.

To "study," we had reviewed some basic fraction-decimal-percentage facts.  She quickly remembered most of how to work with fractions with the reminder.  Some things she remembered the mechanics, but didn't "get."  The next day, she asked her friend (who is a homeschool high school senior and also tutors her in ACT math every week), who explained it to her.  But then the next day on the next section, when she encountered some conversion problems, she again struggled.

Last night I was awake in the middle of the night and Kiisu and I ended up hanging out for a bunch of hours until the sun rose.  (Yay for random insomnia and nocturnal teens.)

We were talking about converting fractions into decimals and she was telling me how her friend told her to do it.  And she didn't remember learning it that way from me.

"Yeah, that's not how I do it," I said.  "I think my way is easier and makes more sense."  I explained how the fraction line means "to divide" (which she's heard me say a million times during algebra) and how you move the decimal place over.

"That's what I don't get," she said.

It was pitch dark, and we were just chatting desultorily about fractions to percents.  There was no purpose, no lesson, no point.  No pressure because we weren't trying to achieve anything.

"You know, maybe you never really wrapped your head around the whole fractions thing," I said.  "You didn't get it in 3rd or 4th grade and while eventually you did understand how to do it, I'm not sure you ever really spent a lot of time thinking about how it all worked conceptually."

But as I said that, I realized that she did understand fractions, pretty much.  "You know what might help you?" I said.  "Maybe you aren't really getting the relationship between fractions, decimals, and percents.  And I think it's because I left something out.  I never taught you this--and I think it will all make sense."

And I told her about something that I did in school in first grade when I was a kid.  And spent many hours on, in many of my elementary school years.  I had never taught it to her because it hadn't really come up.  (Not because I didn't have a cardboard hands-on flip number chart that taught it that she never wanted to play with and that I eventually konmaried, because I did.)  I taught her Place Value of numbers.  Hundreds, tens, and ones I barely had to teach her because they were so intuitive and it was clear exactly how that worked.  (See? We said to each other.  Kids spend hours doing that in school but when you are older it's quite simple and quick to grasp and makes perfect sense.)  Then I introduced her to tenths, hundredths, and thousandths.  And working with 50%, 0.5, and 1/2.  And tenths being actual 1/10ths.  And 0.25 being 25/100ths and also 1/4.  And 1 being a whole and 100%.

We were just playing around.  Talking about it because she was genuinely grappling with trying to understand conversions.

And when she understood it, it was so enjoyable for her.  She was absolutely delighted about how it all fit together and how it all made sense and how they were all talking about the same relationships.

I looked at the clock.  "It's 4:30am," I said.  "We've spent a half hour in the middle of the night learning math for fun."

Then she told me about how her friend was teaching her derivatives and how interesting it was.

Unschooling math looks really different than how I thought math would go.  It's a process of learning to trust and learning to let go.  I thought that since she loves math, she would learn geometry, learn trig.  Instead, she loves fiddling with math.  

I have so many things that I want to teach my children, that I want to share with them, that I want to give them.  But so often trying to do that causes friction, conflict, and stress.
And it's amazing what happens when you make space for what they want to learn and follow their lead.




Tuesday, May 30, 2017

the day finally arrived

I was davening shemona esrei and Aharon was calling me and calling me, getting more and more urgent.  Eventually he came into the room and saw me.  He didn't scream.  He didn't yank on my clothes or try to pull me.  He realized I was davening and quietly said, "Aw," and walked away.

He'll be 6 in a few days.

He is finally mature enough not to interrupt my tefila.

He wanted help spelling the word "simulator."  He wasn't sure what came after s-i-m.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Plans vs Reality

Now that I'm unschooling, I don't really make educational plans.  But I do recall the first year that I was homeschooling two children simultaneously (1st and 6th grade, I think) and I actually made a weekly schedule, complete with blocks of times dedicated to different subjects.  I even had Mishna on the schedule, which I never quite ended up learning at all with my oldest daughter.  Not once.  Boy do I laugh when I think about my grand plans.



Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Hippocratic Oath for teaching Torah

This morning I read this:



Prof. Nechama Leibowitz z"l once asked a group of senior Jewish educators in her living room/ study space in her home (of course, in Hebrew!): "What is the goal of teaching Tanach?"
As she called on one principal/ head of Jewish studies after another, she rejected each of their proposals: 
"To learn the mitzvot," "LO!"  
"To learn Jewish history," "LO!" 
"To learn ethical behavior," "LO!"
"To learn about our forefathers," "LO!"

Exasperated, she finally said: "The goal of teaching Tanach is that the child will not hate the Tanach."
In other words, "First, do no harm!"


Friday, May 12, 2017

Scraps of thoughts

I've been grouchy.  The kind of grouchy where I get snappy when the boys jump on top of me, instead of being glad that they are seeking contact and interaction.  They've also been fighting a. lot.  I don't know if they are fighting because I'm grouchy or I'm grouchy because they're fighting.

****

Elazar has expressed a couple of times that he's concerned that he won't be able to read by his bar mitzva.  I'm actually not that concerned about that.  (Just a smidge, in basic paranoid anxiety-ridden unschooling, but not really.)  But the second time I told him it won't take him that long to learn to read.  And I told him that I'm sure when he wants to, he will be able to.  But I feel like he was dissatisfied and I'm not sure what he's telling me and what he is looking for.

****

Jack asked a couple of times to start learning Torah.  He wants a siyum so he can get a big present. (That's how the girls earned their phones and computers.)(Not unschooling!  Using incentives!  Small inner conflict about which way is ideal!)  I keep saying, Sure, let's do it.  But then we don't.

****

I'm thinking that decisions such as whether or not to unschool or to teach formally.  Or whether or not to incline towards permissiveness or strictness.  Or whether or not to do xyz approach or abc approach.  None of those actually matter.

Oh, sure, they may affect things like what inclinations the child has--scientific, musical etc.  Interests or philosophy or way of looking at the world.  But in terms of the essence, in terms of will the child be well-adjusted and emotionally stable--it's beginning to seem to me that there is a lot of wiggle room and particular decisions don't matter as much as we might think.

****

I had a whole methodology for teaching Chumash: start with speaking Hebrew.  Then, when they learn to read, do the R' Winder books for a few years.  Then, start Chumash when they have basic vocab and prefixes and suffixes.  That's what I used for the girls and it was great.  But it doesn't seem to be going that way with the boys.  I used three different methods for teaching them to read, so doesn't it make sense that they will learn Torah differently?  It's wrenching to be flexible.  I think, at heart, that I love structure.

****

You put your heart and soul into your kids and you care about how they turn out.  Then they become teenagers and it turns out that caring how they turn out is counterproductive and causes conflict.  Because they are individuals fighting to be their own people.  Especially not what their parents want them to be.  So you have to adjust to parenting and putting your heart and soul into it but not being invested in the outcome.  Like all of life, I suppose.  You do hishtadlus but the outcome is not in human control.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Figuring out summer plans

Chana's schedule was a bit much for her this year, and she's looking forward to a quieter summer.  We discussed whether or not she would want to spend some more time on her math (studying for ACTs), and if she would focus more on the Bio book that she enjoys but often isn't in the mood to do.

She said she'd really like to focus more heavily on Chemistry.  I came across this blog post and requested the All Lab, No Lecture book on Chemistry (perfect for a kinesthetic learner, I hope) and here is the kit that goes along with it, that I haven't purchased.  I also requested The Disappearing Spoon from the library.

We'll see if she ends up pursuing this.  If she reads the beginning of the lab book and wants the chemistry kit, we'll do that.

Friday, April 28, 2017

adjusting to the parental role in unschooling

As I was making myself cappuccino this morning,* I pondered the excellence of my education.  I was particularly thinking about how much halacha I learned in high school.  I'm on a halacha group, and very often I know the answers to questions because of the halacha I learned in high school.

I wondered if I am depriving my children of this education.  (I wonder this despite sending my oldest to a high school that was pretty similar to the one I went to, albeit not putting her in the honors Hebrew classes because I didn't want her under that stress and because in 8th grade she didn't have a love for learning that would carry her through hours upon hours of intensive skills work.  So this is not even specifically a homeschooling question, it turns out.)  I wonder if they are going to be "missing out" by not having the details of halacha tripping off their tongue.  I wonder this as my two youngest have a picnic with the neighbor children, which they set up and cleaned up themselves, and my oldest son gets sick of the computer after three hours and is trying to figure out the best way to get some fluff out of the spring of a broken hinge.  And I wonder this despite the fact that my son asked me this morning a theoretical question displaying an involvement in the sugya of "amira l'akum" that I don't see that often.

I chose to homeschool, I often joke with my daughter, because I am an "educational control freak."  I had fantasies of passing on the tremendous repositories of knowledge and information that I have to my eager children.

The reality is much different.  Yes, I am an educational control freak, but most of my education consists of "First, do no harm" (something I can barely manage) and of not teaching them.  Not teaching nonsense, not having them spend hours on "academic" activities when they can be playing or exploring or experimenting or following the whims of their curiosity.

One of the bigger adjustments I've had to make in homeschooling is part of the reason why I had a hard time getting rid of old books my children never read or materials they never play with or experiments they never want to do.  The idea that it is important to have space--to make space in our lives for them to fill with whatever--and that "whatever" will be wonderful and meaningful and expand their horizons and delight them.  This idea competes constantly with clutter from my youth or even the present that was so meaningful to me that I yearn to give them, to hand it over the precious gift it was to me--so that they can reap the benefits it gave to my life.

But they don't want it.  They don't want my gifts, my talents, my knowledge, my information.  They want to march their own way, explore their own environment, to discover their own magic.  They come to me with questions and I have a few precious seconds to give them dribbles and drabs of pieces of the giant gift I have for them: the sum total of my life experience that I want to wrap up with a ribbon and give to them, but which they only want a sprinkle of if it can be a bit useful in whatever they are working on.

I certainly shrugged off my fair share of my own mother's knowledge and experience (and, she will tell you, I continue to do so--the most recent example being that I still don't have my crockpot on a timer for Shabbos).

It's been and continues to be an adjustment that self-directed education means that the knowledge I have to impart is only the harmony to what they are learning, and only if they request it.  Maybe it's even the background music, giving richness and grandeur and depth and framework.  But the main music is what they make themselves.







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*Yes, my youngest is 5, and I finally have time to spend the indulgent six minutes it takes to make myself coffee, and perhaps even the 15 minutes to drink it while hot.

Monday, April 24, 2017

unschooling reading and writing

It's really amazing how it works.  Aharon (age 5) wants me to sit next to him pretty much all day long so that he can ask me how to spell things.  All so that he can either play games online (he loves Roblox) or look up things on google.  This morning he woke me up to get help writing "pizza."  It's months of him asking and asking and then, when he's independent (like Jack, age 7), he'll be able to write most of the words he wants to use and only ask me a few times a day, instead of every 5-10 minutes.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

To go see a whale or Not to go

A fellow homeschooler posted that there was a beached humpback whale on B' 118th street yesterday.  She posted a cool picture and I was trying to decide if I should go today or not.

It immediately presented itself as a basic conflict I have about homeschool.  On one hand, it could be a once in a lifetime experience.  On the other hand, they are perfectly happy watching Jeffy videos.  How much do I try to create a childhood with amazing experiences and how much do I trust that if I can refrain from abusing them, their childhood will be plenty magical because there just happen to be many wonderful experiences that come our way?

(PS I have this same conflict about homeschool materials.)

There is no substitute for seeing something in real life.  I waffled a bit but brought up my conflict to a friend who quickly urged me to go (as she herself, across the world, was at that exact moment going on a quirky graffiti tour in Tel Aviv).

I made myself a cappuccino, calculated how much time I had until it was time for me to go to work (3 hours), googled the drive (20 minutes), and asked all the boys if they wanted to go.  They all did.  I even woke up Chana to ask her (she told me to take pictures).  We hopped into the car.  After all, that's what homeschooling is all about, right?  The ability to spontaneously hop into the car and go check out a dead humpback whale beached on your home beach 20 minutes away.

When we got there, it was a bit disappointing.  The police were there and had set up blockades so we really could not see very well.  Jack took a picture (I wouldn't have bothered but here it is):

See the whale? Barely? Us, too.
I contemplated the frustration of not being allowed near the whale by bureaucracy, marine biology as a field, and moved on to thinking about and how frustrated I would be if I were a marine biologist and the public was standing only 3 feet away from me commenting on my work.

I also felt frustrated that this is the type of situation where the human drive for knowledge is so obvious, so blatant, and so thwarted.  People are fascinated.  They want to see.  They want firsthand experience.  But they are stuck behind barriers.  (Not saying there aren't good reasons for this, just saying it's frustrating.)

The kids pet some dogs, played in the sand, and got a rousing game of ball going with some other kids there (#howDoHomeschoolersSocialize)

On the way home, Jack asked me to sing Ma Nishtana.  He happened to see the Maccabeats new video on facebook and had me play it for him yesterday.  Then last night he wanted me to sing it.  And then today.  The kids all caught the words "kulana mesubin" and started laughing.  I asked them if they know what it means, and they didn't.  And I told them leaning.  Jack noted that Elazar does eat leaning sometimes.  I said that the song says on all other nights we eat both ways, leaning and not leaning.  But on Pesach we all lean.  Elazar said: Hey, like kings!  I said yes.  He was thrilled that he realized the intent of the leaning.  We talked a bit about other things we do that are king-like at the Seder.

So did this end up being the once in a lifetime experience I was so nervous about not availing to my kids?  Nope.  Was it a pleasant interlude?  Yep.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Just google it, Mommy

Aharon (5) has been asking me to google things recently.  How many children are there in the world under age 3?  Why is sugar bad? (I don't think sugar is bad; luckily, the internet highlighted search suggested that what is "bad" is that it is a problem for diabetics, which is what I had told him)



Just now he asked me to search "How could Hashem see Moshe."  I asked him if he wants to know because Hashem has no eyes.  Yes.  I said that Hashem doesn't see Moshe, He knows what Moshe is doing.

Then he asked me to google How long it took Hashem to make the world.  I tried to tell him that I don't need to google this; I can just tell him.  He was quite insistent that I google it.  I said but I know what the Torah says.  The Torah says six days.  He was quite surprised.  I said but a day is not a day, it's a span of time.  I then googled "How old is the universe" and got


and I said that the billions of years it took for a molecule to turn into a planet etc. is called "one day."

Then he asked me to google "Why Hashem created the world" and I said we don't know why because Hashem doesn't need anything.  And he said I should just check.  And I finally said Ramchal says it's to give us good things.

Then he and Jack spoke a bit about keeping Shabbos because Hashem made the world to give us good things.  (Not quite sure of the conceptual leap there.)

And then he said, "Right I kept Shabbos when I was a baby and didn't do anything?" and I said I guess so.

I just searched it for him ("why did hashem create the world").  He was not moved by: "The most we can do, as the Abarbanel points out, is work backwards; now the world is created, what is our role and what does it look like its ..."

He did like Aish.com's teaser: "World of Love hashtag one Purpose of Creation"   and asked me to click through (Actually titled World of Love #1 - Purpose of Creation.)  When it wasn't a video, he lost interest.

As an aside, we had a HUGE thunderclap this morning and I recited the brachos for lightning and thunder.
Aharon asked if we make the brachos so that Hashem will protect us and we won't get hit by lightning.
I said no, we make the brachos so that we think about Hashem when we see and hear lightning and thunder.  The best way we avoid lightning is by lightning rods and not being out in lightning storms, especially with umbrellas.  And we talked a bit about how lightning rods work and about how lightning is attracted to metal and about grounding.  So a bit of science in there.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Playing the Loooooooong Game

I haven't written in a while.  Because we haven't been doing much.  I go to work.  I'm having a good year teaching with a nice bunch of girls.  The boys do what they do.  Mostly on the computer or their tablets all day.  Aharon does Roblux, Elazar plays a lot of Geometry Dash, and I'm not quite sure what Jack is doing.  They all three ask me how to spell things all day long, so I'm sure their literacy keeps improving.  I hope they learn how to read Hebrew soon so that I can type to them in Hebrew.  My husband and I went away for a couple of days and they all chatted me and I was pretty impressed with their written communication abilities.  And my mom (bless my parents for watching them and giving us a gift of a vacation!) said their arithmetic is fine.

I'm having thoughts/concerns/worries about their Judaic studies but they are still too young to really be concerned about it.  They definitely ask halacha questions and hashkafa questions.  Elazar asks for things and I offer to learn with him and give it to him as a siyum (gaming computer, cell phone, dinner at a five star restaurant) but so far he's not interested.*

*btw, offering a kid a reward for learning is NOT unschooling 

I was thinking this morning that there is something that is kind of amazingly wonderful about the idea that I feel pretty sure that Chana feels that IF she becomes interested in Advanced Calculus, she will simply go learn it.

Chana's been somewhat cocooning this year, which is a term I learned about unschooling teenagers.  I know she learns best by talking to other people, and I know she is talking to lots and lots of people on the internet (which is amazing, because she learns things and debates with and discusses things with people all over the world), and she is also coming to me to discuss a lot of things that come up with people she's talking to over the internet.

It reminds me of this John Holt quote that pops up periodically:


So even though she doesn't want to finish reading the Stranger with me, and even though in theory she is enjoying Bio but most days is not that interested in learning it so we end up not doing it, I think she's learning a lot about... I have no idea.  But she is thinking and maturing and growing and is curious about things.  So I trust the process.  And, like I said, I get the sense that she feels pretty comfortable that she will be able to learn whatever she will be interested in in the future.  I think this is one of the richest things about unschooling: that she is curious about things and interested in lots of things and fearless about pursuing learning.  I have spent almost two decades teaching in school, coaxing people to learn things they don't want to learn, and it's disheartening.  It is refreshing to be around people who are just endlessly curious about things (even though the things are often odd and nonstandard).

Another possibly amazing thing is happening about school.  I've discussed that I'm not sure if pushing hard for Chana to take classes in the high school I teach at is/was a good idea.  It certainly isn't "unschooling."  (I'm not married to unschooling as a philosophy; I'm pragmatic.  I've found it the most pleasant and efficient way to handle education in our family.)  I'm not quite sure yet if things are actually happening.  But.  I mentioned that Chana switched from Mishlei to gemara.  She really loves gemara (and she has a truly amazing Rebbi).  She loves it so much, she started learning it with Ari once a week.  (It only happened once, but she loved it. And they picked an actual scheduled time, which is once a week at 10:30 at night, so it will probably happen.)  And I may have mentioned that it takes her three years to settle into things, and maybe, maybe, some of the girls in the school are beginning to grow on her.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Moving goals and the end game

I used to think 8 was old.  When my oldest was still a toddler, a friend of mine was hired to homeschool some elementary aged children, and I asked her when they started making brachos.  "Eight," she said.  Eight! That's so old!  Surely three year olds are all trained to make brachos and keep Shabbos.

Elazar is now 9.  I've moved the goal post.  He is still very inconsistent about wearing a kippah and point blank refuses tzitzis except on the rare occasion that he takes a class with Jews.  I know that it's a minhag, and he still has difficulty keeping Shabbos, and how can I get hung up on a minhag when he's still struggling with d'oraisas.  He tells me 10.  We'll see what happens when he gets to 10.

I know that I've always said that he's three years behind.  I don't mean "behind" insofar as any negative connotation whatsoever; I love homeschooling because it gives those children who need three years of wiggle room plenty of wiggle room.  There are no age-(in)appropriate expectations and we can work with his capabilities.  So I guess I will see at 11 if he is capable of things I would have assumed for an 8 year old.  And if not, we will work with his abilities as they present.

Removing all academic expectations and having very broad end goals (will be able to read as an adult, will be emotionally capable of making a living as an adult, will have loving and functional relationships as an adult, will care about Torah and be equipped to keep mitzvos as an adult) is the difference between a miserable, stressed out, anxiety-ridden childhood (for both the child and the parents), versus having a child who wakes up every day thrilled to enjoy his day and explore the world.

Is it a mistake to set aside academic expectations for him?  Will he grow up incapable?  Sure, I worry.  But the other possibility seems more painful and equally doubtful of producing results.

Monday, February 20, 2017

early morning wakeup

Aharon (5) woke me at 7am to ask me how to spell "design."  He is playing Roblox.  Usually he doesn't awaken me in the mornings (this is the first year that he's been going downstairs by himself without waking a parent, which feels like a huge milestone) but apparently this morning the desire to spell these words correctly so he could play this game was too much for him.  So now I'm sitting nearby, so that he can ask me how to spell words every five minutes. "Helmet" "sport" "country" etc.

Yet again I'm thinking how unschooling has him coming to me, chasing me down for spelling help, waking me up in the morning for spelling help.  As opposed to me trying to get them to sit down and work on things they aren't interested in.

I wonder how many more times it will take him to learn the word "design."

Friday, February 10, 2017

unschooling reading/writing

Aharon age 5 has been reading for over a year already.  He is playing a game called Roblox "design it" and you have to dress up and people vote for you.  They give you a category and then you search for clothes in that category and dress your character.  They give you five minutes to dress your character.  So roughly every five minutes for the past three hours, Aharon has asked me how to spell something.  (I believe he is searching for categories of clothing--he asked for "wings" three times and he probably knows how to spell it by now).  In the beginning he was pretty intense and kept shrieking that he only has 4 minutes left and I have to help him RIGHT NOW!!!! (Which I did.)  I just noticed that in the last half hour or so, his requests are growing more spaced.  He must be learning to spell the commonly used words he needs.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Unschooling School Day tomorrow

We are heading into a winter storm tomorrow.  Somebody posted:  

So excited for a free day with the kids due to expected snow storm tomorrow. A day free of back to back sports activities, homework assignments, of rushing to get up in the morning. A day free to relax, enjoy, and finally bake those chocolate cornflakes that I've been promising to make with them for over a month!

And all I keep thinking is, "That's our every day."  

Minus chocolate cornflakes.  I have no idea what those are.


Ah.  I don't think anyone in my house will eat those.  But hot chocolate with whipped cream...Yum.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

January update

Elazar and I finished the second Pippi Longstocking book, which he loved.  Last night I tried reading The Time Machine.  He found the beginning boring, which I remember from when I was a kid finding it overly technical.  So tonight I will skip forward a bit to the time travel and see if that helps.  Otherwise I'm not sure what to do next.

The boys have been doing a lot of math.  I wish I paid more attention because I'm sure a lot of people wonder how unschooling works with math.  Let me say that they spend lots of time pondering math concepts.  I mean weeks.  Aharon (5) will ask about google or what comes after google over and over once a week for a month.  Jack (7) asks questions like "Is 3 hours 213 minutes?"  And I'll say, "No, an hour is 60 minutes."  And about twenty minutes later he'll say, "120 minutes is two hours?"

It's an amazing thing watching them play around with numbers and think deeply about it.  And all three of them are able to do basic arithmetic and real life word problems, that come up all the time, most days.

I've been paying attention to the kinds of words they ask me to spell for them during the day.


ELAZAR (9):
passage, what, suddenly, down (thought it was "a"), turn (thought it was e), stone (wasn't sure if has an "e" at the end), was (thought maybe "whas"? No, that's what), now (a?), new, spaghetti, pizzeria, dragEn? would.
What is after "h" in "hours"? I said "ou" and Jack said "r"
What's after "b" in "burger"
Wanted confirmation of spelling of outer star
ocean, kraken, cheetah, cowboy outfit (Aharon and Jack both helped him), somebody, roll, extreme, garden, vortex (we argued over whether or not there is a "T" at the end), missile

JACK (7):
Jack actually doesn't need a lot of spelling help and can mostly spell what he wants to write.
nation, version, count (I said "cou" and then Elazar took over), want, allowed

AHARON (5):
Is this how you spell "I'm recording"
How do you spell "do it"? I said "d-o. space. What do you think?" Elazar took over
"we are the goblins", lego universe (found it when I was up to r), treehouse tycoon (found it after treeh), get eaten
eaten
eaten a 3rd time and I said,  "You know how," and he did, "come in,"
"youtube tycoon.  I know how to spell tycoon"

So you can see that they spend a lot of time helping each other out and that I don't go to them to practice but they are finding that they want to know things because they are searching for games or videos.