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.