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.