Friday, May 31, 2013


The translations are choking me!  This made no sense in English to me:

24 And they shall be double beneath, and in like manner they shall be complete unto the top thereof unto the first ring; thus shall it be for them both; they shall be for the two corners.

That's from mechon-mamre.  I just read it and read it and I just don't get it.

It's talking about the planks of the mishkan.  I finally cracked open the Stone Chumash, which also has nice pictures, as well as commentary that makes some sense out of these pesukim.  I didn't really like Stone for Mishpatim, but it's decent for Mishkan.

24 They shall be even at the bottom, and together shall they match at its top, for a single ring, so shall it be for them both, for the two corners shall they be.

I'm still having trouble.  The planks should be "twins" or even from the bottom, and together they should be complete on top (or match on top) to fit into one ring (Stone has an illustration to clarify).  It will be that way for both of them (what will be what way for both of that?  The ring and evenness for both planks of the pair?).  For the 2 corners they will be.  (but aren't there 4 corners??)

I may need to do some more research on some different sites that talk about how the planks are held together.  These pesukim are really difficult to translate!!

Thursday, May 30, 2013


Mishpatim was a bit difficult because even though we understood the words, we really didn't understand the pshat of a lot of the pesukim.  And now, in Teruma, despite me having done this before with Sarah, I find that I'm sitting with the English open in front of me so that I can translate accurately.  I'm surprised Chana hasn't yet made a comment about how I'd like her to know it when clearly I don't know it.  We've been using a lot of google images to see the pictures that the pesukim describe.  We've done the curtains and now we are on the planks.  It seems like maybe we are too bogged down on translation.  Maybe if Chana wasn't worrying about the translations, she could spend her energy envisioning the layout, maybe sketching it.  I'm just feeling like she's not enjoying it, and that it's not exciting to learn about the layout of the mishkan.  It's very tangible, but I wish there was some way to convey how the pesukim paint a picture.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

say yes

If your three year old asks if he can cut tortilla chips with scissors, say, "Of course."  Hand him a plate to catch the crumbs.

Monday, May 27, 2013

how will an unschooler learn chumash, rashi, and gemara skills?

This is the question I was supposed to answer at the Orthodox Jewish Homeschooling Conference.

And it's the answer I feel most badly about not answering clearly and in depth.

Perhaps the reason I skirted so much around the issue is that I'm not actually qualified to answer it yet.  I did unschool Chana for limudei kodesh completely until 3rd grade.  I am unschooling Elazar and Jack completely at the moment.  But they are almost 6 and 3.  So there isn't much going on.  Next year Elazar will be in first grade, and I fully expect him not to pick up skills next year.  He actually asked me this morning when he was going to learn to read.  And I told him he can learn to read whenever he wants.  He said, eyes wide, "You will teach me to read right now?"  I said, sure.  He smiled, his eyes glazed over briefly, as I imagine he was imagining the glorious world of literacy.  Then he looked at me and said, "Nah, I don't want to learn how to read yet."  And he ran off.

So I am not actually in any way qualified, via experience, to answer how unschooled children acquire skills.

However, that doesn't mean I don't have some thoughts on the subject, which I regret not having articulated more clearly at the conference.

Points I mentioned:

- Many children become interested a little before bar/bat mitzva age, when they realize at age 11 or 12 that various halachic responsibilities and obligations are coming up soon.

- Unschooled children learn skills later, but more quickly and efficiently.

- You can always start unschooling and catch up later when you get nervous, at around 9 or 10.  There is still plenty of time to teach them all the skills they need.  (I did that with Chana but I wish I had confidence to risk it because I think a lot of unschooling really flowers as they get old enough to truly take responsibility for their education, which happens after bar and bas mitzva.)

- As you do a lot of learning outside, you do show them the text ("See?  This is an asnachta" or "Look how Rashi says this word here") and make it clear that you are reading in the original language, and how learning in the original language is more accurate and more nuanced than translations.

- You have conversations about how when they are ready to learn to read they will be able to read it inside.  And when they are ready, they will put in the time and practice and get good at translation.  This way, they grow up thinking that as soon as they are willing to put in the time and effort (which is under their control and their will), they will do so and successfully gain skills.

- Many people are able to gain skills very quickly (in a matter or 2 or so years) when they are motivated.  And in the meantime, your child can have an awesomely fun childhood.

But I really didn't speak about the concept that is dearest to my heart and perhaps the most fundamental.

All of these are predicated on the assumption that your child will WANT to gain skills when he or she is older.  That your child feels Torah is interesting, valuable, relevant, and desirable.  As an unschooler, this should be your unwavering guiding goal and everything should emanate from that.

how will an unschooled child learn responsibility?

Here is one of the questions I felt is a common question about unschooling and I didn't really get to do it the justice it deserves:

How will my child learn to be responsible if he only does what he wants all the time?  What happens when she gets a job and then decides, oh, I'm not going to show up because I don't feel like doing it?

I think this question is very similar to the classic question homeschoolers get about socialization:  How do homeschoolers learn to socialize?  The answer is basically: By now, enough homeschoolers have grown up and clearly have lovely social skills that it's not a concern.  Likewise, a generation of unschoolers has grown up to be responsible and productive citizens.
However, the question still remains: HOW do unschoolers learn to be responsible?

I can't remember where I read this, but one thing to note is that although unschoolers do grow up to hold down jobs, they are significantly happier in their life choices.  They tend to choose jobs that are more unconventional, less full time, for less money but for higher quality of life.
So it is true that being unschooled affects the choices your child will make in life.  Your child will learn to value being excited and motivated in his or her work.  Your child will tend to make choices that reflect that value, probably prioritizing it over wealth accumulation.

However, I would be shocked to find a grown unschooler make a commitment and then just decide to slack off because it's not interesting anymore.

As I was musing about this question, my son begged me this morning to make sugar cookies with him.  Somebody gave us cookie cutters and he wanted to try them out.  I asked him what kind of recipe he was looking for, found one, and we assembled it.  Then i left him to shape his cookies.  He kept having trouble making a person shape.  When he tried to pick it up, it crumpled.  His next try, he got it all up except for the leg.  On his next try, something else happened.  I heard him screeching in frustration over and over again.  And yet, he kept trying.  Eventually, he screamed delightedly that he got it!  With its arms and legs AND head!  He placed it on the cookie sheet and made a few more.

Did he learn from this incident that he has to persist and keep trying and stick with it and persevere if he wants to succeed?  I'm sure he did.  Did he learn it more efficiently and more rewardingly than any situation I could have come up with?  Yes.
I would say that these types of situations come up numerous times a week.  Frequently, one of my children has a desire to do something.  Frequently, they spend a lot of time and effort and perseverence making something happen and following it through.

Sometimes, something turns out to be not what they thought it would be or too hard or too much and they drop it.  But very frequently, they stick with something until they get the result they want.

It was HIS choice to stick with this.  It was HIS desire to succeed.  He saw the value and he had the desire and he was perfectly willing and motivated to put in the time and energy and practice to get it right.

In an unschooled situation, the child has thought of the idea herself and is so fired up and motivated, she spends as many hours as it takes to learn it.

In other situations, we spend time trying to motivate the child or convince them that it is useful or desirable so that they will be motivated.  No matter how convincing we are, we will probably never be as convincing as if they themselves had thought of it.

In situations other than that, the child is not convinced, and we force them to do it anyway, "so that they learn responsibility and learn that they have to do things they don't want to do."

As I mentioned in my talk, there are many, many opportunities for children to learn to do things they don't want to do.  If you live in a home with more than just yourself, then you are contending with opinions and desires and ways of doing things that are not the same as yours.  Living amicably is a constant negotiation and compromise.  Surely parents have ample opportunities where their children don't just get to do what they want.  I am probably one of the most relaxed parents who imposes the fewest restrictions on her children, and yet STILL I would estimate that each child has about 20 opportunities a day to have to do something s/he doesn't want to do or stop doing something s/he does want to do.

I consider a sense of responsibility and the ability to follow through on commitment part of character development, and I take that very seriously.  As I think all unschoolers do.

As a final point, I think there is also something to be said in the comparison to attachment parenting.  Science is discovering that extra attachment to parents during the early years leads to greater independence and confidence in adults, not greater dependence and attachment, as one might think.  Similarly, allowing younger children the flexibility to choose activities and to persevere with the ones that they find most gratifying, as opposed to forcing them to stick with ones they find least gratifying, can have the effect of a positive feedback loop.  In other words, the child desperately wants to succeed.  The child perseveres.  It feels great.  This motivates the child to work harder next time there is frustration in an area where the child very much wants it to work, because it felt so good last time.  And indeed it does.  Which motivates the child to work hard next time.

I believe positive feedback loops lead to unschoolers putting in astonishingly tremendous efforts at mastery when they are motivated.  There are many incidents of unschoolers putting in hours and practice that are difficult to comprehend.

I have seen this myself with Chana.  Her creativity in finding resources to help her learn what she wants to learn, the amount of hours she spends perfecting her technique, and her efforts of practicing and working on what she is interested in, are things I would not have believed possible.  Until you see it in action, it is difficult to comprehend just how much more pleasant and efficient the learning actually is.

the first point i forgot to make in my presentation regarding: too much TV/video games

One concern that people often have is: If I were to let my child do whatever he wants, he would sit and play video games/watch tv/play all day.

First of all, I maintain (and research backs me up) that "play" is one of the most valuable activities that a child can be involved in.  It has emotional, social, cognitive and intellectual benefits.  (I actually did make that point in my speech.)

But let's say your kid wants to sit and be on multimedia all day.

1. This may just be an extreme phase of finally being allowed the freedom to play/watch what is very desirable, and after a bunch of months, the child will moderate out and do more activities.

This happened to my oldest daughter.  I used to be very strict, and when I finally let her, it took 10 months until she was willing to go out and play with others, or go to the park, or to the beach.  At around 8 months I began to seriously panic and fear that she would do nothing but watch TV for the rest of her life.  Then one day, she emerged back into life and is a moderate (towards infrequent) user of internet and TV.

(I must note that if a child is only interested in video games for years, it might be a sign that real life is stressful or not as enjoyable as virtual life, and steps should be taken to address real life and make it less stressful and more enjoyable, whether via therapy or by restructuring real life.)

2. It may be that whatever your child is involved in is having a deep and profound impact on her understanding of the world and she is learning something extremely important.

I have seen this (I did mention this point in my speech, too) with my second daughter who spent many hours rewinding and scrutinizing particular scenes in TV shows and movies and is currently involved in animation, which has subtle facial expressions and movements and interesting dialogue.  I had no idea why she was doing what she was doing for so many hours and over and over, and I am so glad I didn't stop her because her brain was LEARNING something very important and very fascinating to her.

My son also gets very involved in mastering certain video games or in doing certain activities online.  Usually it coincides with some cognitive development he is working on.  I prefer to get out of my kids' ways and let them proceed.  Their brains know what they are looking for and how to learn it.

BUT, getting to the point I forgot to make:  I saw a Supernanny episode once where the parents insisted that their children would only eat chicken nuggets, wacky macs, fast food, and junk food.  They said their children refused to eat anything else.  Supernanny was trying to tell them that the children's behavior and health was being affected by their diets.  (Personally, I had some sympathy with those parents, having done the "pizza bagel/fish stick/wacky mac" weekly menu phase numerous times.)

Supernanny brought the children to the grocery store.  She introduced them to the produce section, in all its multicolored glory.  The children gazed at it.  They were astonished.  She encouraged them to look closely, to wander through it, to choose what they think they might like to eat.  They chose peppers and green beans and plums and peaches and peas and melons and berries and beets and a spaghetti squash and more-- a cornucopia of fruits and veggies.  Then they went home and the kids helped cook some of them and ate some of them plain.  The children enjoyed some and didn't so much like some.  Many they loved and put on the grocery list for next week.

A big part of unschooling is going out into the world and exploring. Introducing your children to all sorts of things they wouldn't have access to or time for.  Who knows what they will love.

notes from my presentation

We were asked to submit notes of our slides or handouts from our presentations.  I wrote up a basic outline of what I planned to say.  If you read it and you heard my speech, you will note that what I planned to say and what I said are not the same.  I find homeschooling a lot like that, too.

What i submitted:

What is unschooling?

Unschooling is on a continuum.  Most homeschoolers unschool to some degree.

Things to have around the house:

white board and many colored markers, various maps and charts, books, aleph beis games and puzzles


How will my child learn anything if we unschool?

  • they’ll learn it themselves when they find it relevant and useful or interesting.

  • they’ll learn it late, but very quickly or with great vigor when they need it or find it interesting.

  • they won’t learn it, but they’ll have an attitude of “if I want to know something or how to do something, I’ll just learn it or learn how to do it.”

How will my child learn limudei kodesh if we unschool?


middos/character development
read Hebrew
know torah stories
self control
write hebrew
know halacha
understand tefila
read and translate
follow concepts and steps of gemara
concepts of a rashi
doing things they don’t enjoy




mishna berura etc

speak Ivrit


  • Relax! You can always catch up later

  • Listen to your gut.  If you feel like you should push, then push a little (yes, this is contradictory.  Be flexible!)

  • Any time you worry that your child should be learning, let them play and pull out a sefer yourself.  When you see how much you are able to learn all by yourself, you’ll realize how easy it will be for your child to learn when s/he wants to!

  • The more learning Torah you do, the more it will come up naturally in conversation with your children.   
Do Chazal recommend a specific educational approach and does unschooling contradict that?

here is a blog post where I discuss this at length:

  • debate amongst educators about how important skills are (comparable to debate about memorization when the technology of the printing press came out)

  • Chazal’s recommendations of 5 l’mikra, 10 l’mishna, 15 l’gemara (Pirkei Avos, end of Chap. 5) are based on general conceptual ability of the child (the gemara says or 6 or 7, so there is some flexibility) and we should bear in mind when the child is capable of these types of study

  • Yeshivos began when R’ Yehoshua ben Gamla instituted them when he saw that fathers were no longer teaching their children themselves (Bava Basra 21a)

  • Don’t read it: “V’limadtem Osam” אותם (and teach them [your children]); rather read it: “V’limadtem Atem” אתם (and YOU should teach them [your children] yourselves)

  • if the child is not learning, put him with with his friends
    • What does that mean?

  • Rambam, Hil. Talmud Torah 1:6 says to teach children Shema and some pesukim as soon as they learn to speak

  • Avoda Zara 19a. a child should learn what he wants to learn.
(R. Elazar): "Ki Im b'Toras Hash-m Cheftzo" - one only learns (well) what he desires to learn. Rebbi finished teaching a Sefer to his son Shimon and to Levi. Levi wanted to learn Mishlei next, and Shimon wanted to learn Tehilim. They forced Levi to agree. As soon as Rebbi expounded "Ki Im b'Toras Hash-m Cheftzo" as above, Levi said 'you have given me permission to leave.'

jewish homeschool conference

This Shabbos we went to the orthodox Jewish homeschool conference.  This was the 5th year they had it, and the first year we went.  The trip took us 6.5 hours from NY (traffic on Memorial Day  weekend).

We stayed by a lovely family who did not know us, set up by a volunteer who did not know us.  For those people who are considering homeschooling or are about to embark on homeschooling, I strongly recommend going to the conference.  I've been homeschooling for 14 or so years, so I wasn't feeling a need for support for my decision, but it was lovely seeing so many orthodox jewish homeschoolers.  I didn't get to speak to nearly as many people as I would have liked to.  Each family has their own story, their own journey, their own thoughts.  And yet everyone has an allegiance to Torah.

Rebecca Masinter, the keynote speaker, was so inspiring.  Like I said, I've been homeschooling for a long time, so I wasn't expecting the rush of joy and delight that swept over me as I heard her speak. Everything she said about our values, our long term goals, our Torah, our children, I felt: "yes, yes, YES!"  I guess I don't meet a lot of people whose values and goals resonate so strongly with my own.  Her speech had humor, wonderful examples and stories from her family, and was so beautifully peppered with pesukim and meforshim that I want to look up myself.  (I should have taken notes, because I remember there was a Malbim, possibly on tehilim but maybe it was r' hirsch on tehillim and malbim on mishlei?  i should have taken notes! I haven't read the notes in the binder from the conference--maybe they are in there.)

Backtracking a little, we didn't make the Friday night oneg.  I would have really liked to meet the Coxes.  I noticed numerous Cox nametags behind the scenes all day, making sure tech things were running smoothly.  There seemed to be older kids, and it's always interesting to see older homeschoolers to see how the grand homeschool experiment turns out ;-)
We traveled with our whole family to the conference.  This is a tough choice.  It's tough to find babysitting for 5, 3, and 2 yo rambunctious boys.  On the other hand, although I'm mostly managing to stay afloat with the boys, I find it difficult to do just about anything else.  It's tough to speak to people (over the course of Shabbos) when we really need to give attention to the boys.  And over Shabbos, we had 3 travelworn, overtired boys.  One of them gets especially destructive when he's tired, one of them cries loudly for hours and hours, and one of them just has tantrums (that's the easiest to cope with).  We learned that we must bring Mr. Clean's magic eraser everywhere we go.  So the oneg Friday night was out, the park meetup was difficult (though still worthwhile and lovely), and my husband and daughter went to the shaleshudis while the rest of us went home for bedtime.  I met one person who brought her mother along for babysitting.  That's a great thing to do, if you can!  My 5yo did fantastically in the babysitting for the conference.  He had a great time playing and playing and playing with Jewish boys and counselors.  My 3 and 2 yo had it tougher.  There was a really long lunch break where they both fell asleep on my husband.  So that worked out well.  And my younger daughter did babysitting so they had a familiar face.  I commented on the irony that there is childcare at the conference, when most homeschooled children are not used to being away from their mommies at all.  It was wonderful that childcare was an option, and even with the littles coming upstairs numerous times for some mommy fix, it was marvelous.

I went to Rabbi Hayman's session about skills based torah shebaal peh.  I enjoyed it very much.  Unfortunately, he thought he had 40 minutes more than he actually had, so we didn't get to see the 2nd half of his planned presentation, where he was going to walk us through some samples of how his method works.
He made numerous good points.  He said that 70% of kids who come to Israel to learn post-high school from the U.S. can't make a leining (in a gemara or in chumash/mefarshim).  He said that for a long time, gemara was for the elite 10-15%.  He made an excellent point that the mishna in pirkei avos "5 yo to mikra, 10 for mishna, 15 for gemara" was stated over 100 years before the mishna was written down, and obviously 500yrs before the gemara was written down.  So what exactly kind of learning was supposed to go on at those ages?  He had a theory (4 stages: reading learning, review or repetition based learning, learning fact statements of tannaitic literature, and then shakla v'tarya conceptual thinking) and a method of teaching skills based on that.  He also had a CD where a student can self learn the tanaim and amoraim and their relationships and histories.  He also offered a 20 hour training course in how to teach gemara skills.  He got me thinking about how I might go about teaching my boys aramaic.  I was sorry that I didn't get to see him demonstrate it.  The books were available to peruse, but I couldn't see specifically the method of teaching the skills.

I found this one of the most valuable aspects of the conference.  Although I myself have decent skills and i'm an intuitive educator, many people feel very much at sea and very nervous about teaching Judaic studies skills.  To offer what basically amounts to a teacher's training program option is a wonderful thing.  Additionally, the vendor section (which was open during lunch) was extremely useful.  If you know me, you know I don't use workbooks.  But for those who would like a curriculum and guidance, there were a lot of options and things to look at.

I went to Yael Resnick's session.  She gave many useful examples of how to make learning part of life.  She introduced her "in the works" method for teaching ivrit.  She said she is looking for beta testers, which is a wonderful opportunity for people who are looking to try out a fun way to get their children to speak ivrit.
I've heard of her husband's website and it was great to see her in person.

Then we went to the moderated shmooze, which really only had time for everyone to introduce themselves.  I loved hearing about all the different situations.

After lunch, I got to hear Robin Alberg talking about mother meltdown.  I cracked up numerous times during her presentation.  I was happy to hear her make the important point about depression, and dark thoughts.  And to impress how strongly physical health should be a priority.  The second half of her speech was devoted to a discussion of practical solutions to the challenges that beset homeschool moms, like how to handle the laundry.  Frankly, I'm still not sure how she manages to do everything she does AND teach her kids.  But her main point was to keep searching and trying different things until you find what works for you.

We left after my presentation, and even leaving that early we got home after 10pm.

My speech was at the same time as Yael Aldrich's, and I was very sorry to not hear her speak.  She spoke about the classical model of education, which is very structured and a method that many homeschoolers use.  It calls for teaching topics 3 times, at a young age, at an intermediate age, and at a young adult age, all through a specific "classical" lens, spiraling out and increasing depth and understanding with each phase.  I hope to listen to it online and see how she explains how to do that with limudei kodesh.  She is warm and friendly, and currently lives in Japan, and immediately extended a generous invitation to send Chana there when I mentioned how fascinated Chana is with Japan.  Perhaps we can save up and send her in a few years time.  What a marvelous opportunity, to have my daughter go to a foreign country and know that there is a family to take care of her there!

I had a great time speaking.  This was the very first time I spoke about homeschooling or unschooling, and I simply did not have nearly enough time to make the points I wanted to make.  Afterwards, my mind was racing with all the things I wish I would have said.  (Luckily, I have a blog.)  I also did not have enough time for questions and answers, and I was feeling rushed and did not have the time to devote to properly and thoroughly answer the questions.  Also, I feel like I never really addressed the main issue: Is unschooling limudei kodesh an oxymoron?  Is having an agenda about what you want your child to learn (ie Torah) antithetical to the theory of unschooling, which is essentially letting go of a preconceived idea of what or how children should learn and instead see what emerges.

Friday, May 17, 2013

what if grade level is a myth

What if grade level varied from school to school, and from culture to culture?

What if 40 years ago, five year olds played in school all day and had a nap, and now five year olds are supposed to sit at desks and do "school work"?

What if children used to physically play and be outdoors for a lot more hours than they are now?

What if the standard accepted things that students are "supposed" to know at each grade level are not necessarily logical or a natural progression?  What if standards kept changing every few years or every generation?  What if they tried teaching math one way, and then the next generation they switched, and then the generation after, they switched back?  And what if different countries do a whole different method and timing?

What if the things that "most" children are able to do by xyz age are actually things that a growing number of children need to be medicated in order to do?

What if kids from some schools came into high school being really strong in math, and some kids came into high school being really strong in science, and all the different kids come in from different schools with different strengths and weaknesses based on the school they went to?

What if children who move to a new neighborhood and switch schools find that they are a little off, ahead in some areas and behind in others, in their new school?

What if a motivated post-high school student can start from scratch and learn to read and understand Hebrew and Aramaic in two to four years?  What if a motivated student can learn the entire 1-12 mathematics curriculum at college age in one semester--less than four months?

So what are you so worried about?  Relax.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Ayn Beis Medrash Bli Chidush

There is no learning without learning something new.  I see this, to my joy, whenever Chana does chazara and realizes something new.

I was preparing my speech for the Torah Home Education Conference and I was taking a closer look at the gemara in Bava Basra 21a where torah schooling got started.

I'm actually going to have to crack open the actual gemara (as opposed to the outline i've been reading) to study it more carefully. But I found one little gem and one thing that I can't wait to learn more in depth:

The gem:
Don't read "v'limadtem osam" read it "v'limadtem atem"

This is an exegetical tool that allows Chazal to "hook" concepts onto pesukim as torah she'baal peh.  Don't read the pasuk this way; instead, read it that way.  This doesn't discount pshat, the plain meaning of the pasuk.  Of course that still stands.  But this is a deeper concept that they are learning in addition to pshat.

The plain meaning of the verse from Shema is "and you shall teach them (these words) to your children.
Chazal say: Don't read it "and you shall teach THEM" ולמדתם אותם
read it ולמדתם אתם "and YOU should teach" your children yourselves

This is the ideal.

The thing I need to look up is going to have to be a different blog post.  It says:
after age 6 take them and stuff them full of torah like an ox

(how is that?  does that mean teach them even when they don't want to learn?)

If a child is learning, this is fine;
i. If he is not, just put him with others who are learning, and also he will learn.

alternative translation:
If he studies, he studies, if he does not, let him remain in the company of his friends. To the words 'let him remain in the company of his friends" Rashi adds "and eventually he will pay attention to the lesson".

so i have some research before me.  what is the gemara's suggestion for a child who doesn't want to learn?

stay tuned! :)

Monday, May 6, 2013

one of the downsides of homeschooling--when siblings are around during a lesson

chazara of mishpatim did not start on a great foot.  chana didn't do chumash until i was putting the boys to bed.  so i'm on the couch, reading a book and doing bedtime routine, and chana is on the other end of the couch, asking me for words.

some of them i remembered.  but a lot of them i didn't.  (remember, i didn't really know a lot of pshat of mishpatim?)  so i keep saying to chana, "i don't know" or guessing and she says it doesn't make sense. maybe some of them did make sense.  the boys are kind of jumping all over me and talking and it's hard to hear her.

chana: what is mmmphgreebrrmph?
jack (at exact same time): can you take us up the stairs?
me (to chana): what?
jack (thinking i'm talking to him): can you take us up the stairs?
chana: what is mmmphgreebrrmph?
me: What??

jack (thinking i'm talking to him): can you take us up the stairs?
chana (at same time): WHAT IS mmmphgreebrrmph?
me: WHAT?
jack (thinking i'm talking to him): can you take us up the stairs?
chana: WHAT IS mmmphgreebrrmph?!!!!

ultimately, chana frowningly skipped over the words she didn't understand.  i wanted to tell her the words but the boys were jumping all over and talking.  she was also grouchy.

afterwards, i said she should look up the words she doesn't know.  she said if I don't know them, why does she have to know them?  i'm the teacher, and i am supposed to be teaching them to her.

i felt that was chutzpadik, but also felt that i was in the middle of bedtime routine and couldn't address it well.  (i also have found, with teens and preteens, chutzpa is best addressed 24 hrs later and not in the middle of the dispute.)

when we discussed it today, i brought up that she said that she doesn't need to know it if i don't know it, with the intention of asking her if my not knowing it AND her not knowing it gives us the result of her understanding the parsha.  but she clarified that she felt that it was not her job to look it up, and she wanted me to look it up.  she suggested that she review rishon again, this time with me looking the words up.

personally, i'm pretty frustrated that she's asking me what pesukim mean and i don't know what they mean.  i find that even if i look up the english and understand what each word means, i often do not understand the pshat of the pasuk.  example: 21:30: if a ransom was put on him, then he will put a redemption of his life, like everything that is put on him.
huh??  it's talking about something about the ox that gores.  what exactly it's saying, i'm not sure.  i have had this experience numerous times in this parsha, and i guess it should keep me humble.  this is how a student probably feels a lot when trying to translate chumash.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

who benefits from review?

instead of doing chumash today, we decided that chana would review az yashir.  the language is complex and poetic, and i wondered if she remembered it, or if review doesn't really help much.  i have found in general that she remembers what she remembers, and even with a lot of review, certain words just don't stick in her memory.  maybe if they were more frequent, but they aren't.

chana didn't want to review the whole thing, so we agreed 10 minutes and she set the timer.  she finished it in 7.  she asked me a lot of phrases.  she said she remembers the general storyline, but forgot a lot of the detail words.

however, i found that i remembered a lot of the words.  i was pretty impressed with how well i knew it!  it was a good review for me :) if all goes well, i'll get to do it 3 more times.  hopefully by then i'll have a better grasp of mishpatim!  i don't remember it being so complex with sarah.