Thursday, June 27, 2013

pre-mashiach era

I think that generally my children listen to me, respect me, do not speak to me with chutzpa, and are appropriately respectful to authority, even when they disagree.

Note the use of the word "generally."

This morning I forgot to wake Chana up to go to a museum trip that she didn't want to go on.  I forgot to tell her about it the night before.  We had discussed it when I signed her up, and probably the week before, but unless I let her know that the next day's schedule is different, she wakes on her own schedule.  (For example, I never have to wake her up for Parkour, since it is every week and she knows when we have to be out of the house.)

She dislikes most trips.  Even though I staunchly maintain that learning how humans lived 100 years ago is best discovered via museums where you can actually see how they lived, she thinks it is boring and complains about most field trips.*  So start off with her standard dislike of trips, then compound her unhappy mood by waking her up by shockingly saying, "It's time to leave right now this instant," add into the mix that she is twelve, and you have a grouchy pre-teen that is sulking for the entire trip and thereafter.
(*Perhaps I will one day write a post about how Chana and I navigate her dislike of field trips.)

When she came home, I very much wanted to do Chumash.  However, I knew that if I brought it up, she would snap at me.  She might, indeed, valiantly try to control herself from snapping at me.  She might begin snapping at me, take a deep breath, and continue in a more controlled tone.  (She also might yell at me angrily.)  The gist would be that she is tired, cranky, not in the mood, and she's not doing Chumash, and I shouldn't even ask.

Knowing this would be the likeliest outcome of requesting to do Chumash, I decided to skip it, spent some time talking to her about my morning and the many things that came up--not excusing me forgetting to wake her up with enough time to get ready to leave, but giving her some perspective, and just generally reconnecting emotionally and trying to open myself to her bad mood and understand her feelings.

When she felt better, and I felt like she wasn't sulking and wasn't angry at me anymore, immediately the urge came up to tell her to do Chumash.  Again, I felt that although she would probably be able to control herself even more certainly, she would still be upset at being asked to do Chumash.  So again, I controlled myself and refrained.

Although I stand by my decisions, and think that they were correct and made with her best interest and the best interest of my relationship with her and her relationship with Torah, a part of me feels like what is wrong with our society.  How does it come to this, that a mother is nervous to ask her young daughter to do something that is part of her daughter's daily responsibilities?  How are parents afraid of their children?  How is it that I have to take into account that my children might lose their tempers and feel outraged that I ask them to do something?

I consider my children respectful.  I sometimes hear children speak to their parents and I am horrified.  I would not tolerate my children speaking to me that way.

And yet, a lot of the method, in this generation, to raise children who will not speak to their parents that way, is to be extremely careful about what things will infuriate the children.  To choose carefully what to ask for and to choose words and tone carefully.  To speak respectfully to them, and to learn to de-escalate when the dialogue gets heated.  To back down when they are stubborn, and to discuss it at least 24 hours later when things have calmed down. To separate the discussion the chutzpa tone from the discussion of the actual issue.  All of this takes diligence and patience and a great deal of evaluation and thought.  And practice.

I cannot help but think that there were other generations where respect for authority was more ingrained in society.  Where children and teenagers were conditioned from a young age to respect their elders and to listen to them.

I'm not saying that is necessarily the better way.  Questioning authority leads to the removal of injustice, the removal of corruption, the removal of bureaucracy, and to innovation and creativity and discovery and freedom.

Furthermore, I've said many times, as much as children "should" respect elders, elders "should" behave in a way that is worthy of respect.

However.  It does astonish me that parents cannot simply ask their children to do things and expect compliance.

In Gemara Sotah 49b it says:
b'ikvah d'meshicha chutzpah yasgeh

Before Mashiach comes, brazenness will be rampant... Truth will be hidden, youths will embarrass elders, and elders will stand in front of the small;
 A son will disgrace his father, a daughter will stand up against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. A man's enemies are his household...

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

a bit of humor

I am having the durndest time explaining to Chana that the onyx stones were in settings on the ephod.  Despite google images "jewelry settings" and me describing it, she keeps thinking of settings as something on a computer that you can adjust.

Monday, June 17, 2013

unschooling math

The 2nd to last thing to go to unschooling was math (The final bastion is Chumash).  I am mathematically inclined, both sides of our families are mathematically inclined, I always felt math was important and not the kind of thing that will just "come up."

Gradually, though, my curriculum got more and more unschooly.  It started because Chana just naturally did start doing a lot of things.  Addition and Subtraction came up normally (and it does with Elazar, currently almost 6, too).  Then Chana asked about multi-digit addition and subtraction, so I taught it to her.  Then she wanted to learn multiplication.  Then division came pretty naturally.

In the meantime, time telling and money came up extremely easily and the kids all get adept at it quickly, because they use it a lot.

We got stuck on fractions in the middle of 4th grade.  I tried a bunch of ways and Chana didn't really enjoy it.  I left it alone for a year and a half.  Eventually, I brought it up, she understood it, I taught it to her, but I began to fantasize about what if she just didn't learn any more math unless she wanted to know it?  I knew it would take her about 20 minutes to understand it as soon as she was interested and felt it was relevant or useful or something she really wanted to know.  So I left it alone.  And left it alone.  And left it alone.  I felt pretty confident that if it came down to it, she could easily take a remedial math course in a community college and get it all learned in 4 months, i.e., one semester.  An unschooled young man (getting an advanced degree in mathematics at the time of our conversation) once told me he never learned any formal math until he took a class in college.

Now Chana is going into 7th grade.  She is making sounds about going to high school.  I think she will need a little bit of prep for high school math.

I have a decision to make.  Should I prepare her to go into the higher math class or the lower math class?  There are arguments for both.

-In my opinion, she is capable
-She has a mathematical mind
-She might be extremely bored in the low class with students who take a long time to grasp the concepts

-Why not let it be really easy for her
-If she doesn't enjoy math so much, why hock her with it
-What's the big deal is she's bored?  So it will be very easy

Practically, it makes a small difference in my plans for the next two years.  The higher math class is for those who have taken algebra in 8th grade.  The lower math class is for those who haven't.  IF she decides to go to school, at the end of 7th grade, after Pesach, we will take a couple of months to review multiplication and division, then review fractions, then learn decimals and percents, and then order of operations.  I will have to decide if I want to try a curriculum or book of some sort, or hodgepodge resources, or make up my own worksheets (I usually just make up my own worksheets, as I'm guaranteed exactly the right examples for the ability of the student.  But in this situation, I might like some guidance in the methodology of teaching, since Chana hasn't really enjoyed it).

If she and I decide to prepare for the algebra regents, then 8th grade will be teaching to the test using the Barron's regents book.

If Chana decides not to take the regents, then I'll teach her the aforementioned skills in February of 8th grade.  I assume that since it will be her decision to enter High School, and she will desire to be capable of taking the math class, that she will put in the work necessary to get herself to that point.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

chazak teruma

We finished Teruma.  It feels like we zipped through it compared to slogging through Mishpatim.  Artscroll rashi was invaluable.

I think I enjoyed this much more than Chana.  I've studied the mishkan in general, and gone through pasuk by pasuk with Sarah, and I think I learned the words in the pesukim a lot better 2nd time around. I hope I'll retain the translations somewhat.  I feel really accomplished in my own learning.  Even though by chamishi I was basically sitting next to Chana with the artscroll following along and making sure we translated it accuratedly for the new pesukim, I feel like I understand the pesukim a lot better now.  I should have probably put in that kind of time for Mishpatim.  I just feel like sometimes Rashi is not the most pshat translation, and it takes some time to go through mefarshim to get a straightforward pshat.  I don't always like teaching rashi's interpretation of a pasuk, no matter how much all the yeshivas teach it that way, because then the kids grow up thinking that's the meaning of the pasuk, when it is really just one opinion, and not even the most pshat oriented one.

We did very few rashis this parsha, and the few we did, I just summarized for her.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

learning via conversation

Chana did some chazara of shevi'i in the car on the way to parkour, and then had a playdate, and isn't getting home until 10pm, at which time I will not be doing new pesukim with her.

Elazar and I had a delightful learning session tonight.  I'm still on the 4th mitzva (based on the Sefer Chinuch) with him (as I mentioned, I'm unschooling him, giving him a sense of mitzvos via discussion) and so I told him a little more about the gid hanashe, about Yaakov and Eisav, about nevua vs tefila, how we are mispallel, malachim, Yaakov's strength as indicated by his lifting the rock on top of the well (this because Elazar felt Yaakov was strong and would beat the Malach in a fight), how the malach struck the gid hanashe, how we don't eat it on a cow, how the entire pig is not kosher vs just that part of the cow, how we have comparable body parts to animals, which led to me promising to go research how a starfish gets oxygen and run right up and tell him (through its tube feet).  He also wanted to know if it was possible to cook humans and eat them (yes, but we aren't kosher).  Tomorrow, if I remember, I'll show him a diagram of the sciatic nerve.

I just googled "sciatic nerve images" and got a bunch of diagrams on where it is on a human.  Then I googled "sciatic nerve cow" and there is (oddly) on diagram of a human among all the cow pictures.  So I'll show those to Elazar next time it comes up and he'll be able to see the comparison.

Monday, June 10, 2013


I sat with the artscroll rashi book open today.  But that wasn't nearly enough.  I'm google imaging right and left.

That's the picture that I found most useful.  My favorite is that it labeled all the different weird Hebrew words like border and netting.  I did this with Sarah and I don't recall a lattice netting.  (google "lattice" for Chana, but then I ended up pointing to our radiator cover that also has a metal lattice.)  Guess I learn something new each time.

I did peruse rashi in English to discover what it means to put something under from the bottom.  Superfluous and saying the same thing twice.  Chana wanted to know why.

PS.  Chana had her bas mitzva and we still haven't finished all the meanings of the brachos in shemona esrei (though she can fulfil her technical chiyuv of tefila without it).

PPS.  I had been wanting Chana to work on writing Ivrit and I told her to come up with an idea for a story but so far that's all we did.

PPPS.  I'm not impressed with Sfasenu 4.  It's getting that I pretty much need to sit next to her when she reads it and I'm not sure she's actually improving in her Hebrew.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Error 404

Today I tried to explain a pasuk to Chana 3 or 4 times, and she kept not getting it.  (To be fair, it was a really difficult pasuk for me to understand.)

Finally, she turned to me and said, "Error 404.  Please try again tomorrow."

unschooling as bat mitzva age approaches

Chana asked me what I had learned with her friend for her bas mitzva.  I told her we learned about tznius and about Esther.  Then I asked her what she wanted to learn before her bat mitzva.  I hadn't actually planned to do any learning with her (we learn together every day), but since she brought it up, I figured I'd ask.

She said: "I'd like to learn what I have to do once I'm bas mitzva."

Excellent idea.

I went through everything in my mind, and it turns out we have 2 things left to do: hamaapil of kri'as shema al hamita, and we have not finished learning the meaning of shemona esrei.

I told this to Chana.  But she is still feeling nervous, so I'm going to make a list of what I felt we needed to get her up to speed on in order to be able to fulfill the chiyuvim that come up for her.

A friend of mine learned the Sefer Chinuch with her daughter before her bat mitzva.  That's a really great way of giving the child a sense of the 613 commandments.  I've started doing that a bit with Elazar, since he's asked about Torah.  We are up to mitzva 3: gid hanashe.  (We've done pru urvu and bris.)

So with Chana, it's not that many d'oraisa issues that come up on a regular basis, except kashrus and Shabbos and she's been immersed in those.

  • kosher
  • shabbos/yomtov
  • tznius
  • tefilla (for girls, our posek holds one shemona esrei per day.  for boys, it will be a lot more but hopefully they will know how to daven in shul)
  • birchas hatorah before eating or learning
  • birchas hashachar
  • brachos before and after food
  • washing & bentching
  • asher yatzar after bathroom
  • changes in tefila and bentching for shabbos and rosh chodesh (retzei & yaaleh v'yavo)
  • (for boys, hallel)
  • (for boys: kippah, tzitzis, tefilin, zman kri'as shema)
  • different shemona esreis for yontif vs chol hamoed
  • different shemona esrei for shabbos
  • kri'as shema al hamita & hamaapil
  • fasting on 5 fasts
  • other prohibitions on yom kippur and 9 av (no washing, no annointing, no intimate relations [not relevant yet], no leather shoes, and on 9 av no greeting or learning torah)
  • chiyuvim on purim (matanos l'evyonim, megila 2x, shalach manos)
  • chiyuvim on pesach (seder, matza, maror, 4 cups)
  • (boys: succos, lulav, sefiras haomer)
  • maaser on money earned
A lot of these things came up naturally over the course of home education.  The only things we really had to work on were learning to say shemona esrei, and working on reading different paragraphs from the siddur for a few months for about 5 minutes per evening starting a little before she turned 11, so that she would be fluent in reading or saying all the brachos and tefilos that she would be chayav in.  (This included asher yatzar, bentching, yaale v'yavo, etc.  I usually had her do one paragraph a night until she got pretty fluent at it.)  She agreed to do this and never once complained about it, after we had a conversation about it being a good idea for her to know how to say the things she'll be required to say once she's bas mitzva.

If I've forgotten anything, leave a comment in the comments section!  I'd appreciate it!  And so would Chana :-)

Monday, June 3, 2013

artscroll rashi

I have excellent skills.  I went to an elementary school that did Ivrit b'Ivrit.  From kindergarten to 8th grade, our limudei kodesh teachers did not speak English to us.  In fact, I believe the principal specifically hired teachers with poor English.  At least, they always told us they didn't speak English.  I went to a rigorous high school and was in Honors classes.  For one test, we had as many as 50 rashis, Ibn Ezras, Rambans etc to know inside.  (For comparison, my daughter, in a rigorous high school non-Honors, has about a dozen.  Probably the honors classes are similar to mine.)  I feel comfortable opening a mikraos gedolos and looking inside.

With all of my wonderful education that we all who are homeschooling are desirous of giving to our children, so they don't have to crack open an artscroll, today I opened the artscroll Rashi to deal with the mishkan.  And it is glorious.  The picture of the menorah is so clear.  Chana was not that interested, since I had kept muddling through it when we were doing it and she didn't want to hear about it anymore. ("I KNOW about the goblets and the buttons and the flowers.  You showed me so many times already!") But I really hadn't understood exactly what the pesukim were saying about the different locations of each.  It just seems so much clearer with Rashi laying out the details, and artscroll translating Rashi so beautifully.  I opened it to deal with the planks.  I will be using it for the rest of our pesukim on the mishkan.  And hopefully with the boys in the future.