I meant to post this on Friday, but better late than never.
For the past week's parsha, Pinchas, I decided to use advanced learning approach, along the lines of talking about the parsha the whole week rather than cramming it in on Friday. It is summer, and we're not doing any formal schoolwork anyway. So, we read the parsha summary from Parsha of the Week, teased out midrashim. I also told boys that there are korbanot at the end, abbreviated as baa, and we'll talk about them later. Later was on Friday. I got an idea of printing out sheets of lambs, goats, bulls and rams and then asking boys to cut out and glue the correct number of animals for each day and holiday. I told them about tamid first, a continual daily offering of two lambs.I explained how they were completely burned up, and one was brought in the morning and the other in the afternoon. I also asked them to guess what do we do now to replace those lambs. With some prodding, they guessed shacharit and mincha.
Then we did shabbos. We added two more lambs to tamid. I showed in the siddur where we add in mussaf the mention of this korban. Then we did rosh chodesh. This got interesting, with bulls and rams and goats and more lambs. I explained again how tamid was brought daily. 8 yo asked what happens when it's shabbos rosh chodesh. We looked at our diagrams and figured out how many were brought. At this point, 6 yo split to play with his sister. Next we did Pesach. I ran out of preprinted lambs. After we did one day, I asked how many animals were brought over the course of entire Pesach. We got some multiplication in this way.
We did the rest of the chagim, saving Succot for the end. I knew those 13 bulls and 14 lambs will be curveball. I printed and printed more animals. 8 yo asked how all of these fit on the mizbeach, if they had to be fully burned. I didn't know. (He asked a rabbi in shul on Shabbos, and he didn't know either! Do you?) I thought about how I feel about printing and printing, and he feels about cutting and cutting. It took us hours. I thought that the reason patriarchs were shepherds was so that Jews knew exactly what it's like to raise so many animals and they could appreciate the real sacrifice in letting them "go" as an offering.
I know that there are many other exciting topics in the parsha: the speared couple! Division of the land! Daughters of Tzlofchad! Yehoshua taking over! But I thought how there will be another year and another topic will be covered. In the meanwhile, I can choose which area of the parsha we will focus on and what kind of project/activity we will do. Oh sure, I saw charts listing all the korbanot, but they are just numbers, dry and running into each other. Actually seeing all this livestock being brought on any day really gives a sense of reality to what was going on and what we are missing now.
On Friday night, I started with parsha questions and was pleased that boys were eager to answer. They especially got animated whent eh time came to the charts, each talking over each other, explaining what korban was brought when. They also remembered the Hebrew names of all the animals.