Thursday, August 30, 2012

the ups and downs

We had our siyum in Cupz and Cake. When I got up, both boys were dressed, and sitting quietly on the couch, reading, ready to go. The breakfast went well, till we got to the decadent desserts, which made everyone a bit too hyper and proved to be a bit too rich to finish.

8 yo wrote Rosh HaShana cards. He wrote on one card the whole "Leshana Tova..." in Hebrew, out of his own free will. When it came time to address the envelopes, it took him four tries to get it right. I am not talking perfection, I am talking that the post office would actually deliver the letter: on the right side, with the right amount of lines, legible, in the middle of the envelope. He did two today, I wonder if he will do more tomorrow or later. I wonder how many adults would give up after the first try. Or, maybe, not try at all.

6 yo cracked his first chapter book. It was Captain Underpants. I cringe. I cannot believe this book is in our house. I cannot believe that out of all other great books we have (Magic Tree House, abridged classics, etc), THIS is what he is interested in reading. But I think that it is written lightly, with 6 yo boy humor, and he occasionally stops to tell me a joke. He is comprehending and talking about what he is reading. Just before I am ready to shrug my shoulders, I see that he put it down and switched over to Artscroll's Children's Book of Yonah. Now I have no objections, and he is equally engaged.

8 yo cannot figure out a basic addition problem in math. I am at my wits' end. We finished the review of basic addition/subtraction. He understands everything he has to do, but he has no sense that the answer to "something minus seven is three" cannot be "four". I pull out an abacus to show him what it means. He tells me that he is embarrassed, but I do not see comprehension. I doubt myself. I doubt my approach to math. I wonder whether he just does not have number sense, whether all the math he does happens mindlessly, mechanically. I am worried that he will end up like most Americans, with so many years of math schooling, and no conception of what it all means. But then he sits down and designs a perfect paper airplane, with smooth, straight, far flight, and perfect balance. Then he tells me that he wants to learn how to design computer ads. Then he knows exactly who Neil Armstrong was. Then he spends the afternoon reading his history book. Then I see that there is nothing to despair over.

6yo screams about mental math problems. He has to count till seven, I know he knows how to count till seven. He believes that he can't. He threw his pencil, he got his pencil, he is writhing on the floor. I am calm. I am not calm any more. I tell him to go outside and cool off. He throws his pencil again. I tell him he lost his dessert. He finishes his mental problems. He melts down over trying to draw fish to illustrate one of the problems. The fish look like circles with squiggly tails. I can tell that he gave up on the fish. He eerily knows exactly how to illustrate all the problems, only they all have abstract circles in different groupings. I think of my husband, who claims that he cannot draw. I think about my father, he claimed the same thing. I think how yesterday 6 yo declared his 2 yo sister to be a great artist, based on her expressive doodles. I think how 2 yo has no problem doodling anything she wants, and then declaring that this is a house, and this is a person, and there is some green over there, all stripey.

After all the schoolwork is done, 6 yo enters the kitchen:
"Mommy, you are making me do all this work which wastes time!"
"What is it that you want to do?"
"I want to have time to play!"

After this, he proceeded to read Captain Underpants.

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