Last night, uncharacteristically, I decided to plan for today. Actually, I planned a zoo outing for today, but they were promising thunderstorms, so I had to come up with an alternative. I decided to focus on Rosh HaShana. The plan was to finish writing Shana Tova cards, listen to the sounds of shofar, review some halachot, and then take a trip to a local Judaica store to buy a shofar for boys to practice. I found myself digging deeply through chinuch.org. Whenever I find myself doing that, it's some insecurity talking. Maybe those kids in school are learning something that we're missing. Maybe I myself still do not have a good grasp on what I am about to teach. Either way, usually I peruse and download, only to use one or two activities. This time I found a real jem: Rosh HaShana math. I thought this would be perfect for 8 yo: review the halachot while doing math. For 6 yo I found this song. I out down math, as usual, for both boys, spelling and chumash for the older and Lama for the younger. Now I was all set.
My plan worked: getting a shofar at the end of the day was great motivation. 8 yo jumped at his RH math, skipped a few, needed help with some, and completed some with a flourish. In the process, he learned about adding and subtracting minutes to measure elapsed time, halachik measurements and that his kiddush cup is not big enough, decimals, reason for the sheehiyanu on the new fruit, and that Chanukah is waaay after all the chagim. 6 yo looked over the song by himself, but he was intimidated by all the Hebrew, so we sang it together. I explained the first 8 halachot.
Lama went smoothly, and so did Roman numerals. Then came chumash, last subject of the day, again. 8 yo expressed that he feels behind. I think he was talking to his former classmates and found out that they are midway through Chayei Sarah, while we are just getting started. I asked him, who does more work with the pesukim, they or him? He agreed that he does more work, while they just repeat translations. I said that since he is putting in more effort, he is learning them better. He expressed a thought that they sill remember everything they learned in the beginning of Lech Lecha. I told him to ask them.
What I think he is missing is that they just memorize, while he is gaining skills. He can look back in Lech Lecha at the parts he does not remember and figure them out, while they might be stuck if their memory fails them.
He cheered up a bit when we did a bit with ger-toshav (sojourner-resident) of Avraham. I told him honestly that this perek sounds boring and not "juicy", but there is a lot of important information going on in here. He asked me, how could Avraham be both? I directed him straight to Rashi. He was able to translate the first part, and I had to translated Medrash Agada. And I gave him a jelly bean for asking a question. As my friend would say, let the Torah be sweet...
Finally, we got the store. The shofars were a whole lot more expensive than I expected. I told boys that they can get one real one (on the cheaper end). 8 yo chose his and grabbed on for his dear life. 6 yo seesawed between wanting to share and wanting his own. 2 yo picked out a plastic pink one. 8 yo settled on a black one. 8 yo spotted a wooden puzzle of the Beis Hamikdash and asked me to get it. I asked him, whether he would like it for him Yom Tov present, and he said yes, he would like to build a Beis HaMikdash for Rosh HaShana. The saleslady had a ball. The boys also asked to buy Yeshiva Boys' Choir CD. They have watched a few youtube videos and are fans now.
So there we were, leaving the store, three shofars in tow. In car, we popped in the CD and the boys rocked to Amen. I was thinking, how frum we all look here, but also how naturally we ended up at this point.
When we got home, 8 yo tried blowing his shofar and could not get it. I found a few youtube tutorials, so he is working on it. His goal is to able to blow for the minyan by the time he is bar mitzvah. Ok, this one is a realistic one. 2 came crying to me that her shofar broke. A piece of plastic was missing on the mouth piece. I asked her, what happened? She said, I eat it. Not much we could do here. I gave her a hug and, so far, she is sharing with 6 yo.