Thursday, December 27, 2012

being in charge

It's two o'clock and we are finished. I think, for today, I got a good balance of "things to do" and "things which will get done without stressing anyone out".

6 yo got up at 8:20, he has a cold and needed extra sleep. After leisurely breakfast, he got dressed and unloaded his share of the dishwasher. He even davened with his sister, unsolicited. By the time he got to his davening, it was 10. His agenda had four items: math, Lama, Lashon haTorah and spelling. Yet here, we are, at 2, and he is done, even though he got time to play outside and eat lunch and read.

Yesterday, we had a siyum for Chayei Sorah that 8 yo finished. He got really motivated towards the end, seeing that it is all genealogy and easy reading. Last day, he did about 7 pesukim, just to finish up. For his wrap-up project, we wrote up a family tree of Terach's family. We went all the way back to the end of Noach, found Rivka's blood line, and included Yishmael's children along with all Keturah's sons. I feel like I want to frame it, it is so complex. He also added in Yakov and shvatim. I said that we will add Eisav's and shvatim's kids when we learn them. So we went to Menchie's yesterday, to celebrate. I remarked to my husband how we did a whole parsha in just a few months, and we will probably finish another one by the end of the year. Since we are going at our own pace, it does not seem rushed, just the speed we are moving along at.

Today 6 yo finished his first Lashon haTorah workbook. I will be ordering the second one.

One of the issues I grapple with again and again is how much pressure should be coming from me as opposed to internal motivation of the child. We have been slowly adding more brachot in Shemone Esre with 8 yo. Right now, I let him daven quietly everything till Shemone Esre, and then he says it out loud with me. We are up to Judgement ( din). He read it over in Hebrew and got the basic idea, but I knew that he did not know all the words. He has not been eager to lean the meanings of all the words. Incidentally, Artscroll was having a sale and had a book on Shemone Esre, explaining each bracha. I ordered it and figured that it will help. 8 yo glanced at it, but has not opened it. This morning, I decided to pull it out and show him the bracha and read a little insight. He had no interest, in fact, he said that I am taking away his kavana ( intention). I asked, why? He said that the book is very long and intimidating. I immediately closed the book, bookmarking the page of the bracha and put it away. We ended up talking a bit as to why this bracha comes after the ingathering of exiles and the true justice of G-d. Obviously, while the subject might be interesting to him, the timing is not right. The book  and the bookmark will stay, but I will leave it to his discretion whether to open it or not.

Along the same lines, some days it takes 6 yo hours and hours to finish one or two pages of work. Sometimes he is distracted. Sometimes he does not feel like working. Sometimes I wish he would just get up and say that he will do it later. But most times, I discover that the reason is quite different. Usually it is some assignment, way later on the list, that he is dreading, so he starts stalling early. Usually the dread has nothing to do with difficulty, but with his perception of work. For example, we were supposed to complete a page of questions and answers about Lama. He read the story fluently and translated without a hitch, so I knew that he knew the vocabulary. When we opened to the page, he dissolved into a tantrum. Once he was able to talk ( half an hour later), he said that they expect him to write everything perfectly. Ok, the lines are small (this is a second grade workbook and he is not a comfortable writer), but never did I ask him for perfection. I offered to split the writing, and he agreed. Then I suggested using a ruled piece of paper for the answers, so he would not be constricted by small lines. That was also fine. Then we hit a wall. The practice was for the verb "open", and the choices were "poteach/potachat/potchim/potchot". As long as the picture had a boy, the questions "mi poteach" was fine, but as soon as the picture was that of a girl, he could not understand what they want from him, and why is the question still in masculine. All of my explanation that the questioner does not know the gender or the amount of people performing the action fell on deaf ears. He could not deal with it, and dissolved into tears. I closed the book for the day.

Today we went back to the same page (after skipping a day). He was ready to accept the explanation and polished it off very quickly, writing in half the answers (on small lines) and giving me the other half orally for me to write in.

What would happen to this kid in a classroom? Which teacher would have the patience to recognize that the tantrums have nothing to do with misbehavior but with the pain of reality not conforming to expectations? How often do we, grown-ups, completely lose it when reality bites? When that person takes too long to make a left turn and then we have to wait for the next light? When somebody makes a promise and then does not keep it? When we want it to be Sunday, but it is Monday?

I wonder whether I really should let 6 yo be, instead of enforcing more and more schoolwork. This is not about ability, but this is about sanity, both for him and for me.

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