Saturday, June 15, 2013

unschooling judaics

When I started unschooling, I was quite anxious about Judaics. This week my kids lovingly proved me wrong. 9 yo pulled out Selected for You: Stories from Nach and reread it. I breathed a sigh of relief. Then he opened up Tanach and reread the same parts of Yehoshua and Shoftim. Since the books were laying around, 7 yo picked them up and read them, too. Apparently they needed to be not pressured about Judaics to get their own taste for them. Most recently, 9 yo recited the genealogy out loud from Divrei HaYamim.

We finished the second perek of Breishit with 9 yo. His new tactic is not to ask questions, lest I spring another Rashi on him. Although he did ask exactly when Torah was written, as I think he is trying to reconcile creation with what he knows about evolution. When we were reading about the four rivers leaving Gan Eden, he mentioned that the description is so detailed that he could draw a map. I lit up and asked him whether he would like to draw it. He said, nah. I gotta curb my enthusiasm.

7 yo did the first three pesukim of Lech Lecha from Bright Beginnings. I told him that my goal is to finish the first perek by the end of summer, and I showed him in the book where that would land us. He seemed agreeable to it. My goal with his chumash is very different from that of 9 yo. I want him to get comfortable with reading Hebrew, looking at shorashim on the side and picking out the shorashim. I do not expect him to memorize neither Hebrew nor translation. I want him to see that Chumash is not scary and mysterious, but is something that he is capable of doing. He decided that he can do two pages each day, and I ask him to read each pasuk twice: once in the beginning and once at the end. So far, he has been doing his work eagerly, as I think he is finding it to be easier than expected. Oh, and he is working on his fine motor skills by coloring in the lines. For this kid, this is quite a new and exciting development.

In addition to these more traditional Judaics, we have more of spontaneous discussions. This morning, on the way to shul, 9 yo stopped. He pointed to a worm wiggling on the sidewalk and he wanted to know whether he can pick it up and move it to the grassy area before it dries up and dies. I said, no, it is muktze. This led to lively discussion on what if one brushes against a tree and a bug falls on you and now you are carrying it. Or if one picks up a worm and carries it around the whole Shabbos, without putting it down. While these are not great philosophical discourses, at least they are showing me that the kids are thinking in halachic framework.

During the third meal, I asked the boys about what punishment and what cure from the parsha sounded similar to each other in Hebrew. 9 yo threw out a guess or two, and then sat down with a Tanach. 7 yo threw a fit: it's too hard, he cannot do research, why don't I ask him things that he already knows, he has no brain, why am I giving out jelly beans (I did not promise anything!) Having set the bar at zero expectations and almost leading me to go get a nice strong drink, he opened up his parsha book and started reading, Interestingly, he found the answer before his brother. My husband helped him with the Hebrew translation.

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