Today we hit a roadblock with 7 yo regarding chumash. We are at 16th pasuk, the one where Paro gives Avram gifts because of Sarai. I tried memorizing trop for it yesterday, but I found myself getting tripped up by the sheer bounty. I was holding the baby and standing up, so I could not look in the chumash as I was reciting it for 7 yo. After accidentally making mistakes twice, I realized that I can "make mistakes" on purpose and ask him to correct me. Yesterday it worked, but he did not want to read the pasuk the second time.
Today he did the matching shorashim to the words page, but absolutely refused to read the pasuk. He refused all of my offers of reading it together, just listening to me read it, just listening to baal koreh, etc. He was adamant that he is not reading this pasuk, it is too hard, the usual "I can't attitude" and sulking in his room. At some point I even asked him to go jump on the trampoline to calm down, but he would not do it. After some self-imposed time in his room, he came out and apologized to me for behaving like that, but he still was set on skipping this pasuk. He was still not ready to listen to any suggestions. I sort of said that I am not sure whether his behavior changed, and whether he is sorry for the way he is behaving.
Some more time passed. I saw him go outside as I was putting the baby for a nap. Then I was planning to talk to him, and see if there is any change. He was coming to me, carrying a cucumber-eating beetle in a ziploc. (I have a deal with the kids: I will pay them 10 cents for catching the bugs off our garden, as it is the only way to salvage any harvest at this point). It reminded me of a cat bringing a mouse offering to appease its master. I sat him down, one-on-one, bug in hand, in a lawn chair outside and we talked a bit more. He was calm outside. He said that he FEELS he cannot do this pasuk properly and there is no use in trying. I said that he does not HAVE to say it properly, and we can just do the first part today. He reluctantly accepted it. I asked him to bring outside any chumash that he wanted and we'll work on it. He brought Bright Beginnings. I asked him about the first word "uleAvram"( and to Avram), he read it, then the next one "hetiv" ( he did good) and then I helped him with "baavurah" ( because of her). I was planning on stopping there, but he did the next two: "vaiehi lo" ( and he had) and then said that he does not know the rest. Now I know that tzon uvakar (sheep and cattle) come together, so I sang out "baa v moo" in trop and he laughed. I asked him whether he knew what is cattle and we talked about cows a bit. He repeated "baa v moo" in a sing-song trop after me, and then substituted with "tzon u vakar" The next word was "vechamorim"( male donkeys). He said it should be "hee-haw (pause) male". I sang just that in trop and then added baa v moo. He laughed again, and first said it all in animal sounds, and then in Hebrew.
We worked our way through the rest of the pasuk. For avadim (slaves), he let out a sigh, for shfahot (maidservants) he clasped his hands near his cheek. I made sure that he knew that the translation "maids" does not mean "maidens", but he stuck with a flirtatious pose. Atonot (female donkeys) were, naturally, "hee-haw ( pause) female" and g'malim (camels) required an arched back. He was able to read the entire pasuk in the end, with quite a bit of trop and with all the necessary sounds and motions. At the end, I bravely asked him to tell me in Hebrew the names of all different animals and he could do it!
Sometimes we need to use brute force. Sometimes we need to back off. And sometimes we need every trick in the bag to make learning happen. I had to make sure 7yo felt heard and expressed his fear about a hard pasuk. I had to wait for the fear to pass. I had to change venue and work outside. I had to employ trop and translation. I had to let him lead the way in silliness and feel that he "owned" his learning. I had to let go of my idea that reviewing a pasuk will take five minutes on a couch.