Sunday, August 25, 2013

spontaneous learning

I was on an organizing kick, which led to a huge mess on the floor. I was pulling out all the books that the boys are not using from their cubbies. One of them was Yahadus textbook I got at the conference last year. It was browsed here and there, but it could be on a general reference shelf, not taking up space in a crowded cubby of 9 yo.

As I am trying to get to the computer tonight, I almost trip over 7 yo reading this Yahadus book. I am rubbing hands internally: see, I just need to leave it out, and they will come! Then he looks up and says, with those earnest eyes of his: "Mommy, tomorrow I want to learn about mitzvos. Can you teach me about mitzvos?" I say, sure, and sit down to write it down for tomorrow's to-do list, lest I forget. Then he asks me to read to him a story tale in Russian, and translate as I'm reading. Then 9 yo compares it to an English story tale that he knows.

Meanwhile, 7 yo asks if we can learn just one mitzvah tonight. I say, sure, and we sit down on the couch.(My husband is conveniently home, so he whisks away a fuzzy baby. 3 yo is doing her own thing, so 7 yo has my undivided attention). He read the first mitzvah. I got him to read some of the Hebrew. Then we discussed the difference between positive and negative commandments. There was a blurb on the side telling that some of 13 Principles of Rambam are based on these mitzvos. The whole book is following Mishna Torah format. I got excited and showed 7 yo in the siddur where the 13 Principles are found. I said that they start with Ani Maamin ( I believe). He started singing the one about Mashiach from 3 yo's singing siddur. I showed him where that principle fits, and read the first four. Then I flipped to Yigdal, and read the translations of the first four ideas there. I told he that by saying Yigdal, he is fulfilling these mitzvos. He said that he did not realize that. He actually felt good, since he had this idea of acting out (performing?) the mitzvos that we learn and I could tell that he was not sure how to perform knowing that there is a G-d.

I get asked all the time what curriculum I use for Judaics. When I leave things vague, or fumble for an answer, the assumption is that we have no idea what we are doing, since there is no script, and, consequently, my kids are lacking in knowledge. Yet how could I script a moment like this? How could I script the desire within 7 yo on this particular night to learn about mitzvos, and that it would carry over to the siddur and to imbue the familiar prayers with a new glow of meaning? As much time as I spend defending homeschooling, I spend even more time quaking in my boots and freaking out that my kids will not know some essential. All it takes is a pleasant interaction like this, the genuine quest for knowledge, and I am assured of the path that we find ourselves on.

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