Wednesday, March 18, 2015

two steps forward, one step back

We are in the middle of Shemot with 10 yo, moving right along, I think I will end up with the best textual preparation because of this; I have never read so many Rashis.

10 yo finished Bava Kamma, and we are almost done reviewing it. For the past few months, he has been going to shul with my husband for minyan, then staying to learn with his rebbe and scootering back home, and then, most days, going to taekwondo. To me, this sounded like an ideal set-up: get your davening and Torah learning done first thing in the morning, when you are fresh, and then get some physical exercise, to get your body moving. Unfortunately, it has not been panning out. He was cranky about leaving the house so early, upset about having to scarf down breakfast, and feeling that he has no time. He seemed to be retaining mishnaiyot just fine, but he was clearly not happy, dragging his feet. Once he finished Bava Kamma, we decided to take a break from formal mishna learning till after Pesach. I don't exactly know what we will choose to do at that point. Drop mishna for the summer? Find a difference set-up for learning? Jump right back in?

Meanwhile, in my panicky state of "when am I ever going to teach kids about Pesach, if it is not happening again this year", I decided to review mishna Pesachim with 10 yo. He is nor super-enthusiastic about it, but his younger brother eagerly asked whether he can join us and learn mishna together. 8 yo has been able to read the text of the mishna, and talk about the cases that we discussed. He also said how he can stay with 10 yo and his rebbe and learn mishnaiyot together, so his brother would not be lonely. 10 yo responded that his rebbe is more of a one-on-one kind of teacher, feeling infringement on his time.

8 yo asked to learn Rashi script. We have a laminated chart hanging in our dining room, and I do not recall seeing him ever studying it, but he felt ready. In fact, he repeatedly asked me about learning Rashi. I found a workbook that I got years ago for 10 yo, but did not end up using. I was actually looking for a file which I did use previously, but I could not find it, neither on my computer, nor online. 8 yo saw the workbook and asked whether he can do it. So far, he is getting right through, happily filling out pages.

It is funny, since both mishna and Rashi script traditionally start in 3rd grade, and I am pretty sure that were I to introduce 8 yo to them both when he was not ready, he would balk. Now, that he is the one initiating the learning, he is happy as a clam (about these two things).

We are gearing up to take ITBS next week with a bunch of homeschool kids. I am squeezing in as much info as possible, especially into 8 yo. I want him to feel ready, and to work out strategies about what to do about questions that he has not learned yet, or that do not make sense to him. It is working out, and backfiring spectacularly, all at the same time.

What's working: apparently, I can explain months' worth of math in five minutes, and the boys can do it. I can explain contractions, and simple subjects, and not worry whether we have spent a day per each, or just enough for them to understand it and apply it. I explained multi-digit multiplication and simple division to 8 yo, as it came up, and he was using it right away. I explained percent and fractional operations to 10 yo. Of course, it flies in the face of all sorts of educational theories about reinforcement, and not cramming too much material into a too small period of time.

What's backfiring: 8 yo is progressively becoming more anxious about the test. He dissolved into tears the other day, stomped out, threw the test booklet, etc. Ironically, the following day, when he picked it up again, he was able to do most of the work. So this has nothing to do with ability or knowledge. I am  a bit worried that he will shut down during the actual test, but I also hope that he will know what kinds of feelings testing provokes in him, and how to handle them.

Meanwhile, just the other day I was stressing about 5 yo and how she is still not reading. She has been more reluctant to try to read words as I'm reading to her, and we are nowhere near done with the first set of Bob Books. And then, just as I enter the living room, she greets me with the next Bob Book from the series, asking whether we can sit down together to read it. Did she read my mind? The following day, she read the next one to me. Today, she wanted to read one, but I was too frazzled, and she was a bit distracted, too. Maybe we'll pick it up later today, maybe not.

It seems that every time I start to worry, the kids will do something reassuring. And every time I feel that we have found our groove, the kids will do something or other to keep me on my toes. It's a delicate dance, a cha-cha. I am not in the mood of dancing; I am in the mood to put my feet up and have a latte.

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