Thursday, February 25, 2016

actual homeschooling ( for real this time)

So what am I doing with those older boys?

I am calling it a taekwondo/chumash year. They are clearly progressing and achieving in taekwondo. They are earning their belts and stripes, getting stronger, lowering into splits, focusing and performing. As the year goes on, the progress is obvious. I also see that 9 yo grabs an opportunity when he sees one. He asked his teacher to check a certain sparring sequence. 9 yo got it wrong and was sent to practice. That did not deter him from asking to be checked at the next opportunity. He had to be checked three times before he got it right, and days passed in between. But he is focused on getting eligible to test for black belt, so he keeps on practicing.

With our crazy schedule, I make chumash a daily priority. We are in Ki Tisa with 11 yo, right at the golden calf right now. We do five pesukim a day, I ask both boys to prepare before they sit down with me: preread the pesukim and look up any words that they don't know in the dictionary. 11 yo got sneaky and looks up in Rashi instead. If Rashi doesn't comment, he fudges his way through, hoping that I am not paying attention. Meanwhile, I am prereading all the Rashis, just in case he asks a question and Rashi has an answer. This is doing wonders for my Chumash learning. In fact, I highly recommend for anyone who wants to master a particular area to try to teach it to their children: the preparation will force you to slow down and focus on depth. I am starting to appreciate Rashi much more.

11 yo's chumash skills are pretty good. He does moan and groan occasionally, but it is much less than it used to be. I know that he is on the cusp of mastery when we hit a Rashi on mysterious בגדי השרד. Since he didn't look the word up, I sent him to Rashi. I also asked him to pull out מקראות גדולות, to see if anyone else comments. Before I had a chance to sit down with him, he browsed through אבן עזרה and רמבן and told me that he likes אבן עזרה more. He did not even realize that he switched to a chumash without nekudot, and that he was able to do exactly what I was hoping to accomplish: independently look up מפרשים. Of course, this was one time, but it is a clear progression of daily skill acquisition.

9 yo is doing three pesukim a day. We review three previous peskim and then he prepares three new ones. He has hard time using the dictionary, as he keeps on forgetting the words that he already looked up multiple times. In addition. his ability to find shorashim is not so good, and he is afraid of looking up the wrong shoresh, or that a dictionary won't have it. Overall, however, he is at the point where he can scan the Hebrew, but recite the translation. Also, he gets plenty of pesukim that he can translate without having to look up any words. His Rashi skills are coming along. He worries about the length of Rashis, and he tries to memorize the meaning, just in case. I try to pick interesting short Rashis, but I especially make a big deal whenever he asks a question that Rashi asks and answers. For example, when we read about 11 children of Yaakov that crossed Yabbok, he asked me: Yaakov had 12 children, what happened to Dina? At that point, he did not mind reading the whole Rashi with the whole explanation. I keep hoping that slowly but surely his skills will improve and his confidence to "get it" will increase.

I spent a large chunk of the year fretting about boys not doing mishnayot. We never got a teacher for 11 yo, and the program that I tried ordering for the boys took forever to arrive only for me to realize that it is not usable without teacher materials, and teacher materials are costly and require preparation. So I did what I did best: fretted and fumed, worried and harassed 11 yo ( and my long-suffering husband) to do something! Finally, one Friday night, after refusing to go to shul, I said that 11 yo has to read something meaningful instead of another Percy Jackson-like fantasy. He opened Illustrated Mishna Shabbos, and read the whole thing! I am pretty sure that he did in a few days what usually takes months. No, he did not read it all in Hebrew. and he definitely would have gotten more out with a teacher, but, judging by his little quotes here and there, he read enough of what interested him.

Additionally, I went online looking for some sort of mishna yomi program, maybe something that would e-mail a daily mishna with some explanation. I stumbled across these mishnayot. The boys each picked an area and are reading and listening to two mishnayot a day. 11 yo picked Avodah Zarah, with a detour to Megillah in honor of Purim. 9 yo picked Sanhedrin, no doubt influenced by his brother. This is not what I had in mind, but I am learning to be flexible and accepting that children will pick what works for them.

9 yo is doing Lashon HaTorah, Workbook ד. He is having hard time with it, even though I see an improvement in his skills when it comes to chumash. 11 yo is doing Rosetta Stone, We had a glitch where our house computer died and he lost a lot of his progress. He is not in the rush to finish, but I see him trying to strike up conversations in Hebrew. Unfortunately, my Hebrew is not that good, and his siblings do not understand what he is saying, so it is not going anywhere. I am still waiting for those Israelis to enter our life and make my kids fluent...

I wanted to do Megillah Esther, but I don't think I have it in me this year. The boys read over the Youth Megillah and The Children of Shushan Fight Haman. Neither boy is enthusiastic about reading and translating. 11 yo halfheartedly suggested listening to baal koreh and following in English in Stone chumash. Megillah will have to wait another year.

What about halacha, minchagim, Jewish history? I definitely unschool those. I have Sand and Stars, and after a visit from another homeschool family, I pulled them out and 11 yo read them on his own. 9 yo might have glanced inside, or he might not have. The boys are welcome to attend shiurim in our shul, and they come and go as they please.I do not know how much they get out, but they will pipe up once in a while, so something somewhere is trickling in.

The secular subject update will have to happen at some later point.

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