Thursday, November 16, 2017

Daily schoolwork for 11 yo

I have one child at home and this is what we aim to do every day:

  • Chumash. His bar mitzvah Torah reading is the first day of Pesach, last bit of Parshat Bo. We have started Shemot from the beginning. We have agreed to do four pesukim per day. The latest round of child's input landed us at him reading one day and me reading the next, with him translating to the best of his ability and me supplying the words he does not know or remember. We are using a Chumash with Rashi menukad, and I aim to do one Rashi per day. Sometimes it works, sometimes it backfires. He continues to have reading difficulties, so my goal is to build his confidence in being able to read Chumash and Rashi.
  • Yahadus. We are using Yahadus textbooks, reading a chapter a day. I do all the English reading, while he reads the name of each mitzvah in Hebrew and the pasuk that the mitzvah is derived from. Then we pull out Stone Chumash and he highlights the relevant part of each pasuk. 11 yo also made a "Mitzvah Man": on graph paper he made a large rectangle that contains 600 squares (geometry snuck in there) and added extra 13 as hands and feet. For every mitzvah deoraita, he highlights a square. I also use The Taryag Mitzvot Manual tables as a review and reinforcement. Since 11 yo is a kinesthetic learner, I photocopied the relevant pages onto cardstock, cut out each mitzvah and separated its Hebrew name from Hebrew description from English summary. As we learn more mitzvot, 11 yo's goal was to line them up in order and match up all three parts. This was not trivial when we got to Avodah Zara. My secret goal is for him to know all 613 by heart following the order for Mishne Torah. I got these ideas from the One Minute Masmid by Jonathan Rietti. I am proud to say that we finished the first textbook this week and he was able to organize all 86 mitzvot with their explanations and translations correctly.
  • Chayienu. He does one page of Chayeinu workbook Daled. I know that he's technically in 6th grade, but Vav proved to be too hard and he started to give up, so we backed up a bit. It's Yediyot Klaliot, and there is plenty of new to him material in there. Currently we are working on knowing the seder of Parshyot in order. ( I know there are young kids who know this, but I also know plenty of adults who learned the song as kids and totally forgot it).
  • Lashon Hatorah. Honestly, I could not remember where we were a year ago before he attended day school, so I did what I do best: went online and ordered a new workbook for middle and upper school students. It is faster paced than other books. So far, it is review material, and he is going at a good solid pace. I skip along pages that are repetitive.
  • Math. He asked me more than once NOT to continue with Math Mammoth. Since last year he did some 6th grade math, he placed himself into 7th grade Khan Academy math. There are holes in his knowledge, so I have to often sit next to him when he hits unfamiliar areas. He gets to pace himself, so he sees his progress through badges and percent of material covered and decides how much time he wants to devote to math on any given day.
  • Grammar. He also does that at Khan Academy. From what I see, good solid progress. 
  • Coding. Khan Academy and Scratch from homeschool coop.
These are the skeletal basics. This is what he has as a daily plan. He can get it all done by 10 am, but it does not always happen.

Now, what this does not reflect is the insane amount of helpful housework 11 yo does. He sets the table without being asked, unloads the dishwasher, cooks for himself and others, plays with younger siblings, changes diapers, washes 4 yo, brings in groceries, cleans up, babysits. As far as being a mentsch, this child shines.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The Outer Limits

A few weeks ago, we participated in the Shabbos Project. Originally meant as a Shabbat to encourage your non-observant Jewish acquaintances to give Shabbos a try, it seems to have taken a life of its own and now turned into a communal Shabbos celebration of "We are here. We are keeping it. Yay us!" Ok, I will admit that there is good coming out from the sense of not doing it alone, but it leaves me wondering what is lacking.

Our shul held a communal lunch where members were encouraged to share their "Shabbos at the outer limits" stories. I had one come to mind and was prepared to share it. However, I have waited for a clarification that explained that stories are to be heard by the Rosh Kollel and he will give feedback on how appropriately one acted, given the circumstances.

The stories came pouring in: wine brought over on Shabbos, electronic appliances malfunctioning, fridge lights turning on, naughty babies unplugging essential components threatening to cause major damage, menorah fire... Each participant shared and Rosh Kollel nicely explained what was at stake and how it could have been solved halachically.

I found myself feeling glad that I did not go first, and then unable to share in this format because my story seemed a world away from the concerns being voiced. I also felt that my story was not a halachic shaila, but in some other category.

I am fifteen. I have been to the States for two years, attending a Jewish high school, learning about Judaism and observance. Now, finally, as originally promised, I am given a ticket to go back to Moldova and visit my parents whom I have not seen in those two years. I am excited because I have been very homesick. But I am also very nervous: in these two years I have decided to become observant. My parents can be simply described as atheists. Now, I am going back to post-Soviet Union country in the middle of the nineties. The globalization had not reached that far (yet), so there is no kosher packaged food, no paper goods. There is no Google, internet is in its infancy. And I am going back, determined to keep Shabbat and kashrut among my family that expects me to come back and be the same person that I was when I left two years ago. I am supposed to eat my grandma's cooking. I am supposed to milk those precious two months for every opportunity to be with my parents and do what they do, Shabbos and all its prohibitions getting in the way.

I fought a lot with my parents about shabbos, on kashrut, on beliefs, on observance, on being brainwashed, on tears that this is not what they signed up for. I kashered whatever silverware they had that was all metal. I cleaned all glass/pyrex containers and plates that they had. ( I felt terribly guilty for not toveling those dishes). I became a vegetarian because there was no kosher meat, short of going to the Chabad rabbi with your own live chicken and then plucking it yourself. Besides, it was easier, kashrut-wise, for everything to be dairy and parve. I brought four cans of tuna from the States and those cans were my way to honor Shabbat. The local rabbi told us that the baguette bread could be eaten, so I ate lots of bread, vegetables, pasta, milk and dairy.

I had a list of candle-lighting times, so I knew when to light the candles. I made havdalah based on when I saw three stars. Instead of the elevator, I used the back entrance to the apartment buidling with the stairs. It reeked of urine and worse and was pitch-black for the two flights of stairs.

And I stayed away from the always-booming TV that drew me in. I used the bathroom in the dark because someone always forgot to leave the light on, or turned it off not to waste electricity.

I made kiddush and hamotzi. I spent time with my long-suffering family that was far from the enjoyable shabbat seudah that comes to one's mind. We did not discuss Torah unless I was called upon to defend it, with my total of two years' of learning.

The truth is, nobody would have known whether I kept Shabbat and kashrut when I went back home or not. I sort of wonder whether the assumption was that I WILL NOT keep it and we will all be quiet about it, don't ask, don't tell sort of thing. But I knew that G-d will know, and I wanted to be pure before G-d.

Ironically, that same summer, I had a meeting with a senior rabbi who was in charge of the program that brought Russian Jews to study in America and Israel. I showed disobedience by refusing to be a pawn and to go to a new city that he picked for me to go. I wanted to stay in the same school and with the same community that gave me the fortitude to keep Shabbat by myself halfway across the world at the age of fifteen. He was not pleased, and he was going to punish me by withdrawing the funding to continue going to the same school. I wonder how he will be judged after 120 for abandoning a Shabbat-observant girl in Moldova to fend for herself... I wonder if he also thought that I was not keeping Shabbos.

Looking back, I don't know how I did it. I would not eat nowadays by the level of kashrut that I kept at that point. I don't think I knew enough to keep Shabbat 100%. But given the circumstances, I know that I gave it my best shot.

How could I bring this extreme situation to the judgment of Rosh Kollel? How could I share it publicly when the biggest emergency meant simply finding a non-Jew to turn something on or off, and aah, breathe in the spirit of Shabbat, make a good story about it?

I sometimes wonder why my outer limits always end up so far outside of everyone else's.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

on parenting


Remember when you thought you had it all figured out? When you were sure that the future is bright? When you knew all the answers, and knew which path to follow? When all you had to do was wait for your life to start?

That seems like a million years ago. The older I get, the older the kids get, the less I feel like I know, or there is less that I know with certainty, that I can dispense as age-old wisdom.

I got the basics because they do not change. We swing in our norms one way and then the other, the parenting magazines and articles will list a brand-new technique, but, chances are, it was already empolyed and we know the results.

The basics are: you cannot hold your children too much. They will always crave your arms, crave your touch, crave a physical knowledge that they matter more than anything else. You cannot spoil them like that. They cannot be too old. The touch with change, the lap will grow smaller as their bodies grow bigger, but it is always needed, like air.

They want to know that they are loved unconditionally, whether they are good or bad, whether their actions are good or bad, whether they make you happy or not, whether everyone approves of what they do, or not. They will try very hard to be unloveable, to break your heart, and then break it again and again, in hopes of proving to themselves that they are not worthy of love. And you, as a parent, will be left to pick up the pieces and tell them that they matter, that you still love them, that you will not give up on them, because it's your job to make them feel whole and worthy of your love.

And then there is time. The children will remember the time that you took from a million more important, more worthy things just to be with them. My kids fondly recall an insane Starbucks Frappucino drive-through run that happened less than half an hour before Shabbos. It was not the most menaingful or stress-free activity, but it was fun and it clearly put them first. I try so hard to make time just to sit on the couch and see what develops. Usually it's books and cuddles, sometimes it's conversations, or games, but I hope they remember the importance of just sitting together without agenda, without productivity, just because they are my kids and I love them and I show that love by spending time with them.

Everything else is so murky. Bedtimes? Discipline? Sibling conflicts? Mess? Nutrition? I don't know if there is one way to do it right, but if there are tears from all involved, it is probably wrong. What was right for this kid does not always translate to that kid.

So I don't think I will ever have this parenting thing figured out. I envy parenting gurus, dispensing advice, like they have walked in my shoes, lived my life, dealt with my kids and their unique circumstances.

So you do you, as you do every day. Throw out the parenting advice and follow your mommy heart.

One Momma to Another

Friday, September 29, 2017

Two thoughts on Yom Kippur.

I was shocked to see how many people post lists of segulot, customs and "good things to do at the auspicious time" for Yom Kippur. It is not magic. Torah warns us strenuously and multiple times again idolatry and there are ten negative commandments (according to Rambam) that warn against omens, superstitions, astrology, divination and magical thinking shortcuts. I always thought that Yom Kippur was about teshuva, feeling bad for what you did, resolving to do better, being contrite and trying to rectify your mistakes. It is a painful process of intense internal self-search and finding yourself wanting. So I could not understand how a shortcut like "give tzedakah to our charity and erase your sins!" has any appeal beyond feeling like putting a band-aid on a gaping wound. However, this year I realized that another theme of Yom Kippur is magic unlike anything else that we see in the Torah. Hashem will erase our sins. They will not be remembered anymore, moreover, they will no longer affect us. Imagine that someone punches a hole in the wall. Now the wall has a hole. If one wants to fix it, he has to carefully patch it up, wait for the plaster to dry, smooth it, sand it down, paint it in perfectly matching color. Even then, no matter how skillful is the craftsman, with time, due to the difference of the material, one will be able to detect the exact location of the hole. It is not there, and there at the same time. What Hashem promises to us on Yom Kippur is that the wall will revert to its unpunched state. No human can do that, only Hashem. What about the scarlet thread that changes from crimson to white as the sins are erased (only in the Beis Hamikdash)? What about the essence of the Day of Atonement that itself atones? Isn't it amazing how much love Hashem has for us that He will act against the natural order just so we can all have a fresh start?

So why do people sully this with segulahs and weird additions? Is it because we have so much fear that we are willing to invoke something, ANYTHING just to remove the feeling of pending doom? Isn't is because the impulse for Avodah Zara is so strong that we are willing to stray after ridiculous proclamations hoping to get a better year and avert the inevitable death that awaits us all? And then I realized that there is another theme of Yom Kippur. The essence of Jewish people getting atonement comes from Moshe praying to G-d (on Yom Kippur!) after the idolatrous sin of the Golden Calf. We are given the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy that are recited numerous times during Selichot. Jewish people sinned because they did not understand the true nature of G-d. Jewish people sinned because they turned to an intermediary, hoping it to do "magic" for them. That's why Moshe asked Hashem to teach him his divine ways because he was hoping to bring down to people clarity so they would not stumble again.

A second idea that came to me is how I normally deal with this time of year. I have spent years missing davening.mostly due to kids being small, lack of childcare, lack of support to get to shul or to have a mental space to daven, being exhausted due to pregnancy or nursing. So usually I arrived at Yom Kippur feeling that I have not done enough, prepared enough, read up enough, did enough teshuva, did teshuva correctly, etc. I was feeling guilty (and tired and exhausted). The whole experience did not produce that fabled serene mother of many who can calmly say that taking care of her kids is her Avodah, thank you very much, why is it not cutting it for you, you must be doing it wrong... Last year I had a full mental breakdown that I kind of did not even care what kind of year I will get because whatever I tried to do during these days of repentance would not cut it.

But this year something shifted. I might still be doing it "wrong" but it seems to be working for me. I offered to give a class on Rosh HaShana machzor for women. Only one lady came, but it did not matter because I got to spend time thinking about what are the themes that have to do with these days of Awe. I also listened to Aleph Beta videos during my many hours of driving. The picture that emerged from Rosh Hashana was of Hashem as a benevolent King, a kind Ruler who only wishes good upon his subjects and eagerly awaits for them all to rectify their ways and enter into the glorious messianic era full of knowledge. There was a clear absence of guilt and dread. It seemed that the first step was crowning Hashem as King on Rosh HaShana and then receiving a royal pardon on Yom Kippur. The focus was on learning the essence of the day, understanding the ways of Hashem, realizing that he desires our teshuva and that the day will erase any wrongdoing. The Awe has to do with realizing the majesty of our Divine Ruler, not in fear. Once I have been honing this mental picture of who G-d is, I found myself desiring to be closer to him, to know more of him, and working on purifying myself spiritually to achieve even more closeness. Then, if my sins stand in the way, I will remove them as a barrier.

For the first time ever, I might be doing teshuvah meahava (from love).

In an interesting twist, once I achieved this understanding, I am no longer sad or annoyed that I am likely to miss on large parts of shul attendance due to my children. I also realized that I would not have been able to have these insights if my youngest kids were younger.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

A Wednesday

I am tired. Oh so deeply, essentially tired.

I don't want to whine about how tired I am.

I had a bad night of sleep. 11 yo got braces on his upper teeth and an expander and the pain kicked in in the middle of the night. He marched over at 3 am for a dose of Tylenol.

Not everyone had lunch packed this morning. 13 yo was having a picture day at school, but it was on me to remind him the morning of that he needs to bring a suit on a hanger. 11 yo refused to eat breakfast due to braces and inability to chew his usual morning fare: a bagel. No alternatives would do. He would not think about what to pack for lunch for the homeschool coop classes coming up later in the day. He refused to daven. He refused to go. He refused to do any schoolwork, to listen to any suggestions on how to deal with his teeth, or to offer any of his own. And the whole time I kept coaching myself internally: do not yell, it's his anxiety talking, do not yell, it will make it worse, do not yell...

I packed my lunch. I wiped the kitchen windows. I washed out the recycling bin.

He did get in the car when it was time to leave. He acquiesced to a water bottle, but no food. We listened to iPod in silence during the drive. I felt drained already.

I taught my class. 11 yo is in my class, and he was super jittery the entire time: pacing, touching, blurting things out. I find teaching exciting and draining, even if it's just middle school chemistry to five homeschool kids. My mom called in the middle. We have been taking coop classes on Wednesdays for six years, but she still called when I was teaching.

Then I assisted in another class. 11 yo freaked out about a forgotten password, then he recalled it. I helped paint some rocks. I had lunch. I chatted with other moms, all the while keeping an eye on the clock for the afternoon carpool. 11 yo came over to graze. He had a few crackers. I tried to pretend that it is normal to skip breakfast and lunch, nothing to worry about.

I left at 2 pm. 11 yo seemed agreeable to finding something to eat at home while I would drive carpool. I meekly suggested that he look over his schoolwork and see if he can do anything on his own. I dropped him off and zoomed to preschool to get 2 yo. She was sleeping, and sleepily transferred to her car seat. Then we zoomed onto the highway to get the rest of the kids from their school.

By some sheer miracle (and the existence of people more organized than I) I am part of a carpool where I have to drive only 2-3 times a week instead of 10 times. However, since there are six kids loading into my car, it is never smooth. These ones do not want to sit with those. That one is touching this one. This one is eating. That one is sort of trying to say a bad word while talking about it. These ones are just annoying. That one is loud. And they all have been cooped up in the school building since 8 am and now they are set loose in my car. I used to talk to my kids when we drive places. I used to think they were loud. But this is a whole new level.

But today was not bad. Today they even loaded quickly enough for the carpool lady not to hustle anyone. I had same iPod going and as long as it was playing, they seemed quiet. I checked my messages to see who is dropped off where today. Mind you, it is 4 pm now and I have been driving since 2.

We get home. 13 yo and 7 yo change into their bathing suits for swimming. Years ago, when I just started homeschooling, the boys tried out for a swim team and were not able to swim enough to qualify. Now it is a whole different story. We live a five-minute walk from the JCC. There are no major streets to cross. 13 yo is legally old enough to babysit. But JCC apparently has a rule that he is not old enough to be 7 yo's guardian while she is attending swim practice. They are not just splashing in the pool, they are attending an organized class, but they need to be watched by a legal; guardian. So they cannot walk over there and back on their own, and they cannot be left there unsupervised while they are swimming. I am very upset by this. Have I known this, I probably would not have signed 7 yo up. 13 yo is old enough to get there and back on his own. And I wonder: we keep complaining how kids nowadays are so ill-adapted to independent living, how millennials are such spoiled brats, how they don't know how to be tough. Why do we set up such rules in place that keep kids on a short parental leash for so long? How are large families supposed to manage this? I tried bringing my younger kids to practice, but it is no fun keeping 2 yo for half an hour away from the pool's edge. Besides. she was just in the car for over an hour. All she wants to do is come home, chill and play.

My only solution was to ask 11 yo if he so kindly would not mind watching his two younger siblings at home while I watched his two older siblings at the pool, twice a week. He agreed, but today both younger siblings disagreed. I ended up shoving two older kids out to the door, leaving 11 yo in charge of two screaming kids. If you want to feel mom guilt, do that, especially after spending zero time with the babies the whole day.

After the pool, faster, faster, let's get home, I know the little ones were storming the pantry before I left. I have not been home since 9 am, so there is no dinner because there was no time for the dinner. But never fear, we are going to eat out tonight at a new Israeli restaurant because that's the best I could come up with. As we are getting in the car to drive that ridiculously short distance home, 11 yo called me to hurry up because 2 yo did not stop crying the entire time I was gone.

I bitterly commented how I need more grown-ups in my life, so I am not leaving an 11 yo in braces pain in charge of two screaming kids. 13 yo wryly commented how he used to be that 11 yo. Yes, kid, we have been making do for years. It is sad when kids have to step up and function as adults.

I am greeted at the doorstep by a teary 2 yo clutching her blankie next to her big brother. 4 yo is freaking out that this new restaurant will not have hot dogs and what he will eat then? The rest of the food is "yucky". It does not take a supersleuth to figure out that he did not nap today, that he's tired, that the last thing he wants is to go out to eat instead of snuggling on the couch with mommy. But there is no dinner, and I am not serving noodles yet again.

The new restaurant was a bright spot. Even my husband made it home on time to come with us. The food was plentiful and good, they had schnitzel for 4 yo, 11 yo was able to chew and get mashed potatoes. The rebbitzen of the community invited us out for Succot lunch. Yay for procrastination! One less meal to plan for!

And then my husband got called up, And then we got home at 7 pm. 7 yo had twenty minutes of nightly reading log. 4 yo went back into full meltdown mode, and I was trying to manage the kids from the couch while half-listening to my daughter read. It is clicking, but it is still slow. Both boys were reading fluently and for pleasure at this age. She still does so little functional reading that I had to point out the kids' section on the menu. I am also thinking how this mandatory reading is not helping move things along, but, being a conscientious student, she dutifully reads every night.

After I finished and tucked in the three youngers, I did two more sections from Hilchot Teshuva with 11 yo. That was the only schoolwork that we did today.

It is 9:30. 11 yo is still up. I packed lunches. I am defrosting chicken for erev yom kippur and for kids to eat on Yom Kippur.

I just want to go and kick back with a book. But most of all, I want to arrive at the nighttime not mindlessly tired.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017


Today is Rosh Chodesh Elul. My oldest got back really late last night from his class trip to the eclipse totality. I gave myself a small pat on the back for staying put and not being stuck in the same traffic. This late arrival led to a late start in school, at 10:15. Now, my other kids get picked up in a carpool so this late start meant that I had to drive him. Time to insert gratitude for having the flexibility that these schedule changes are mere inconveniences than major life disrupters. He was a bit nervous about getting to school on time, feeling that this was like a pardon not to be squandered. I had some errands to do, so I hustled 11 yo to come with us.

It happened. Statistically, it was supposed to happen sooner, but it happened today. The fastest and most direct way to the school requires one to get onto one highway, exit onto the left lane of another highway and then exit on the right off the second highway in 300 feet onto a service road. One is expected to transverse three lanes of traffic while entering on the left (fastest moving lane) in 300 feet. I used to avoid this route. I used to tell kids to shush, as I cannot see the traffic on the second highway till I exit the ramp. But I have been lucky to successfully merge, cross those three lanes, and exit where we need to exit. It does not help that the next exit is a few miles away.

Today, since I was coming mid-morning, I was not able to cross all three lanes while going at highway speed. There was a car merging left, and the guy in the right-most lane did not give me space to exit. So we ended up being pulled towards the next exit, with my teen slowly hyperventilating how he's going to be late. I asked him to Waze our way. We were arriving at 10:16. But I was quite rattled. I kept saying how this was bound to happen, how at least we did not crash, but internally I was in turmoil.

After drop off, we set out on the same highway to run our errands. I decided to go to Office Depot not far from our old residence since I needed to make multiple copies for homeschool chemistry class. Lo and behold, their price is 14 cents per copy while I am getting reimbursed at 10 cents per copy. Multiply that by a couple hundred pages and I slowly backed away from the counter, thinking that I need to find a place with a better rate.

As I got into my car, chatting with 11 yo, I put the key into ignition and ... nothing. It would not start. It just started! We drove here! What now? I tried this, I tried that. No, it would not start. The previous time this happened was with our old van, two days before Rosh HaShana and we needed a new alternator to the tune of a crazy amount of money, a day in the shop and a rental car, Today I had to pick up 2 yo at 2:30 on the other side of town. No wonder I went into the hyperventilating mode.

Time to insert gratitude that we broke down in the major shopping plaza, that I do have AAA, that AAA repair shop is in the same plaza, that there is kosher food available right there, that a friend who was texting me at the exact same time offered to help. I am also grateful that I did not leave 11 yo at home, because who knows how long this would take?

I decided that it is quicker to walk over to AAA than to call the hotline. It turned out to be a smart decision, as they sent a mechanic with a jumper battery to see whether they could just jump me. The car started enough for me to drive it over, but the battery was dead. They assured me that it is not the alternator, just a battery and they can switch it out right in the parking lot, here is your bill, have a great day. As I ran the rest of the shopping errands, we got some lunch. While we were eating it, I said out loud how it is Elul and maybe these two car malfunctions were a kapara (a redemption) for something I did. Incidentally, we went over Vidui yesterday and the line at the end where we ask Hashem to erase all our sins, but not through illnesses and major suffering stuck out to me. 11 yo listened to me musing out loud and said, I get it already, you've convinced me. I muttered how I am trying to convince myself.

On the heels of the eclipse, we definitely take the sun for granted until there is a major celestial event that brings our awareness to what it does for us day to day. I was thinking how I take my car for granted. We went for years with one car and that was hard. I loved having two cars after that. I was very aware of what a difference in mobility a car makes, especially with small kids in a spread-out city. But that was many years ago. Now we have had two well-running cars for over 8 years, so it is not on my mind so much.

However, there was another theme, something that I did not articulate out loud. As much as both of these incidents could have been a kapara, did I really need it like this? Do I really need to get into a near accident? Do I really need to drop a large amount of money on a sudden car repair? Do I need to run mental lists of whom can I call to get my baby from preschool if this car issue turns out to be serious? What happened to kapara of reaching into a pocket for a quarter and pulling out a dime?

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

second day of (home)school

11 yo davened at home. I had to drop off 2 yo and get an oil change. We agreed that he will complete a certain amount of school work on his own and he was all done by the time I came back. He did three pages of Chayeinu workbook and read over the next mitzvah in Yahadus. Meanwhile, I'm slowly plowing through Rabbi Rietti's One Minute Masmid. I am very inspired since for the first time in a long time, I feel that there is an approach that I can use both in my own learning and in helping 11yo. The basic is that you start with Tanach, then Taryag, then Mishna, then Gemara, cover a lot of ground to build up the breadth and to feel progress and review like crazy. Since we are doing Yahadus at 11 yo's request, it leads naturally both to looking mitzvot up in Chmuash, reviewing Taryag and learning halachot. Today, when I got home, I asked him to find a high lighter and go back into Chmuash to highlight parts of the pesukim where the mitzvot are found. They are quoted right in Yahadus, so it was a beatiful exercise to see where Rambam pulled each mitzvah from. I also got a review in and even some Hebrew reading. 11 yo asked me whether Daddy will approve of his marking up Chmuash. I said that it is for purpose of learning, so it is OK.

I had grand plans for doing one more mitzvah, reading one perek of Navi a day with him, reading one Aliyah of Parsha, but for now, I will have to sit tight and see how all this goes. I told 11 yo to take a piece of graph paper and mark up a shape encompassing 613 squares. That sent us on a half an hour hunt for the ruler. We never fully unpacked homeschooling supplies since our move. I was also thinking how disorganized space reflects disorganized mind... but I have totally given up on that. I just don't go into the basement, don't deal with those boxed up hopes and dreams. I also cannot keep up.

So once the ruler was located, drawing this shape proved to be an estimating challenge with a small dose of math. 11 yo wanted to use extra 13 squares to make a person shape. I just watched. I can be very patient with one kid. Then, when he got the shape to his satisfaction. I told him to color in the squares equal to a number of mitzvot we high lighted. I want to give him a visual of our progress, in hopes to both address his anxiety about learning Judaics and to encourage him with tangible progress.

As an aside, he looked up the very last word in the Torah, noticed how some pesukim already contain more than one mitzvah and noticed how Rambam used the pasuk about not testing G-d to mean not to test Navi too much.

I went over his Chayeinu pages. I located abandoned Lashon HaTorah.

We had lunch. We tried going biking, but the bike rental rack would not allow me to get into the system today. 11 yo tried out dirt bike trails. We saw deer. He got exhausted after less than an hour. He also remarked how the day is going well. I asked him how he knows and he said, I'm not throwing fits.

When we got home, I did Hebrew Duolingo. I tested out of a whole bunch of levels, so now I am swimming in a sea of new words that I supposedly know. He watched me. I would like him to try his hand at it, but not now, when he feels confident or curious enough.

He did Khan academy math. I don't know what he knows, so it is nice that they are catching the holes and giving him a chance to practice both lower and higher level skills. He placed himself in 7th grade even though technically he's in sixth. He did grammar and some coding too. I caught him pausing the explanatory coding video and taking notes because he knew from previous experiences that they will expect him to use those commands.

taking notes on coding
Finally, he had his first tennis lesson at the JCC around the corner. 13 yo and 7 yo also started on swim lessons yesterday. I dropped them off and ran into the issue that the coach would not let my oldest walk back on his own. I had to drive back to pick them up all the while thinking how we complain about spoiled rotten millenials. 13 yo is allowed to use the pool on his own according to JCC rules. Why is he not allowed to walk back home? The coach said that he just needed to hear my agreement before letting them walk. So today with tennis, I found 11 yo's coach and clearly told him that I am allowing my son to walk over and back on his own. Coach's first words: "Does he know the way?" We live around the corner, literally. The child is 11. What is this world coming to? Who is not allowing for independence and responsibility?

Today was overall a good homeschooling day, even though all the crazy from the rest of the kids ended up being concentrated into a few evening hours.

P.S. I have so many photos of just kids' backs. It just hit me today that all those photos mean that I do not stop my kids in their tracks with my presence, but I get to see the path that they are on.