Each To His Own

I have one boy who struggles with reading.  Our pediatrician told me, a few years ago, that reading is one of the hardest things for a person to learn.

Our beginning was not good.  I tried, multiple times, to teach the ABC’s.  It did not help that I was trying to teach the Aleph Bais at the same time.  His younger brother, who I was not officially teaching yet, was picking it up better than he was.  I decided that it was probably best for my child’s self-esteem if his younger brother did not learn the letters yet.

This child’s older brother finished the entire kindergarten curriculum in 6 months, picked up reading basically on his own I believe – I do not think I really taught the reading part very well, but he picked it up anyways, and he ran with it.  He has been a book worm ever since.

The boy in question, however, was the total opposite.  Many days I would wonder if he really was trying, and other days I could see that he was, but it did not seem to matter if he was trying or not, it just was torture for the both of us.  Most “schooling” involves a lot of reading and writing and worksheets, even homeschool learning.  When my son was in kindergarten, I read everything to him, and wrote it all down.  When it came to reading, it was 90 minutes of yelling, begging, tantruming, and crying for the both of us.  It was work that should have only taken 20 minutes, but every day, without fail, 90 minutes of torture.  I dropped the Hebrew reading very quickly, figuring that in the summer hopefully my son would have gotten the hang of English reading, at least a little bit, and we would focus on the Hebrew.  Half way through the year I was desperately looking for something to replace the reading we were doing.  It was not good for either of us.  The other subjects were learned just fine if I read and wrote things down.  He was able to talk to me about the subject and about what we had just learned, and he was usually very excited about it all.

One day I saw an email from one of the homeschooling groups I was on.  Someone did not need the reading program they were using anymore for she had just finished it with their last child and wanted to pass it along.  (It was Hooked on Phonics.)  I immediately wrote back asking how much they wanted for it and was very nicely amazed to find out she wanted to give the entire set away for free – she got her money’s worth with her 6 children.

By this time, my son could sound out very simple 3 letter short-a vowel words, but very slowly.  When I got the books, I looked them over, and then sat down with my child.  I told him we were going to start at the very beginning, even though I know he knows the stuff.  I would like him to know the stuff better (and then I demonstrated how fast he needed to read the words.)  What I liked about the program is that you can sit for any length of time you want.  You do not have to finish a certain amount of stuff in a sitting.  The program is meant to be taken and each section repeated as many times as necessary and it is okay if repetition is needed.  We would sit together, just the two of us, and read until I felt it was enough, usually either 10 or 15 minutes – just enough time to do some work, but not long enough to cause him to get too frustrated and throw a tantrum.  I would make sure I would praise him a lot for each milestone. He started to enjoy it, and very rarely did he try to fight me. This worked, for in just over a year he finished the whole program.

What I have learned since then is that he is a whole word recognition person.  It is easier for him to memorize a word than it is to sound it out.  I have not done much research on this, and perhaps I should.  Honestly, right now I do not have the drive to do so for I do not think it is going to help much, but I could be dead wrong.  My whole philosophy has been (especially with him) is to try to get each child to WANT to read.  If they want to read, they will read, and eventually they will get there, however long it takes. It has been a long push for the two of us, especially since it did not take very long before the younger brother got ahead and into a higher reading level.  I have tried to make the fact that the younger one reads better a non-issue.  Each of us has our own strengths.  For the most part I think that has worked.

The curriculum that I use for my boys has the parent reading all the material to the child until about the 4th grade for the main reason is that the readings are usually at a higher level than the child can read.  Some children can read some of the work before that time, and that is fine.  This was something that really made me like the program for my intelligent son could continue on in his studies while he works on his reading and not get left behind.  Lately, there have been times when he ASKS me if HE could read!  If appropriate, I will let him try, if not, I will tell him I am happy he is excited, but we need to find something else for him to read instead.  Slowly the hard work is paying off.  I see him reading more and more lately, and the readings are becoming more advanced.

That is, his English reading is more advanced.  Hebrew is a totally different story.  I think the difference is that he does not know the Hebrew language.  He cannot speak Hebrew.  In English, at least he can try to guess the word if he has too for he understands what the words around it mean.  He cannot do that in Hebrew. He knows the letters but still gets mixed up with the nekudos.  Trying to make him read the words while he davens instead of reciting it by memory is torture.  My son is in the 4th grade and is maybe on a 1st grade Hebrew reading level (whatever that means).

This past week I was thinking about something that my husband and I were talking about.  We were talking about how children mature and that the body and the mind both mature at the same time.  I was thinking about my son – nope, he is definitely NOT there yet!  🙂 However, I know at eventually he will get there, they all do.  So, if he is not maturing yet physically, then mentally he is not there yet either and perhaps I should not be worrying so much about the reading.  The English reading is getting there.  He loves languages, and we are having him go through Rosetta Stone in Hebrew and he is really doing well.  Maybe I should take a step back, take a deep breath and just wait.  He’ll get there.

A Lesson in Lashon Hara

I mentioned in a previous post that homeschooling parents like to take real-time life situations that happen to them, their children or otherwise and make a lesson out of it.  It is a way of getting out of using a worksheet or finding/making up a story to prove the point.  With a real-time life situation everything is laid out perfectly for us.  This weekend was one of those times.

I hope that I am following all the proper procedures for lashon hara. I did some review of the halachas before writing this post. I have tried to make everything ambiguous here in the posting.

“Who is the man who desires life, who loves days to see goodness? Guard your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceitfully.” [Tehillim/Psalms 34:13-14]

My husband has a subscription to a business magazine.  As we sat down to dinner he asked me what I knew about a certain topic in the magazine.  I had heard about the topic but did not know much about it.  He proceeded to tell me all about the article – one person felt a certain something was bad, blogged about it on their website, and what ensued was the shutdown of 80% of a person’s business which affected about 6,000 people’s lives.  All in the course of a mere 6 weeks.  My husband told me all about the business and how the certain product was made, and then he told me about what was written in the blog. What he told me made my blood boil. If what my husband told me was true, the accuser (without much thought to their own words, or thoughts about doing a real investigation and really trying hard to see the other point of view to make a proper decision,) just slandered another person’s business – FALSELY!

Since the discussion with my husband, I have read the article in the magazine.  I have read the blog article of the accuser in question, as well as doing my own investigation to try to find out the truth.  What really struck me was not that I disagreed with the person, but that the person seemed to take the fact that their words destroyed thousands of lives almost instantaneously, very lightly.  Very, very lightly.  Even if one believes that something is hurting others and something needs to be done about it, that fact that one feels they need to take the livelihood away from thousands of workers, they should not just say “oh well.”  One needs to understand the implication of “mere words.”

I told my husband that we needed to talk to our children about this.  We need to use real life examples that they can possibly understand to try to instill in them what our words can do.  Yes, words can create – the world was created with 10 sayings, but our words can also be used to destroy.  We talked in depth today at lunch.  I told the boys both sides of the story.  I told them what I found out with my investigation.  I then told them to think about it and we would finish talking at a later time.  At supper I brought up the topic again.  I asked leading questions like, “was anything wrong with either person”, “what was wrong,” and “why was it wrong and what should the person have done if they felt very strongly about it?”

I know that one talk about this important topic is not enough.  I do not think one can learn too much about this topic. (I just recently finished “Guard Your Tongue” with my challah baking friends.)  I also know that we did not cover everything that we could cover today.  However, I feel it is better to give small amounts of information at a time, for they will not soak up very much if you give a lot at a time.

Now, for a change in thinking, I’m off to go grocery shopping and then to finish my talk for the Homeschool Conference which is in only 2 weeks! (Yikes!)  😀


Well, as Pesach is getting close to being finished, I have decided that I actually have time to sit down and write, though my luck the boys will come in from outside or the little one will get up from his nap before I can get very far.

“Ma nishtana hashanah hazeh mikol hashanos” (Why is this year different from other years)?

For some reason this year was very different with all preparations than any in the past.  When the boys were younger, I was the soul teacher, and it was easy to take a morning or afternoon and we would all head to one room in the house, tear it apart and clean it.  The next day, or the day after, the same thing would happen to another part of the house, until it was all done.  I do not remember what happened last year, but this year it was a little different.  Firstly, last year I made a mistake – I started in the bedrooms and then worked my way to the basement, (leaving the kitchen for last.)  It was a mistake for by the time we did the search for all the chometz, my dear husband was very upset for the rooms had been lived in again and there was absolutely no way we did any cleaning! (I think I vaguely remember after him yelling at me for the umpteenth time, telling him that next year he could do the cleaning…..)

So, this year I vowed not to let that happen again.  I decided to start with the least used room, and work up to the most used (messiest) room in the house, and then the kitchen.  There was only one problem – now that my boys did set classes online with their Rebbe, how was I going to grab their help for any length of time to clean?  We ended up doing a room on a Sunday, and then on a non-school weekday (a Friday – yes, we only do a 4 day “schedule” – more on that in a later post, G-d willing) tackling the basement.  We are lucky, there is not much in the basement (on purpose), and it was just cleaned a week or so before for our company that came over.  The rest of the house I did the week before Pesach.

Why did I leave it so late?  Well, other than just not wanting to drive myself crazy and work in the evenings and get to sleep late, I prefer to take the easy way out.  Both cellars were closed off, as well as the garage, a few of the closets and the pantry.  I also take the easy way out and make simple meals.  I have a nice recipe I use for a whole turkey – I can make a soup, roast turkey, and shnitzel, in less than 2 hours.  That is about 4 meals worth of main dishes.

My husband took all the boys to the zoo (2 hours away!) for the day, and that let me clean our room, as well as all the laundry.  I won’t mention the bedroom took 4 hours (ouch!)  As our room gets to be the “storage” room on a regular basis, it was so nice to get it back again!

I did not teach the week before Pesach, however, the boys attended their online classes.  We enjoyed our seders.  The boys look forward to jumping frogs, hail landing in their grape juice, and the largest locusts seen.  And, while the rest of the parents are taking their children all over town this week, I am taking yet another week off of school and hiding in my room, letting the boys read, run outside, go to the library, and try to fly a kite.  Sometimes I feel like a “bad” parent – but then again, I remember I spend quality time with my boys the entire year, and do not have to try to cram it all in to a few days at a time several times a year.  It was not all so bad, they did have a bochor who came over for one afternoon and spent several hours with them teaching them different things, as well as another playdate for my youngest the next day.

We are also a one car family, and the weather the last few days has been weird, and I have been letting my husband take the van instead of riding to work on the scooter in the rain.  And now, it is nice and sunny, no hail, no rain, and we do not have a car to go to the (local) zoo.  Perhaps tomorrow 🙂  And yes, I know tomorrow is erev Yom Tov again, but there is plenty of time to cook and go to the zoo and take showers!

So, for those that read this during Pesach – I wish all of you a wonderful rest of the Yom Tov, and for those that read this afterwards, hope you had a wonderful and Pesach.  Hope all of us are able to pull free from our enslavement of our Egypt this year!

(Oh, and yes, all boys came into the room, but they were kind enough to let me finish typing! Yeah!)