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Encouraging love of learning in disenchanted teen

August 26, 2010 5 comments

>>I read with great interest your posting about your son learning mishnayos, well done! You said kids just want to do the right thing etc and it’s better if they are not pushed, but this is not always the case. I didn’t want to post this in the comments, but I have a 14 year old son who has absolutley no interest in learning (he also wants a smaller yarmulke, never wants to wear his tzizis out, doesn’t want to wear a hat, wants to go to a less frum school etc etc – in general wants to push the boundaries on yiddishkeit). Whenver my husband tries to learn so gemorrah with him, my son puts up a great big fuss, and it’s really not pleasant. I am wondering if your husband himself learns after davening, I bet his does. Someone posted that it’s really to do with modelling, kids model the behaviour of their parents.

Now what do you do if your husband has no interest in learning? I would love my son to learn and it really hurts me that he doesn’t, he even spends much of Shabbos afternoon lying on his bed reading (usually non Jewish books). He has so much time to learn, but he doesn’t. (ALthough he does go to a shiur – not text based – after mincha, so maybe I shouldn’t complain). But he does not ever revise his gemorrah.

The thing is that he never sees his father sitting down to learn, and also his father never ever ever ever in all the years once asked him to learn without me first asking his father to learn wtih our son! This pains me deeply (that my husband, and now my son have no interest in learning), and has pained me for many many years (over 10). I have never told anyone this, as I don’t want to put my husband down to other people. I have had many phone calls over the years from my sons’ teachers telling me how he shows little interest in learning, but what on earth am I supposed to do about it? (I feel like telling them, well it’s not surprising as he never sees his father learn either!).  I have been told not to push my son, so we don’t, but I don’t really see how this will help the  situation. We dno’t push him and he doesn’t learn! Gemorrah is not a subject you can just drop, he will need to go to yeshiva in a few years and learn gemorrah all day, and I wonder how this will work. What do I do?<<

When I read your question, my sense was that there are a few issues behind the expressed concern about Torah learning.  When concerns are religiously based, we tend to not question what our deepest beliefs behind those concerns are, and assume that we have the right intentions in mind.  But although I believe there is real pain about your son’s lack of interest in Judaism and Torah learning, I have a sense that there’s a lot more going on than that.

My feeling is that the primary issues you’re facing are:  a) your relationship with your son isn’t good; b) your husband’s relationship with your son isn’t good; c) your marriage isn’t good; d) you’re very unhappy in general.  Please forgive me in advance for making assumptions that may not be accurate.

Yes, I said in the past that children want to do the right thing, and want to be close to their parents.  That goes along with the following caveat – when children are treated with acceptance and appreciation for who they are, they want to do the right thing.  When they feel a strong and positive bond to their parents, they will strive to emulate their parents. When they feel the heavy weight of expectations they can’t meet or don’t want to meet, it’s a different scenario altogether.

What happens if a child doesn’t feel accepted for who he is?  What if he senses that the approval he receives is dependent on him acting in a certain way, or doing certain things? Yes, we should have standards for our children and hold them to those standards.  A child can see his parents are displeased with bad behavior and appreciate good behavior.  But he should know that he is loved for who he is at the core, even if he doesn’t always live up to our standards.  This isn’t easy to do as a parent, particularly for some children, who due to behavior or personality, are harder to love and accept as they are.

Your son is making it clear that he doesn’t find the way Judaism is practiced in your home meaningful or positive.  This isn’t about gemara – this is about a general dissatisfaction and perhaps cynicism about the value of the life you’re telling him to lead.  He’s not finding inspiration by watching how this plays out in the lives of the adults around him.  Your husband isn’t the only influence on your son.  There are people who are married to spouses who aren’t religious at all who have been successful in giving over a love for Judaism and learning!

Don’t make yourself a victim or tell yourself you have no power.  You’re placing a lot of blame on your husband for things that you have plenty of room to affect for the better.   Stop blaming him and start owning your part – this is a hard thing to do, because you are getting some kind of payback for thinking the way you’re currently thinking that you’ll have to give up.  What are those paybacks?  You’re the one who knows yourself, and you’re the only one who can answer it.  I’m guessing that one very big thing is that you don’t have to be accountable.  No matter what happens to your son, you can say it’s because he didn’t have a father who learned with him, or whatever else.

But maybe you’re wondering, where do you have power?  The mother is the main one who creates the home environment.  No matter who your husband is or isn’t, you can become an emotionally safe and loving person for your son, so that in your presence your son feels secure and accepted to be the person he is, with all of his flaws, fears, and ambivalence.

Support actions that you like and focus on that, and you’ll get more of it.  Focus on all the things your son doesn’t do, and he’ll get the feeling that he’s never good enough and no matter what he does, he can’t make you happy.  I’ll turn the examples you gave upside down: instead of ‘he doesn’t want to wear a hat’, think with appreciation that he wears a yarmulke; instead of ‘he doesn’t want to wear his tzitzis out’, think how wonderful it is that he wears tzitzis even at times when it is uncomfortable or inconvenient; instead of focusing on the secular literature he reads, think how glad you are that you know where he is and what he’s doing, that he chooses decent quality books to read (if that’s true), that he’s not hanging out on street corners with unsavory friends engaging in dangerous or immoral behavior.  You can see where I’m going with this, right? 🙂  Whatever negative you feel, turn it upside down and try to find the positive in it.

What if you take your son to the Jewish library (if you have one) prior to Shabbos, and tell him you know how much he loves to read, and you’d like to help him find things he can enjoy that are in the spirit of Shabbos?  Show him that you understand he’s bored when there’s nothing to do, and are willing to exert yourself to help him find things.  What about taking him to the public library? There are things like inspiring biographies of famous people, motivational books written specifically for teens – maybe it doesn’t match your ideal of Shabbos reading, but it can still be a positive way for your son to use his time.  What about making time to play a board game or card game with him on Shabbos (eg Rumikub)?

Start consciously noticing all the good things your son does every single day – make it a goal to list ten different things a day.  It will be hard at first because you’ll be looking for big things, and you’re going to have to start noticing the small things that you take for granted, or things that don’t seem noteworthy at all.  Don’t tell your son you’re doing this; your attitude towards him will shift and he’ll feel it.

You can be enthusiastic and supportive of whatever learning he does – perhaps let him know you’re so proud that he chooses to go to a Torah lecture on Shabbos afternoon during his free time.  Who cares if it’s text based or not? Maybe you can bake something special for him to have when he gets back from his lecture.  Take five minutes when he comes home to sit down with him while he has a refreshing drink or a treat, and ask him what he learned.  You can share your thoughts, too.  Keep it light and positive, with the focus on the good person he is.  This goes very far in creating a positive feeling towards learning.

I’m going to try to clarify what is meant by the recommendation not ‘to push’.  That means, let go of your emotional expectations and the negative energy that you’re projecting along with it.  It doesn’t mean you stop trying to be a good role model – be a person who has joy in her Jewish life, a person who learns on her own or values those who learn.  Model for your son what a life of meaning in Judaism is to you.  It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as it’s really what matters to you.  Kids can sniff out hypocrisy and preaching from miles away, so don’t start faking it.  Think about why you do what you do, what it is you do that gives meaning to your life.  I share these things with my kids in conversation on a regular basis.

It seems there is a lot of resentment and anger towards your husband.  You’re not expressing it directly, and it’s understandable to have so much frustration when you feel your child’s other parent isn’t working with you to create the home you want.  But realize that as admirable as your goals for Torah learning of your son and husband are, they are rooted in ego.  We develop ideas of what the people in our lives should be, and how they should act so that it reflects well on us – and then we get upset when they don’t meet our expectations.  Let go of the expectation – it’s not serving you well and you’re causing yourself to suffer.

Finally, accept that maybe your son isn’t a person who will flourish in the arena of academic study, regardless of how loving and accepting you are.  Every person has unique strengths, interests, and abilities – in the Orthodox community there’s a Lake Wobegone attitude that all boys can be great learners and spend their teen years and up in intensive daily study for hours at a time learning in an intellectual and abstract way.  May I introduce the possibility of realism to this scenario? 😆

Don’t worry about what will happen in a few years, or assume that if your son doesn’t have interest in gemara now that he’s doomed.  Nonsense.  If later on he feels it’s important to him, he’ll exert himself to make up lost ground.  But not every young man will feel gemara is primary to him, and not every young man should be directed to full time yeshiva studies post high school – and that’s okay!  I know it’s almost sacrilegious to suggest that, but there are many ways to know G-d and live a meaningful religious life.  And there are many other parts of Torah except the Talmud:  Chumash (Bible), Navi (Prophets), halacha (Jewish law), mussar (study of character development) – there is so much a person can learn.

You didn’t ask about suggestions for your marriage, but everything I’ve said about accepting and encouraging your son could be applied to your husband, too.

I realize that all of this requires a change in mindset, and changing mindsets and the habits that go along with them is challenging.  It will take time, and it will take conscious effort.  But I guarantee that you, your husband, and your son will all be significantly happier if you do!

Avivah

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Categories: home education, parenting

The crowd isn't where you want to be

March 8, 2010 5 comments

Last night I took three of my older children to a magnificent recital by Leon Fleisher.  The story of Fleisher is very inspiring – he was a child prodigy and at age 16 was singled out as by a famous conductor as being ‘the pianist find of the century’.  But in 1965 he was struck with a neurological affliction known as focal dystonia and lost the use of two fingers on his right hand; he was told he would never regain use of this hand.

He mastered a number of difficult piano pieces using only his left hand (one of which he performed last night), and after four decades, regained the use of his right hand.  He is now 82 years old.  Can you imagine what it must be like after so many years to regain the use of your hand – particularly for someone whose life passion was the piano? A film was made about him called Two Hands, which was nominated for an Oscar and an Emmy.  I’m going to see if we can find it at the library, since I’m sure the kids would enjoy seeing it after hearing him play.  We also stayed for the question and answer session with him afterward, which added more perspective to our view of him – it’s nice to see people who have accomplished great things and remember that they are simply people.

On our way out of the packed parking lot, there were many cars waiting in line to exit.  We noticed that despite the efforts of the man who was directing the traffic out of the lot, all of the dozens of the drivers were turning right, though the attendant was vigorously indicating they needed to turn left.  When it was finally my turn, I broke with ‘tradition’ and turned left.  After a couple of minutes as I tried to figure out where I was going, I saw this allowed me to quickly get to the main street, rapidly bypassing all of those who had turned right and were backed up, still waiting to get onto the main street from the second exit.  Right after we got onto the main street, one of the kids glanced behind us and were shocked to find that there was a long stream of cars who followed me.  I explained to them the proven psychological phenomena they were witnessing.

People take their social cues from those around them, regardless of the evidence to the contrary.  The social reasoning is, if everyone else is doing it, it must be right.  The attendant couldn’t have been more clear about what direction they should go in, and intellectually it’s reasonable to assume he’s been hired to make your life easier by keeping traffic going smoothly.  But when people see all of those in front of them doing one thing, it’s very difficult not to follow – you start to think there must be something that everyone is aware of and are appropriately responding to, though you don’t see it.

But I was willing to take a chance going in a different direction, since I couldn’t see how it could negatively affect me – after all, this person’s job is to make my experience there pleasant!  And once I was willing to go in a different direction, the cars behind me were willing to follow my cues.  Had anything else changed? No – it was the same parking lot, same attendant, doing the same thing. The only thing that was different was the reaction of the driver in front of them.  All it took was one person willing to turn in a different direction, and suddenly the drivers behind me were willing to pay attention to the energetic efforts of the parking lot attendant and go in the direction he indicated.

As I pointed out to my kids last night, “you can see what happens to those who follow the crowd without thinking”.  Following the crowd generally isn’t what you want to do in life.  Happiness isn’t there, peace of mind isn’t there, meaning and joy aren’t there.  Conformity and social approval are there, though – and in a society that values conformity more than critical thinking skills, that’s of primary value to many people.

Many things I believed to be facts have been turned upside down after significant research (birthing practices; parenting; nutrition – many, many aspects; health – eg role of vaccinations; education).  Despite being a conservative person by nature who doesn’t like to stand out or make waves, I’ll make what is a very strong statement, but over the years I’ve become increasingly convinced it’s true.  If you’re following the crowd, it’s a good clue that you may be going in the wrong direction, and need to closely examine what you’re doing to be sure it’s in alignment with your true values. The crowd is heavily peer dependent and doesn’t make choices based on individual needs or intelligent though, and group think is a reality in almost every area of life.

Life lessons can be found everywhere, can’t they? 😆

Avivah

When to push child

January 16, 2010 2 comments

>>And another big topic that comes to mind is — when do we push children to take on something that is hard for them, and when do we let them make their own decision on whether or not they want to pursue a certain area? Examples in my family: one daughter decided to drop out of a class she was taking. Another daughter would rather not study a certain subject that I feel is important. Etc.<<

I’ve had this dilemma a number of times over the years in our homeschooling.  The choice I’ve come to is that I’ll insist on something if a) I know it’s something they need and they’ll later be disadvantaged; b) it’s something that they won’t need but will regret not having the skills for later on.

The first tends to affect academic type issues – I want my kids to have the skills to navigate life successfully.  There are things that I think are important to that goal – for example, because I feel that strong reading, writing, and math skills are an asset and a person is disadvantaged without it, I’ll insist on this regardless of whether a child wants to do it or not.  However, I’m very flexible about at what age I expect a child to do certain level work.  I also try to help the kids find ways to impart the information in as enjoyable way as possible.  So insisting doesn’t mean making a child miserable and being rigid.  There’s a lot of flexibility and personalizing that goes along with this.

So let’s say a young child hates writing.  I’ll back off this and let it be for a while – this means knowing your child and paying attention to their cues.  I did this with ds7 and he’s just now finishing the lettering for the ABC.    I know the readiness wasn’t there before this and pushing wasn’t going to help and probably would be damaging.  But with some time, the resistance generally fades and the readiness builds.  At that point I’ll start them off slow and pay attention to how it’s going for the child in question.

To do this, you have to be confident that 1) your child wants to learn and 2) will learn when given the chance, or you’ll get hung up on what kids in school are up to and put yourself and your child under lots of unnecessary pressure.  This gets easier to do with time, but is sometimes agonizing the in the beginning, as you’re going out on faith that the principles of true education and relationship building will work before the results are there.  At this point it’s much easier for me since I’ve gone through this so many times, and seen that in the end they get where you want them to be- happily.

The second area to think about pushing is regarding things that they don’t need to do, like lessons you sign them up for in the spirit of fun.  Years ago my ds16 had an unpleasant experience at swim lessons (at age eight) and refused to go back.  I didn’t see the point of pushing it, and since he continued to be resistant to the idea over the years, he didn’t go back for lessons.  It would have been a mistake to make him go back right away, because it really was a frightening and unnerving situation he was put in.  But looking back I think there was a point where I could have encouraged – pushed – him to try lessons again, maybe two years after the initial trauma.  I didn’t, though, because I was unsure about how much to push, and now despite the fact that he’s an extremely athletic young man, his swimming skills remain weak.

Several months ago ds10 told me he wanted to quit piano lessons.  I grappled with this, since this isn’t something he needs to be able to do long term.  After asking him why he wanted to stop (answer: he wasn’t progressing at the rate he wanted because he wasn’t putting in enough practice time), I told him that he needed to continue and to find time to practice more frequently so he’d see progress.  How did I decide on this?

Aquiring competence is a discipline – it’s wonderful to play music well, but it doesn’t happen by itself.  I know that, but he doesn’t.  I didn’t want him to give up and years later, instead of a skill he would have taken pleasure from would be the memory of giving up.  I told him that he didn’t have to stay with it if he didn’t like it, but that I didn’t want him to quit without really making a fair effort.   He’s now really enjoying piano and is very glad he didn’t quit.  He had a recital last week and is at the beginning intermediate level, now able to play simple classical compositions and performed duets with each of his sisters in addition to his own two pieces, and gets so much satisfaction from it.

Again, it’s critical to know your child.  A general tip I would say is, if you’re feeling the desire to push because you feel fearful, then wait.

Avivah

Categories: FAQs, home education, parenting

Unschooling and the role of limits

December 26, 2009 5 comments

>>the question, and your answers made me think about unschooling, as sort of a polar opposites, and how both hope to produce the same sort of person at the end. I’m curious how you view the ‘no rules, just principles’ aspect of radical unschooling… allowing children to pursue what they find they want to, without limits (I am not including hurting themselves, or running in traffic, or other dangerous things like that) and not requiring behaviors/chores of them. I’m sure I don’t completely understand the theory, so I’m having trouble encapsulating it here. When reading on it, I get the impression that rules/limits are damaging a child, emotionally.<<

The term ‘unschooling’ was coined by John Holt, who wrote several books on education.  His definition can be summed up here. I’ve read all of John Holt’s books and he doesn’t advocate educating children without guidance, limits, or saying ‘no’.  In fact, one of the first things I ever read about homeschooling was in Mothering magazine – it was an article by a homeschooling mother whose family was close to John and tried her best to integrate using his principles.  In that article, she described how he helped her daughter understand the mathematical concepts she was then struggling with.  He didn’t tell her that her daughter shouldn’t be learning math because she was frustrated and didn’t want to!  What he did was try to connect with her desire to learn and provided guidance according to her learning style.

The unwillingness to provide any structure/guidance/limits is where my main disagreement with radical unschooling lies.  While I know of several families who unschool and are bringing up lovely families, every one of them has clear guidelines and expectations, sometimes in the academic arena but definitely in other areas.  They don’t have a laissez faire, let the kids do whatever they want, when they want mentality that is part and parcel of radical unschooling.  Unfortunately the definition of unschooling has been co-opted by radical elements of the homeschooling world and it’s become very confusing to sift through the variances in different approaches.

To quote something I once heard on a parenting cassette: “Discipline without love is harsh.  Love without discipline is child abuse.”  I think that parents who won’t say ‘no’ to their children are misguided and harming their children in the short and long term, but one person’s opinion really is of minimal value.  What matters is what are the results these parents are getting?  Are parents who raise their children without boundaries raising giving, kind, and concerned individuals who are making the world a better place?  (When I read this  article six months ago, I saved it to share here –  it’s relevant to this discussion now so don’t skip reading it!)  Start paying attention to the families you see – look for parents with older kids because that’s when you see the long term results of a particular parenting approach.

Life inherently has limitations. Being a religious Jew means limitations – we live a life structured by G-d’s rules, and true freedom paradoxically comes with structure.  Otherwise you become a slave to your own desires, and that’s the farthest thing from freedom!  While unschooling can be compatible with Torah, radical unschooling can not.  I’ve said again and again that you must lovingly set and clarify boundaries – because there have to be limits.

A person must have some guidelines in life except doing whatever they feel like, when they feel like it, how they feel like it.  It’s wonderful to follow your passion, but kids who haven’t learned some inner discipline won’t be able to sustain the necessary effort to follow through – and success in any field requires effort.  Even when you don’t feel like it.

Avivah

Categories: home education, parenting

Advising teen children towards long term choices

December 23, 2009 12 comments

Recently I’ve begun researching various colleges for my dd15, and yesterday after taking ds16 to have his wisdom teeth out, I stopped at the community college office to ask some questions.  I’ll have to go back with my kids and get an appointment with an advisor for each of them.

Right now I’m feeling conflicted about some issues on the horizon regarding my kids and college.  Dd15 is strongly leaning towards a profession that would be a very good fit for her and I’m very supportive of it.  It also is academically vigorous and will require 7 – 8 years of college.  There are only about 16 colleges that teach this field in the US – and none of them are anywhere close to the state we live in, which necessitates living away from home and raises the bill by about another $10,000 yearly.  Each year of schooling costs about $25 – 30,000 before living expenses, and there is very little financial aid available except for student loans.  Dd can get started within a year and could theoretically be finished as early as when she’s 22.  In the broad scheme of things, that’s pretty young, and she would have a career that could be balanced with raising a family and do something she enjoys and finds satisfying.

I have several views about life/family that aren’t easily reconciled when looking at this particular career path (similar though different issues with ds16), and I’m grappling with how to best guide my children.   I’m not telling them what to do or how to do it- that isn’t my role – but not to give them some direction when they’re requesting support would be wrong.  I’ve raised my children with the perspectives below, so these are currently views they share (which obviously might change with time).  1) If a couple is old enough to get married, they’re old enough to support themselves.  2) When someone is emotionally mature and ready for marriage  and finds the right person, that’s the time to get married – regardless if numerically that seems young or old to others.  3) Children are a blessing and a newly married couple shouldn’t  purposely put them on hold to complete academic requirements.  4) The responsibility for supporting the family is on the husband, not the wife.  5) Debt can become a huge albatross around the neck that can force people to make choices they don’t want to make.

Add in to this mix the desire of dd15 to spend a year in Israel, the desire of ds16 to spend several years in yeshiva once he’s 18 (ie, both potentially ‘time outs’ on the career path), and the reality that larger families generally require more financial resources.  So guiding them means considering a number of factors with both the long term and short term in mind.

I was telling all this to a good friend last night, and she told me I’m once again going to have to blaze my own trail.  And I told her, I’m tired of blazing my own trail for every single thing – I want to find someone who has similar values who has successfully navigated this, and just do whatever they did.  I don’t want to have to think, research, and reflect so much.  😆 But as I know very well, a meaningful life of joy doesn’t come from following the crowd unless that’s where my heart is.

So here’s where I’m at with all of this: sometimes I get too uptight and have to step back to regain perspective!  I have to remind myself that H-shem created a world where doing His will is the goal, and whatever we’re doing, it’s with the desire to serve Him and to be responsible stewards in this world of the resources we’re entrusted with.  I have to let go of trying to figure all of this out in advance, and do the best I can one day at a time, and trust that the partner that I’ve had raising my children all these years – H-shem – will continue to support us all and help us make the right choices.

Practically speaking I don’t know what that will look like, but I’ll share it with you when we figure it out!

Avivah

Making time for yourself

December 16, 2009 5 comments

Today I set out to do my monthly shopping, which I always enjoy.  But it was a long day and when I got home there was the van to unpack, then a living room filled with boxes of groceries to put away – and the baby was crying while ds2 and ds3 discovered things I bought that they wanted to eat right that minute, pulling them out and asking to eat them (or just opening it and throwing the wrapper/peel on the floor). And it was time for dinner and my mother had gotten there earlier (I forgot to tell her I’d be home late) and wanted to give the kids their presents right then (she had somewhere she needed to be at a certain time so she couldn’t really wait).

The way I do present giving is that each person gets a gift, opens it, and thanks the giver before the next person receives anything.  It makes the entire thing an experience of togetherness instead of each person focusing on what he’s getting/giving.  That wasn’t what was happening!  Instead I had a chaotic, noisy house, was tired, hungry (it was 7 pm and hadn’t eaten since breakfast), tense, and felt like I’d scream if one more person touched me or even came near me. :))   Fortunately, I’ve learned when I feel like this that as long as I remember to take a deep breath and be careful about how I speak and interact with those around me, then it passes.

So I nursed the baby, my mom gave presents and left, we had dinner, we put away a bunch of groceries, the kids went to bed, I cleaned up the kitchen – and with each step, it got easier to unknot the tension I was feeling.  Now I’ve had a hot cup of tea and am enjoying a quiet house, and since what I was really feeling earlier was the need for was some self-time, it seemed like an appropriate time to respond to the question below!

>>Avivah, could you share how you manage to take downtime/selftime/recharging time for yourself?<<

This is such an important question!  Mothers do so much all day long for everyone, and it’s too easy to forget to take time for ourselves.  When we keep giving and giving without taking time to recharge ourselves, we end up resentful, hostile, and burnt out.  Oh, and guilty – guilty for feeling resentful and hostile, guilty for having needs, angry for feeling guilty for having needs….

My reality was living far from family, with no extra money for cleaning/babysitting help, a husband who wasn’t home very often – and having six children under the age of 9 home all day long, every single day.  So if I wanted to have a break, it was up to me to create the space for it to happen. This is crucial – you have to value yourself enough to make the time.  That might mean going to sleep early so you can get up when the house is still quiet, or staying up  late after the house has settled for the night (that’s what I do).  When you have that quiet time, you can use it for whatever you find relaxing and rejuvenating – talking to a friend, a good book and a cup of herbal tea, a relaxing bath, crafting, computer time, etc.

I used to love to go walking with a friend.  This has been different times of the day, depending on my life circumstances.  I started when I had two young children at home and one or two out for a few hours a morning, and I would take a double stroller with the two kids loaded up and go for a walk (and this was before the days of jogging strollers!) mid morning.  I sometimes went walking late at night after the kids were in bed (when I lived in a neighborhood that was safe enough to feel comfortable with that).  This depended on my buddy in large part – I found that my walking partners all ended up becoming friends, because you end up talking quite a bit to each other.  Then I moved to a new neighborhood and didn’t have anyone to walk with, but I started swimming a few times a week (I became friendly with someone on a women’s syncronized swimming team and they let me do laps while they practiced for their state and national competition – they offered this to me since they knew that I needed a womens only swim environment – I left the house at about 5 or 5:30 am and drove 20 miles in each direction to get there!)  This was when I was homeschooling and had five kids.   Later when I was in yet a different city and homeschooling six kids, I again found a walking buddy and at 5 am would head out before the kids were awake and before my husband left for the day.  At one point, I went to a woman’s gym to exercise almost daily, though I didn’t enjoy this nearly as much as a walk outside!  Unfortunately I haven’t been walking for a long time; I don’t have a partner and my efforts to consistently walk by myself didn’t pan out.

When my kids were all younger, it wasn’t enough to get up early or wait until 9 or 10 pm to have some quiet time.  My kids are fantastic, I love being with them – but there are a lot of demands on a mother and it can be very draining to go and go and go all day long.  I recognized that I needed to create a mini break in the middle of the day for myself.  I did that by putting my toddlers in for a nap once the baby was down for a nap.  Then, I’d tell the older three kids (this was when I had only six kids, so the older kids were about 6,8,9 when I started this) they needed to have quiet time in their rooms for an hour.  They didn’t have to nap, but they had to stay in their beds and they had to be quiet.  They could take a book or game with them, but they could not get out of bed and they couldn’t talk.  That was a huge help since I had an hour mid day to  physically and psychologically recharge myself, and enabled me to thrive through years with no outside help at all in any area, while continuing to enjoy my family.

Nowadays I have other ways to meet my needs.  Some people have asked me how I find time to write on my blog. The answer is that writing here is something I do because I enjoy it.  Once in a while I start to feel like I have to do it, and that’s usually when you might notice a two day hiatus while I recenter myself.  Recharging yourself shouldn’t be something that feels like a chore, or something else on your ‘to do’ list!

Another thing is to give yourself a break emotionally.  Tonight, why was I getting so uptight?  Where was all the pressure coming from?  From everyone else?  Not really.  Mostly it was inside my head.  It was what I was telling myself that was the true problem – usually I can have that exact same situation going on and I can stay cheerful and relaxed.   We have to learn to let go and relax our standards sometimes.  There are things you can do at some periods of your life that will leave you chronically run down and overextended at other stages.  And we have to learn to accept ourselves as we are, not only when we’re at our best, but when we’re at out worst.

Avivah

Categories: FAQs, home education, parenting

Kids using the internet

December 15, 2009 1 comment

>>Do you allow your kids to research topics of interest on the internet?<<

This isn’t a black and white answer.  In general I’m not a fan of the computer or internet for kids, even though it’s an amazing resource.  My main concern is that it can be a huge time waster and addictive.  There’s a huge amount of material to sift through, and it can take a long time to get to the ‘meat’ of an area of interest.

A couple of weeks ago dd9 and a friend were working on preparing a presentation for their geography club, so I sat with them at the computer to help them find their information.  When they get older, I do allow them to use the internet on their own – that’s for kids about 12 or older. We only have one computer and when combined with the number of people who want to use computer, and the limitation that they can only use it when their chores and academic work are completed, they naturally can’t/don’t spend huge amounts of time online.

Each of the older three kids have their own interests.  Ds16 is probably the one who needs to use it the most for research- he has a particular area of interest that he’s constantly learning more about, and though he’s read books on the topic, he enjoys the online resources he’s found.

My second concern about the internet is the huge amount of offensive material that could be accessed.  I’m not concerned about the kids seeking out unwholesome materials as much as realizing that they could accidentally click on a link or mistype something that could take them somewhere unsavory.  We keep the computer in an area of the house where people are always around.  My husband and I have recently discussed getting a filter, too. Until fairly recently, like about a year ago, our kids weren’t using the internet much so it didn’t seem necessary.  But now it seems prudent.

We also until recently had an older computer that had some kind of problem that kept us from being able to see youtube videos or other high definition graphics – I considered this an advantage. 🙂  Even though there are loads of educational things on youtube (this is how I learned how to preserve tomato seeds for planting), there are lots of others that aren’t okay and when you view the main screen, there are often objectionable pictures or titles that you can’t help but view.

So while I’m not against it, I’m careful to limit it.

Avivah

Categories: home education, parenting