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Day 214: Is there any problem bribery can’t solve?

Did you know that good intentions do not work like caffeine?

It’s true! I was full of good intentions yesterday, but that didn’t keep me alert and awake long enough to carry them out. In other words, I fell asleep last night right after dinner and completely missed posting day 213. I regret nothing except not writing my post earlier in the day.

We’ve now wrapped up our first week of homeschool. It’s always hard to measure learning—I can tell you what I presented to the kids, but can’t say for sure that they learned it—so I won’t. Instead, I’ll tell you what didn’t happen this week:

  • We didn’t start each morning raising our voices to get the kids out the door, racing the clock, or cursing the traffic.
  • I didn’t spend twenty minutes sitting on the Allen Expressway on the way home from dropping the kids off at school. In fact, I didn’t spend an entire hour of each day sitting in traffic.
  • Nobody had to clean out stinky lunch containers that had sat all week in somebody’s backpack.
  • I didn’t spend my evening fighting with the kids about homework.
  • I didn’t feel like all the time I spent with my kids was stressful or rushed.

For the sake of balance, here’s what did happen this week:

  • Some people woke up early. Some people slept in.
  • Mr. December and I made time to do a bit of stretching and go for a short walk every morning before homeschool started.
  • The kids took breaks when they needed to, usually outside, and worked until they were done.
  • All the assigned work got done.
  • K spent hours developing a new-to-her technique for jewellery making.
  • We had poetry night and movie night; it was no problem when they ran later than bedtime, because we don’t have to get up super-early anymore.
  • I spent yesterday afternoon in the park with R, drinking Starbucks drinks and talking about the weekly Torah portion (more on that in a minute.)
  • I connected with each child over their school work this week and used our relationship to help them get into subjects they otherwise disliked.

All in all, it was a very good week.


I was unsure of how I wanted to approach Torah study in our homeschool, but I knew that I would… somehow. As of last week I had decided to do a class on the weekly parsha, but then I had a better idea: every week, one child would learn the parsha with me and then tell everyone else about it over Shabbat dinner.

When I first announced it, this idea went over like a lead balloon.

I wasn’t willing to change the plan because of the kids’ objections—just think of the precedent it would set—but I’m not opposed to tweaking my ideas. I’m also not opposed to bribery, which I decided to apply in large amounts. I announced it on Thursday night at the dinner table:

“So here’s how parsha is going to work. One lucky kid is going to go somewhere with me for hot chocolate or some other special drink, and then we’ll sit down with our drinks and a treat and learn the parsha together. Then at Shabbat dinner, that kid will teach everyone else a bit of what we learned.”

The response was instant and overwhelming:

“I call being first!” “No, I call being first!” “Can I please be next?”

I had already assigned parsha to R for this week, so yesterday we walked to Starbucks, picked up our pre-ordered drinks (I do like that option,) and sat down in the park to discuss Torah.

Now, I don’t pretend to be a Torah scholar, but I did learn a lot of it in school, and I can read and understand Hebrew fluently. So R and I worked our way through creation, the Garden of Eden, and Cain and Abel. We touched on ideas of whether the stories in the Torah are true; where the text might be hinting at multiple gods; why God created plants and animals “of all kinds” but only a single human; and other ways the Cain and Abel narrative could have gone. She was excited to realize that she knew several verses by heart already, since we sing them every week as part of kiddush (the Shabbat blessing over the wine.) Far from the painful slog I had feared it would be, our discussion was animated and dominated by R’s questions and observations.

R didn’t display the same enthusiasm when it came to sharing her learning at the Shabbat table. I had to prompt her with questions and got relatively short answers in response. But her impression of doing parsha with me is a positive one. In the end, a love of engaging with our sacred texts is a goal that will lead the children to the more specific goals of knowing what the Torah says and what it means for us.

Next week it will be E’s turn to learn with me and present the parsha (which covers Noah and the flood and the tower of Babel) at dinner. I’m envisioning a demonstration with stuffed animals, but she might still surprise me. I’m just happy that she’s already excited about it.

One thought on “Day 214: Is there any problem bribery can’t solve?

  1. Thank you so much for posting and the support and stability you provide your children and family. It is interesting to hear how you engage your children when they are initially resistant. Good lessons for us all.
    Glad you took care of your self last night. Honoring your own needs is also a powerful lesson for all of us these days.
    Much appreciation

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