Friday, August 17, 2012

Hebrew School and Bar/Bat Mitzvah tutoring.

I suppose it is in my nature to buck the the system. Choosing to homeschool the chicks is just one activity in a long trend of activities that aren't exactly in the mainstream.

Look at how I met and married Marc. When we met online, I was living in Johannesburg and he was living in Virginia. Within 3 months of meeting online (with 6 weeks of meeting face to face), we were married and 6 weeks later I was living in the US. Hardly anyone we knew approved of our speedy and unconventional marriage, yet here we are, nearly 13 years later, as happy as the proverbial (non-kosher) clams.

The lastest way we're bucking convention is by having Ben and Shira do their Bar/Bat Mitzvah training online with a tutor (instead of them going to a local shul).

We were ecstatic to discover My BarMitzvah Tutors.

Every Friday morning at 9a.m., Ben and Shira log onto Skype to meet with Rabbi Dani where they learn Hebrew, Jewish History, Torah and in another year will start Bar/Bat Mitzvah prep.

Ben was initially very distressed to have yet another female teacher and I had to drag him, kicking and screaming, to his first lesson. Within minutes, Dani had charmed him and Ben's been loving his lessons with her ever since.

My BarMitzvah Tutors have a fascinating method for teaching Hebrew. Dani teaches the children a few Hebrew letters at a time and then has them read a story where English letters have been substituted by the Hebrew letters they already know. For example, they learned the Hebrew letters, "aleph, bet and vet" during their first lesson. They then read a story where every "a, b and v" had been replaced by the Hebrew letters they had learned. The kids are finding this methodology a cake walk and are loving learning Hebrew.

Dani has also started teaching them Torah and started right at the beginning.

I supplement Dani's teaching by teaching the children the weekly parsha each Friday morning. I've been using a combination of G-dcast's videos and curriculum and various books I own. G-dcast provides a free video each week that highlights part of that week's parsha. This week's Parsha is Parsha Re'eh. We watch the video and then follow the discussion points provided by the lesson plans I purchased from them.

After we return from our vacation to South Africa in October, the kids will also be doing group online classes with Totally Online. Ben will finally have the male teacher he so desperately desires (by male, read, lacking in estrogen)

These classes are very different from the classes they do with My Bar Mitzvah Tutors. These classes contain more children than just my two, are a combination of live and video lessons, include online activities for homework and concentrate strongly on what it means to be a Jew.

They cover such topics as:
1 What Does It Mean To Be Bar/Bat Mitzvah
2 Taking Responsibility For Who I Am & For What I Do
3 Free Will & The Struggle To Do What Is Right
4 Free Will – How To take Charge…Of Yourself”
5 Is There A G-d & What’s the Difference
6 The Five Levels of Pleasure
7 Who Are The Jews & What Is Our Role
8 Why The Jews? A Look At Anti-Semitism
9 Tikun Olam – Repairing The World
10 The Power of One – Making A Difference
11 Jewish Leadership
12 Communication – How To Get My Parents To Do What I Want!
13 Self Esteem & Peer Pressure
14 The Jewish View of Love and Dating
15 Words That Hurt & Words That Heal
16 Shabbos – it is more than a day off
17 Kosher – Food For The Body & Food For the Soul
18 What’s In A Jewish Name?
19 God’s Favorite Mitzvah
20 Israel – In A Nutshell

Since Ben and Shira have a philosophical bent, I think they will really enjoy these classes. They've enjoyed the videos we've watched from that program. I hope the program lives up to its promise.

We're going to hold the Barmie/Battie in Israel. Our family will spend a week, or three, touring Israel and hopefully by the end of it, our children will have a deep understanding of their roots and culture and will be firmly bonded with the land of Israel. It's my hope that the kids will find this a deeply meaningful experience.