Thursday, September 22, 2011

Hebrew Homework Blues

Yesterday, GoofBoy said some of the saddest words a little boy can say.

"Dad, I hope baseball practice is cancelled today. I just have so much homework to catch up on."

Well, sad words for a normal little boy that is. I begged my parents to let me play little league, and immediately hated it. First, I learned that despite what I had read left-handed people do not have natural curveballs. Also, an enormous knowledge of baseball history did not in fact translate to any prowess on the field. I was the worst player on a terrible team. Finally, the team had other children on it and I didn't much like other children.

But GoofBoy is very much a regular kid who loves playing ball, so to hear him not want to practice was a very sad. But homework has, quite suddenly, gotten very hard and GoofBoy worries terribly that he can't keep up.

MamaGoof and I recently took a little trip to Greece (I had a conference to attend - more on the trip later.) The little Goofs were left in the hands of my sister-in-law (best sister-in-law ever!) But GoofBoy had a homework crisis with Hebrew, which my sister-in-law simply doesn't know. So, in the shadow of the Acropolis, I sat at a coffeeshop where we Skyped with GoofBoy and calmed him down. Then we ordered another Nescafe, so I could keep using the free wifi and I arranged an emergency tutor. Because of the seven hour time difference, we had to stay up late and go to a coffeeshop with wifi to check in after-school on how everything went. Actually, in Athens this isn't hard, since the Greeks don't seem sleep (or maybe they do during the day at their jobs, it would explain a lot).

When we returned we managed to take care of the dreaded community service project. We decided to pick up garbage on the trail near our house. It was kind of fun, kind of strenuous, and after a bit more than an hour we had gathered a fair amount of trash. GoofBoy (and GoofGirl who joined us) actually can't wait to do it again.
Of course we also had to run around and gather supplies and I'll need to go and have the pictures developed. I own two photo printers, both of which have come very close to being thrown out a window so I am not inclined to purchase a third. However, with all this driving I wonder if we have done more harm to the earth then help.

But GoofBoy's real source of stress is his Hebrew class. Attending a Jewish Day School, Hebrew language is a central part of the education and GoofBoy loves it - and works really hard at it. Besides the spiritual component of knowing the holy language, I am amazed at the skills he is developing to master the language. Last year, he was promoted to the advanced Hebrew class and had to work hard to keep up. He rose to the occasion. One night, while he was showering I heard him singing (it sounded like whale calls) - I was about to tell him to knock it off when I realized he was practicing his vocabulary. When he watches football, he usually has a sheet of vocabulary words with him to glance at during commercials.

He grasps the substance well, but he doesn't always get the form of the assignments. Last year, when told to write about chapter of the Torah (Pentateuch) in Hebrew in his own words, he actually attempted to re-write the chapter word for word - rather then summarize it. Now he is stressed because he has to deliver the dvar, that is a little lesson. on a chapter of Torah. This includes a summary, discussion of some specific lines he liked, and asking the class a series of questions - all in Hebrew. To prepare he wrote a summary in Hebrew, translated it into English as he told me what it said and was worried it wasn't good enough.

I was blown away, since I barely get by in English. I tried to tell him, that even doing a lousy job at this is pretty impressive. But he just worried that he would fail Hebrew. His diligence and devotion say really terrific things about him - but these regular homework meltdowns are going to make MamaGoof and I crazy.

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