Saturday, March 27, 2010

Religious Crisis

Being Jewish, a religious crisis could easily be tanks and loss of lives in the East Bank, or Gaza, strained international relations, and global tag with armed support. Thankfully, this particular crisis is NOT about loss of life, though it might be loss of income. Not ours, the Synagogues. I'm not sure that this is about the Synagogue we belong to at all, but I am having a serious crisis of faith in why I persist in being a Jew, practicing Judiasm, wanting Jewery. I think, on my most visceral level, that I like the depth of belonging to something old. No one knows when whomever in my family did first commit to a single, omnipotent God, did that. Turn of the 1st Century? Turn of the 10th Century? 1840? There is no record, written or otherwise. Perhaps someday I will write about that.
Second, I like that there is this tribe of people out there that I can relate to on a level in addition to: sports, politics, weather patterns, entertainment. Jews are just about everywhere, and in general do a good job taking care of each other, especially in times of need. Being part of this little club means, well, I'm part of the club! Being Bat Mitzvah and a member is ... what? What does one 'gain' from going through the process?

I am having this crisis, I think, because Rebecca is in Religious school in order to become Bat Mitzvah. She can't, however, become Bat Mitzvah when she 'should', because there is a rule in this Synagogue (which I doubt is very unique) that each child must go through 4 years of religious education before they are eligible for Bar or Bat Mitzvah. So I am thinking through why we want to do this, more and more, as she is increasingly coming under scrutiny to participate at a specific (minimal) level, OR ELSE! (says the rabbi)

On some level there is Jewish education, in addition to education. For her Bat Mitzvah, like I did, she will lead the congregation in the Friday night and Saturday morning services (though not a Rabbi, so not technically in charge), and she offers her words in the sermon. She's done presentations, she gets exposed to that in both school and scouts (she's already presented to both adults and kids, and will continue to do so in both groups). Coming 'of age' means becoming indebted to Judiasm, to the Jewish community. The child is now able to do as much in the Jewish world as an adult - get married, participate in a minyan, say the Kaddish. However, according to Jewish law, she can do these without Bat Mitzvah. In fact there is no law anywhere in the torah about the ceremony we now call Bar or Bat Mitzvah; it's a convention. So this is me, buying into the social convention of Bat Mitzvah I have a good reason? Do I need a good reason? Does it give my child a goal, a specifically Jewish goal, after which ... what? She is required by no law to participate in Jewery, believe in Judiasm, or do anything Jewish if she doesn't want to. If she wants this, the education and the party surrounding her coming of age, I can support it. If she doesn't, I refuse to buy into the litany of ridiculous rules, mostly random, that guide the education of a Jewish child into their bar or bat mitzvah. It sure seems to be that doing the ceremony by itself, without the education and understanding, is useless to both the child and the community. But doing the education, and letting the ceremony go? That feels right. It feels less like a fake Christmas (or Halloween in February), than wanting to know more and understand her own history. She can decide for herself, even as a child, whether this is something that she WANTS to do, as I can find no earthly reason to do it (other than the gifts).

It isn't that I don't want to pay, or that she shouldn't feel supported to go through this process. I'm simply not convinced that, being a non-believer, it is not entirely hypocritical for me to pursue this line of faith, with or without Rebecca. She will, someday, regret having had to go through it - or having not gone through it - either way. So I will leave the door open for now, understanding that there are 3 weekends we will lose her to overnight camp, many Sundays that she will be cooped up and under-appreciated, and her understanding of the history and culture of the Jews will expand - for better and for neutral.

Monday, March 22, 2010

School, school, and more school.

Although he's five already, Orin didn't make the cut off for Kindergarten this year. He's been attending the Temple Israel Nursery School, which I can't say enough good things about. He went there last year too, and loved it. Because he's on the older side, and because I was worried about him getting bored, we signed him up for the Hebrew Immersion class, which meets twice a week after the English class for about 2 hrs, and twice a week from 9-1. Once a week he has just the English class 9-1. So he goes 5 days a week, and half the week he has half days, half the week he goes 9-2:30. I thought in addition to the language development aspect, he would be getting ready for full day 5 days a week Kindergarten, which can otherwise be a big surprise for kids who are going to nursery school 3 days a week, half day. I liked the transition, and I liked the extra time it gave me.

He's been happy with the school, but he surely does complain about having to speak in Hebrew during the Hebrew class! It is actually making him work a little bit, for the first time, and he is feeling it. He is also very good at it. At this point in the year, he can listen and respond in Hebrew to most comments from his teacher (Teacher in Hebrew: You got a haircut, Joshua got a haircut - what's with all this haircuts! Orin in Hebrew: I don't know! Me (in English): Springtime! Teacher in Hebrew: Yes! Pesach!). He can count to thirty easily, knows the names of common classroom/household items, colors, seasons, weather, and songs and dances. He prides himself on being able to help Beckey with her Hebrew homework! Complain comshplaine. He's proud and working hard and this is all good. Even at 5.

So what's to happen for Kindergarten? I considered three private and the public option (no, not THAT public option!). Public is very crowded (24/class), and there is a real emphasis on 1) table skills (worksheets, being quiet, coloring within the lines kind of stuff) 2) hitting goals of public curriculum for Kindergartners (reading readiness, writing skills, adding and subtraction concepts, numerology). There is no science, history, music, art, or language (as in: foreign) requirements, and little is achieved there. Art on a cart, weekly gym and music (until that gets cut with new budget cuts), and a cotton candy party for Thanksgiving. Not what I can call quality, and not going to keep this one engaged. My guess is that unengaged, he will become trouble for the teacher, himself, and the other students. Eek!

Private option 1: too small. Otherwise wonderful, but the classes are teeny.
Private option 2: excellent choice, great class size and nice curriculum, but little in the way of student led learning.
Private option 3: Montessori. The plusses were enormous, the minuses small. And he LOVED his classroom visit. LOVED it. We have made our choice, and are loving that he loves this option. All I can hope for is that he continues to love it long after the agony of the choosing is forgotten.

This is not WHMS, it is the Rockford Montessori Preschool in Michigan. Orin's classroom looks interchangeable, except it has huge feathered headdresses hanging on the wall, and drawn images of the circulatory system on life size cutouts of their little preschool bodies. Pictures of their prenatal sonograms are taped to the door. And there are fish and guinea pigs and a turtle, or maybe it's a frog? There is music playing, and there is wooden furniture, not plastic. Things are labeled in Spanish as well as English, and there are about 1/3 of all the books in the classroom library in Spanish.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Back at it

Oh and the ideas just keep flowing! Things I've considered lately:

Thinking of how one might build their own steamer for making hot steamed soy chai, and then realizing that the Starbucks chai mix is really SO much better than the Tazo mix...there's no comparison. leaving me still paying 4.80 per, and delaying the wondrous kick start that they give my day, often for hours.

Why adults do things to stop kids from thinking so wonderfully, differently. School, social niceties, loss of freedoms as a result of poor behavior in other places (grounding/punishment) all stop kids from thinking things that, though they may not always be original, are often quite aside from the norm (meaning, where parents expect their children to be, what teachers expect of children). Orin has come up with some very original thoughts lately, things like which part of God is in him, and what color an egg is before it is ripe. My first thought was: why would he think these things? My second, I am SO glad he is thinking these things! And it was then that I decided against public school. It isn't even so much that teachers/schools expect children to think inside specific boxes, but that there is a tremendous amount of pressure on children by other children to think in specific ways. He chose to wear long johns to school today, though it is due to be 60F again, because they are orange. He thinks orange is cheerful, and he says he likes to bring cheerful pants to school, where some of the kids (younger, typically) are sad. Who wears clothes to bring cheer? Amazing! Why would an adult ever want to restrict a child from wearing inappropriate clothing that bring cheer or think about the color of eggs? I love it!

Also considered: never, ever vote for me for any political position. Ever. I can't resist even a twinkie, nor a single girl scout cookie! There is no WAY I'd be a good politician, no matter how good my intentions.

How grateful I am not to have been living this lifetime in some previous era. More sickness, less intellect in the general population, severe governments, prolific wars, unspeakable violence everywhere. I'll pass and be grateful for NOW. And hope that improvements continue to make living a positive, joyous experience.

Wondering about living abroad with children. How different, difficult, delicious it would be.

Thinking of the paperwork still to do. Not happily: school paperwork for Orin, registration w/the school district for Orin, and taxes. I did manage to finish my census paperwork. :D

Trying to squeeze in a weekend away...maybe w/Beckey, Theresa and Catherine. But when??

There was more, ideas that fleet so fleetingly that I hardly have time to trace their outline, let alone giving them time to take root. Summer camps, dinner, getting a new container garden planted. Loving being alive!
Hmmm- has it really been since October? And I have exactly 22 minutes to write, before having to feed the boy, make his lunch, brush his teeth, and scoot out the door for carpool? Well, that sucks. Because right now I feel inspired like I haven't for eons to write something here, something to share.

First off, I want to thank you if you read this. I appreciate your visit.

Secondly, it is SPRING here! There are daffys pushing up through the cold, wet dirt. We are raking the last of the fall debris off the lawn with regularity now - it should be gone by summer. And we are whiling away time outdoors in shirtsleeves! How wonderful it feels! Rejuvenation is the word of the day! I hope some of the excitement we feel about this is coming over to you, because it is a fabulous, season-only feeling that I know I missed in places where I didn't live in 4 season weather. It's special, the life and death of the floral world. The grass is still brownish, and most of the trees are still bare, but the birds are back in force, loud and cheerful as ever, and the last of the snow is in piles under the trees, in the shade. A couple more days of near 60F weather, and it'll be gone! Woot woot!

Thirdly, I am feeling productive in ways I haven't for eons. Like scrubbing the corners of the kitchen floor, making food that is both healthy and tasty, and using up stuff from the freezer. The downstairs freezer, the one tucked into a corner of the boiler room where food goes in, and in and in. Food is now coming back out - something about the melting snow makes me want to empty these large refrigerating devices and defrost them, clean them out completely.

Fourthly, I can do my walks outside, 3+ miles on a regular basis, and not give myself pneumonia. The cold here is merciless. I see joggers out on those freezing wintry mornings, or worse - at night - and wonder how their physical bodies cope with that kind of stress! I'd kill myself trying to do that. So being able to power walk outside with the birds and the bees is a really refreshing activity. If I want to, I can drive down to the Pine Bush or some other nice trail and spend 45 minutes out there, which so far I'm ok skipping. Even just the paved roads hold, for me right now, the powerful life of Spring, that awesome sight of color and mud and life that has been missing for so many months.

Lastly, it seems like it's been forever since I wrote anything about us, our little family. Beckey has had an amazing year - starting with being in Seussical, making choices that are important to her, having good friends, enjoying the year in Sherrie's class, working assiduously on her school materials, and having a great ski season with Dad. Orin has grown a lot, he's not such a peanut now! And he's doing a great job of sharing with his friends and enjoying the entertainment possibilities of the Mario Brothers on his DS. He's starting to get sight words and feels so proud when he reads, though he is not exactly bursting to do it. Soccer season is heading our way, and I hope he has a great time again this Spring! Jerry has had a mostly healthy year, since he was sick sick sick in the Fall. Actually, I don't think he missed even a day being sick since he had that lung crud in October/November. I have had a couple illnesses, but recovered well. I've been writing pretty steadily, dropped 20lbs, and have my A1C back under the limit. I've committed to teaching another class next year on Jewish Culture, which should be interesting, and have enjoyed teaching the Ethical Dilemmas class this year. I've had a couple interesting speakers in, watched movies, and given the kids a lot to think about - peer pressure, family ethics, legal and medical ethics, etc. It's been fun and interesting!

Ok, my time is up. Happy St. Patty's yesterday to everyone, happy Pesach and Easter coming. Enjoy the love around you, the colors electric and all the lovely bones.