Skip to main content

Narration Through Tears

If you do narration with your kids, what do you do with the tears? (Or are you the perfect parent who never inspires any?)

slates 002

This happened last Friday, so I couldn’t write about it at the time. Naomi was super-tired and crabby all last week, which culminated with tears over her narration on Friday. I don’t know why she was crying – honestly, I don’t.

She probably had something else she’d rather have been doing, but that is ALWAYS the case. She always has stories and parties and activities on the go with her Barbies and other various things… every single lesson pulls her away from her “real life,” but she usually handles the intrusion well. Not so on Friday.

Anyway, I read the short passage from The Shabbat Book and then sat back to listen, as usual. I try to ask as few questions as possible. Except last week, she started crying again, and finally sobbed, “I don’t know anything.” And it was such a memorable parsha!

Anyway, I stubborned it out and asked a few questions and she finally blurted out three lines that were not wonderful, and I wrote them down and rushed off to put GZ to bed, or whatever else it was that I had waiting for me to do.

By the time I came back, she had happily illustrated her narration with this lovely picture of matan Torah!image

I love how she’s “fenced in” all the Jews so they wouldn’t get hurt by going up on the mountain. While Moshe cheerfully ascends to receive the luchos (tablets – in this case, with 7 commandments!). She was troubled by writing just the letters alef, beis, etc., on the luchos, instead of the actual words, but I assured her that that’s a common convention. She has also added flowers to the mountain, something we didn’t cover in any of our formal readings, but which she probably remembers from last Shavuos.

At the Shabbos table, when I didn’t pull out her narration as usual, she specifically asked me to read it out and pass it around! So I did, and she had her usual pride and excitement at being able to participate, even though it had all started in tears.

Someone just emailed me this morning asking how to make parsha interesting to young kids. The story parts of Bereishis and Shemos are fine, but what about all the nitty-gritty stuff that comes later on?

Here’s more or less what I wrote back:

It's a toughie, that's for sure. The story draws them in - I love that we
start fresh with the story every year. The rest of the parshiyot are hard
and even (gasp) boring sometimes. It helps that I have two older kids - 16
and 15 - so I have been "doing parsha" for a LONG time, and for all ages...
so I'm sure I will find a way of getting even the hard ones across.

The secret - if there is one - is finding messages that kids can relate to.
"Finding a way in" so they will understand the essence of the story.
The particulars aren't as important - frankly, most of the adults I know
couldn't tell you exact details of construction of the mishkan, or korbanot,
or whatever. But it is important to know (for instance, from last week's
parsha) that korbanot were how bnei Yisrael drew closer to Hashem in those days. (and that these days, we use tefillah for the same purpose)

For a broad overview, My First Parsha Reader comes closest, in my opinion, touching on 2 to 5 major themes in the parsha on a very childlike level. I don't love it, and usually edit the text as I read, but it gives me some idea what to talk about.

Looking for something MORE than that, and more aligned with our own beliefs, I couldn't find anything in a book or website, so I started writing my own overview every week, in a kind of Q&A, fill-in-the-blanks format. I have those at my blog, though I'm not sure how useful they are to anyone other than me.

For narration, I don't use my overview - I think it's too long and too
broad. I use The Shabbat Book, which offers a simple one-paragraph synopsis of every single parsha.

After a few days of reading my "long version" of the parsha, I read her the
short paragraph from The Shabbat Book to help her focus... and THEN ask her to narrate, and illustrate.

I didn’t say that as a BT, “writing the parsha” every week, and even writing a parsha poem, gives me comfort and familiarity with Chumash that will no doubt serve me well for life. And even after so many years, I can use all the comfort and familiarity I can get!

I did add that the next couple of parshiyos (Terumah and Tetzaveh) are super-fun to do with young kids!

p.s. For the "mishkan parshiyot" in particular, don't worry! There is
nothing more interesting to a 4-year-old than BUILDING (ie constructing a
mishkan) and DRESS-UP (ie the clothes of the kohanim). Find a way to
describe it as a BUILDING PROJECT (use blocks! use legos!)... and figure
out some simple DRESS-UP ACTIVITY (use sheets! use scarves, bells, aprons!)

So there you are. The entire accumulated wisdom of 16+ years of parenting, and STILL my kid is in tears when it comes time to narrate.

But she loves parsha anyway, and is proud of her work anyway, and that makes me happier than you could ever imagine.


  1. I hear you about how it's hard to teach the parshiyot that are "just" laundry lists of laws. I once had to teach Vayikra to a bunch of kids. We focused on the idea that when you bring a korban, you're giving Hashem the absolute best you have, not the one you can do without. We connected it to the English word "sacrifice" and how it's really not a sacrifice if you didn't care about the thing you're handing over. We also discussed sharing with friends and sometimes sacrificing the favourite toy or whatever. About five minutes later it was snack time, two girls were fighting over the last two cookies, and one says, "here, you can have the broken one." ! In one ear, out the other, I suppose.


Post a Comment

I love your comments!

Popular posts from this blog

לימודי קודש/Limudei Kodesh Copywork & Activity Printables

Welcome to my Limudei Kodesh / Jewish Studies copywork and activity printables page.  As of June 2013, I am slowly but surely moving all my printables over to 4shared because Google Docs / Drive is just too flaky for me. What you’ll find here: Weekly Parsha Copywork More Parsha Activities More Chumash / Tanach Activities Yom Tov Copywork & Activities Tefillah Copywork Pirkei Avos / Pirkei Avot Jewish Preschool Resources Other printables! For General Studies printables and activities, including Hebrew-English science resources and more, click here . For Miscellaneous homeschool helps and printables, click here . If you use any of my worksheets, activities or printables, please leave a comment or email me at Jay3fer “at” gmail “dot” com, to link to your blog, to tell me what you’re doing with it, or just to say hi!  If you want to use them in a school, camp or co-op setting, please email me (remove the X’s) for rates. If you just want to say Thank You, here’s a

Hebrew/ עברית & English General Studies Printables

For Jewish Studies, including weekly parsha resources and copywork, click here . If you use any of my worksheets, activities or printables, please leave a comment or email me at Jay3fer “at” gmail “dot” com, to link to your blog, to tell me what you’re doing with it, or just to say hi!  If you want to use them in a school, camp or co-op setting, please email me (remove the X’s) for rates. If you enjoy these resources, please consider buying my weekly parsha book, The Family Torah :  the story of the Torah, written to be read aloud – or any of my other wonderful Jewish books for kids and families . English Worksheets & Printables: (For Hebrew, click here ) Science :  Plants, Animals, Human Body Math   Ambleside :  Composers, Artists History Geography Language & Literature     Science General Poems for Elemental Science .  Original Poems written by ME, because the ones that came with Elemental Science were so awful.  Three pages are included:  one page with two po

What do we tell our kids about Chabad and “Yechi”?

If I start by saying I really like Chabad, and adore the late Lubavitcher Rebbe, z"l, well... maybe you already know where I'm headed. Naomi Rivka has been asking lately what I think about Chabad.  She asks, in part, because she already knows how I feel.  She already knows I’m bothered, though to her, it’s mostly about “liking” and “not liking.”  I wish things were that simple. Our little neighbourhood in Israel has a significant Chabad presence, and Chabad conducts fairly significant outreach within the community.  Which sounds nice until you realize that this is a religious neighbourhood, closed on Shabbos, where some huge percentage of people are shomer mitzvos.  Sure, it’s mostly religious Zionist, and there are a range of observances, for sure, but we’re pretty much all religious here in some way or another. So at that point, this isn’t outreach but inreach .  Convincing people who are religious to be… what? A lot of Chabad’s efforts here are focused on kids, including a