Wednesday, September 10, 2014

How to Teach Hebrew to Your Children

My wife and I educate our children at home, and since I spent a lot of time and money in learning the languages of the Bible, I thought I'd put that to good use.  There are a number of reasons for teaching Hebrew to your children, and while this post is about how to teach it to them, here are a few reasons why it's a good idea.  First, it's helpful to the development of their minds.  Hebrew is a language that has symbols very different from English, and it's a good way to introduce an abstract (or at least, alternate) way of thinking for little ones.  This will in turn aid their conceptual and abstract thinking, enabling them to think in ways that require problem-solving.   Secondly, it's a great way to introduce children to the Bible, and get them "into" the biblical world.  Language is connected to reality, to history, to people, and culture (no matter what Wittgenstein says).  Third, reading the Bible in the original is the schizzle.

Ok, so how am I doing it? Well, I started out with the alphabet, and had them copy the letters for a few days until they got it down.  Then, I taught them how to sound out words, after teaching them the vowel pointings.   The girls like to do exercises on the board, so I began by spelling words for them, and they write it on the board.  Example, "Aleph, segol (vowel pointing), resh, segol, final tsade." Eretz.  Land! 

Here are some different exercises we do: 
  • Vocab flash cards. (Also preposition and vowel pointings).  
  • Reading Genesis 1 from the Hebrew Bible, explaining grammar and syntax as we go along. 
  • Say aloud spelling and vocab.  I say a word, and the girls write it on a piece of paper.  Example: I say, "Eretz."  Then the girls spell it in Hebrew and give the vocab definition. 
  • Grammar: I'll read a section from my Hebrew grammar books (Pratico and Van Pelt, Weingreen, Cook & Holmstead).  The Cook/Holmstead book is a great, new grammar that has all kinds of interesting exercises in it, including conversational Hebrew, crossword puzzles,  comic strips, and fill in the blank. 
I try to keep it simple.  I'm not plowing through the Grammar texts.  I mostly do reading from Genesis, and vocab flash cards.  From time to time, I'll do a grammar lesson.  We're taking it slowly, only 3 lessons per week, because on the other two days, the girls are learning Latin, and we don't want to overwhelm them.


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