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Friday, March 07, 2008

Homeschooling: Will The Agudah Join this Battle?

The State of the Union Address was hardly over before the Agudah released a statement on President Bush's proposal to increased educational choice via school vouchers for children from lower income families who are stuck in failing schools. Instead of calling this proposed program a voucher program, President Bush called it "Pell Grants for Kids." The Agudah's spokesman Rabbi Avi Shafran quickly penned a letter saying in short that educational choice shouldn't be just for kids in failing schools and commenting that calling the proposed idea "Pell Grants" is misleading. I never commented on this letter because frankly I'm quite exhausted by the voucher debate within the frum community. Why not pen a letter giving full support to a voucher program for needy children in failing schools, which the wish that once a voucher program is off the ground that it be expanded to include more children, rather than showing opposition to the idea because it just isn't inclusive enough, etc?

On Friday, I heard about a battle brewing over homeschooling in California as reported by the Los Angeles Times here. After hearing about the case on the radio, I did a little research of my own.

A case came before the Second Appellate District Court, Division 3, which involved a home schooling family, a Christian umbrella school, and some allegations of abuse in which the Appellate Court ruled there is no right for parents to home school their children and that California children must be either 1) enrolled in a public school, 2) enrolled in a private school, or 3) be tutored by a credentialed teacher who is credentialed for the appropriate grade level. Incidentally, California does not require private school teachers to be credentialed, only requiring them to be "competent." Justice H. Walter Croskey signed the decision and was joined by two other judges.

According to this article, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger "denounced a state appeals court ruling that severely restricts homeschooling and promised Friday to change the law if necessary to guarantee that parents are able to educate their children at home." He stated "Every California child deserves a quality education, and parents should have the right to decide what's best for their children," "Parents should not be penalized for acting in the best interests of their children's education," and "This outrageous ruling must be overturned by the courts, and if the courts don't protect parents' rights then, as elected officials, we will."

According to the article quoted above, home schooling is an issue that has come up for debate amongst state lawmakers before:

"In 2002, then-state Superintendent of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin said homeschooling was illegal and that she would enforce the law. Eastin then
asked the Legislature to take up the issue. It declined. Six months later, [Jack] O'Connell took over as state schools chief and opted for a hands-off approach, directing homeschooling families to the forms required to create a private school and telling local districts that truancy was their issue. For five years, homeschooling remained politically dormant."

How many are affected? It is estimated that there are 166,000 known home schoolers in California. There are also a total of 18,352 students attending private schools with 5 students or less.

The Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), for which the original family are not members, is planning to file an amicus brief on behalf of 13,500 member families in California arguing "that a proper interpretation of California statutes makes it clear that parents may legally teach their own children under the private-school exemption." Should that route fail, the Association plans to argue the decision "violate[s] the constitutional rights of parents to direct the education and upbringing of their children."

The HSDLA also may "seek to have this particular decision “depublished.” Depublication is a decision that can only be made by the California Supreme Court. If the Court determines that the decision should stand, regarding this family, on the facts presented, but that the general pronouncements of law for all of homeschooling should not be determined by this case, then the Court has the option of “depublishing” the Court of Appeal’s decision. This would mean that the case is not binding precedent in California and has no effect on any other family."

The HSLDA is also asking "other organizations and persons to assist with the amicus process so that a full defense of home education, religious freedom, and parental rights can be given to the California Supreme Court."

I love to see the the Agudah (the OU, or any other Orthodox umbrella organization) file their own amicus brief and/or petition for depublication. This battle also involves "educational choice," which Rabbi Shafran and the Agudah write in favor. It is a battle over whether a parent has the right to take full responsibility for the education of his/her child(ren). Of course, there is no governmental money involved in homeschooling and those who homeschool do so on their own buck. So the potential "nes" factor isn't a primary motivation to become involved.

My husband points out that frum organizations would have little interest in getting involved in this battle. While there are frum home schoolers in California (mostly among Chabad shulchim), the Orthodox umbrella institutions are there to advocate for Orthodox institutions.

I would argue that while the right to home school in California might not seem particularly relevant to the Orthodox Jewish community in the present. In fact, many Jewish Educators are extremely biased against home schooling. But, as the costs tuition spiral out of control, it could become increasingly relevant (whether or not anyone likes it) sometime in the not so far off future.

Readers, your thoughts?

65 comments:

AryehBaltimore said...

I realize I may ruffle a few feathers here, especially among the more liberal minded readers, but there is a major reason the Agudah should take a position here. This has nothing to do with homeschooling, and everything to do with you choosing how to raise your kids. Do you think the liberals in the People's Republic of California want you sending your kids to yeshiva private schools either, especially ones that run so contrary to progressivist ideas? To quote the judge, "A primary purpose of the educational system is to train school children in good citizenship, patriotism and loyalty to the state and the nation as a means of protecting the public welfare." I guess we have nothing to worry about so long as our yeshiva schools continue to offer the excellent civics and patriotism curriculums for which they are so well known.......

AryehBaltimore said...

I will also add that the furor over lack of teacher's certificates is the first thing that may spill into the private sector (even before outright government regulation of curriculums at yeshivas). What percentage of teachers in today's day schools even have teacher certificates?

ProfK said...

I am not in favor of home schooling for a number of reasons, yet I recognize that the option for parents to do so should be there. However, that option is not a free ride and would need to be safeguarded through strict regulations, including measuring that the child has indeed been "educated."

In NY State, private school teachers are not required to be credentialed; they are required to have a college degree, emphasis on have. They are not supposed to be college students still studying. I would imagine that the state winks at the true state in yeshivot because test scores show that "educating" is going on, at least for the most part.

Why don't I like home schooling? Because school is not just about reading book X and writing a report; it's not just about adding 2+2 and always getting 4. It's about interacting with others, about learning the rules of social behavior, it's about seeing multiple viewpoints, it's about learning to frame a social argument in a real situation, not in theory. It's about friends. It's about learning to work within the framework of a society and its attendant rules.

It's about the fact that not everyone who knows something can pass that something on to others--they aren't good teachers.

And making money the key component in a child's education can have disastrous results. It puts the dollar ahead of the child.

Choice is one thing; bad choice is another.

aryehbaltimore said...

ProfK--I will try to respond in a civil manner, and not give you a theoretical argument, but one that conforms to the social framework, okay?

Your argument as to why homeschooling is wrong is directly out of the progressivist playbook from the turn of the last century, and is precisely the argument used by both the California Court and totalitarian regimes as to why children cannot be homeschooled. It's also a great argument as to why they shouldn't be in yeshiva dayschools. Many of the kids I know, especially in really haredi schools, have no skills for social behavior. They come out of school not even looking at goyim, and thinking they are animals or something. They don't come out as members of society, but rather members of a clannish sub-culture know as frumkeite. You think the liberal progressivist movement in this country feels your child is getting "multiple viewpoints" from his cheder rebbe? Now, I'm not saying they SHOULD necessarily get this sort of diverse education. I'm just saying that the lack of societal integration you are attributing to homeschooling is just as fundamental to yeshiva schools as well. You can't use your argument against homeschoolers without condemning the day school system as well.

As for the more general topic of home school vs public school, my experience from 13 years in public school is that learning the rules of "social arguing" is that some people talk and others shut-up. Queen bees and wanna-bes, bullies and wimps, whatever you call it---the dynamics of public school are not that of learning civil debate and various viewpoints. Homeschool kids, by and large, tend to interact very well with others because they are confident in themselves. They may lack a bit of a social filter (their minds tend to be far more creative due to not being stifled by their peers), but in terms of relating to other people, they get that from siblings, neighbors, shul, the library, sports teams that accept homeschoolers, etc. They score consistently higher on tests than their peers, and actually are taught to learn for the sake of knowledge, not grades. The adult world is more similar to the world of a homeschooled child than that of a child in any sort of school, so it is also better preparation for adulthood.

aryeh said...

Also, I'm not sure what you mean when you say, "making money the key component in a child's education can have disastrous results". Being broke, hungry, and homeless also has disasterous results. Money problems are the #1 cause of divorce. If you don't have the money to pay for school, it's either public school or homeschool. If you're frum, it means homeschool. A is A.

Dave said...

There are a range of competing interests here, which is part of what makes things complex.

The rights of parents to bring up their children.

The rights of children, as distinct from parents.

The interests of the state in an educated populace (something crucial in a democracy).

The interests of the taxpayers as to the use of their money.

Balancing these is enormously tricky, with strong and honest arguments all around.

Homeschooling is one of the balance points. It biases in favor of the rights of the parent over state interests (you can, in most states, freely homeschool your children in utterly vile ideologies without repercussion), but the scope is small (the individual family), and there is no funding from the taxpayer.

Private schools are under greater controls. They must be licensed (ceding to the interests of the state as to the quality of the instruction), but they still take no taxpayer funds, and the state has limited influence over the curriculum.

Public schools are primarily focused at the interests of the state and to a lesser degree, the rights of the child to an education, regardless of the parents involvement. They are publically funded, and have public oversight as to operations and curriculum (which itself has led to many bitter debates, between different groups in the community). They are, especially in the modern era, where education is a requirement for most lucrative jobs, a vital step to allow children the opportunity to make a better life than the one afforded to their parents. The degree to which they do this successfully is an issue which is regularly debated.

Finally, we get to the issue of vouchers (and to some degree, charter schools). This involves taking public funding and providing it to private schools. Naturally, this opens up a whole set of issues. One, there is a limited funding pool to begin with (and with the looming unfunded retirement crisis in local communities, it isn't going to get any easier). This means that providing money for vouchers requires it be taken from somewhere else.

This is why people who otherwise are opposed to vouchers may support it in the cases of failing schools. It is an argument that since the state and the taxpayers have failed the children at a given school, the interests of the child in access to a good education trump other concerns. After all, a five year plan to improve the school does not help a child who will be out of that school in two.

As far as vouchers in general? I doubt most of the people who want them so ardently would be pleased with the actual result. First, a number of states have clauses in the State Constitutions which forbid public money going for religious education, which would leave religious schools right out. But more importantly, I am confident that should there ever be widespread vouchers, they would come with strong state oversight of the curriculum attached.

ProfK said...

"The adult world is more similar to the world of a homeschooled child than that of a child in any sort of school, so it is also better preparation for adulthood."

Sorry Aryeh, but it is not. The adult world, the working world is far more like a formal school setting then a home setting. Competition for advancement is a fact of life. There are "bullies" in the work world and in the greater adult world. "some people talk and others shut-up. Queen bees and wanna-bes, bullies and wimps, whatever you call it-" All this exists in the outside, adult world. The coddled setting of home schooling, no matter how structured, does not duplicate what actually goes on outside. Hit and miss socialization does not give adequate social training.

"Your argument as to why homeschooling is wrong is directly out of the progressivist playbook from the turn of the last century, and is precisely the argument used by both the California Court and totalitarian regimes as to why children cannot be homeschooled." And a perfect example for why children need to be exposed to multiple viewpoints. Slanting and weasel words such as "progressivist playbook" and "totalitarian regimes" purport to be civil discourse while appealing not to logic but to emotion. See Aristotle's discussion of ethos, pathos and logos.

"If you don't have the money to pay for school, it's either public school or homeschool. If you're frum, it means homeschool. A is A." A logical fallacy of the false either/or. For years the Williamsburg community availed itself of the local public schools. Because of the number of students going, they had single sex classrooms. Clearly limudei kodesh subjects were handled elsewhere. That also presents a choice. Then there are scholarships. Our local yeshiva does not charge parents with no money at all to pay tuition. What they do say to parents is that you cannot take vacations in the summer, have two cars, have weekly cleaning help and not pay anything for tuition. So another option is for communities to demand more transparency from yeshivas--the truly poor need to come before those who won't sacrifice anything for their children's education.

Keep this in mind as well. Which mother is it that is going to teach talmud to her sons? So they wait for dad to come home and learn in the later evening hours, which are not as conducive to learning because the children are not fresh. Hire a rebbi to teach them? Rebbis in our area who tutor take $50 an hour and up; other areas are the same or more expensive. If money is an issue, and parents want a Jewish education as well, then they are going to pay no matter what. Home schooling won't give them an economic lift.

"Many of the kids I know, especially in really haredi schools, have no skills for social behavior. They come out of school not even looking at goyim, and thinking they are animals or something. They don't come out as members of society, but rather members of a clannish sub-culture know as frumkeite." No, not all yeshivas give their children the correct basics for existing in society. Are you assuming that the right wing conservative christian fundamentalists who homeschool in droves are doing any differently? And please, let's not lump all frum schools together. There is no "clannish sub-culture known as frumkeite." Charedi schools are only one part of the Jewish educational system. Saying "Many of the kids I know," is not substantive proof that this is the case with all yeshiva educated children.

Chaim B. said...

ProfK,
Most research that I have seen (e.g. http://www.hslda.org/research/ray2003/Socialization.asp) concludes that home schooling is not a barrier to socialization. That is simply a false canard thrown at homeschoolers.
I can attest from our having homeschooled our kids for a short period of time that the progress children can make being homeschooled vastly exceeds what they can attain in a traditional classroom. It's not a coincidence that many of the finalists in contests like national spelling bee are homeschooled.
There obviously are obstacles to homeschooling, and every parent needs to make an informed decison as to what best meets their needs, but if it can work for thousands of Xstian families, why not for us? The biggest obstacle I see is the fact that the Jewish educational establishment does not respect homeschooling as a serious option.

ProfK said...

Chaim, I do not maintain that there is no socialization and no learning going on in home schooling. I am saying that it is inadequate to meet the future needs in the working adult world. For reasons way beyond our control I homeschooled one of my children a whole school year and another for part of a year. I am a trained professional and it was not easy to provide for regular socialization on a daily basis--it couldn't be done often enough to make my kids happy. My kids are "people" persons and needed just what I could not provide.

There is also this, which has not been mentioned. Take five children on five different grade levels and put them all in one homeschooling "classroom." Now take an untrained parent, regardless of schooling and intellect, and have them adequately teach all five children, as well as provide social activities appropriate to age. Do all five siblings get along perfectly? Put them in each other's company 24/7 and watch some sparks fly. A multi-leveled classroom is a challenge for a seasoned professional, never mind one with good intentions but no real training.

How do we judge the academic achievements of home schooled children? By what contests they win and their scores on standardized tests. Because of this, much of home schooling is "teaching to the test," one of the worst curriculum developments to come about of late. Teaching to the test is not about learning to learn.Teaching to the test does not address critical thinking skills, only rote learning. And rote learning is by far the easiest method for untrained parents to use.

Can home schooling work? Yes, I have seen it work. But as a mass alternative to regular schooling I believe it will cause more problems then it will solve.

SephardiLady said...

and everything to do with you choosing how to raise your kids

will also add that the furor over lack of teacher's certificates is the first thing that may spill into the private sector

AryehBaltimore-I couldn't agree with you more. This IS an issue the Orthodox umbrella organizations out there should get involved in.

ProfK-I agree that homeschooling is difficult. I disagree that it creates ill-prepared, coddled children. In fact, I've dealt with really, really coddled children in the Yeshiva system. I've also met plenty of lovely homeschoolers, Jewish and non-Jewish.

Currently, I have not one, but two commentors who have homeschooled at one point (you and Chaim B). Parents should have a say in their children's education. Most people I know who are or have homeschooled have not done so EXCLUSIVELY. It can be a temporary solution for many families and I'd hate to see that option closed off for families in California.

homeschoolmom said...

Wow! I am almost too breathless to respond well so I will keep it brief. I currently (and have always) homeschooled my children - now ages 9, 6, 4, and 1. I can honestly tell you that it has been the greatest spiritual, intellectual, social and emotional experience of our lives. When I am not so emotional, I will try to comment more to the point. But I will say this: if you aren't playing the game, or haven't for a long enough period of time, please do not presume to understand the dynamics of fully-committed homeschooling families. This issue is much bigger than you can imagine with tentacles that could easily take the yarmulka off your child in public settings, revoke your right to conduct kosher slaughter of animals, and close the local mikvah for fear of public hygiene. I will wholeheartedly support your choice and right to send your child to yeshivah (no matter his resulting social or educational skills) for the same reason that I hope you support my family's choices. Our rights as Jews depend on our achdus and willingness to look outside the box, even when it makes us uncomfortable.

Abbi said...

I'm sure homeschoolmom is quite sincere in her vocation and her feelings. However, when someone talks about "tentacles that could easily take the yarmulka off your child in public settings, revoke your right to conduct kosher slaughter of animals, and close the local mikvah for fear of public hygiene." with such foreboding, I have to wonder why such a person is still living anywhere outside of Israel.

If you really don't trust the local non-Jewish authorities to the extent that you have to isolate your children for their entire schooling, why are you still living there? We don't have such "tentacles" in Israel.

homeschoolmom said...

Oy vey... please do not drag my golus address into this discussion!

Let me clarify my comments. The school issue is just the tip of the iceberg whether or not one chooses public, private, or home-based education. And no I am not a paranoid paramilitary mom holed up in the mountains.

I believe that there is a fundamental need for governments to respect the rights of parents to make the best choices for their children. For most "observant Jews" that means Jewish schools. The fact is, if you have chosen to take your child out of the public school system, you are no different than homeschoolers - you simply have the institutional security to guard you from the failings that homeschool parents have to answer for due to our independence.

Back to the main topic that SephardiLady posited at the end of her post. Does anyone believe that the California case is one that the Jewish world should comment on due to the broader issues of religious freedom and parental rights?

mother in israel said...

ProfK, kids in school get used to a certain level of social activity, and when you remove them from that situation it takes a long time to adjust. Homeschooled kids who have grown up with their siblings as their main social group don't have that issue. However, just about every homeschooling family I know is part of an extensive social group (Israel being the way it is). The difference is that the parents are supervising the socializing so that violence and bullying don't happen.

I agree with you that gemara is an issue for homeschooled boys. Hard to believe that tutors can get away with charging that much, considering the poverty we hear about regarding kollel students.

aryeh said...

ProfK-Let us accept that we are both based off of different personal experiences. I will only relate mine. The people I had trouble with in school would be called criminals in the adult world. Their behavior would have them locked behind bars, not acting as my co-workers. Additionally, I was so smart I could sail through classes without doing the work involved, and when the class was tough, I could pass the tests without learning the material. In my job, nobody cares how bright I am. They care what I get done for my company. Passing a test doesn't indicate what I know---my work shows my knowledge. The parents of homeschooled children know if they have learned the information because they are working with them daily on it, and they are so involved that sailing through could not be done. They demand hard work from their kids. I'm not saying there aren't good teachers out there who can do this, but just that many schools do fail at this goal, even the "good" ones.

Your argument style reminds me of a freshman at YI who uses the name Kant as often as possible, hoping to impress somebody that he can name a philosopher. So incidentally, I am quite aware of the concepts of rhetoric and Aristotle, but merely referring to them does not make your point any more valid. I did not even mention that Hitler outlawed homeschooling for the sake of "social integration" because I felt that would be ethos. My logical argument is to point out that the modern progressive movement is against home and parochial schools because they don't teach social integration. As homeschoolmom put it, this is part of a larger issue. It is not about what is good for the kid, but what serves the purpose of a utopian society. I have heard arguments against homeschooling that would not simultaneously discount parochial schools (such as interpersonal socialization). While I disagree with those, the issue that concerns the courts and the progressive movement is societal unity for a utopian vision. Barack Obama said as much in a recent speech in Wisconsin.

Regarding the last paragraph, you too apparently have trouble with the dictates of rhetoric. One of your points is, "Homeschooling is bad (and in this argument, by extension, should be banned) due to the fact that it does not teach you how to integrate into society." You agree with me when I say that *some* yeshivas do not teach children proper societal integration, as I will grant, many Christian homeschools and parochial schools do not. I am not passiving a value judement---good or bad, this is merely a fact. The subject is should it be banned by the government? Are you saying that the yeshivas that you acknowledge don't teach proper societal interaction should be banned for the same reason?

Meanwhile, I recommend you all start reading primary sources. When Barack Obama says he is claiming the mantle of the early 20th century progressive movement, you'd better start getting the works of the early progressivists and make sure they are describing the way you think a society should operate. Incidentally, all over the world, we have already seen places where they have discussed banning shechitah for being inhumane. In Canada, churches cannot talk about homosexuality without being charged with hate-crimes. And in the US of A, a church can lose its tax-exempt church status if the priest/minister/rabbi expresses a viewpoint deemed political and not religious (and that decision is made by the gov't). It's referred to as "smiley-faced fascism". Sorry, is saying the word fascist ethos, ProfK? That is another pillar of the modern progressive movement---restrict language and you restrict thought. When modern liberals say they are progressives and specifically talk about the early 20th century progressive movement (which promoted fascism), I am not being inflammatory, just technically accurate.

Homeschoolmom--I'm interested in chatting with you more. Can you e-mail me at bobsmith613@gmail.com ?

ProfK said...

Aryeh,
Regarding "Your argument style reminds me of a freshman at YI who uses the name Kant as often as possible, hoping to impress somebody that he can name a philosopher. So incidentally, I am quite aware of the concepts of rhetoric and Aristotle, but merely referring to them does not make your point any more valid," the precepts of Jewish learning require that you give credit to the originator of a statement or thought. Learning begins "It is said in the name of_____" or "_____ said." Secular academics also require naming the sources. It is why we regularly return papers to students that start out "Studies say..." Whose studies say? Aristotle originated the thoughts so he gets credit for them.

Re: "It's referred to as "smiley-faced fascism". Sorry, is saying the word fascist ethos, ProfK?" No, it's pathos.

Re: "Are you saying that the yeshivas that you acknowledge don't teach proper societal interaction should be banned for the same reason?" Not banned but reformulated or perhaps renamed. Those same yeshivas also don't teach basic curriculum well either. If you want to be a yeshiva with a particular point of view about the world that's your business and I don't have to send my children there. But when you also purport to teach the state mandated subjects and when you offer a high school diploma which is a state conferred diploma, that is a different story. Then the school actually needs to teach what it says it is teaching by virtue of issuing the diploma.

"And in the US of A, a church can lose its tax-exempt church status if the priest/minister/rabbi expresses a viewpoint deemed political and not religious (and that decision is made by the gov't)." Not for expressing that opinion. Shuls and churches regularly host candidates for public office to hear what their views are. Shuls and churches regularly send out notices to go out and vote. No problem with the government there. The problem is if shuls and churches give money to support a political candidate's candidacy.

As I stated and you seem to have missed, I am not against home schooling. Californians should have the option available to them. Should huge masses of people take advantage of that option? In my opinion, no. Too many drawbacks and not enough benefits.

Oh yes, audience analysis requires that if you are using a figure to support your data you need to first determine if the ethos of that figure matches the requirements of the audience. Obama doesn't do it for me.

Yoni said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Abbi said...

Wow, aryeh, your commenting style is so obnoxious and long winded, I'm not surprised you had trouble with people you consider to be "criminals" in school.

Homeschool mom- my point was not to disparage your choice of address. My point was, if you're claiming that there is some kind of imminent danger to the American Jewish community (which I don't think is the case, but obviously, it sounds like you do) you do have a choice, a way to avoid these "tentacles" or icebergs, or whatever other metaphor you choose.

If you want to teach your own children because you feel you can do the best job, go right ahead. In terms of imminent danger to parochial schools (Jewish, Christian, Muslim, etc.) I highly doubt that's the case. Parochial schools have been around since the Founding Fathers. I guess it's always a possibility that some government could make them illegal, but I think it's extremely remote, on the same level of making religion illegal or a Nazi party coming to power.

Technically, yes, parochial schools and home schooling are both outside the public school system. But the similarities end there.

As far as the need for "governments to respect the rights of parents to make the best choices for their children", I agree, but governments need to balance this with the best choices for society and the best interests of children.

Ahavah said...

Homeschooling families are now, this very minute, having to FLEE Germany because the police are rounding up the parents of homeschoolers and throwing them in jail. (See worldnewsdaily.net) Children are being taken away from their parents for homeschooling - that's where the "socialization" and "properly educated citizen" arguments go. California is not the only place this is happening. And right after those are the private school teacher credentials issues. And more to the point, the goal of the UN Treaty for the Rights of the Child takes away a parent's right to determine their child's upbringing, and having this implemented in the US is not absurd or far-fetched, no more than having it implemented in Germany and the EU was. It's a done deal in Germany - and other nations will follow.

The entire goal is to make sure kids are removed from both their parents and their religion, and indoctrinated into the "correct" state-approved ideologies. The war against homeschoolers is just the first step.

Anonymous said...

re: the gemara-for-boys issue.
The Lubavitcher rebbe, ztl, recommended women learn (how to learn) gemara so they could teach their sons (i would add: and daughters...). Even if it's "too late" for some members of the current generation of mothers to learn gemara skills in time to teach their own kids, with some advanced communal planning it is not out of reach in the coming generations. With all the talk of creative solutions here perhaps more creativity is necessary.

Yoni said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
anonymous mom said...

ProfK, I agree wholeheartedly with your comments and appreciate the way you stated them. I've been teaching for 20 years, have tutored home-schooled kids, know homeschooling families personally, and I feel that it should be considered as an option for exceptions rather than a mainstream choice. The drawbacks outweigh the benefits. And the reason homeschooling families won't be able to have a decent conversation about this is because they are in the thick of the experiment. They don't realize what the consequences are later in life. Also, they themselves may have been and are exceptions to societal norms so it all seems "normal" to them. Even the drawbacks do not seem like drawbacks. I think plugged in, loving families are most important and many of these homeschoolers are just that. But school is about working within a system and there is great value in that. School is about negotiating social situations that you cannot control and having learning experiences that come to you by way of learning from others and from their learning processes. Learning about the way others think and process information, how others work, working in group learning situations with different types of people...respect for authority...the list goes on and on. So, are there bullying incidents in schools? Yes. Are there less of those in well-organized, disciplined learning environments? Yes. Do plugged in parents, involved parents have power in minimizing stress in school even when they are not there? Absolutely. Parents are much more powerful than they think with regard to their child's school environment just not in the way they think they are. Sometimes those horrific school experiences that some of you relate here are a result of poor choices on the part of the adults around you and not just in the school environment. By this I do not mean to blame the victim or the victim's parents, but--and I can't specify in detail here--there are many ways for parents to be more powerful and enmeshed in a positive way in their child's school experience. When they don't set that up, events that occur in school, even the initial school or class choice can become a big problem. Also, Aryeh, it is very important to choose a day school wisely and not to choose poorly and then bemoan the state of the Yeshiva system, and chalk it up to a system-wide disaster. Orthodoxy is diverse. So are its day schools. Parents who care about the things you mention should choose better for their children. If some segments of our population are supporting the type of schools you describe (and I know they exist) then that wouldn't be the right segment for you to tie your horses to. With regard to the larger issues of this post, I agree with SL that the Agudah statement was inappropriate. And whether choice should be permitted? Absolutely and that applies to those who pursue homeschooling as an option. But, and like I said the homeschool crowd will never get this because they will only see what they want to see, homeschooling is a problematic enterprise.

homeschoolmom said...

It is fascinating to see the gamut of reactions this issue has brought up. One thread that I see running through this and many other subjects discussed on this blog is that of the need for congruity in order to succeed in the "ortho" world. It also speaks to a great fear held by many that if they question or act against the communal tide then they will be ostracized by either their friends or the halachic establishment itself.

Homeschooling is a very hot-button example of going out of the Jewish box. Perhaps we can leave the particulars of education aside and talk about the challenge of balancing personal/family choices with the weight of adhering to communal standards.

Or maybe I'm just beating a dead horse...

reader said...

Homeschooling should definitely be protected as an option, though it should be monitored as well.

I believe the occasionally heard observation about significant gedolim in our history being formed outside the Yeshiva system, to one degree or another, is relevant here.

Excessive standardization can stifle some of our greatest talents, and that is not a luxury we can afford.

miriamp said...

Ahavah, you said "the goal of the UN Treaty for the Rights of the Child takes away a parent's right to determine their child's upbringing." You've piqued my interest enough to send me to read the actual text of the treaty: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/crc.htm and I'm not seeing that as the purpose, or even as a result, at all. Could you elaborate?

anonymous mom said...

Homeschoolmom,
My concerns about homeschooling have absolutely nothing to do with succeeding in the "ortho" world. Many teachers who work day in and day out in school systems for years and know the positives and negatives of that approach to education--and are pretty honest about it, I might add--are concerned about how homeschooled kids' succeed in the "world at large." Orthodoxy and Judaism has nothing to do with it for me. I know plenty of Orthodox homeschoolers whose kids are just fine communally. That happens when you have conscious parenting. I applaud homeschooling parents for that. No, I'm concerned with the lack of learning opportunities with regard to OTHER learners, the lack of opportunities to deal with authority, and the needs and rhythms of others. For some, it is the lack of opportunities to socialize enough. It depends on the homeschooling family and the needs of their children in terms of this last concern. Some of the homeschooling parents I have known are non-conformists to begin with, some didn't know how to navigate the conventional school system and they or their children suffered for it, some are conscious parents who think this way is better and are merely making a choice. My concern is why they seem so closed to the concerns that ProfK and I raise. I , personally feel that they think that no one has much to offer them with regard to insight into conventional schools. They make their judgments about the system (Ortho day school or public) based solely on their own experiences and/or dreams for their kids. Why not be open to what educators are telling you about the system you are choosing to leave? Do you hold us in such low esteem as to completely shut out our contributions to the conversation?

Dave said...

I suspect that the objection to the UN Treaty of the Rights for the Child is that it explicitly states that a minor child has a voice in their own life (including such things as their religious observance) commensurate with their maturity.

Children are not chattel.

homeschoolmom said...

"I'm concerned with the lack of learning opportunities with regard to OTHER learners, the lack of opportunities to deal with authority, and the needs and rhythms of others."

Anonymousmpm,

It would be really presumptuous and ineffective for me to try to be the spokesperson for home-schoolers. All I can do is speak for myself on this topic. I completely agree with the above quote and it very accurately describes some of the reasons my husband and I have chosen to homeschool. Perhaps SephardiLady will someday permit me to do a guest post that gets more into the guts of the matter.

Contrary to the belief that home-schoolers breath the rarified air of a sheltered existence, here is a peek at what today looked like for us:

My (almost) 9-year-old woke up at 4:30 a.m. in order to get dressed, eat some cereal and accompany his dad to the mikvah, daven shacharis with the minyan at our shul, and learn chumash and Pesach halachos before returning home at 7:45 a.m. to start the day with me and his siblings.

I got up at 5 a.m. to nurse a teething baby, get a shower and dress. Daughter (age 6) and son (age 4) woke up, washed negel vasser and then settled in daughters room to read books quietly and listen to a CD about the Purim story. They do some version of this quietly every morning until they see me emerge from my room.

After everyone dressed, said morning brachas and ate breakfast, daughter washed the dishes and then helped her little brother with his davening. Then I helped her with her davening as she has added several new passages in the past month.

The morning had us working on math, Ivrit, English grammar and coloring books. We also made beaded jewelry, used the internet and played outside.

After a quick lunch, my oldest son had a drum lesson with an African American instructor whom we befriended at a summer music camp last year. He had an hour of intense instruction and interaction that left him both tired from and excited about what he accomplished.

My daughter accompanied me to a business appointment where she wowed the adults present with her friendly, happy, and mature demeanor. Then she and I raced to our weekly Brownie Girl Scout meeting (I am troop co-leader) where she spent a great 90 minutes with her troop mates, all girls from one of the local Jewish day schools. She slipped in with them easily and they greeted her happily, completely accepting of her regardless of her "alternative" school day.

Somewhere in the middle of all this I answered my phone many times; made three lasagnas for the freezer; entertained and nursed a toddler; and even looked at the internet a few times.

My husband plans to finish the laundry tonight and mop the kitchen floor before finishing his daily learning and falling into bed.

Are we superheros? Are we insane? Are we happy? Are we tired? YES! Every parent can probably answer yes to these questions. We all make choices according to our experiences, priorities, and abilities. That is the human condition. The bottom line is this: we must support systems that promote choice even when we disagree with it. Then we can exercise our prerogatives without fear of financial, emotional, political or religious intimidation.

anonymous mom said...

I support choice. I also do not think that the homeschooling world necessarily needs mandated supervision by teachers. I do, however, think that you missed the point. And you would miss the point because you are not an educator working in a school system. You are a parent. And you are a parent making what you think is the best choice for your children. A caring parent, an involved parent, a dedicated parent. All the homeschooling parents I know are like that to some extent. But, you still missed the point. Learning from other learners, other rhythms among peers of the same age range as you are, adjusting to authority and the rhythms of authority. This is too complex to explain here. And this also misses the point of this post, but I just couldn't resist because I do know some families in my area who have opted to homeschool based on financial concerns and Hashkafa/Jewish outlook concerns. I'm concerned that it may become a trend. It shouldn't. Sorry. Like, I said before, it should be the exception choice, not the rule.

Abbi said...

anon mom- excellent response and I couldn't agree more.

Homeschool mom- no one can argue with the essential wholesomeness of your children's day. I don't think anyone imagined for a minute that they spent their time all day in front of the tv or that they weren't learning all the basics they need.

But what they were missing was learning how to do all these things while dealing with children with learning/behavioral difficulties, or a teacher who was in a bad mood or having to keep to a more rigid schedule then brownies in the afternoon. Each of these difficulties creates valuable educational moments that help children mature and learn to negotiate the world around them.

This is in addition to the above point about "learning from other learners". Learning from a book and a parent is not the same as learning from a peer group. 2 perspectives cannot compare to 20+.

Though your daughter might have some of these opportunities once a week at brownies, it's not the same as having them on a daily basis.

homeschoolmom said...

At this point we should agree to disagree as I don't think this track relates to the original post nor do I feel that there is any way to communicate this complex idea through a very limited medium such as the internet.

Anony said...

Home schooling in Orthodox circles could nearly cease if the necessary education became available in Jewish schools to all Jewish children at all income levels. However, the schools in the aggregate leave too many children out.

mlevin said...

The more I read about how bad it is for homeschool children for their social growth and their respect of authority and interaction, the more I see it as an none issue.

1. For thousands of years only few elite went to school, yet somehow everyone was able to grow up, get married, have friends and go to shul. They managed to socialize and respect authority.

2. In PS in NYC very little interaction is going on. Children do not have recess, talking on school premises is vertually non-existant. They can’t talk during line ups (before school, between classes, after school). They can’t talk at lunch. They can’t talk at gym… So how does that promote socialization or growth?

3. Traditional classroom enviroment is set up so it teaches children how to grow up and become corporate slaves. Do we really want that, or do we want something better for our children?

4. Bullies are a very real problem in the school enviroment, and girls’ bullyings are even more vicious than boys’. These problems do not exist in the real world. School bullies usually end up as no-bodies after graduation with pathetic lives. But nerds, geeks and other victims of bullying end up being the most coveted workers/businessmen. So home school is a great alternative instead of being subjected to bullying through out ones childhood.

5. Teachers teach towards an average student, then they take time to repeat their lesson to those who did not understand it in the first place. Thus it leaves those with a quicker mind wasting their time and being bored through out the day. Some schools decided to remedy this situation by separating smart students and giving them tons of homework, but these students still cannot progress ahead because they have to follow a state mendated curriculum. This is even more of a problem when a student is bored in one type of classes and lost in other.

Mike S. said...

I am astonished that so many think there is a single correct answer to this question. Of course there are children and families for whom homeschooling works better, and families and children for whom a school works better. And of course, it depends on the school too. The idea of reducing this to a formula strikes me as silly.

anonymous mom said...

MLevin,
1. They didn't necessarily have friends and go to Shul. Different times/different children's circumstances/different adult circumstances. You're comparing apples with oranges.
2. I don't know what PS you have been to lately, but I see talking and socializing and learning.
3. Traditional learning teaches children how to adhere to rules and learn within boundaries which can be a problem for some parents, I understand, and can and should allow for creative outlets and learning opportunities, but as of now whether you are a "corporate slave" or a happy professional (I do know some of those) we are all definately not going to be free-thinking, freelance artists and writers living in a cottage in Martha's Vineyard.
3. Bullying can be a problem in schools, but--like I said before--having taught in a variety of different situations and being considered a "student's teacher," in touch with kids and their feelings, I really don't see bullying as a plague. Good schools set up systems that minimize the problems. Empowered parents who are plugged in early on and know what to do and how to navigate with their kids and set them up for success socially help a lot. Oh, and there ARE bullies in the adult world. Absolutely. Different degrees of dysfunction, but they sure are out there.
5. As for the kids with the "quicker minds," all the more reason to have them in a school environment. You live, you learn. It's ok to not have the world revolve around your immediate needs. I was one of those so-called "quicker minds" and you know what? I was fine. I was bored at times and some teachers were better than others at giving me enriching things to do, but I made wonderful, life-long friends in elementary school who were not for the most part--btw--the "quicker minds."
And, homeschoolmom, I know this wasn't on topic and I could kick my self for taking the bait, but I absolutely love kids, love my own, love teaching other people's children and I really and truly want what's best for them. So I don't like when anyone who hasn't actually worked in a school environment operates from a point of ignorance while making sweeping statements about something with which they only have subjective experiences. BTW, in real life, homeschooling parents always shut down at about this point. They don't want to open themselves up to what teachers have to offer them. Good luck. I'm sure you are a great mom.

anonymous mom said...

Mike S,
There is more than one way to educate a child, but homeschooling is not the utopian solution that some make it out to be. I think some people actually have a hard time understanding that teachers are professionals and do know a thing or two about schools that parents do not. Parents often feel that their opinions about their children and their children's needs are paramount so it is really hard to get a parent to admit that a teacher may have something to throw into the conversation. We are not your kids' parents, but we do know a thing or two about kids--their learning and social needs. So, while there should be different options, there also should be open, no-holds back respectful dialogue about these. Parents--including the homeschoolers--should not shut out or dismiss outright what teachers are trying to say to them.

homeschoolmom said...

Just for the record, I made no "sweeping statements about something with which they only have subjective experiences" if that is meant to refer to schools. No where in any post did I describe anything about schools or my thoughts about them since you are correct that it is not my field of expertise.

In fact, I made very sure to stick to the subject and try to elicit interesting responses. The reason I am "quitting" at this point is due the very hostile and unpleasant nature that this exchange has taken. I enjoy participating in on-line discussions, but this one has really taken the air out of my sails.

Abbi said...

HSM: What hostility? Where was the name calling, attacks, vicious accusations? I can't find them. Why are pointed questions automatically equated to to be hostility?

I think a different response could have been explaining why, despite the disadvantages that anon mom pointed out, you feel strongly about homeschooling for x,y,z reasons.

I would like to refrain from making extrapolations to your teaching style in general from your reaction but it is quite difficult.


mlevin: Sorry to disappoint, but though the generalizations you bring up exist in schools, it's simply not across the board. I've worked in 6 schools so far, Jewish and non Jewish and saw little to none of anything you describe. Good schools and caring teachers are out there, but committed parents have to seek them out and stay involved to make sure their children get the best education possible.

Homeschooling is not the automatic answer because there are some schools around with bad teachers and bullies.

yaelaldrich said...

I haven't been on this blog in a week and I see what I miss! I am also a frum homeschooling mom and I also don't know why those who espouse "regular" schooling must denigrate those of us who homeschool.

Homeschoolmom, I would love to email you sometime and talk tachlis!

aldrich613athotmaildotcom

Mike S. said...

Anonymous mom,

I didn't mean to suggest homeschooling was some kind of utopia. I did say that it can be a better solution for some children or families. By the way I sent all my kids to school, at a cost so far of over half a million dollars. And I have largely been satisfied.

And yes, teachers do know things about kids, schools and education that parents don't. But parents, when they are not being swayed by emotions, should know their child bettter than a teacher. And institutional constraints often prevent a teacher from doing what is best for a particular child.

mlevin said...

"Good schools and caring teachers are out there, but committed parents have to seek them out and stay involved to make sure their children get the best education possible. " As a caring parent I ended up spending lots of time educating my children after school. I am planning to spend this summer giving my daughter SAT prep. Mathematics requirements by the State of New York stink. She got a 97% on her Math A regent. I also constantly teach my children history, literature and other things to supplement school's shortcomings.

My boss's daughter who is a certified teacher with masters and all, took her son out of the school and now teaches him at home. It is not easy, but this way she is assured that her child receives a quality education. While in PS in NJ his third grade teacher taught class how to add, sub, multiply and divide on the calculator. She said, knowing how to do it on paper or in a head is outdated.

My daughter, plans to homeschool her children, because she does not want them in PS and she can't stand the way Yeshivas force parents to comply with their absurd rules.

mlevin said...

" They didn't necessarily have friends and go to Shul. Different times/different children's circumstances/different adult circumstances. You're comparing apples with oranges." Are you saying that people in the old days did not have friends? Are you saying that people did not go to shul? How is today's shul different from one 300 years ago?

"As for the kids with the "quicker minds," all the more reason to have them in a school environment. You live, you learn." Why? To day dream in the middle of the class, instead of receiving one on one instructions to further develope their individual talents? How is it good for them to hear for a hundredth time something they understood already.

SephardiLady said...

Sorry for being MIA. This week has been busier than any I can remember in a long time.

The point of this post was to make a point that educational choice is important, something the Orthodox community should support (whether or not we, as individuals and as a community, always agree about how others educate their children).

anonymous mom said...

SL, I understand that this wasn't your intended train of comments and are not on issue, it's just that I am a bit concerned that people are beginning to see homeschooling as the only way out right now. It's not that I think it's a horrible choice, it's just that no one ever allows for open discussion about it so I took the tangent. And as for this comment:
"I also don't know why those who espouse "regular" schooling must denigrate those of us who homeschool." I never denigrated you guys, never do I do that in real life. I just challenged you. I challenged you to confront the concerns of those of us who have them. And, as usual, this shuts you guys down and makes you feel victimized. It's like trying to speak with a Kollel person about the Kollel lifestyle. Case closed. You're putting us down. Anyway, I'm not surprised and I really do wish you well in the end.

WannaBeChossid said...

Hi Everyone,

this is not really related to the debate, but since it is related to education:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21134540/vp/23590816#23590816

anonymous mom said...

Homeschoolmom, the sweeping statements were made by others on this thread. I was just explaining my response to the whole thread. Why would you step away from an open dialogue with someone who affirms tha t most of you are plugged in, caring parents who are making a choice that they should be able to make and should not be monitored by state-mandated teachers?

anonymous mom said...

MLevin, I am on the opposite side of every point you just made and--forgive me--but I have met my share of parents over the last 20 years who think exactly as you do. I can't take it apart point by point here because I will be A)off topic again B) deemed venomous and hostile so just believe me when I say that I am smiling while I read your comments and thinking, "Every teacher in the blogosphere who is reading this is thinking exactly the same thing." We aren't perfect, we can't know someone's child more than his/her parents, but we do know how kids learn and socialize and have a great feel for what is and isn't detrimental in a thematic way. When you work with computers, you don't know each and every one, but you can add some real flavor to a computer conversation because you have an aerial view of the medium in general. So, all I can say is that what you are taking for granted as necessary steps to make up for or fix your schools and what you think is terrible like "daydreaming" may just not be. But, this is America and you are entitled to your opinions. You just come across as so "all-knowing" about a system that you only know subjectively and a component of human development (learning) that--again--you know only subjectively.

Yoni said...

anonymous mom:

When the only "socialization" a child gets from school is abuse, both physical and emotional, would you still say that such has a positive effect on them? (and I am, btw, a teacher in training, as well as someone who's spent time in schools both jewish and public.)

For certain kids, gifted kids foremost amoung them, being in a protected enviornment until their age peers learn how to behave and have some amount of humanity to them is important.

at least in this case, the research is overwhemlingly on my side in terms of how harmfull "necessery socializtion with age peers" is to these kids. They do, virtualy across the board with few exceptions, infinitely better on all areas of measurement, social and academic, when homeschooled or otherwise isolated from age peers, because of the immaturity of those age peers.

some sources (review of the litturature) with very large reference lists:

socialization 1

masks

these socialization problems litteraly dissapear as the children approach upper highschool and college ages, whether they've been with their peers or not, although in cases when they've been with their peers in school they usualy leave damaged beyond repair.

(and I'm sure I can find much more)

Abbi said...

yoni, what kind of point are you making by bringing up an extreme case of abuse? You're only bringing the conversation to the level of the absurd.

There are such a plethora of gifted programs for children, I have a hard time believing that if your child is evaluated as truly gifted, one couldn't find such a program.

As for how horrible schools are, I find it very shocking. I had a decent elementary education, but my high school education far exceeded even my college degree. All I can say is that the schools are out there, and like anon mom, I also don't think the answer is homeschooling.

mother in israel said...

1. Extremely gifted children often see the world in unusual ways, and suffer for it in school. Gifted programs are better than nothing, but some children feel just as out of place there. If the gifted children are in a separate class, it is often highly competitive. I have long wanted to write about Israel's attitude toward gifted children.
2. I don't believe educators when they say that bullying and emotional cruelty don't happen in good schools. In general educators are completely unaware. Kids are expert at keeping these things off the radar.

anonymous mom said...

Once again, my words have been twisted. Mom in Israel, I'm disappointed. I never said that bullying and emotional cruelty do not happen in good schools. What I said was that bullying is dealt with in better schools and therefore less likely to occur.
Those who care about this, please read me out to the end, especially Yoni, ML, MII:
We have been dealing with some bullying incidents in our classes recently. Of course, it happens. Get that many kids--or adults, for that matter--in a room together for hours at a time and lots of stuff happens. But, that doesn't mean that these things can't be addressed. BTW, the bullies are often victims themselves at home so when the victims are dealt with so are the bullies and the bullies' parents. Bullying and all systems of aggression within schools are complex systems--more than parents realize. Should some kids be homeschooled? Depending on the circumstances, yes. But, if bullying and the fear of it or the response to it is the reason for the homeschooling, then the parents must be willing to reassess their own choices and the school settings they have experienced. Often, parents are only aware of only some of the factors involved in what makes aggressive behavior occur in kids or adults. I speak in generalities. I will search for the more well-written, specific books written by teachers--if there are any--about this subject. Often it is the psychologists who write these books. Not the same vantage point. Yoni, I respect your comments here and in other blogs, but you are "Nogea B'Davar" and I hope that you have proper mentors and teaching opportunities on your career path. If you are entering your field with such skewed opinions (btw, research is out there in many forms taking many roads. You have to be objective about the research too) then you will be limiting your own learning opportunities. There is a middle ground, Yoni, between invalidating your concerns about bullying in the schools and overemphasizing them. Successful teachers must negotiate the middle ground day to day and minute to minute on every educational issue because you are dealing with so many people with so many needs all day and that includes the different children, the parents, the supervisors. It's not brain surgery, but it is a balancing act that lay people and those who are first learning do not get. Within the complexities, there are great benefit to traditional schooling. ***One more thing on bullying, a combination of the following will set your child up as best as possible to be less at risk of this dynamic:
a. schools that are organized, well-run, with challenging curricula. Specific attention on keeping Junior High students motivated and BUSY (not overly pressured, just busy--tough balance to maintain).
b. tuned-in teachers. Teachers who pay attention during recess and lunch, who interact with the students during "off" times. Administrators who encourage and--possibly require this of their teachers.
c. parents who are tuned in. Support staff in mental health services (guidance counselors, school psychologists) who are trained in the area of bullying and aggessive behaviors, who understand the complex dynamics and can help parents--especially in the younger grades--identify and deal with the dynamics in their child's life that may lead that child to either be the aggessor, the provocative victim--tough to explain on one foot here and likely to cause a firestorm of response, a passive victim. In plain English, helping parents see how their children can be trained to rethink their behavior and their responses to the behaviors of those around them.
d. schools where teachers, psychologists, administrators work well together.

BTW, it doesn't take a brain surgeon or someone who is anti-Chareidi to realize that the above components are unlikely to occur in a right-wing, Cheder-type Yeshiva or large BY school. Even in MO day schools, we often only get some of these right, but the beautiful symphony I describe is possible in Public Schools and Yeshivas. Parents should be choosy customers when it comes to their child's learning environment. Often, in the Orthodox world, choices are based on Hashkafa alone. So, those who care about these things, need to be honest with themselves and broaden their search criteria.

mother in israel said...

Anonymous mom--I apologize.

anonymous mom said...

Thanks, MII. I just had to clarify.

mlevin said...

Anonymous mom - when you live in a place like NYC you may have lots of choices for your children, but outside the city your choices are suddenly limited. So, if your child is being bullied or if your child is bored in class or whatever other problem you may have with the school, then homeschooling should be a great option and it should not be dismissed off hand.

Again, I have girls and I made sure that my girls were in the schools that fit them. Both public and private.

But from what I hear about boy schools there are no choices. All boy schools in Brooklyn provide a lousy secular education and that includes Math and Sciences. The most they spend two hours per day on all secular subjects. That's not enough, IMO. But in Public Schools your boy is limited to Hebrew school 2.5 times per week and Hebrew school lasts only 5 years (5 grades). Not enough of IMO.

So, unless there is a reasonable alternative I see many parents opting for homeschooling their sons, because haskofa of the school could be overlooked (sometimes), but ability of a son to earn a livng cannot.

anonymous mom said...

Mlevin, I try to advocate to those who care about providing their children (including their sons) with a good secular education and an organized learning environment to consider--just consider--sending their children to a Modern Orthodox day school before they throw the baby out with the bathwater and condemn all Yeshivos altogether. I don't mean to paint a utopian picture of the MO day school, but I have worked in both types of(Chareidi and MO) schools as well as spent time in PS and I feel that not enough Orthodox parents consider the MO option. They are so afraid of the "influences" and "Hashkafa" of Modern Orthodoxy that they write it off completely. I wish I could change their thinking and it saddens me that there are those like yourself who are not in that picture and yet have been brainwashed to think that there are no choices. As for the out of NY challenge of having less choice, I understand that. If a family has to live in a particular out of NY community with less choice, then--yes--they have no choice but to hope for a great MO day school or homeschool. But, if a young family isn't set on a community and while looking into communities doesn't put the day school at the top of their list of criteria, then I am disappointed. I see that happen time and time again. Price of home, work opportunities come before spending time in the schools there, getting a feel for them and deciding if there is potential for happiness and a good fit. No one can predict or control all the factors, but why isn't school environment important enough to NY and out of NY parents to make it top priority in their choices? Why do people put so little effort in choosing their children's daily environment? And why do so many Orthodox Jews discount modern orthodox day schools completely?

Yoni said...

there is a lubavitch yeshiva in pitsburg that I'm told has a pretty good secular education. I've not been there, but I'm told most of the lubavitchers who go there plan to go to college eventualy.

mlevin said...

anonymous mom - I think that you misunderstood me. I am MO, and I am talking about MO schools. In Brooklyn, there is just no option. Not even Keeruv schools provide decent education to boys. Here are examples:
Flatbush - used to be one of the best in Brooklyn now it's somewhere waaaaay down there. I hear both parents and teachers complaining about their lower standarts.

Manhattan Beach - even worse then Flatbush. For example to graduate from 8th grade each child must read 30 books (in three years), sounds great, but these books could be as silly as "Cat in the Hat" and "One fish, Two fish"

So, upon graduation from these schools boys have a lot of catching up to do in high schools. Their chances of getting accepted in better high schools are slim. Unless parents did something on the side.

anonymous mom said...

"Their chances of getting accepted in better high schools are slim. Unless parents did something on the side."

They do just fine. Many go on to good colleges. I don't know why you emphasize the minutiae that you "hear" from others and then go on to extrapolate what those details mean.
The example you give (the 30 books) is meaningless out of the context of the actual learning environment and the stats on the graduates long-term. I don't know about you, but I measure the stats of my children's success in school in the following manner and in the following order:
a. happiness, comfort level
b. good reports from teachers regarding their conduct and respect for others
c. evidence that they enjoy what they are learning if not all the time, then half to most.
d. reinforced love of Torah and Judaism for which we have planted the seed at home.
e. grades and anecdotal evidence from watching them do their work that shows that they are trying their best
f. being well-spoken, enjoying reading, having good writing skills
g. being prepared for a MO high school which is where they will be going

Their long-range success in college and the work world will not be determined by whether they are forced to read large numbers of grade level books in 8th Grade. Their success will be largely based on the love of learning and reading and the importance of getting a good education that we, his parents, emphasize in our home. The examples we set are key to their success. That is why you can have kids who came out of the right wing Yeshiva system who can go on to excel in college and become successful and intelligent professionals. It isn't based solely on their elementary education or lack thereof. That said, your day school should fall within certain parameters of quality if your goal is to make it easier for them to get into and feel comfortable in good quality high schools. Flatbush does that. I don't know much about Manhattan Beach. I don't think we are talking about the same priorities, though. I know my kids will likely do well and succeed in a profession of their choice. They are being taught good skills. I don't, however, care if they get into Ramaz. I'm fine with them in MTA. They don't need to go on to an Ivy League University. If they want to do that, they will accomplish that by working hard in high school and getting involved in extra-curriculars. NPR had a great program about the myths of undergraduate school--the importance or lack of importance of Ivy League undergrad today and the misconceptions of how to get in. In the end--and I'm from a long line of overachievers including a host of right-wing, college-educated, successful relatives--it's all good as long as they are happy and give back to society. Ivy league--if that's your goal--is quite possible using our flawed system. The following NY area day schools are fine: HALB, HANC, HAFTR, Shulamith, YNJ, Yavneh, Moriah, Flatbush, Ramaz, MDS, SAR, Westchester Day School. No, they are not all alike--I'm aware of the differences, but they are all fine. There are some good ones in Queens too. Out of NY, there are some fine day schools--some better than others. I don't know as much about them, but I hear that Silver Spring, Atlanta, Chicago have good schools. Our system provide for our long-term needs. It's all in our perspective and priorities.

mlevin said...

When asked at the open house a few years ago Shulamith representative replied that 5 or 6 girls fail each regent. That's 10% failure rate, that they admit to publicly. In reality it must be more. And what about those who get just barely passing grade? How many of those are there?

I, personally, do not consider a school with stats like that as a good school.

Anonymous said...

For the teacher who can't fathom parents hschooling, who are wholly familiar with the school system.....I'm a former teacher who has chosen hschooling BECAUSE of what I saw in schools: bullying, crass language, sexuality in your face, cliques. I also have a 30 year old child that went through the school system (much to my chagrin). My two younger ones have always been hschooled. One of them (13) will likely enter yeshiva next year. His younger sister, will continue happily hschooling.

Parents have the right to educate their children as they see fit, not to fit anyone else's agenda for their children. One person's "normal" is another's kook. I personally don't care that my kids missed out on the exciting challenges of violence and intimidation in school, or any other variations of "socialization" prevalent in the "normative" route of education.

Finally, public school for frum children is in the realm of child abuse, IMHO. Yes, hschoolers can be strongly opinionated, not caring to fit into the little boxes you've made for us, and that is the REAL concern of its detractors.

Abbi said...

mlevin- you trumpet Shulamith's regents stat as if that says it all about the school's math program. Did you sit in on any of its math classes? Have you seen what kind of preparation they do for the test? What kind of homework they give? Are the math classes tracked or mixed? Is there an honors program? Who's teaching the classes- experienced teachers or an extra limudei kodesh teacher just using a text book? What's the protocol for students who are having difficulty with the material? Does the teacher call the parents or do the parents have to chase the teacher?

The only thing that stat tells me is the 5-6 Shulamith students (out of a class of 50-60?) have parents who care so little about their children's math education that they allow it to deteriorate to the point of failing a test that isn't very hard to pass.

mlevin said...

Abbi – first who was talking about Shulamith’s math program exclusively? Stats I got were across the board.

Second – we are talking about 10% failure rate. It is a pretty high percentage. If you are ok with 10% failure rate, that’s your business.

Third – 10% failure rate has nothing to do with classes being tracked or mixed. I am not quoting statistics of how many students got an A; I’m quoting a failure rate. Unless that school has “special” students there is no excuse for such a high failure rate. None what’s so ever.

Fourth – 10% failure rate is a school admitted stat. As a rule schools try to exaggerate their accomplishment and understate their failures. When you hear 10% you know that number is higher. You also know that there are many students on the brink of failure. In my book this school is not teaching properly.

So, in the end school’s regent stats do reflect school’s educational abilities. It says a lot if a school fails to provide even a minimum education to their students. Why spend thousands of dollars on a failing school?

Anonymous said...

Hi SL. I'm a week late in joining in. But I'm shocked, angered and dismayed at the hostility aimed at homeschoolers. I'm a hard-core homeschooling Alumna Mom. I successfully homeschooled my daughter k - 12. There are as many good reasons to homeschool as there are homeschoolers! I'm here in California and the public schools are simply out of the question for me. The day schools here are expensive and educationally 3rd rate. My daughter is an absolutely brilliant student. Why subject her to mediocrity, academically? She started her college career at age 11. Socially, my daughter has found lots of friends and social opportunities within both the Jewish and non-Jewish worlds. Now at age 20, she's a first year Veterinary student, and one of the top students in her class. Homeschooling worked for her! It gave her all the tools to succeed professionally, and socially. With regard to the current controvery over the judicial ruling last month, stay tuned. I personally don't think anything is going to change. There's a resolution in the State Assembly currently. But again, there are lots of reasons to homeschool. There are a lot of kids who have failed at school and for whom school fails. We as parents should have the right to educate our children as we see fit and proper. There are some wonderful online Jewish homeschooling resources and elists, for everyone from the frummies to the non-observant Jews. We don't homeschool in a vaccuum. OUr children are out in the real world, with us. And believe it or not, some of them are even religiously educated, as well!!!! Classic Chevruta doesn't require attendance at "school." Also, please remember that Moshe Rabbeinu didn't attend any sort of Yeshiva. Our Avot and Emahot are not graduates of _____Day School. Instead, we take the Shema's mandate seriously.

Chag Purim Sameach,
Helene Rock
Los Altos, California

Sara said...

I am an orthodox mother in New Jersey and considering homeschooling. But its so hard as everyone is so against it. I would be happy to find some hardcore homeschooling frum families for advice from real people.. could anyone give me their email? thanks!

mother in israel said...

There is a very active frum homeschoolers' list. If you do a search for orthodox jewish homeschool I imagine you'll find it. Good luck!