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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Guest Post from a Real Live Homeschooling Parent

Thank you to R. Daniel Aldrich who kindly put together a fantastic guest post on the subject of homeschooling, a subject that has come up nearly everytime tuition is addressed on this and on other blogs. I welcome guest posts. If you have a subject you would like to write about, feel free to contact me.

Orthonomics Guest Post: Homeschooling
Daniel P. Aldrich


The topic of homeschooling is a touchy one for Orthodox Jews. School-based chinuch is such a historical and critical Jewish tradition that the idea of parents pulling their children out of the well-traveled standard school system to somehow pass along our precious mesorah sounds somewhat sacrilegious -- many observers must imagine that such parents couldn't really "make it" in the "normal" system. After all, most of us living in Golus pay $10,000 a year or so per child to send our children to our local cheder / day school / yeshiva to be trained as Jews, and we find it hard to believe that we could educate our children for a lot less. Moreover, professional educators are often suspicious of the idea that untrained parents could somehow do as well or better (since my parnassah comes from being a university professor, I admit I can fall victim to such sentiments myself). Another point that is often raised is that homeschoolers cannot provide the excellent mussar and middos training that our Jewish schools are so famous for, and those homeschooled kids receive none of the socialization that our schools are providing. Finally, and most obviously: which families have the time and patience to homeschool their kids?

Or maybe we're wrong. For those of who imagine that homeschoolers have gone off the path established by Jewish history, let's take a closer look at the introduction of schools as described in the Oral Torah. Our avos and imahos only began mass-schooling, i.e. having 20-40 children in one class as an adult tries to engage them, with the coming of the takana of R' Yehoshua ben Gamla as described in Maseches Bava Basra 21a. It is well known that our rabbanim, including Rabbi Yitzchok Hutner, zt'l, have lamented the fact that individual parents - fathers, more specifically - no longer are able to fulfill their obligations in transmitting our Torah. It is clear that until some sort of societal breakdown- perhaps one result of the brutal Roman occupations of Israel - the Jewish tradition was not passed along bygroups, but instead by parents. Only once we collectively lost the ability to work individually with our children – perhaps because of so disrupted families and war orphans - did we turn establish mechanchim and morahs as our shluchim. So it can be argued that homeschooling, not mass schooling, that is the ideal and historical derech for us. To put it in halachic terms, mass schooling is b'dieved, and homeschooling is l'hatchila.

Next, is it possible that homeschooling parents can possibly compete with teachers? One might assume that homeschoolers are not doing as well on at least the three "R"s. This assumption, however, proves to be incorrect. Most large-scale studies of standardized test scores across the North American population show that homeschooled kids do better - around 30 percentage points better - than average. Of course, one explanation is that homeschooling parents have passed along their intellectual genes totheir children, so that no matter where the kids went, they'd do well. (That would just reinforce the argument that these parents, with their higher than average intelligences, are making better choices inseeking to individualize the training for their children, rather than blindly following their peers by putting their children into schools where they may be bored. And, not to drive home the point too finely,but the results from the 1999 National Household Education Surveys (NHES) show that home schooling parents tend to have more education than those that don't home school. ) Or, you could argue that thesechildren score better in areas like math, writing, and reading because they have more one-on-one instruction, which is also pretty obvious. Which is to say, if we are educate each child according to his or her way ('Chanoch l'naar al pi darko') as Mishlei 22:6 instructs us, we must know the child's learning approach and possess the time to alter our teaching style to match it. Once you have 30 children in a class, your time is spent in discipline and teaching to the middle, not establishing 30 different tracks of communicating the lesson. Disagree? Please visit your child's classroom to see if the one teacher there has time to adjust his or her lesson for each child. Even the best trained, highest motivated, and most eager teachers simply lack the time to do this.

Either way, home schooled kids come out being able to read, compute, and write at least as well, if not better, than their counterparts in mass schools.

Another common argument tossed off by opponents is that homeschooling doesn't give our children socialization and mussar, as they get in school. However, in our personal discussions with parents who dislike the idea of homeschooling, the most common argument that they raise, bizarrely enough, is that "events" like bullying, peer pressure (to do things like smoke, drink until passing out on Simchas Torah and Purim, etc.), and negative interactions with teachers who don't get along with our children provide "learning opportunities" in mass-schools that homeschooled children miss out on. This seems to bethe "encountering unpleasant things makes you into better people" approach that stereotyped the basic training of the U.S. military. If we really believe this, then mosdos chinuch should bring skinheads andmissionaries into the schools to provide such challenges to the children - because that is really best for them! I think we all really want our children to receive personalized attention and a supportive environment - so bullies and unpleasantness are not part of the standard curriculum. The broader canard of "socialization" has been destroyed time after time in studies by scholars beginning more than twenty decades ago with the research done by Gustaven (1981), Ray (1990), Shyers (1992) and Stough (1992). You can find these academic studies and read them for yourself (see the source list at the end of this post).

Even when the homeschooling is done, as the name suggests, at home, the children have a major outlet of social interaction in the form of extracurricular activities. Most parents who take the time to homeschool their children think about which activities – whether sports, arts and crafts, or extracurricular group learning trips - will be best for their children. After all, such parents home school precisely because they want to be able to better match their childrens' needs, and parents recognize that academic skills need tobe rounded out by social ones. (One homeschooling mom joked with me that if she really did all of the activities that she could, she wouldn't have time to get the academics underway.)

We've found that most of the classic arguments against homeschooling simply don't hold water, and we believe that the main opposition parents have to homeschooling really boils down to the following issues: most of us don't homeschool because we don't have the time or energy or ability, or think that it would damage our kids or perhaps our reputation in the frum community. If both parents are working out of the home full time, mass schooling is a logical thing to do. Well, perhaps not. If you calculate taxes from the second income, nanny and day care fees, day school tuition, and so on, having one parent stay home full time to homeschool may in fact be financially advisable.

Many of us are probably concerned about what our community might think of us if we didn't put our kids into the local school; I had this discussion with a family in Lakewood that wanted to homeschool their kids because the schools there did not meet their expectations, but they ended up not doing so out of fear of social repercussions. Another family in a Midwestern community told us of the pained looks and strained conversations they have had once they took their daughters out of the local schools to educate them at home. Our community certainly stigmatizes a number of things, and not sending our kids into the "standard" schools might indeed be on that long list.

Alternatively, there are those of us who can handle the social pressures but are worried that we're not "up to it." As one of my chaverim pointed out, parents may not trust themselves to be able to pass along their yiddishkeit. This can be particularly true of BTs, but FFB can have this worry as well. One such refrain could be, "I'm such a b’dieved Jew, and don't even come to the ankles of the mechanchim who are steeped in Torah, let alone the menahel/Rosh Yeshiva. Surely, the less I am mashpiah to my own kids, the better." It is certainly true that as individuals we have less yichus and perhaps even less training than our hard-working teachers. But at the end of the day, who knows our children’s needs better? And who is motivated to ensure that those needs are met? And, think back to the period of time when there were no public schools – even then, generations upon generations of fine Jewish children were raised solely by their families. (For readers interested in Rav Desslers’ thoughts on the concept that most yeshivish schools seek to produce gadolim even at the cost of those [many] students who do not benefit from such an educational approach, see the ongoing discussion at Da’as Torah http://daattorah.blogspot.com/2008/10/r-dessler-produce-gedolim-even-if-most.html ) For parents worried about their personal chesronos, tremendous resources are readily available to back them up and support them in their drive to home school. Resources include the hundreds of lesson plans, worksheets, and curricula at Torah u'Mesorah's Chinuch.org, MorahMoriah.com, as well as virtual support groups from various on-line list servers including Chevra and JewishOrthodoxandHomeSchooling on Yahoo Groups. You don't need to be a professional educator or recreate the educational wheel to be able to work with fantastic and creative materials; with the generosity of these mechanchim and community members all of us can develop our children’s potential.

A final concern from parents who are considering homeschooling is that a lot of the social "glue" in the frum world comes from Jewish geography in which we compare common experiences - schools, camps, yeshivas, neighborhoods – to figure out what we have in common. Are we denying our children normalcy by not enrolling them in a cheder or yeshiva? One simple solution is to ensure that you regularly access,if not live in, a strong frum community where you and your children participate in chagim, shiurim, and events such as Bnos, Pirchei, Father and Son Learning, etc. Another approach – for those with the resources – would involve regular summer camp enrollment. Finally, many homeschooling parents expect that eventually their children will enter a “standard” yeshiva or seminary when they are older – so that those children will also be successful at Jewish geography.

Perhaps the most critical message here is that we as parents – despite our financial investment in schools – remain responsible for their spiritual, emotional, physical, and intellectual development. If you're dissatisfied with the schools that your children attend, you ALWAYS have another option – going back to the really “old school” technique of raising and teaching your children yourself.

Sources:
Gustavsen, G. 1981. Selected characteristics of home schools and parents who operate them. Doctoral Dissertation, Andrews University. University Microfilms International No. 8205794.

Ray, Brian D. 1990. A Nationwide Study of Home Education: Family Characteristics, Legal Matters, and Student Achievement. Published by NHERI.

Shyers, Larry Edward. 1992. Comparison of Social Adjustment Between Home and Traditionally Schooled Students. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Florida. University Microfilms No. DA9304052.

Stough, Lee. 1992. Social and Emotional Status of Home Schooled Children and Conventionally Schooled Children in West Virginia. ERIC ED# 353 079.

74 comments:

mother in israel said...

R. Aldrich does a good job of addressing the common objections to homeschooling.

L said...

His article gives a lot of good source material and chizuk. One problem that parents encounter is that in families where there are both older and very young children, the toddlers and infants often require many hours a day of the parents' care and leave little time left over to work with the older ones. I did not see where this was specifically addressed in the article and I would imagine that parents either have to hire help or group together with other families in the same boat.
Chabad has an online school and I wonder if there are other online frum schools. Chabad at present only services students in areas of the world where no day school exists. I don't know if they service teens since they usually leave home to attend yeshiva. I would think that there would be a market for online yeshivas for all ages and that parents would pay for this service if it was significantly less than traditional day schools or yeshivas since many (particularly BTs) do not have the skill to impart. Secular studies are not difficult to teach at home and many people have done it and even got their children into Ivy league colleges.
Because of the current strong fear that any family who is "different" will not be able to marry off their children, families feel compelled to subscribe to "group think" in every thing that they do. It would take a few confident families to change the tide and start a new trend.

triLcat said...

I think it's very sad if parents expect their children to get stronger hashkafa from the schools.

I think that whether your children are schooled in institutions or at home, it's crucial that parents instill their values in their children.

Of course, it's easier to instill values in your children if the school has similar values, but I went to public school, and the vast majority of my Yiddishkeit was transmitted at the dinner table in the form of either my father sharing things he'd been looking at recently, the parsha, or explaining the halachic perspective about things that the family encountered in day-to-day life (eg kids fighting in school, things I learned in science and social studies)

When I got to 8th grade and my parents were able to send me for religious schooling, my knowledge was "uneven" but I was ahead in certain things.

JS said...

Great post.

A few points:
1) I know the author is more to the right ($10K for a yeshiva? The MO yeshivas near me charge more than that for kindergarden and over twice that for high school). But, I think a lot of the same arguments apply to those considering public school for the secular education of their children and teaching judaic studies at home personally or with the help of a rabbi/tutor.

2) One of the biggest fears I have with such an approach which was touched on, is that kids can just be mean and might not want to associate with or be friends with "the home school kid" or "the public school kid" - however, I think this attitude will change as I hear over and over from more and more people that they're really thinking of pulling out or not sending to yeshiva due to the cost.

3) My wife and I don't have children yet, but we'd like to have 4. Even with a "multiple child break" we'd be looking at around $70K in tuition when all kids are in school. Based on that alone I could hire an amazing rabbi for the afternoons and pay him more than he earns at a yeshiva. I'm sure my kids would get a far better education from that type of approach.

4) Growing up I always felt my classes were being taught to the lowest common denominator - at least until tracking in high school. So many years of education are wasted in yeshivas and public schools teaching to kids as if they're incapable of real thought. And, if you think about, almost everything learned across all subjects from 1st-8th grade is retaught in high school in 4 years (except math). Kids get a little, basic intro to American History, Bio, etc and then it's retaught entirely in high school. It's perhaps worse with Judaic studies, as you never go back over the simplistic rashis and midrashes that were learned and skip ahead instead to gemara, so people are left with a childish approach and understanding to Tanach.

5) I think another issue is being accused of abandoning our mosdot and yeshivas which are struggling financially. This is especially true if one appears able to afford it - or more able than those who do send and are truly struggling. Or perhaps without the large burden of tuition are now financially better off. This can create a lot of animosity in a community.

6) I don't think yeshivas do such a spectacular job of teaching good midot and proper behavior. Perhaps a lot of external problems don't exist (or are far reduced) such as drugs, sex, etc. But, these are not really midot. Yeshivas don't do enough (and communities as a whole don't do enough) to discuss yashrut and just being a good, decent person.

Dave in DC said...

I don't argue with any of R. Aldrich's statements. However, I think they ignore a macro "commons" argument... specifically, if a significant number of people choose the home schooling path, doesn't it quickly undermine the strength of our community schools? This may not be a concern in NYC, but in the outside world, I'd much rather have the energy and expertise of home-school parents leveraged to the benefit of the entire community - including some parents who don't have the temperment, background, patience, family distribution or wherewithal to choose home-schooling. For some people, it sounds like a wonderful option. If it becomes too significant a number however, we could get into trouble.

Anonymous said...

Ok, I'm really curious now. I may be your only gentile reader (I like a good finance blog) and Aldrich is my surname. I always thought it was rather WASPY. R. Aldrich, I'd be curious to know, is it a Jewish last name too?

Mike S. said...

On the other hand, many parents are too emotionally involved in the kids education to be effective teachers, and you can see it when they try to help with homework, ending with both parent and child frustrated.

anonymous mom said...

This was a well-written treatise. MY main objection to homeschooling as a "movement" rather than as an option is buttressed by the words you choose to help tout its importance. You say:

"Please visit your child's classroom to see if the one teacher there has time to adjust his or her lesson for each child."

I say that homeschooling does not allow children to live in a world that adjusts to the needs of others. Their world is largely determined by their own interests and their own pace. Even your argument that the social component can be addressed through extracurriculars that the children are genuinely interested in continues to underscore the problem. The homeschooled child is living completely in a cocoon of his/her needs, interests, time rhythms. And as warm and fuzzy as that may sound, I actually think it is incompatible with the world around them and the world in which they will at some point have to partake. I want my child to interact and give and take within a larger world. I want my child to adjust to the learning styles of others, the pace of others, the flow of a busy room full of different personalities. I want my child to learn to deal with authority and the challenges that that may present do not necessarily have to be the color of evil. I find that many parents do not approach institutional learning wisely and therefore more have a negative experience and then see their children having negative experiences than are necessary. If you navigate the following wisely when choosing a traditional institutional learning environment for your children, you will be less likely to sour on the entire approach:
a. choose your school and community wisely and try to fit your family dynamic (and Jewish Hashkafah if you are Jewish) as closely as possible.
b. be a proactive parent. That is different than being an active parent which is also necessary. being proactive means that you anticipate social challenges and try to head them off at the pass. Be aware of your child's social status, social needs, place within the class dynamics. Get involved in the birthday parties, stick around to get to know the other children and their parents whenever possible, spend time in your child's school. Treat your child's school like it is a beloved hobby of your own. Many parents maintain a very passive, reactive stance when it comes to the social aspects of their child's experience in a traditional school environment. it can cost their children and can leave them bitter.
c. Be an active parent. Be devoted to knowing the expectations and specific requirements of your child's teachers. Show up. Show up. Show up. And sit and mentor the homework sessions. Plus make Sundays and other free time about your child's hobbies and interests. Provide your child a life outside of school that is fulfilling and warm. It is possible. It just takes time and--for some--a restructuring of the family dynamic.
Bottom line is that traditional institutional schooling when navigated properly can provide tremendous learning experiences outside the three R's. Isn't that what homeschooling is supposed to be about?

l said...

Thanks to R. Aldrich for a fine posting.

I would like to add that among some of the Jewish elite, e.g. children of leading Rabbis and Hassidic Rebbes, a type of homeschooling has also taken place over the years, even if not announced and labelled as such. Sometimes the parents have employed private tutors, at other times they may have taught the son (particularly) themself.

anonymous mom said...

I would like to add that Mike S. has a point that shouldn't be taken lightly. And that if our schools had shorter hours and smaller classes, they would be more academically and emotionally uplifting places for our children.

Anonymous said...

can someone define homeschooling

ProfK said...

Yes, R'Aldrich has written a fine posting, replete with experts who offer support in favor of home schooling. Of course, those who are not in favor of home schooling can also present experts who offer support that is not in favor of home schooling. This is not an argument that is going to be "won" on the basis of what the experts say.

In a discussion about home schooling someone raised the following question: If yeshivas were free or cost no more than $1000 per child, would you still consider home schooling? It's a valid question. For most frum parents who are going the home schooling route I would imagine that the cost of yeshiva tuition is the deciding factor, not any deeply rooted belief that home schooling presents a far better option for educating children.

So perhaps the heated discussions should be about how to change the way that yeshivas are funded rather than focusing on home schooling versus traditional schooling. Pulling children out of the yeshiva system to home school them does not address the basic problem that yeshiva education costs more than many parents can afford. And we need to have these discussions because there are going to be parents, lots of parents, who cannot afford the yeshiva tuitions any longer but who also cannot/will not home school their children. Polarizing the discussion so that there are only two choices leaves these parents with no options.

L said...

I would define homeschooling as studying academic subjects entirely at home, or under the authority of the parents rather than a school.
In the case of Jewish schools today, the high cost and sometimes low quality plus the threat of child molestation that will possibly not be addressed or dealt with, might entice frum families to consider educating their children on their own. While anonymous mom was correct that children benefit from following rules at school and learning to adjust to others, someone has to pay for it. If parents lack the funds for day school and their children would 1)not fit in at public school and 2)might be lured away from Jewish observance by attending, their only option is to keep their kids home and teach them.
side note: There appear to be 2 of us using the letter l to post. I am the first l and this is my second post for this topic.

triLcat said...

But there is a third option which is the best option for Am Yisrael as a whole. ALIYA!

Move to Israel, and instead of paying $10K+ per kid from kindergarten on, you'll be paying under $3K per kid for high school (and much much less for grades K-6)

If your community put as much effort into aliya as they are into the education crisis, they could benefit all of Am Yisrael!

Come home!

Sure, you'll make $30K less a year, but if you have 4 kids, you'll more than cover that difference in tuition alone!

Esther said...

I agree that this doesn't have to be about one side "winning." Rather, what this excellent post was saying is that this is a real option. I think a lot of what SephardiLady discusses in this blog is that people act as if we all have to do the exact smae things because "it's just done that way in the frum world," when in fact there are legitimate other options. There are obviously many considerations in making this decision, but one of them should NOT be what will the neighbors think.

Along the same lines, I strongly agree with the comment that if you are putting your child in a day school, pick one that actually matches your family's hashkafa and where you feel confident your child will get the quality of education you are looking for, rather than worrying about your image.

SephardiLady said...

Dave in DC writes:
However, I think they ignore a macro "commons" argument... specifically, if a significant number of people choose the home schooling path, doesn't it quickly undermine the strength of our community schools?

In terms of real numbers, the only mass exit I've seen from Jewish schools would be the aliyah movement. While certainly a positive, tzioni prone communities can loose numerous families every summer and they often tend to be larger families.


Anonymous 4:07-I didn't know I had non-Jewish readership. I really appreciate you reading. There are so many general interest finance blogs that I find it flattering this niche blog would be choice reading.

Anonymousn Mom writes: I say that homeschooling does not allow children to live in a world that adjusts to the needs of others. Their world is largely determined by their own interests and their own pace.

I don't find this argument particularly persausive. I've met plenty of homeschooled kids, non-Jewish and Jewish, over the years and many of these kids take tremendous responsibility around the home with meal preparation, chores, helping with younger sibilings, etc. Yes, they do have activities more tailored to them, but they have to adjust to the needs of the household, perhaps even more than kids in regular school because stuff needs to get done and they are around and are expected to help get it done.

homeschoolerinIN said...

Making aliyah is good option for some families! You can send your children to either the gov't (daati leumi) schools or even the private charedi/kiruv/Shas schools for much less than anyone could in the US (or Europe). BUT, there are issues with the school choice in Israel -- the schools there are much more polarized than in the States. With the exception of the most US Chassidic schools and the most US Yeshivish schools, most children will be prepared for college (maybe not Harvard). That just isn't the case in Israel! You can't take the bagrut (Israeli college entrance examination) if you never took math above basic computation, science and the like!

Also, the cost of living in Israel is less (except housing in the bigger cities), but so is the pay. And in the case of my family, my husband would have to work twice as hard and long in the same profession -- taking away from the family time we have together -- a compromise we (with consultation with our rabbonim) are not willing to make. Not to mention the rates of child olim going "off the derech" because of assimilation issues. I am very happy Israel is a viable solution for you, but it may not be for everyone.

SephardiLady said...

ProfK--There is no doubt in my mind that the reason that thoughts of homeschooling (and using the public schools) are out there is because tuition is beyond crippling.

From what I can see, the tuition situation isn't going to change NOW and obviously when you can't afford tuition in the present, a solution that might develop and work years later won't help the person needing change now.

l said...

"side note: There appear to be 2 of us using the letter l to post. I am the first l and this is my second post for this topic."

I am the second L here. Sorry to take your name. I didn't realize that was the case (as an aside, sometimes it's hard to distinguish an i [eye] and an L [letter ell], as capital i and small L can appear the same). However, I have on occasion used it previously as well.

There is a difference between them though, which can be used to distinguish us, namely that your L is clickable, while mine is not.

Commenter Abbi said...

I think one similarity between aliya and homeschooling is that they are very specific solutions to the tuition crisis that will only work if it's a solution that that works for the whole family. Aliya won't work if neither spouse can make a decent living in Israel, if the children are old enough to and do have strong feelings against it or, if, in general, the family is not that interested or suited to life in Israel.

Similarly, homeschooling will not work if there isn't a spouse that's committed to devoting his/her life to the endeavor, if the children aren't suited to this type of education (very socially inclined, for example), or if the family is simply not suited to living a homeschooling type of life. And I do believe that homeschooling is as much a lifestyle choice as it is an educational choice because you do remove yourself from a lot of the community by removing yourself from the school, especially if there is only one school.

So, while aliya and homeschooling are both valid solutions to the tuition crisis, they are not broad spectrum cures. They are niche choices for very specific types of people.

Dave said...

Leaving financial issues out, I think the case can be made that widespread Aliyah is not in the interest of the Jewish people.

Historically speaking, what has preserved Jews as a people has been a widespread diaspora, so that when oppression arose in one area, there were still safe Jewis communities.

Had there not been a widespread Jewish Diaspora in the late Republic and early Empire, I doubt that Judaism would have survived the Bar Kochva rebellion.

teacher said...

I agree with all of these points. This is the way tht chinuch was set up in the times of Chazal HOWEVER . . . there was a takanah set up by Chazal to have publicly funded schools to prevent orphans from not getting an education. I don't see how homeschooling is muttar if one doesn't simutaneously donate to the local yeshiva to support the orphaned and poor.

Anonymous said...

I don't see how homeschooling is muttar if one doesn't simutaneously donate to the local yeshiva to support the orphaned and poor.

Oy vey, right now I spend more than $40,000 a year on tuition. If we were able to homeschool, you can bet we would give lots more tzedaka! And maybe even change the minivan every so often as well.

Anonymous said...

Leaving financial issues out, I think the case can be made that widespread Aliyah is not in the interest of the Jewish people.

Nonsense. The only thing in the interest of the Jewish people is to obey the mitzvot that were given to us by God. One of those mitzvot is to live in Eretz Yisrael. In fact, if every Jew were to make aliyah, it is very likely that the Mashiach would arrive shortly thereafter (what else could such a massive aliyah possibly portend?) which is, of course, the best protection of all (for the entire world, not just Israel).

Historically speaking, what has preserved Jews as a people has been a widespread diaspora, so that when oppression arose in one area, there were still safe Jewish communities.

This is utterly and completely untrue. The only thing that has preserved Jews "as a people" is the Torah. Witness the Jewish communities that have forsaken the Torah dissolve and disappear into the surrounding non-Jewish population!

Mark

Yael Aldrich said...

If you are really interested in finding other Orthodox homeschoolers, please join us at JewishOrthodoxandHomeschooling@
groups.yahoo.com

Yael Aldrich
(Daniel's wife)

PS Since we started to homeschool, we have continued to give tzedaka to our old school (Torah Academy in Boston) and supporting a person going to yeshiva for the first time in their lives. We do put our maaser where mouth is.

Dave said...

In fact, if every Jew were to make aliyah, it is very likely that the Mashiach would arrive shortly thereafter (what else could such a massive aliyah possibly portend?) which is, of course, the best protection of all (for the entire world, not just Israel).

Also on the list of things that have historically been bad for the Jews is this kind of attitude.

Or do you need a refresher on Sabbatai Tzvi and what happened the last time the bulk of the Jewish community was convinced that all the signs were right and that the Messiah must be about to arrive.

This is utterly and completely untrue. The only thing that has preserved Jews "as a people" is the Torah. Witness the Jewish communities that have forsaken the Torah dissolve and disappear into the surrounding non-Jewish population!

Observant Jewish communities have also disappeared; either killed off or forced to convert. Had all the Jews been concentrated in one region when that happened, that would have been the end. The fact that there was a widespread Diaspora meant that it was not.

teacher said...

Kol hakavod to you for donating to a local school - that truly is in the spirit of the takanah. To provide the best education for your child and to providing for other Jewish children as well.

One more thought, living in an out-of-town community, how does your decision impact support for the school system (which I think we can all agree is a necessary evil) and the morale of those who work on behalf of the school?

Another point, which will not be understood by those in larger communities such as NY. In an Out of town day school, your child's presence is more important than his tuition dollars because his presence makes the school viable. A class of 16 which turns into a class of 13 because of homeschooling just went from a first option for parents to being a sacrifice. When a class of 9 drops to a class of 7 it's a big deal. The school can close or the day school becomes known as the magnet for kids who can't make it in "regular schools", and the community can't attract new families and/or the education for the majority is even more subpar.

How does that factor into home schoolers decisions vis-a-vis our long history of ensuring a universal education system for our youth as a means of Jewish survival?

anonymous mom said...

Good point, teacher. Prof K has a point about the importance of facing the challenge to improve traditional schooling and its current costs. But, that would be much more difficult a project than retreating from the system. BTW, I do think Homeschooling should be an option, just not the movement it wants to be.

L said...

In order for it to be an option, it almost has to be a movement. Frum people rarely do things individually. One of the problems that are laughable but serious are the stupid questions asked about prospective marriage partners. People can't even be individuals in their own homes. "Different" people are often looked at as outsiders.

Ariella said...

The I of 8:36 makes an important point.

I (that's me) really believe that educating people about homeschooling and forming cooperative groups would be a positive thing. Everyone talks about the "at risk" children today. Parents are paying $10-20K per year to a school and $4-8K a year to camp, and paying thousands more for other "essentials" and so feel they are doing all within their power for their children. The children, though, are shuffled through the education system and the social system set by the peer group within the school, regardless of fit. And then there is the influence of the media. And the hypocrisy of parents sending their children to schools that decry TV while keeping one for their own viewing gives quite a mixed up message

Yael Aldrich said...

To everyone who thinks homeschooling is now a movement, even in the secular world, is definitely overstating the case. Homeschooling is still very much a niche amongst Christians, secular parents, everyone! There IS no movement -- just parents for whatever reasons, taking a very intense and personal responsibility for their children's education. Believe me, with the amount of work it entails, it won't ever be a movement.

As for making a contribution to the local school by putting your child in the local school, I think no one would agree that a person should sacrifice their child if their child's needs won't be served by the institution.

Also since I know of less than 100 Orthodox families who homeschool from all over the US and Canada (anecdotally), I don't think that any school will close any day soon because of an "isolated" homeschooler :)

And we do know that there will be many people who will shun us for homeschooling our children for no good reason. But I would shun them for using plastic on their Shabbos tables:) It goes both ways. Honestly though, anyone who wants a "normal frum family" wouldn't take us anyways, so I'm not so worried.

And acharon acharon haviv (the best for last), the surname Aldrich is NOW Jewish -- sometimes the apple falls a bit far from the tree, but it is possible to wrestle it back to the orchard...

Yael

triLcat said...

" Dave said...
Leaving financial issues out, I think the case can be made that widespread Aliyah is not in the interest of the Jewish people."

I hope that reasoning helps you sleep at night. At the end of the seder, do you say "l'shana habaah b'Borough Park?"

Tzurah said...

I think Teacher has a good point that R' Yehoshua ben Gamla's takana was not just making sure schools are available but that the community-at-large is obligated to support local schools. However, it would probably be overstating the takana to say that an individual family owes not just tzedakah, but even their children to the community school.

I see this dynamic playing out especially at the high school level, where it's quite common in more yeshivish circles to send kids away to schools in other cities. Small and mid-size communities often lose out as many local parents try to send their kids to better-known schools in bigger communites.

Wonder if there's any responsa literature out about this sort of thing.

Dave said...

I hope that reasoning helps you sleep at night.

No trouble sleeping here. And you couldn't pay me enough to live in Borough Park.

Commenter Abbi said...

Dave- you do realize using historical/sociological logic to talk about beliefs to actual believers. Does that make a lot of sense? Not to me.

It sounds like you either don't believe in aliya, Torah or both. In which case, what is the point of making statements like "Leaving financial issues out, I think the case can be made that widespread Aliyah is not in the interest of the Jewish people."? Orthodox Jews, who are the main audience of this blog, do believe in the kedusha of Eretz Yisrael and that it's a mitzvah to live there. Not all them believe it's a mitzvah now nor is it feasible for everyone to pick up and move there this second.

But whether it's in the "historical" interest of the Jewish people for mass aliyah? Not really a consideration for believers, who, don't forget, usually also believe in God, who is beyond history.

Dave said...

Orthodox Jews, who are the main audience of this blog, do believe in the kedusha of Eretz Yisrael and that it's a mitzvah to live there. Not all them believe it's a mitzvah now nor is it feasible for everyone to pick up and move there this second.

If it were the belief of most of the Orthodox community that making to Aliyah was necessary now, we would not be having this discussion, because the bulk of the observant community in the United States would have moved. Moreover, it is certainly the case that it would be feasible for most of the Jewish community to move -- it may be an imposition, but if that is the standard used no one would be keeping Kosher.

So we're left with practical arguments. The pitch was, after all, "move to Israel, tuition is cheaper!", not "move to Israel, you are commanded to do so".

The part that I responded to was not the issue of whether or not it was cheaper, but whether or not it was better for am yisroel. Is that a valid part of this discussion? It certainly seems to be given the posts talking about the familial versus communal benefits of day schools versus homeschooling that are going on.

So, if it isn't a commandment to move now, and again, the bulk of the Orthodox community in America clearly views that it is not, we are back to practical discussions.

Three generations ago, the modern state of Israel did not exist. I hope that it will continue to exist three generations from now, but there is no guarantee. Nor is there, to my knowledge, any obligation on the observant to believe that a secular Jewish state is guaranteed to continue to exist. So it is not a case in which I am arguing a historical view against a religious belief.

And again, historically, it has been best for the Jewish people to be spread across many nations, and much of the world, so that oppression in one region would not mean destruction.

Anonymous said...

Just a couple of questions from my standpoint
1. Why are all of the quoted sources from before 1992? I would hope that there would be some more recent data to support home schooling?
2. It is essential for children to grow up having a "rebbi" someone that they connect with and feel close to that they can come to, even years later, to discuss important questions. Yeshiva is where many children develop these lifelong relationships. How will children develop this relationship while being home schooled?
3. For boys, learning with a chavrusa is essential to becoming a "ben torah", yeshiva is often where boys learn to learn b'chavrusa.
4. If you have the opportunity to send your children to an excellent yeshiva, as I do, then you cannot possibly rationalize home schooling your children. If, unfortunately, you lack confidence in your local schools, then I guess you don't have much choice, but that should be the only reason.

triLcat said...

anonymous: 2. The rav of the shul can and should be a rebbe.
3. There are plenty of ways to learn with a hevrusa outside of school.
4. If you believe that you cannot educate your children as well as the yeshiva can, then by all means, send them to yeshiva.

Yael Aldrich said...

Anonymous,
1. My husband has several real-life full-time jobs (professor striving to get tenure, father to three kids, homeschool teacher (just part-time though), and beloved husband) and only had a limited amount of time to put into this article -- hence the limited amount of academic research he could put into this endeavor. My apologies, but I'm sure if you google (or other search engine)homeschool, socialization, and test scores, you'll have lots to read.

2-4. Ditto to what Trilcat said.

Mike S. said...

As I recall the practice in Europe, codified in the commentaries on the Shulchan Aruch was that the community provided aschool for the poor, and wealthy families hired private tutors. In fact, a wealthy person who wanted to use the publicly supported school was supposed to pay tuition. I believe the definition of "wealthy" would be someone we would consider poor today.

Ariella said...

One further comment on how parents distance themselves from the education of their children. My husband learns with my son (14) regularly -- both at home and in my son's yeshiva's bais medrash. But he has noticed few other fathers learning with their son. A number of rebbes and even kollel men are paid by fathers to learn with their sons. Now I know that some fathers may lack confidence in their own abilities, and it is nice that they are willing to put money into it. But I also think it is a general attitude of paying someone to take care of chores -- like cleaning -- that you don't wish to do yourself because you would rather spend your time doing something else. For a father to take the time to learn with his son himself -- at the end of a workday that extends 11 hours with commute -- shows that this is something especially valued.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Ariella about the role of fathers. I would like to apply that to the issue of a rebbi. The father should be like a rebbi to the children. Why are we outsourcing this role? What kind of message are we sending to our children by doing this?

Esther said...

Anonymous - I'm confused. Doesn't your family have close relationships with people at your shul and within your community? Do you encourage your children to speak to and develop relationships with adults? We do, and if my son wasn't in day school he would stil have connections with adults who are role models, both rabbis and other men in the community. Of course, should we homeschoool we would specifically hire a rabbi to learn with our son regularly, but even outside of that I don't think he'd be at a loss for those positive connections.

On the other hand, I see a lot of kids in our community who don't even say hello to adults and who aren't building those relationships even with a day school education. It probably varies by community, but I don't think

Esther said...

Also, I'm just curious - do people really continue a lifelong realtionship with their school rebbi if this person does not also have other connections to their life (shul, family friend, etc.)? I don't get the sense that this happens so often but maybe it varies by community?

SephardiLady said...


2. It is essential for children to grow up having a "rebbi" someone that they connect with and feel close to that they can come to, even years later, to discuss important questions. Yeshiva is where many children develop these lifelong relationships. How will children develop this relationship while being home schooled?


I think that over time, the type of Rebbe one needs morphs. At a certain point, advice is often better sought from a community Rav, rather than a Rosh Yeshiva, high school rebbe, or even Rosh Kollel.

Even the Jewish Observer has published articles making this point.

I do think it is important for children and teengagers to have Rabbonim they like and are close to. I see no reason why a Rebbe who tutors or starts a program for homeschoolers can't serve in this role.

SephardiLady said...

Ariella makes an interesting observation. I think a parent who is not strong in his/her own learning that is paying a tutor would do well to learn alongside.

Anonymous said...

Just a point--I happen to have 2 boys who are in public school because they have special needs. Hiring a rebbe to learn with them (on separate schedules, since they aren't in the same grade) has been frustrating from a logistical point of view--there just aren't so many great people out there whose schedules mesh with the kids' schedules. We've had a hard time getting people, even paying whatever they ask per hour. (And this has nothing to do with my kids' special needs--they're both bright and great in a one-on-one situation. They're even mainstreamed in public schools). Consider all factors carefully before you assume this is a viable option.

Tamar said...

Re: Aliyah for the future of Am Yisrael, not just a solution for the tuition/chinuch crisis in America

1) Mike: The nitzchiyut (eternity) of Am Yisrael is dependant on their belief and observance of the Torah, not in their demographic spread.

2)CommenterAbbi: I'm baffled that one might argue how an observant Jewish family is not "interested or suited to life in Israel." What could this possibly mean?

3) Further, the argument that the economic or social situation in Israel does not allow for American Jews (especially younger families) to seriously consider Aliyah is entirely uninformed. There are many schooling and career options here, many warm and wonderful communities, many streams with different hashkafot whose needs are met by academic institutions and who are able, with the ridiculously low tuition costs, to supplement (both with modified home schooling methods and outside chugim).

How seriously has each and every Torah-true American Jew researched the possibilities of what a profoundly meaningful and fulfilling life is possible here?
www.nbn.org.il (I'm told this is a wonderful resource)

(Disclaimer: my four children, ages 2-8, all attend fine schools/daycare for well under the tuition we'd have to shell out for one elementary-school aged child in America. We are able to design a supplementary curriculum for each child, al-pi darco/a, since the schooling hours are shortened and chugim [after-school clubs ranging from sports to art to academic subjects] are plentiful and varied. You have to practice pro-active parenting here in E"Y, but the resources are wonderful.)

Shavua Tov,
Tamar
Nof Ayalon (Shaalvim)

Tamar said...

Oops. I meant Dave, not Mike. Sorry.

Dave said...

The nitzchiyut (eternity) of Am Yisrael is dependant on their belief and observance of the Torah, not in their demographic spread.

Even if you assume that observance is the requirement, that says nothing about the wisdom of geographical concentration.

We have unfortunately more than ample evidence of observant Jews being murdered over the generations, all over the world.

If observance is the key, then far from urging all observant Jews to move to Israel (something that I think we've agreed is not commanded at this time), you should be trying to make sure that there are thriving communities of observant Jews all over the world.

Anonymous said...

Observant Jewish communities have also disappeared; either killed off or forced to convert. Had all the Jews been concentrated in one region when that happened, that would have been the end. The fact that there was a widespread Diaspora meant that it was not.

And this, of course, proves the point. Jews living under non-Jewish regimes are almost always persecuted at one time or another. And, yes, many communities in the diaspora have been decimated via murder. And, yes, even in Eretz Yisrael, when it was under non-Jewish rule, the Jewish community was decimated.

But today with Eretz Yisrael under Jewish rule, that has changed. We have our own military forces, and we protect our people. That is one of the biggest differences between Israel and any other Jewish community. The calculus of danger of geographical concentration changes when you can only adequately protect yourself in one geographical place.

Mark

Dave said...

But today with Eretz Yisrael under Jewish rule, that has changed. We have our own military forces, and we protect our people. That is one of the biggest differences between Israel and any other Jewish community. The calculus of danger of geographical concentration changes when you can only adequately protect yourself in one geographical place.

Except that Israel does face very real threats to its existence; there is no guarantee that the modern state of Israel will continue to exist.

Which is, although we've gone rather far afield from homeschooling, my point. To use the old cliche, "Don't put all your eggs in one basket".

anonymous mom said...

I think your arguments are really interesting, Dave. I would never have thought of this point of view. I don't agree with it, but you live and you learn. Tamar, you are puzzled by Commenter Abbi's assertion that not every observant family is suited to or interested in life in Israel. Tamar, it isn't wise for a family with older children to make Aliyah. While it works for some, it has been proven to be emotionally challenging on the older children of Olim time and time again. The Modern Orthodox Olim fair better with regard to this, but still it can be problematic. For Yeshivish/Chareidi Olim, moving with older children has been overwhelmingly unsuccessful emotionally for these children. That's just the truth. The wreckage is there for everyone to see. Also, many of us are quite close with our families of origin and do not wish to break ties (a move across the world will in effect sever grandchildren from grandparents in families who have middle to lower incomes). That's just the reality. It stinks for the grandchildren and it stinks for the aging grandparents. Yes, in a perfect world Bubby and Zaidy will follow, but Bubby and Zaidy are sometimes just too old or too comfortable where they are or have other grandchildren in the states so they end up left with the once a year visit and the weekly phone calls. Some of us are not ok with that. Also, some people are in the sandwich generation and are already actively caring for their elderly grandparents. We aren't going to leave them behind. So, I think Aliyah is an admirable choice, but it just isn't for everyone.

anonymous mom said...

OK. It's late and someone probably already said this to Dave, but, my dear Dave, it seems there is a pesky little list of Mitzvos that you can't keep outside of the holy land. And there's this nagging notion of the actual higher state of Kedusha in the holy land. One would have to buy into the idea of Kedusha/holiness and its existence in a material world, but then, one would have to buy into the rich tapestry that is Orthodox Judaism. There are so many layers to this approach to Judaism and to religion itself. So, if you believe and if you buy into the various tenets of our faith, then you would kind of, sort of, really want to connect with our land. And you would believe that it would hold some elevated strength above other places. Whether you could realistically move your family there is a personal decision (some disagree) but that it is a trade off not to live there, most Orthodox Jews would understand. But, there are all kinds of people out there and you have a right to your opinions however misguided they are.

Commenter Abbi said...

anon mom- what you said, to Dave and Tamar.

Tamar- just step into the Crossroads youth center in Jerusalem and see first hand the wreckage that anon mom is talking about re: older child olim.

Hey, I live here and have for the last 8 years (and am currently raising 3 children k'ah here). You don't have to convince me that aliya is super. However, as anon mom pointed out, there are very real considerations for even frum, Torah true Jews who believe in kedushat eretz yisrael as to why they can't actually fulfill that mitzvah.

btw, since my brother and i both live here, all of my parents grandchildren are here and it's extremely difficult on my parents. I speak every day to my mother and they visit 3-4 times a year and plan to retire here, which really isn't an option for them for at least another 4 years, at the very earliest. It's hard for us, but I can imagine for people with even more responsibilities to their parents, it's that much harder and even impossible.

Tamar said...

I am in full agreement with those who have commented that the reality of aliyah with older children is much more complicated than that of aliyah with a younger family. Those thousands of young orthodox Jewish families, however, who are not faced with the well-documented difficulties of helping older children acclimate to life here, should grapple long and hard with the decision and not dismiss the possibility offhand based on entirely speculative hearsay.

I'll reiterate that my frustration is with a comment tolerating those who "are not interested" in life in E"Y. I'm still baffled by the cognitive dissonance of orthodox Judaism in America.

One additional crucial point: All of our family is still in America. We do miss them terribly, and they, us. We were taught by our families that life involves making difficult, responsible choices for the sake of personal growth and national aspirations. As observant Jews who believe that Mashiach will come and effect Kibbutz Galuyot, whenever that time will be, we wished to be the matriarch and patriarch of a family who took on the mesirat nefesh of having to make the difficult adjustments so that our children wouldn't have to. Our kids are at home in the language and the Land, and their facility (even at their tender ages, and along with all of their Hebrew-speaking peers) with Tanach, et.al. is a product of that fact.
This past month, my kids have crawled through Bar Kochba caves in Park Adulam, learned the story of "Shemesh b'Givon Dom" and then visited Emek Ayalon, and explored the very same Maresha that Yochanan Hykanus forcibly converted to Judaism during his reign as Chashmonai king. Talk about home schooling and superior chinuch opportunities! As a Jew, it's difficult for me to reconcile how a visit to the capital to see the Washington monument (a field trip I took as a student in Baltimore, and I'm certain still is an element of the basic curriculum of yeshiva day schools in the area) could be at all comparable. (I AM trying to bring the discussion back to chinuch somewhat, SephardiLady -- thanks for your largesse in allowing this important conversation to go so far afield.)

Dave said...

Anonymous Mom:

I assume that there is no Halachic obligation to make aliyah now, because the overwhelming majority of the observant community in America have not done so. I assume that were it widely regarded to be a requirement, the vast majority would have made aliyah.

Which takes us back to where I started; practical and pragmatic decisions. I will even stipulate that for individual families there may be a distinct advantage in making aliyah, but that just brings us back to the question of individual versus communal benefit which was raised above.

And I stand by my earlier statement; historically speaking, the Jewish people have been best served by being spread as widely as possible. Had there not been a widespread Diaspora before hand, I don't think anything recognizable as Judaism would have survived the Bar Kochva revolt.

Tamar said...

Dave:
Reminding you that thousands of Jews lived in thriving communities in the Galil and Golan during and after Hadrian's carnage of Judea. It was that community, of course, that bequeathed to Yahadut the mishna and later, the Talmud Yerushalmi. Not any diaspora community. Are you implying that Judaism would have petered out were it not for Alexandria, Antioch, nascent communities in Babylonia, etc?
I suggest that Judaism required the Mishna (written in Tzippori a little under a hundred years after Mered BK) for its survival.

Dave said...

Tamar:

There was an enormous Jewish Diaspora across the late Republic and early Empire (some sources peg the Jewish population as nearly 25% of the Roman population during that time period).

And yes, I think that without a Diaspora, the Jewish population would approximate the Samaritan population. Extant, but very very small.

Dave said...

I suggest that Judaism required the Mishna (written in Tzippori a little under a hundred years after Mered BK) for its survival.

Where have I said anything that contradicted this? I haven't said that Jews *shouldn't* be in Israel, just that the Jewish people are best served by not being geographically concentrated.

ProfK said...

Tamar, life has a way of pitching curve balls when least expected. Yes, for some, at some stages of their lives, the mesirat nefesh of leaving their families behind does not balance out against the positives for their family that making aliyah can bring. And for the most part we are talking here about parents with very young children, where the adjustment for the children is easier, hence the adjustment for the parents is easier.

But it is not only the issue of older children having a more difficult time in adjusting that keeps some families from aliyah. Some of us are indeed in the older generations and have parents and aunts and uncles who qualify as elderly. And those elderly relatives firmly change the balance from yes making aliyah to no, not making aliyah. Being here for my mother, who needs to have me less than a 12 hour flight away, trumps aliyah, a matter of kibud av v'aim. When we married we fully expected to make aliyah. And yes, we made the decision, my husband and I, that our children, having the grandparents that neither of us had because they were butchered in the Holocaust, would not be taken away from their grandparents.

anonymous mom said...

Dave,
You said, "I assume that there is no Halachic obligation to make aliyah now." Actually, that isn't a valid assumption as many Orthodox Jews do in fact believe that it is an obligation to make Aliyah now.

You also stated, "Had there not been a widespread Diaspora before hand, I don't think anything recognizable as Judaism would have survived the Bar Kochva revolt."

We could argue semantics as others are doing, but even if all of your facts are straight, your determination based on those facts is in fact incorrect. Either you believe in the supremacy of Torah and Judaism and that they and the Jewish people are ever true and destined to survive and thrive or you do not. You're welcome to your opinion, but it doesn't jive with Orthodox Judaism and its determined people of great faith.

Dave said...

Actually, that isn't a valid assumption as many Orthodox Jews do in fact believe that it is an obligation to make Aliyah now.

Many, certainly. Most?

I can either conclude that most Orthodox Jews in America do not consider it to be an obligation, or I can conclude that most Orthodox Jews in America are deliberately avoiding Halachic obligations. I find it more reasonable to assume that people are in fact living according to their beliefs.

Either you believe in the supremacy of Torah and Judaism and that they and the Jewish people are ever true and destined to survive and thrive or you do not.

Unless I've missed something, there is nothing in Orthodox belief that assumes that each generation will thrive, or that the survival of the Jewish people as a whole means the survival of the Jewish people in individual circumstances or in any geographic locale.

triLcat said...

Dave,

A more logical conclusion is that many Orthodox Jews either believe that they cannot successfully make aliya or that they simply aren't willing to make the enormous efforts that are required.

I agree that there are complicated situations in which people are indeed justified in choosing to remain in galut.

Some examples have been cited. Bringing pre-teens and teens to Israel is indeed problematic. Leaving behind grandparents and other relatives may be a significant problem in some families (though for some, it's just the push the relatives need to make the move themselves)

In my opinion, the ideal times to make aliya are immediately after high school and after retirement.

After college is very problematic b/c of student loans. With young children is reasonable, but once children are in junior high, the transition becomes extremely difficult, finding a job at that stage becomes difficult, etc.

I think that American parents need to be encouraging their children to make aliya after high school when the chances of a successful aliya are relatively high.

Shoshana said...

I am really enjoying the Israel commentary/debate. But as another "real live homeschooling parent" I would love to hear if anyone has any more comments on-topic? This has certainly been an amazing and yet complicated path for our family. I would love to hear any questions that folks have about the process, etc. that are not directly related to the economics of the equation. Than you to the guest poster for an eloquent presentation. You really did justice to the subject.

anonymous mom said...

Dave, I didn't imply that each generation will thrive, but rather that Judaism and Jews will eventually thrive. This would be to refute your previous comment: "I don't think anything recognizable as Judaism would have survived." What did you mean by that, Dave? Please reread all your comments and tell me where they would be compatible with faith in the survival and supremacy of Judaism, Torah, and the Jewish people.

SephardiLady said...

Aliyah conversations are always interesting. But, I'm more interested in the mechanics of homeschooling as an option.

We don't all have the opportunity to choose aliyah, moving to a bigger/smaller/less expensive community. Homeschooling is an option that will probably never become a mass movement, but it is an interesting option to discuss and one I believe the frum community should be supportive of.

anonymous mom said...

Vis a vis homeschooling:
Aldrich outlines quite an articulate, well-thought out case for homeschooling. You could wrap up the argument against homeschooling as follows:
1. child/parent directed learning is ironically limited learning. Adjusting to the learning styles, rhythms and pace of others, plus authority figures has benefits to personal growth, not just possible challenges.
2. sometimes Mom or Dad shouldn't be the teacher
3. most parents don't know how to be proactive parents within the traditional school system and thereby blame their child's failure to thrive or unhappiness on the system rather than the nature of their role within it.

Shoshana said...

"child/parent directed learning is ironically limited learning. Adjusting to the learning styles, rhythms and pace of others, plus authority figures has benefits to personal growth, not just possible challenges."

This is definitely one of the most misunderstood aspects of home-based learning. In the case where there is an only child, perhaps there is some validity. However, in our case there are four children - ages 9, 6, 4, and 2. They are adjusting at every moment - every day is a new dance. In fact, I would say that my kids get too much practice in this! :) Certainly more-so than a dozen+ same-age children in a homogenous classroom with pre-planned, age-specific learning objectives and activities.

One of the greatest benefits of homeschooling is what Gordon Neufeld describes as "emergent energy." It is that spontaneous moment that bursts from thought and desire into will and action. And the interplay between various-aged children makes it even richer. This is a very popular idea in secular classrooms these days, with the most progressive schools combining children of various ages into classrooms based on shared interests, with the older children acting as mentors, guides, and helpers for the younger ones.

Second, I couldn't agree more that exposure to outside authority figures is an important part of emotional and intellectual growth and development. But there is a primary factor involved in order for positive relationships to develop with external authority figures. All authority (teacher, principal, rebbi, morah) is actually an extension of the indigenous relationship between parent and child.

When the child is given into the care or instruction of a stranger (which is what every teacher is initially at any age/grade level) he or she is an extension of the parent. We are essentially telling our children, "I am giving you over into the care of Teacher X and they are guiding, teaching, caring for and disciplining you on my behalf." Teacher gains his/her authority only as an outgrowth of the parent's PRIMARY and NECESSARY role as number-one. It has been my observation that the most successful school kids are not necessarily those with high intelligence or innate skills, but rather those who are fundamentally and lovingly attached to their parent/s.

anonymous mom said...

Shoshana, I agree completely with that last statement and I do concede that you have a point with regard to the others. It's just that not all homeschooling parents/families are the same and I have come to know some whose children were not well acclimated into the Orthodox society around them, some whose children were very limited in their friendships and some who did not do well in high school when they did end up in a Yeshiva. That's why I think it should be an option, but I am very wary of it.

mother in israel said...

I posted a response to the second comment "l" on my blog.
http://mominisrael.blogspot.com/2008/11/meet-tal-and-talia.html

tnspr569 said...

Actually, aliyah is doche kibbud av v'aim...

Esther said...

I thinks it's interesting where the comments have gone, and I think it makes a very interesting point. There are options in living a frum life. We do not all have to do things exactly the same as every single other person. There are a large number of people who make aliyah, and a large number who don't. There are people who choose to live in major cities with large frum populations, and there are people who choose to live in smaller communties, and people who choose to go where there is barely a frum community in order to be a presence for the non-frum population. Now we are starting to see another option, where there will be a large number of people who continue to attend traditional yeshiva day school, and a soon-to-be large number who are turning to other options, which will include homeschooling.

I happen to think this is a very good thing. If each family can do what is right for them (within halacha of course), we will all be happier within the frum lifestyle and hopefully more stable financially by making decisions that our family can afford. I think that makes for a better chance of raising kids who love the Torah life instead of seeing it as a burden.

Ben-Yehudah said...

B"H

Dave, or rather Babylonian Dave, a man by the name of Resh Laqish disagrees with you.

Perhaps you've heard of him?

Click here.

I'm sure you'll chime back in with the 3 Shevu'oth, to which I would respond that even if we were to pasqin by aggadata, these are null an void as another party {the goyim} violated them first.