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Monday, March 02, 2009

The Article Has Been Found!

Dual Income Homeschooling Families

I am certain that I have the best readers and commentors of any J-blog. A reader of this blog kindly went out of her way to locate the article I referred to in a recent homeschooling post in a database and email me the article. The article isn't quite the way I remembered it, but I believe after seeing it, I found other available information. Thank you to a reader!

I'm pasting the article below and highlighting the sections I find most interesting:

Extreme Juggling: Parents Home-School The Kids While Holding Full-Time


By Sue Shellenbarger

14 September 2006

The Wall Street Journal D1 English (Copyright (c) 2006, Dow Jones & Company, Inc.)

IN THE QUEST for work-life balance, wearing three hats -- work, kids and personal life -- is enough for most parents.

A fast-growing group of parents is adding a fourth: home-schooling.

Amid expansion of home-schooling in general, the involvement of parents who are employed full time or almost full time is increasing even faster, researchers and home-schooling advocates say. This new group of employed home-schoolers often work for family businesses that offer flexibility. But an increasing number answer to independent employers and clients, juggling deadlines and corporate demands with book reports and math tests. For some, this means working split shifts and seven-day weeks on little sleep. But these parents say they also gain more time with their kids and more control over their education.

From 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. each day, Shari Smith, who works about 60 hours a week as an online-community moderator for the Web site, also home-schools her 11-year-old daughter Rebekah. Working side by side with Rebekah at adjacent desks in their Yorktown, Va., home, Ms. Smith takes 15- to 30-minute breaks from her job to explain concepts and answer questions. Each evening, she sets aside time to prepare her daughter's assignments for the next day.

Occasionally, Ms. Smith says, "all hell breaks loose" on her job because of co-workers' needs or breaking news, and she has to focus intensely on work. Then, she asks Rebekah to go on auto-pilot. "I'll say, 'You know what, why don't you work on that report?'" But most days, she enjoys extra time with her daughter. Her husband helps out when he can, but has a less-flexible career in the military.

Rebekah says she likes working side by side with her mother. Home-schooling, she says, "is pretty cool, because I can be in my pajamas in school."

About 1.9 million to 2.4 million children are home-schooled nationwide, estimates the National Home Education Research Institute, a Salem, Ore., nonprofit. In 2003, 1.1 million children were home-schooled, according to the federal government, the most recent government data available.

While parents traditionally have home-schooled their children for religious reasons, an increasing number have secular motivations, including concerns about peer pressure, security worries or other complaints about public schools such as a lack of individual attention, says Laura Derrick, Austin, Texas, president of the National Home Education Network, a nonprofit. Based on her own rough estimate, she says about 33% of home-schooled children are taught by parents who also work at paying jobs, up from about 25% five years ago.

Fitting a school course load into the work day isn't unrealistic, parents say. After subtracting commuting and nonacademic activities from kids' days, such as waiting in line, free periods and other down time, most parents can finish academic work in two to four hours, they say.

Among parents I interviewed, all had told their bosses or clients about their home-schooling; none met any objections -- although flexible work setups are crucial. Most admitted they worry sometimes about shortchanging either work or their kids' education, and many have to drop a day's lessons now and then for work. But all said they are confident that over the course of each year, their children get a good education. Several pointed to their kids' high scores on standardized tests. What suffers most, some say, is personal time.

The rising availability of packaged and online curricula ease the load (and also enable parents to handle subjects they don't know well). Students using the Robinson Curriculum, for example, a program popular among working parents for its emphasis on independent problem-solving, have doubled in five years to an estimated 60,000 students, says creator Art Robinson, of Cave Junction, Ore. Growth in organized classes for home-schooled kids, offered by museums, libraries or community organizations, is also a help.

Still, working and home-schooling is insanely difficult sometimes. Single mother Amy Garber, Mechanicsville, Va., works full time as a compliance specialist for a financial-services concern. When she has to go to her employer's office in the mornings, a sitter cares for her two children, 9 and 2. At home in the afternoons, Ms. Garber focuses on learning time with her 9-year-old son. Then after the kids have gone to bed, she goes back to work in her home office from 7:30 p.m. to midnight. She says she routinely works weekends to get all her work done.

It is easier when mothers and fathers share the load. Lisa Wood -- mother of two, freelance writer and home-schooler -- splits teaching duties with her husband, who owns a saddle-fitting business. He teaches science and history; she teaches English and math. Ms. Wood gets up as early as 4 a.m. to meet daily professional deadlines.

"Some people say, 'Wow, you've taken on a lot,'" says Ms. Wood, who lives in Esmont, Va. "But then I watch people whose kids go to school, and that's a lot too -- hustling to get them out early to the bus, dealing with issues with the school." She adds, "Either way, educating a child is demanding."


rosie said...

These families are not typical of the frum families that I know. Most frum families have several closely spaced children and the families in this article don't. There is also no indication of how well these parents are succeeding in educating their children and it does not appear that they are trying to teach a complicated religion at the same time as giving a secular education.
Also, I feel that the stress levels in the frum community are very high (see yesterday's VIN about a possible teen suicide in Lakewood). Most frum mothers are frazzled trying to juggle numerous children and possibly work while keeping kashrus, Shabbos, and Yomtov and marry off the kids (since we don't trust them to do it themselves). Obviously something would have to give and while birth control might be on the increase in the frum community, most frum families still feel strongly about having numerous children (as well as that rabbonim are not in favor of capping family size). I just can't see mothers of 3 or more home-schoolers working full time.

SephardiLady said...

Akkkk, I scheduled this to go up last week and didn't realize the day came.

I do NOT endorse matyrdom. Nor do I think most are capable for homeschooling and working.

But, in the previous discussion I was debunking the argument about an entire lost income.

What I do like about this article is that it points out just how much time IS wasted in school. For some reason, people believe that homeschooling will require a lot of parental time.

That is simply not true! Every homeschooling family I know (and I know both frum Jewish families, large and small who homeschool, as well as non-Jewish families, large and small who homeschool), simply do NOT have to spend hours upon hours a day on schoolwork because they cut out all of the time that a regular school teacher spends a good chunk of the day disciplining and administering.

I'm certainly NOT endorsing homeschooling for all. Many parents are already frazzled. But, for those who are interested. . . it is probably helpful to learn what others are doing.

The Hedyot said...

Original article here.

Anonymous said...

While I give these parents a lot of credit, I agree w/ Rosie. I'm also not sure it's healthy for a mom to work every night till midnight and weekends. There is a real risk of burnout. The other thing not addressed is when and how these kids get to spend time with other children and get some of the socialization and extras that only schools can provide. Are they enrolled in group extra-curriculars like sports, ballet, music, etc.? I also think the discussion and debate that occurs in classes is important. I'm not sure its healthy for a kid to be sitting in front of a computer all day without interacting with other kids and adults outside of the family.

Dave said...

In many (if not most or all) school districts, Home Schooled children are eligible to participate in the districts extra-curricular activities.

SephardiLady said...

I don't know any homeschooled kids that are NOT involved in extra curriculars. I do know homeschooled kids that attend community college classes and some community colleges even offer non-credit classes for elementary school children, as alternatives to public school become more popular.

Yael Aldrich said...

Darn it! I had a missive penned and it got lost in the netherworld, it seems.

Long story short, I do know some Christian families who have a real Bible studies/foreign(Biblical - Latin, Greek, Hebrew - languages curriculum) and work/go to school full time. They say it is a LOT of work and they use sitters/family. They wouldn't trade it for the world. Many frum families might be able to get by (dare I say thrive?) on one salary -- especially if they are thrifty by nature -- tuition/uniforms/bussing/gifts to the rebbe(morah) is a big chunk of $$.

Re: Rosie's post that frum moms are frazzled with kashrus, shabbos and closely spaced larger families. I can only give my family as an example. I have three children ba"h 7, 5, 2 and hope to have a couple more please G-d. I make Shabbos/Yom Tov for numerous guests (10-25 people) and expect to get 40+ people for each seder (no, I am not Chabad and yes, I am a BT). I am busy, but so are my friends who work full time and put their kids in school! I think we all regularly get into bed around midnight.

Re: Anonymous' comment about socialization. I don't want to get involved in the most boring canard there is about homeschooling. But BTW, most kids are not in front of their computers all day with no interaction with others. And no one I know (Jew or otherwise) has no interaction with the outside world.

Commenter Abbi said...

Yael i think anonymous was responding to this paragraph: "From 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. each day, Shari Smith, who works about 60 hours a week as an online-community moderator for the Web site, also home-schools her 11-year-old daughter Rebekah. Working side by side with Rebekah at adjacent desks in their Yorktown, Va., home, Ms. Smith takes 15- to 30-minute breaks from her job to explain concepts and answer questions. Each evening, she sets aside time to prepare her daughter's assignments for the next day."

It sounds like the daughter is working at a computer from 9:30 to 2 next to her mom. That doesn't really sound healthy to me and I know my daughter would go koo koo with that set up.

Also, I don't see free periods or waiting on line as a waste of time at all. Free periods are how children socialize and waiting on line is how children learn how to wait their turn and negotiate with others.

Having worked as a teacher, I don't think teachers spend hours per day disciplining and administering. If there is an extremely problematic child that requires hours of disciplining, than that is an anomaly and dealt with accordingly.

I work from home on a flexible schedule but I would go crazy from this setup and so would my kids. Also, philosophically, I couldn't stomach depriving my children of their first experience of Jewish community, which is essentially what day school/yeshiva is.

Yael Aldrich said...


As you have said many, many times (I think I get it now :) -- you couldn't homeschool and you think your kids would too. Maybe though there are SOME people who might just be thinking about taking the plunge. Do you think your negative talk really helps? Just maybe, possibly hearing it CAN be done and maybe, just maybe they might even like it (sometimes -- I am a realist -- I don't always like homeschooling my kids).

As for Jewish community, I hope your family is your children's first Jewish community. We learn all sort of nice lessons/middos from being part of a family. I'm sure your children (and you and your husband) do too.

Yael Aldrich said...

oops! -- I meant "you think your kids would not like it either"

Commenter Abbi said...

Of course my family is my kids' first Jewish "community". But Judaism was never meant to be practiced solely as a family-based religion. Of course much of our religion is based on the family and nice lessons/middos abound at home. But there's no getting around the idea that Kehilla is essential to being Jewish- a man can't really daven without one and you can't really celebrate most holidays without one, and it would be really difficult to keep kosher and learn Torah if you just had to depend on the people in your family. And kehilla was never equated with just a single family unit (ie: Parshat Bo and how Bnei Yisrael were instructed to deal with the Korban Pesach).

Yes, I'm sure a family can do a lot of hachnasat orchim and go to shul every shabbat. But the beautiful thing about day school, especially for middle and high school kids, is the ability to build a living, breathing Jewish community on a daily basis. And that means showing up every day at 8 am, not just for extra curriculars.

A traditional Jewish community has always revolved around a shul and a school (cheder/beit midrash/yeshiva whatever you want to call it). That's why homeschooling will never truly be a viable option for frum Jews and it shouldn't be.

rosie said...

Yael you must be blessed with an incredible amount of energy and are probably very organized. For me, a 40+ guest seder would cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $400 when you factor in wine, matza, fish, meat, salads, side dishes, deserts and paper goods since I don't have enough place settings for that many people. Also the stove would be going non-stop. We also have a custom to make food from scratch so that would mean lots of peeling and chopping and egg and bug checking, not to mention drying the romaine lettuce. We try to include people that we know need a place to come to, and some years we know someone that needs a place and some years not. I guess that if I liked to cook and money was not an issue, I would invite more people besides family. I usually find that the pre-Pesach period often has unexpected happenings going on (some years the kids got sick and other years they got married)and I tell myself that I don't have cleaning help, or go to a resort for Pesach but neither do I have to stand on my feet for days either.
As for homeschooling, the Chabad online school only helps homeschoolers who do not live near an existing school. If families really cannot afford the existing school, I am not sure what Chabad's policy is. I think that others besides Chabad use this service but to me, an online school represents the future of Jewish education, (unless day schools get help fast).

SephardiLady said...

Ideal or not ideal, the fact is (and I spoke to a Rabbi today who told me this), there is an increasing number of frum kids in public schools. My husband goes to a minyan with a number of boys who following minyan take a walk to the local public school. This IS what is happening.

I tend not to look at ideals, but rather evaluate choices. If day school/yeshiva is still a choice for a family, fantastic! For an increasing number, right or wrong, it is no longer a choice.

This is why a meeting about a dual language program in an Englewood Public School drew 400 (!) people to a meeting. This is why other parents are wondering, how do people homeschool? How do people best supplement a public school education?

I see no service in yelling that the alternatives are wrong, because people are turning towards alternatives. So we have to deal with the facts on the ground.

Commenter Abbi said...

I'm sorry, but who's yelling? I was explaining why I was philosophically against homeschooling. I'm not sure why that's equated with denying the facts on the ground (although truthfully, these are your facts on the ground, as I live in Israel).

Yes, I have no doubt that there are increasing numbers of frum kids in public schools and who are homeschooled and I think it's a sad state for the Jewish community to be in when that's the case. I think it's ok to reflect on the loss of an ideal of yeshiva education for all who want, regardless of financial means. That was the case for me when I was growing up and it's sad that the next generation cannot benefit from an ideal that was simply a fact of life for me.

Yael chooses to homeschool her kids for ideological reasons, which is why I was responding with an ideological counterpoint. People who will choose to homeschool for financial reasons are coming at it from a completely different angle, although truthfully, if you're not 100% committed to homeschooling ideologically, I can't see how it would really work out, whether the parents are working while teaching or not.

Anonymous said...

I'm curious. Is anyone aware of any long-term studies that show the effects good and/or bad on kids who are home-schooled, both with respect to academics - i.e. rate of graduating from college, but also social - do they have long term stable marriages, kids, friends, do volunteer work, etc? as compared to kids from similar socioeconomic and religious backgrounds?

Esther said...

Regarding the socializing, I think that's where a frum family has an advatage with homeschooling. Because we DO have shul, youth groups, Shabbos afternoon learning programs, guests over regularly, kids knowing the rabbi and other adults at shul even if it is not a teacher at their school, etc. (That's on top of any additional effort on the parents' part to incorporate music, sports, scouting, etc.

Also, for every person who had a wonderful social life in school, there are a lot of people who had horrible social experiences, in some cases leading people away from the Torah lifestyle.

That said, I think this particular story in the article is probably not the norm for most people. I would love to homeschool but I work full time outside the home, and don't see fitting the schooling around my work schedule. (My husband works from home, but is not interested in conducting homeschool in between his work.)

rosie said...

There's an awful lot of kids who had bad experiences in yeshivas and are not frum as a result. This is why people feel that if yeshivas charge so much they should at least deliver on the goods.
Another thing that needs to improve socially in yeshiva is the attitude that some children have more intrinsic value than others if they have yichus, money, etc. That can be very damaging.

Shoshana said...

"homeschooling will never truly be a viable option for frum Jews and it shouldn't be"


SL - thanks for posting this article. In general, the folks mentioned in this piece are probably not typical and, yes, it would be nearly impossible for a frum family to make this work with a crop of young kids (which I have). But my husband and I both work "extra" jobs to make ends meet in addition to his 40 hr/week job. It can be very tiring, but well worth it when we consider the fabulous results in our family.

The reason I want to thank you for the post is that it legitimizes a learning and maturing process that is becoming more and more appealing to Jewish families for a variety of reasons. We have never used the schools, so I can't make any comments about being in that camp. But I can tell you that my husband and I are thrilled with the way our kids are developing both intellectually and emotionally.

If anyone would like to chat more about homeschooling and how it might fit into their lives, feel free to email at shozo (at) earthlink (dot) net.

Yael Aldrich said...

Re: Anonymous' question about the after-effects of homeschooling. Here is a study -- I doubt you or I want to buy the study but here are the highlights.

Here is one paper from the HSDLA, a rather conservative Christian homeschooling group that defends the rights of ALL homeschoolers to educate their children in the way they see fit.

See if you get any answers. I'm sure there are also homeschooled psychopaths and mass murders, but since that also happens in the regular population, you won't make any silly causation arguments.

ps If anyone wants to join a yahoo group focused on homeschooling Orthodox Jewish children, please come to

rosie said...

As to the opinion that yeshivas are part of our mesorah, there were times and places when they were not. I believe that this may have been stated here before but it may bear repeating. Girls were always homeschooled until compulsory public education became law in countries such as Russia, Germany, and the US. Boys from poor families in Poland and other parts of Europe were only educated until they were literate. Often the "yeshiva" was in the rebbe's home and as boys advanced in level, they went to the home of a different rebbe. Children whose families were farmers or innkeepers had traveling teachers that stayed awhile with the family and taught the kids. There were those boys who traveled to large yeshivas and stayed for a few years and ate "kest" at the homes of local families. They often did not come home for years and had few belongings. I am not sure what the percentage was because conditions were different for different times and places.
The massive day school movement which includes girls occurred after WWII. I know of frum older people (and even those not so much older but from Russia) that attended public school. They knew that it was only to keep their parents out of jail and that it did not influence their beliefs. It would not be entirely correct to say that home schooling 'breaks' with tradition. There is room in traditional Judaism for alternatives.
I know of a situation where a family could not afford to send their teenage son to yeshiva. A local business man learned with the teen for a couple hours after davening and the rest of the day the boy worked in the business.
We have to be open-minded to various possibilities when the "ideal" situation is not possible or practical.

Commenter Abbi said...

Shoshana, instead of responding with a simple "oy" can you at least respond to my reasoning with regard to how essential community is to being a frum Jew and how homeschooling parents address the issue of making there children feel a part of the frum community at large? Anyone else is welcome to respond as well.

With regard to practical financial issues, I think 10-15 parents in a frum community getting together and paying either one or two teachers to teach their children in each others homes would be a much more reasonable approach to dealing with the tuition crisis, for both parents and children. Even $5000 per student per year would make a great starting salary for a Jewish ed graduate. If you import someone from Israel, it would be a goldmine for them.

Anonymous said...

Abbi has a good suggestion, but remember that 10 - 15 families could mean 50 - 125 kids depending on familiy size and ages. One or two teachers might not be enough. How many of these kids could you get together at one time and where?
Don't forget that the parents also have to pay fica, unemployment insurance, comp. etc.

rosie said...

Importing from Israel to the US would also mean finding someone who could speak English well enough to teach American non-Hebrew speaking kids. This person will also need a green card which may require an immigration lawyer whose fees might be close to $3000. If the person is female, she may need to learn to drive and other adjustments.
I do see from time to time that the Chabad online school has get-togethers for their students, although many are scattered throughout the globe. People who want to make money in the chinuch business could try to put together other online schools since a)not everyone identifies with Chabad and b)the online school will not compete with yeshivas. To me this is a realistic alternative to expensive day schools.

Shoshana said...


I will try to put a meatier comment about socializing and the kehilla when time permits, although I know I have already done this in previous homeschool-post comments.

In the past I have read your responses as being quite hostile (although you may not have meant them to be - internet is far from a perfect communication medium) and I don't like to spend energy communicating information which the recipient is not likely to be very receptive to.

On the secular end... right now I am getting 2 of 4 kids out the door for a 3-day animal science class at the zoo. Kid #3 is spending the next three days doing crafts and swimming at "Bubby camp." And the toddler and I will enjoy three days of one-on-one that she does not typically get in the course of our busy schedule.

Commenter Abbi said...

Shoshana I don't equate socializing with kehilla. Making friends is part of being part of a kehilla, but I feel there are many other aspects, the most important of which is being surrounded by likeminded non-family people who are working together, learning together, performing chesed together and basically reflecting and reinforcing Jewish/Torah values that are taught in the home preferably on a daily basis. I know this ideal is not always achieved in a day school setting, but I do think this is the ideal of day school education. I would really be interested in hearing how homeschooling can provide for this experience.

As for my hostility, I have no reason to be hostile, since this is not really an issue for me one way or the other. I'm blessed with the choice of an excellent free state religious school around the corner or a more religious option that costs 5000 shekel a year included bussing and lunch.

I have a very direct approach, which might be misconstrued as hostile, but that's not my intention.

I do feel strongly that homeschooling is not a practical solution for this crisis due to most of the community's family work situations and general attitudes towards education nor do I think it's good for the frum community in general. If it works for you, great.

Anon- sorry, i was assuming the 10-15 families are MO, in which case 10 kids is not really a probability.

Anyway, it's an idea and I think there's a lot that can be done with it.