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Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Rest of the Homeschooling Responses

Hate to start asubject line and never finish it up, so below are the other Yated Chinuch Roundtable responses. The most revealing, often insensitive and jaw-dropping responses (e.g. "I can't ever see a reason to homeschool a child") are in my first post: An Epidemic? Do I Detect Some Fear?

Below are the rest of the responses with some comments in [brackets].

Menahel, The Toronto Cheder

The decision to home-school your daughter is a huge, possibly life-changing decision. [As is choosing a school in many cases]. Often, searching parents end up soliciting information from other home-schooling parents, but they may not receive an impartial view from the home-schooling parents, who tend to defend their choices instead of giving accurate pros and cons to home-schooling. [Funny, because in this entire series of responses there hasn't been much reflection --except an insinuation that the parents might want to avoid tuition--as to why homeschooling is a word that is rolling off tongues of yeshiva parents. Might there be some real issues in yeshiva schools that parents are responding too? Social issues? Emotional issues? Family issues? Learning issues? Academic issues? Hashkafic issues? Pedagogic issues? As for homeschooling parents, I've spoken with the Jewish and non-Jewish homeschoolers and the responses regarding their reasons to homeschool and the planned duration are very diverse, ranging from "some time off" to tackle an issue to "we're going for the finish line"]. If you decide to go ahead with the home-schooling and you feel that your daughter is succeeding, it is most likely that you will continue this throughout her elementary years. You shouldn't only consider her situation at this juncture of her young life. It's important to look ahead at the big picture of her life now. [See above. There are no set rules].

There are serveral enticing reasons to home-school a child:
safety
no bullying issues
curriculum is tailor-made according to the child's strengths and challenges
anxiety and stress of homework are non-factors
child's self-esteem remains intact throughout
emotional bond between parent and child is greatly reinforced
can generate stability if a family is going through a transition or ordeal
children are generally well-rested
the obvious fact that a home-schooled child can accomplish more in one day than their peers do in a week at school

[Ahhhhhhh, some reasons, from emotional to academic].

There are also compelling reasons not to home-school a child:
they miss out on all the "extra" and memories that schools provide, including outings with a teacher, extracurricular activities, and healthy competition. Most adults don't remember the actual Gemara or Chumash that they were taught, but they do remember the way it was taught or the time that a rebbi or morah went out of their way for them. [Once again the argument that yeshiva schooling isn't really for the academics. For me, that is what school should be about: laying an academic foundation. And the rest can be supplemented outside the classroom.]

the parents may fancy themselves as great teachers, but in reality they're not. This will impede the child's progress [There are no less than adequate teachers that might be going the same, hence an interest in homeschooling?]

the lack of socialization learning to get along with peers, and understanding a teacher's social cues. Being in school also teaches a child how to succeed even when others are creating adversity, as well as how to interact, discuss and disagree with peers. [Sorry, but I'm stepping onto a soap box. . . I happen to think well facilitated discussion groups are an advantage of school, although that too could be taken into a different venue, but as the person who had to pick up the slack in nearly every, single group that I was assigned to from late elementary school through high school, I don't believe that all of the group work that many teachers love and is so fashionable is at all healthy, Rather than teaching "succeeding even when others are creating adversity." my experience is that the majority of kids learn that they can push off their responsibilities onto others, without penalty, because someone will do the work. Personally I think a lot more character development happens on the sporting field/gym than in the classroom because no one can hit the ball for you, run your leg of the 4*100, or, moving over to another venue, play your trumpet solo or recite your lines in the musical]. In addition, some children will exceed expectations that parents and teachers have of them due to healthy peer pressure. [What of negative peer pressure?]

loss of emotional support other than parents. Many adults credit a particular rebbi or morah with changing their lives. Often, a child needs to have a mentor or confidant other that their parents. Rabbeim/moros can open up topics in ruchniyus or topics within topics, that appeal to the child, which maybe the parent hasn't even heard about [many homeschoolers go work with tutors and Rebbis. And, and issue many schooling parents express is the lack of time (and money) to seek out opportunities that would help their children grow).

Chazal say in Pirkei Avos: "Kol sheruach chachomim nocheh heimenu ruach habriyos nocheh heimenu." Since Yehoshue ben Gamla's time, chadorim have been set up for talmidim. Adults who are most matzliach in life are the ones who are me'urov im habriyos.

A friend related that in his elementary school years, there was an illui in his class who was two years younger than the rest of his classmates. While this boy excelled in learning, he never learned how to communicate properly and it unfortunately affected him as an adult and as a husband and father. [Uh, marriages and parents have issues! Nonsensical argument, besides the boy was in school]. Home-schooling your daughter will cause her to be different and may create issues with her choice of high schools and seminaries later on. [Finally, the crux of the issue: being different]. Since you are blessed with a choice of several schools in you kehillah, choose the one that best suits your daughter's needs. Allow the capable menaheles and moros/teachers to succeed with your daughter along with your encouragement and close contact with the school. [How different are these schools really, as the responses aren't much different].

Hatzlacha.

Dean, Beth Jacob Seminary, Montreal

Your reason for wanting a one year respite from school for your daughter so that she can "benefit from a year away from the social pressures and stress." To me, this implies that you are running away from a problem and hoping that it will go away. Not only will it not go away, but it will fester and, like any other problem not dealth with, it will only grow in reality and in her imagination and will probably multiply itself twofold or more. [What a strange response. Yes, we need to deal with problems, but sometimes getting away from an issue is a starting point, even for adults]

If she is having stress, you must find the reason for that stress and try, to the best of your ability, to alleviate the underlying causes that brought it about. I also do not understand how removing your daughter from her society will remove her social pressures. She can only overcome such social pressures by learning how to deal with others. I also do not agree with you when you say that she will benefit from being removed from the social scene. She must try to understand what is causing the problem and try to minimize it. She may not be able to do it on her own and may need expert held. [If the environment of the school is hefker and the staff is on a different page, it will be near impossible to deal with the issue. I've heard such sad stories (public school stories too) and sometimes a fresh start is the best course. Reading in between the lines I hear the "deal with it" hashkafa which can be vastly inappropriate depending on what you are dealing with).

If one moves one's child from one school to another because the school is more difficult academically than what the child can handle, then I would agree fully with such a move, as one should always try to place one's children in school where they fit academically and where they can grow.

However, social situations are something else. Our children should be taught to get along with all types of people no matter the school. I therefore do not think that taking her out of school for a social reason will solve any of her stressful problems or any of the social pressures.

The only time that I would recommend home-schooling is when there is absolutely no other alternative to any conventional type of schooling. Examples would include living in a community which does not provide the type of hashkafah and education necessary. One of my nieces, who is from a chareidi Yerushalayim background, married a young man from London with a similiar background. They went into the field of kiruv and are living in Capetown, South Africa. Since the schools there do not provide the type of education they need for their children, their only option is home-schooling.

You say that there are several possible schools that your daughter could attend. If that is so, then you should turn over heaven and earth to find a solution to her problem and create a situation where she will be more socially adept. In the long run, the social aspects of conventional schooling are what will be ingrained into her personality. (Oh YES they will!).

More in Part 3, my final post on the subject. I have a lot of saved articles of interest. IF anyone has the letters to the editor section and if any of them address this round table, shoot me an email.

22 comments:

tesyaa said...

I am not a fan of the "one size fits all" approach to education. So homeschoolers, take heart in the uniformity of the responses, because they can't possibly be right for everyone.

alpidarkomama said...

Here's an interesting article on group work. As a former classroom teacher, and current homeschooling parent, I really thought this article was spot on.

http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2012/01/30/120130fa_fact_lehrer?fb_ref=social_fblike&fb_source=profile_multiline

Avi said...

Kudos to cheder menahel for not being a complete tool.

Anonymous said...

Hmmmm.. All I am going to say is that learning how to homeschool isn't easy, but it's worth it! Education is not a one size fits all and parents are capable of providing a better education then a teacher can.
~> Proud Home-schooling mom to DD & DS <3

AztecQueen2000 said...

All the responses seemed to be a variant on "what about socialization? You don't want your kid to be different." (Although, to my recollection, it is the different ones that made the greatest strides in Yiddishkeit.) Also, I don't know if these principals would know a homeschooled child if they stepped on one.
Recently, I placed my five-year-old in a Sunday program. The only time her being homeschooled came up was in the application process. After that, I never heard about it again. (So much for being a weird outcast.)

Mr. Cohen said...

http://www.haaretz.com/jewish-world/as-jewish-agency-contracts-its-executive-paychecks-swell-1.413466

Amital at OrganizedJewishHome said...

These are really unbelievable comments. I had originally thought to respond, but just didn't even know where to start.

But how amazing that everyone actually agrees--it hasn't happened in a really long time. So at least we homeschoolers have brought together the rabbis from various communities, right?

Anonymous said...

While the readers of this blog may be iconoclasts, the fear of being "different" is very real. Don't you realize that it takes a great amount of social pressure to get people to keep halacha? The vast majority of people aren't excited baalai tshuva who have decided for themselves that they want to be doing this. So it's not surprising that rabbis push for more social conformity on matters that are not directly halachic issues. Social pressure keeps people within the fold.

Anonymous said...

Home schooling may be great, but at its core, it is inconsistent with many aspects of judiasm. Orthodox Judaism is based on a high degree of community and conformity. Without that, it probably would not have survived for so long. Each familiy doing its own thing and following their own curriciulum is not consistent with community and conformity and teaching kids community and conformity.

Anonymous said...

Are there homeschoolers who homeschool their children purely for educational/secular reasons or is homeschooling mostly done by families who want to keep their kids away from "bad" secular influences/people in public school? For the people who do it for educational reasons, how do they then save up enough for their children's college tuitions if only one parent is working?

JS said...

Anonymous,

I imagine the conformity you're referring to is more of a recent phenomenon - as in post WW2. Before that people simply did what their fathers and mothers did. Some of that may not have even been strictly according to halacha as codified. You had a question, you went to your local town's rabbi. Customs and family minhag were likely highly localized.

After the war all the different communities got shuffled and forced to live in the same areas in their news countries. People started mixing and talking and it became unacceptable to do what your father or mother did when it said in a book of codified halacha that that practice wasn't acceptable. People who didn't know better turned to rabbis that told them to follow customs and laws foreign to their former enclave and that were never practiced in their family history. Various social pressures placed a burden on conformity.

As a few brief examples: glatt meat, upsherin, daf yomi, gebrochts, uniform nusach of davening, etc.

Miami Al said...

Was there forced conformity in pre-war Europe? Unknown. I mean, if you never left your small town, I guess you couldn't do anything that would leave you ostracized, but you weren't worried about anyone else.

I mean, we know, from books, that in pre-War Lithuania, now considered the gold standard of non-Chassidic frumkeit, the Yeshivot were poorly funded, the students unable to marry, and the bulk of the population wasn't observant by any means.

One of the critiques of the "modern" approach is that while R' Hirsch's group (the basic foundations of Modern Orthodoxy, in practice, not title) succeeded better in producing in an observant laity in Germany than the Yeshiva system in Eastern Europe, the Yeshiva system produced better educated Rabbis, so most German congregations hired Rabbis educated in the Eastern system.

I mean, if you lived in a town in Czarist Russia, you certainly didn't have to worry about what your daughter that just married a Chassid during her year in Israel thought of your Kashrut, but you certainly couldn't offend your "community" to the point that they would just hand you over to the authorities for whatever purpose. I mean, if 99% of your business was trade with other Jews in your town, Cherem had a serious consequence.

Regarding meat, the reportedly "prevalent" European system was the butcher working for the community (what was actually in practice, who knows, we have little documentation and TONS of communities were utterly wiped out with little to no record), I mean, you didn't get to pick a "better standard," you got what the butcher sold you.

tesyaa said...

Can we agree that being "Orthodox" in this day and age DOES depend mostly on conformity? That conformity is more important than halacha? (If it weren't, women's tefila groups wouldn't be controversial; stockings wouldn't be mandatory. The whole concept of "minhag hamakom" with respect to things like tznius chumras sounds an awful lot like forced conformity, doesn't it?)

Maybe some people wish they could live in some past or future generation when piety and halachic observance are all that matter, but we are living in the 21st century when conformity matters. (And since halacha evolves, the person who wants to observe halacha will always need to conform).

mom2 said...

Most people tend to a certain degree of “ confirmation bias” regarding their profession so to the degree that the Toronto Menahel considers the benefits of homeschooling, I think his is a reasonable answer. I don’t think its reasonable to have a “roundtable” panel discussion without a single voice of anyone other than professional educators; the voice of a congregational rabbi involved in the lives of his congregants, for instance, would unlikely echo the idea that ‘avoiding tuition is silliness’ and should have been included.
What I do find telling, on the other hand, is the misquoting of the mishna he brings as prooftext.
Chazal say in Pirkei Avos: "Kol sheruach chachomim nocheh heimenu ruach habriyos nocheh heimenu."
The Mishna I assume he is refrencing is Perkei Avos (3, 10):
Kol sheruach habryios nocheh heimenu, ruach hamakom nocheh heimenu.
There is nothing unusual in misspeaking in a live conversation, such as I assume this roundtable to be , and slightly mangling up a mishna, but his transposing ‘ruach chachamin ‘ with ‘daat HaMakom" seems like a classic Freudian slip, where pleasing Hakadosh Baruch Hu is equated with pleasing Chachamim.
Or it could just be the transcriber’s error and I shouldn’t read that much into it, and he is simply echoing what many people, like the people on this blog’s comments section ,who mentioned noticing that homeschooled kids are slightly ‘off’ and is giving good faith advice to a mom to protect her kid from ‘offness’

JS said...

tesyaa,

I think it's a bit more complicated than that - the conformity generates the normative halacha. The thing with a multi-thousand year old religion in which everyone from every which community and country wrote down halachic responsa is that there's a LOT of stuff out there to pick and choose from. It doesn't matter if rabbi X from country A never heard of rabbi Y's opinion from country B or even that they were separated by centuries. Especially nowadays with books and electronic resources so easily available, you can view the entire gamut of responsa and halahic literature. So, you can easily find support for a certain viewpoint and given the global nature of Judaism (and the world) nowadays you can promote what may have been the practice in a small community centuries ago to worldwide prominence and acceptance.

From that point conformity and social pressure makes that the normative halacha. Works the same with customs and chumras and such as well.

Orthonomics said...

alpidarko-Thanks for sharing an interesting article.

Amital :)

tesyaa said...

the voice of a congregational rabbi involved in the lives of his congregants, for instance, would unlikely echo the idea that ‘avoiding tuition is silliness’ and should have been included.

mom2, I think you would find that many (though not all) congregational rabbis do see their congregants' concerns about tuition as silly. Some are struggling themselves and see their working congregants as "rich"; others naively believe that anyone who is struggling can "just get a scholarship". Then there are the rabbis who think that an unwillingness to shell out tuition equals an unfortunate lack of commitment. Many rabbis don't have 401(k)'s of their own and think it's an unnecessary luxury...

I have met or heard about congregational rabbis with all of these attitudes.

Maybe you are lucky to have the kind of rabbi who is understanding, but not everyone is so lucky.

JS said...

In terms of my comment earlier about doing what your father/mother did and the post-WW2 communal shakeup leading to mixing of communities and halacha and minhag:

Growing up when my dad made havdala after saying the blessing for wine, he'd pass around the wine, then for besamim he'd pass that around, and after the blessing for fire we'd all hold our hands up. One day I come from from yeshiva and ask him why he passes around the wine immediately - you should wait till after the last bracha and then drink the wine. He says, I have no idea that's how my father does it and I assume how his father did it going back. I told him we learned you should wait till the end. After that we changed how we did havdala and did wine last.

Now, I never looked into the halacha or the history of the halacha. For all I know this was a mistake my family made decades or even centuries ago that simply got passed down. Or, maybe this is a valid halacha or custom and it was quashed by the yeshiva I went to teaching one mode of doing havdala. It's also possible this was the halacha or custom where my family lived but there was never a rabbinic scholar there to record it for posterity. Or maybe it was recorded but the scholar never rose to prominence or maybe his books were destroyed in a pogrom or in the holocaust. Maybe there was a school of thought that if you're going to do besamim and the candle immediately, do the wine immediately as well. I have absolutely no idea.

But, regardless, it's just one example of how halacha and minhag have become "nationalized" and the old system of following your family custom is being abrogated.

tesyaa said...

JS, why didn't your father have the confidence to tell you that you're a little kid and he's the grownup, and you can do what you want in your own house when you grow up? I'm not criticizing his response, which seems fairly typical for an MO parent. But why do so many MO parents feel so insecure that they kowtow so easily?

JS said...

I can't speak for other parents, I have no idea why MO Jews who are formally educated eagerly take up the latest chumra or don't stand their ground when someone criticizes them for doing what they were taught to do.

To sum up my family situation: my dad grew up traditional. He never went to yeshiva. Same with my mother. When my parents decided to formally become Orthodox (they were previously "old school" Conservative, or Conservadox) they wanted their kids (me and my siblings) to get the education they never got (among other reasons for sending us to yeshiva). So, if we came home from yeshiva and said "such and such is wrong, we should do it so and so" my parents usually changed. I wouldn't say this happened often, probably only a handful of times. I think it was a combination of not being sure what they were doing was right in the first place and not wanting to contradict the school.

Then again, maybe that applies to other MO parents, even those who are yeshiva educated.

Yael Aldrich said...

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