Beyond BT

Spiritual Growth for Jews

Torah Homeschooling

Posted on | May 25, 2010 | By Yaakov Eric Ackland | 101 Comments

Homeschooling is beginning to boom amongst Orthodox Jews. Last summer, a Baltimore woman, Mrs. Avivah Werner, organized The First Annual Torah Homeschool Conference along with other local homeschooling parents. People came from as far away as New York, Michigan, and Sharon, MA to attend the conference. Presenters spoke on subjects ranging from different homeschooling philosophies and methodologies to practical issues such as dealing with state regulations. It was so successful that this summer, on Sunday June 13th, Mrs. Werner has organized the Second Annual Torah Homeschool Conference, to take place at the Park Heights JCC in Baltimore. Rabbi Daniel Lapin will be one of the featured speakers. (Schedule, speakers and registration info: http://jewishhomeschooling.wordpress.com/ )

The phenomena of homeschooling has exploded in America in the past decade, growing 12 times faster than public school enrollments. As of 2007, 2.2 percent of American children were being homeschooled, 1,508,000 all told. While its modern roots are in progressive alternative educational theory, its biggest practitioners are committed conservative Christians, who often reject public school for its ostensibly decadent secular program of indoctrination, and whose vision of an ideal pedagogy often harks back to very traditional methods. That homeschooling isn’t big yet amongst Orthodox Jews is surprising given that many Orthodox families are dissatisfied with the secular academics in yeshivas (associated with traditional Orthodoxy), and often with the religious studies in day schools (associated with Modern Orthodoxy), and that some children fail to thrive and even suffer socially, intellectually, and even spiritually in these institutions, and that this can contribute to children “going off the derech” (becoming alienated and non-observant), a trend that yeshiva education doesn’t seem able to fully stem, and in some instances, may accelerate. Consider too that yeshivas and day schools can cost significantly more than $10,000 per child per year, a very daunting figure for even relatively small Orthodox families, which are still significantly larger than the average American family. Given all these factors, and considering homeschooling’s deep roots in Jewish tradition prior to the industrial revolution, it would seem like a natural fit for significant parts of the Orthodox Jewish community.

Avivah and Rabbi Osher Werner started homeschooling after they returned to America from living in Israel, and their 7 year old son was unhappy in his new school. Initially, they intended to pull him out just for a few months, hoping that he would re-adjust, and then they could send him back to school. When they saw his behavioral issues rapidly resolve, and how happy he became, they read more about homeschooling, connected with other homeschooling parents, and decided to pull their other children out too. They have now educated all of their 9 children, who range from a one year old to an eleventh grader, at home.

In the Werner household, learning is both a collaborative and independent activity. The older children often teach the younger children, and this has fostered unusually strong sibling relationships. Though Mrs. Werner still teaches them as well, she has fostered a sense of self-confidence and independence in her children. She uses largely self-teaching texts, and when they come to her with a question, she’ll first ask, “Did you read it properly? Did you think about it? Go and check your work before you hand it to me.”

“This is how adults learn,” says Mrs. Werner. “And parents don’t have to know everything! There are so many resources that you’ll find that can help you -and you‘ll teach them how to find the answers themselves too. I love that quote from W.B. Yeats, ‘Education is not filling a bucket, but lighting a fire.’ Education isn’t a jam factory where you fill ‘em up and cap ‘em off. I believe that God created the world, and created our capacity to learn, and that learning is supposed to be fun.”

Rabbi Werner, who works full-time and has a long daily commute, says that learning with and teaching his children has been transformative. He said, “I grow through giving to my children. Rabbi Chaim Shmuelevitz said, ‘everything for the other,’ you should always be learning so that you can share it with someone else.” He made a conscious choice to make his children his chevrusas (learning partners) instead of one of his own peers, given his busy work schedule and limited time for Torah study, because they were more important, and because he could give them far more than he could a peer. “My 16 year old and 10 year old learn with each other too,” he said. Both Rabbi and Mrs. Werner come from very serious Orthodox backgrounds and find it a little ironic that they’re considered mavericks of a sort. Rabbi Werner cited many Torah sources that not only endorse homeschooling, but identify the parent teaching a child as the preferred and obligatory option, and delegating that responsibility to others as a second-tier choice.

Rabbi Menachem Goldberger, of the Tiffereth Israel synagogue in Baltimore, spoke at last year’s homeschooling conference on educating a child according to his way: an ancient Torah injunction. Twenty years ago when people began approaching him about homeschooling. Rabbi Goldberger had been hesitant to support it because he wasn’t familiar with it, but now he says he can point to so many successful, bright, well-mannered homeschooled kids, that he has great confidence that for many families homeschooling may be a valuable and viable option. He spoke of children who have gone on to solid yeshivot and seminaries, and who have married well, things that some of the novice homeschooling parents who attended the conference were worried about. He cautioned however against parents putting their own agenda before the needs of a child, and said that sometimes, school can indeed be the best place for a particular child, and felt that a child struggling in school may require professional assessment. He says though that, “A child who is in school for 8 or 10 or 12 hours a day will not necessarily be better prepared or capable of extended Torah learning than a homeschooled child -he may even have a bit more resentment.”

Ahuvah Feldman, another Baltimore-based homeschooling veteran, spoke at last summer’s seminar on different methods of homeschooling. Some parents buy pre-packaged curricula: both secular and religious, while others customize the curricula from different materials and through taking field trips. Still other parents focus on presenting material based around their childrens’ specific interests, and yet others take an “unschooling” approach which, on the premise that children are naturally self-driven learners, allows their children to follow their own interests with guidance, support, and some teaching from their parents or other adults. Some parents hire tutors for their kids, while other parents band together to create learning groups, and others choose to teach their children everything –most parents find that at different times different approaches work better, and flexibility is important. Different states have different requirements that homeschooled students must meet, and often parents keep a portfolio and record of the learning their children do.

Yehudis Eagle has homeschooled all 11 of her children. Her oldest daughter, Toby, who tragically died in a car accident in 2007 at the age of 20, was something of a poster child for homeschooling. “She exemplified what it means to learn from every person in the world,” says Mrs. Eagle. Toby had wanted to do cancer research, an interest sparked by a homeschooling trip to a workshop on bioluminescence at the Columbus Center in Baltimore, a short-lived science museum. After being in a particularly intensive religious high school (she chose to go to high school after being homeschooled) and attending a seminary for one year afterwards, she went to Towson University, and taught herself high school math and science while taking her first year college courses, and landed an internship at Johns Hopkins University in the oncology laboratories. Toby was a very social girl, who from a young age was always starting learning groups amongst her friends.

All of the Eagle’s older children have chosen of their own accord to go away for high school. The Eagles are a Chabad family, and as the Chabad community in Baltimore is very small, the children have felt that they wanted to meet other Chabad kids. When her children did go to high school, there was perhaps an extra degree of skepticism about admitting them, she says, but they all were accepted to where they wanted to go, and they have all done well in their studies. This comports with the experience of secular and Christian homeschoolers: they’re often not just accepted to, but are sought out by many of the nation’s best universities. High school transcripts and even standardized tests are not always requirements, although homeschooled students test as a whole, significantly stronger on standardized tests than do conventionally schooled students. However, since on many tests, conventional schoolers are compelled to take them while homeschoolers aren’t, there is a self-selection factor that makes real comparison difficult. Nevertheless homeschooling is no barrier to higher education.

The Eagles, who both grew up secular, and became religious through Chabad started homeschooling from prior conviction rather than pragmatism. Mrs. Eagle had first heard of homeschooling in the late eighties, but didn’t implement it until her oldest son was in the second grade. Mrs. Eagle, although she only learned Torah at a seminary in Israel for a year, felt no inadequacy or fear when it came to teaching her children religious studies. “There was so much that was available in English,” she says. Furthermore, she continued, there were always so many living resources in the community.

Perhaps the most common misperception of homeschooling is that children don’t become adequately socialized or have enough chance to socialize. The two terms are often confused, explained Nechama Cox, a long-time homeschooling parent, who spoke last summer on the “The Myth of Socialization.” She explained that the kind of socialization (social conditioning) that children often experience in school comes from the least appropriate people, their peers, and consists in significant part of bullying, teasing, peer pressure, learning to be chutzpahdik (being disrespectful to teachers), getting caught up in fads and trends, the constant comparison and competition with other students, being subject to incessant Skinnerian reward and punishment in the form of the withholding or giving of gold stars, grades, praise, and even candy and toys (all of which Alfie Kohn persuasively argues in his book “Punished by Rewards” actually inhibits both learning and the love of learning), being artificially limited to being only around the same children of the same age every day in youth ghettoes, while being forced to sit still in confining chairs being stultified, and with only the most minimal of exercise and play allowed, and most of their creative energies stifled, is the exactly kind of socialization that children don’t need.

The children of the Coxes, Eagles, Werners and other homeschooling families demolish the perception that homeschooled children aren’t social or socially adept, though certainly as with schooled children, there’s a natural range of personalities, some of which are shyer than others. In addition to being involved in homeschooling groups, learning groups, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and Junior Rangers, they have friends at synagogue, have (according to their parents) extraordinary sibling relationships, and participate in organized sports, dance, art, and martial arts classes. In fact, they and a great many homeschooled children of all backgrounds often seem far more poised with people from a range of ages than do schooled children, who spend most of their time with children of the same age. Their socialization (as opposed to their socializing) comes from normal non-compulsory human interaction, and primarily from their parents, their best models.

“Homeschooled children almost always seem to have an exceptional depth and richness to their souls that clearly comes out of the experience,“ said Rabbi Cary Friedman, who came from Passaic, NJ to attend last summer’s conference. He and his wife had homeschooled their own children for just one year when they were living in North Carolina, and the nearest day school was too far away to be convenient. The following year, when they moved to a mainstream Orthodox community, they put their children back in school, where they all did very well. Their homeschooling experience was “Phenomenal,” Friedman says, and coming to the conference stimulated his feeling of regret that they didn’t continue to homeschool their children, despite their having been successful in yeshivas. He was struck at the conference by, “the heroism, determination, and devotion” of the homeschooling parents.

Yaakov and Julie Bass, who pulled their 12 and 13 years old daughters from school last year, came to the conference from Oak Park, Michigan. Only one other family in Oak Park homeschooled, and Mrs. Bass spent a lot of time with them, asking questions and observing how they did it. Mrs. Bass says, “The year was amazing. Our relationship just blossomed. Before, I only got to see them at very hectic, stressed times like when they were heading off to school, but now we had the chance to have so many great talks, and do things together in a more relaxed way.”

Although saving money wasn’t their motivation, (and it isn’t the prime motivation for most homeschooling families) the Basses spent far less on the two girls than they would have had they been in school. Mrs. Bass bartered for a couple of tutors, and they paid for one other, having tutors for 7 hours a week. They spent less than $3500 cumulatively for both girls. This in fact was significantly more than many families spend. Yaakov Bass had initially been cool to homeschooling, Mrs. Bass says, but he gradually became warmer to it, and the conference really got him excited about it, for there he realized that it wasn’t a make-do kind of option, but a superior one. The Basses were both taken with the Baltimore community and particularly with Rabbi Goldberger, and are now contemplating moving there. Mrs. Bass said that of course they would keep on doing it in Oak Park, but having an accepting, open community like Baltimore with other homeschoolers nearby would make a big difference.

To some degree, most homeschooling parents, and perhaps especially Orthodox homeschooling parents face a world that looks warily and even disdainfully at the decision to homeschool. The parents who make this choice must be confident and know why they’re doing it and be unapologetic for it if they are to be happy and successful. The parents featured here are proud, outspoken advocates, and because of their confidence, have suffered little or no negative communal feedback, and are in fact often admired. On the other hand, without confidence and the willingness to be different, criticism can be incessant, and can put a real strain on family life. One New York man who didn’t want his name used, felt that the barrage of criticism he and his wife experienced for their decision to homeschool their son, ultimately caused the marriage to fall apart. Rabbi Goldberger says in this context, “We have become a very conformist society. Within the avenues of Torah there are very many ways to be a frum yid . . . the strength of our community will come when we have different ways to be frum yidden within the framework of Torah.”

Rabbi Simcha Feuerman, a social worker (LCSW-R) with a family counseling practice and a newspaper column co-written with his wife Chaya in the Jewish Press, and who will be speaking at this year’s conference, says, “There are many significant barriers to homeschooling in the Orthodox community, not the least of which are the need for a dual focus on secular and religious studies which can seem daunting, and the emphasis on conformity and the stigma that going against the crowd can create.” That said, he continues, “I believe that the time is coming when a critical mass of Orthodox Jews, whose children need creative and flexible learning either due to being gifted or challenged or both, will embrace homeschooling as an alternative to day schools and yeshivot which are simply untenable financially for so many, causing an inordinate amount of stress on parents and thus marriages, and which also can‘t meet the needs of every type of child. Consider this: if yeshiva tuition averages $12,000 a year, and a family has six kids, then poverty level is $150,000 a year before taxes.” Feuerman’s estimation of costs is in fact relatively low: many New York area Jewish day schools can cost in the range of $20,000 to $30,000 a year per child.

Feuerman believes that with the advent of better internet educational and communication technology, schooling at home will become much easier as well, and broader acceptance will follow. He says that he is familiar with a family who pulled their children who weren’t thriving in yeshiva out of it saying, “We’re paying so much, and getting so little,” and over the course of just one year the children did three years worth of high school online and got accepted to college early. They also had plenty of time to be tutored in Jewish subjects, faring even better than many of their peers who remained in school. However, even with the success this family experienced with their children, Feuerman says that the parents are still concerned about how it will be perceived in the community, and have kept it fairly secret except amongst close friends, as they are worried it may yet still affect their children’s chances in the arms race that is the Orthodox shidduch (matchmaking) scene.”

Marvin Schick, an advisor to the Avi Chai Foundation which takes a large interest in Jewish day school education says about homeschooling, “I can understand why parents with limited income who face high tuition bills might pursue that route, but even with the tuition crisis, I doubt that many parents will opt for homeschooling. For one thing, Orthodox families partake of the general societal trend in which both parents work. This alone makes homeschooling difficult.” Asked whether he felt that Avi Chai may take a position on home schooling or even provide support for home schooling families, he replied that Avi Chai is not presently involved in home schooling and that he is certain it will not provide support for home schooling. Nevertheless he does also acknowledge, “ . . . the inability of our schools to accommodate boys who are not good learners or students who are just a bit off the beaten track.”

As Mr. Schick observed, more and more, in Orthodox families, both parents do work outside the home, but this only provokes the question as to whether this is a good thing, or is something pragmatic and significantly less-than-ideal. Obviously, such high tuitions and large families (in tandem with the additional Orthodox obligations of paying for vast amounts of food for many holidays and the concomitant loss of wages) can’t normally be sustained by a less-than-unusually substantial income, and this forces many families to sustain dual careers and incomes, and certainly, if one parent could stay home and teach the children, tens to hundreds of thousands of extra dollars in income wouldn’t be necessary. Tuition is in fact, the most dispensable element of Orthodox financial obligations.

Having both parents working and farming the children out for care and education amidst masses of other children, even in infancy, to strangers is an unprecedented social experiment, both in the secular and the religious worlds, going back only a couple of decades, and even if we put questions of the wisdom of k-12 education aside (which is also an entirely modern, secular phenomena, barely more than a century old), there are studies showing detrimental short and long-term psychological, behavioral and physiological effects of putting infants and young children in daycare, contrasting them with children whose parents put them into school at closer to kindergarten or first grade age. The writer Mary Eberstadt analyzed this research data on daycare brilliantly in her invaluable book, “Home Alone America: Why Today’s Kids are Overmedicated, Overweight, and More Troubled Than Ever.” Many Orthodox mothers now return to work only a few months after childbirth, just like their secular counterparts, at least partly, if not primarily, because of the perceived need to save for yeshiva tuition. There is great irony in two-parent working homes having been pioneered by secular families, and that so many of the Orthodox have so blithely jumped into the same untested torrent, almost uncommented upon. (Indeed, to criticize daycare is to invite vituperation and self-justification. Certainly sometimes daycare may be a real necessity, but its current status as the default choice for so many people, is hard to justify.) Secular families who most often send their kids to free public schools, are paradoxically freer to return to a more traditional (and healthier) model of parenting and education (even though it is a more costly option for them) by one parent remaining at home than are Orthodox families, who have been socially conditioned over the past fifty years to pay huge ever-increasing sums to send their children to school, summer camp, and day care from earlier and earlier ages.

Arguably, Orthodox families should be more prepared to homeschool than the secular, not only because it is the traditional time-honored approach, but also because whereas for most people deciding to homeschool means directly increasing the cost of education, for the Orthodox, it can only mean reducing it. Furthermore, the rising awareness of the epidemic of child abuse in Orthodox communities, the reluctance of the Orthodox establishment to deal with it by reporting it to the proper secular authorities, along with the long record of protecting abusers rather than victims, and the concomitant awareness that just because someone is religious or a Rabbi, doesn’t mean that he can be trusted with one’s children should also be a factor in more Orthodox parents choosing to homeschool, for the line between delegation and dereliction of parental responsibility is a fine one, and letting strangers take care of your kids for most of their waking hours seems more likely to be the latter.

Many children are unhappy and fail to thrive in school, and while it may not be appropriate for every child, and not every parent can or should take on the responsibility of homeschooling, more parents are more capable than they think they are, and many more children can thrive this way they than might be thought, and increasingly parents from all walks of life are taking their children out of school, educating them at home and, on the whole, both children and parents are finding it a very gratifying experience which fosters a greater love of learning, better midot (good character traits) and greater maturity, and closer and warmer family bonds. Orthodox Jews, while cumulatively behind the curve of the trend, are taking notice and doing the same.

To register for the Second Annual Torah Homeschooling Conference: http://jewishhomeschooling.wordpress.com/ and contact either Alisa- 410-963-2977; or Sara – srayvy@yahoo (dot) com. Registration is $50 per person, $90 per couple.

Comments

101 Responses to “Torah Homeschooling”

  1. Bob Miller
    May 25th, 2010 @ 10:24 am

    1. Are resources available to help the parents objectively evaluate their home-schooled child’s progress and level in each subject area? I assume that many or most of these children would someday need higher-level education outside the home, so the parents would need to know if the children have learned what it takes to excel later.

    2. Home schooling can be promoted on its own merits without making general negative comments about Jewish schools and Jewish day care. Every family situation and child is unique, so one solution does not fit all. For example, both parents may be working out of economic necessity unrelated to tuition, or the necessary support structure for home-schooling (tutors…) may be unavailable locally. So I’d feel better if home-schooling advocates did not seem to be on some “crusade”.

  2. Neil Harris
    May 25th, 2010 @ 2:09 pm

    Very interesting and well written. Thanks.

  3. Judy Resnick
    May 25th, 2010 @ 4:01 pm

    It’s important after homeschooling to make some kind of re-entry into the real world of credentials and diplomas. I noted that most of the kids mentioned in the posting did wind up at some kind of seminary, college and/or university.

    I read about a boy (not Jewish) who was homeschooled by his parents (they lived in a remote community) and ended up going to Harvard College and Harvard Medical School. Obviously not everyone will wind up like that. As the article points out, in some locations homeschooled children have to complete regular statewide examinations in the grade appropriate curriculum just like children attending school. So there are benchmarks which colleges and universities can use for admissions criteria as well as the ubiquitous SAT.

    The article also mentioned unschooled children. Girls especially might find unschooling detrimental. What exactly can an uneducated woman hope for in her future – life as a waitress? Without those precious pieces of paper showing completion of an education, females have little chance of making a decent wage. (Males seem to be able to get jobs in the fields of commercial driving and construction even without diplomas and certificates).

    With the rising levels of school violence and bullying, some parents find that their children are literally forced out of school: they are too scared to go back out of fear of a beating or worse.

    Of course, homeschooling usually requires a parent at home, unless a group of parents start some kind of ad hoc homeschool so that working parents can be part of the group. A divorce or marital separation could also wreak especial havoc on homeschooled children. Sometimes kids of divorce or separation find that the only normal thing in their lives is leaving the stress-filled house and continuing to attend school every day. If parents are screaming at each other then there is no atmosphere conducive to learning. It could also be difficult to learn if there are young babies crying and very little physical space, such as a noisy crowded apartment. Everything at home has to align for there to be the right conditions for home learning. For some poor families, school is the place where children go to get their only filling hot meal of the day during subsidized lunch. As admitted above, homeschooling is not for everyone.

  4. Elisheva
    May 25th, 2010 @ 10:04 pm

    “The article also mentioned unschooled children. Girls especially might find unschooling detrimental. What exactly can an uneducated woman hope for in her future – life as a waitress?”

    Unschooling does NOT equal uneducated. Although unschooling differs from family to family, many regard it as child-led learning rather than curriculum-led learning. Unschooling families generally don’t sit doing school work. Rather, the parents act as learning coaches to support the child’s interests. You may find it surprising that many kids learn all they need to know this way – they take less time to learn it, in general, because they are motivated as it is their choice.

  5. Evelyn
    May 25th, 2010 @ 10:17 pm

    Yes, homeschoolers can get a diploma or a GED, if needed. They can take the SAT, as well. These kids are not doomed to a dead-end job. They do extremely well, and selective colleges are admitting them, too.

  6. Ellen Zagorsky Goldberg
    May 26th, 2010 @ 6:08 am

    What a well-written article! You covered a lot of ground,and did it well. Thank you for the time and effort you put in. –Ellen (10th year of homeschooling. Mama to four great girls)

  7. Martin Fleischer
    May 26th, 2010 @ 8:26 am

    My youngest is homeschooled…actually, it’s distance learning with Penn Foster HS…she was in Yeshiva for a bit over a year, but for reasons I won’t divulge here, she didn’t want to be there anymore..and I didn’t (and she really didn’t) want to go to the Public High School…so I investigated options (some of which I knew about with some friends who were homeschooled for a while) and when I discovered PF, I asked QCC (where my daughter will go this Fall) if they will take a Diploma from PF, and they said yes, so we went with them. If she had remained in the Yeshiva, she would have had to finish up this year in PS (or study for the GED) because the Yeshiva closed before this year started. Sometimes you can get bored, though, if you do the Homeschool routine this way.

    Marty

  8. Elana Horwitz
    May 26th, 2010 @ 9:51 am

    In my case, and I beleieve in many cases, it’s not the lack of a good religious or secular education in Jewish schools that is the issue, but the lack of teaching the child as an individual – the abesence of practicality in addressing the specific learning needs of each precious student.

  9. Albany Jew
    May 26th, 2010 @ 10:23 am

    I agree with Bob Miller in that “one size does not fit all.” Some children will thrive in one environment and others will do well in another. Very few parents have the flexibility to do both so they have to make a choice. I would like to see an article that is a true balance of pros and cons more than an advocacy piece.

    Also I believe that there is some psychological value in the home and school being physically separate. We all have different mindsets when we are in different places (think of work vs.home) and they conform with our different roles. I think it is harder for children to jump in and out of those roles (of course you don’t have to homeschool in the actual home.)

  10. Bob Miller
    May 26th, 2010 @ 11:26 am

    We ourselves considered home schooling at one point for one child, but the local yeshiva put together a flexible program, including some in-school tutoring, that met the need better. The willingness of a local yeshiva to go the extra mile will vary.

  11. Yael Aldrich
    May 26th, 2010 @ 9:49 pm

    “Also I believe that there is some psychological value in the home and school being physically separate. We all have different mindsets when we are in different places (think of work vs.home) and they conform with our different roles. I think it is harder for children to jump in and out of those roles (of course you don’t have to homeschool in the actual home.)”

    This could be true if one thinks of school and home needing to be very separate entities. Many parents who homeschool feel no (or little) need to separate the two. I do not feel my children have to change roles as we weave in and out of the “school day” and I am pretty structured in my version of homeschooling.

    Bob, in our state there are no testing requirements, but a family can find multiple ways to evaluate their children (in secular studies) if they choose. We had our oldest test with a local private school and he scors were equivalent to (at the least) a 5th grader (he is in “3rd” grade) and in some subjects post-high school. As far as Jewish subjects, we have asked some rabbis and teachers informally test our children and they are more than keeping up. Now, all this testing is predicated on the notion that I am comparing my children to commercially schooled children. Please see my first sentence to see how many homeschooling families are not looking to compare conventionally schooled children to homeschooled children at all.

    PS My homeschooling family has the flexibility to be at grade level or above on 3.5-4 days of “school” a week that usually ends by 2:30pm.

  12. Orthonomics
    May 27th, 2010 @ 12:40 am

    I have enjoyed Mr. Marvin Schick’s articles on day schools and financial issues for many years now, often finding myself nodding in agreement. I find it sad that he is on record essentially dismissing the possibility of supporting homeschoolers, or other opportunities that might open up such as group schooling or hybrid schooling.

    I know a handful of children from religious families who are enrolled in public school and I do believe that number is growing. While many believe that Shomer Shabbat parents will do anything to keep their children in a yeshiva/day school, I do believe we will see more families leaving the confines of the day school. I already have one friend who has enrolled her children in public elementary for the coming year. I think leadership should take some time to think about the alternatives that a family has beyond day school. I’d like to see some support at a higher level for homeschooling. The other currently available alternative is public school. Just something to think about.

  13. Martin Fleischer
    May 27th, 2010 @ 7:57 am

    I forgot to mention that my youngest daughter had been in a Public School environment (as was my oldest) from K-8, and my oldest continued to Public HS, but we wanted to try the Yeshiva route back in ’06 for my youngest..it worked until she wanted to leave it in Oct 07, again for reasons I won’t get into here.

    Marty

  14. Bob Miller
    May 27th, 2010 @ 8:27 am

    Yael Aldrich said above, “Now, all this testing is predicated on the notion that I am comparing my children to commercially schooled children.”

    My point was that the home-schooled child will normally need to be capable of meeting the entry standards of higher level Jewish educational institutions later on. Therefore, parents will need to establish that fact.

    Yael, are you contending that home-schooled children will never need to enter what you call “commercial” schools?

  15. Albany Jew
    May 27th, 2010 @ 10:06 am

    “This could be true if one thinks of school and home needing to be very separate entities. Many parents who homeschool feel no (or little) need to separate the two. I do not feel my children have to change roles as we weave in and out of the “school day” and I am pretty structured in my version of homeschooling.”

    I’m going back to my original point. It is not based on whether the parent feels that his children have to change roles or not, I’m just saying that one size does not fit all, and while some children might do well in the home school situation, others might benefit from a change in scenery (as well as get a break from the other 17 hours he spends with his or her siblings of various ages)

  16. Yael Aldrich
    May 27th, 2010 @ 10:37 am

    Bob,

    There are some homeschoolers who do eschew the “commerical/conventional” school world. As there are many more Christian and non-Jewish homeschoolers, I can tell you there is a strain of homeschoolers who encourage their children to self-sufficiency/entrepreneurship and teach or apprentice them to a trade. The Duggar family might be the best known example of this philosophy. Obviously if one wants to a doctor/nurse, then a conventional school is a must, but there are online colleges and there is at least one book that explains how to complete higher (secular) education in a homeschooled manner. It might not hurt our community to learn from them!

    However if you wish to speak to the necessity of Jewish children having to attend a yeshiva/seminary/mesivta, there are frum parents who do not feel their children have to do so and can continue the one-on-one/chevrusa learning the child has been doing until that point. Other homeschooling parents feel that when a child is older and more mature then the negatives (middos, competition, tests, bullying) of conventional schooling are fewer and then may send them to conventional schools. Each family does what is right for their children.

    Wanna see some frum homeschoolers in action? Invite us for a Shabbos meal the next time we are in town (you can ask the Homnicks for our phone number). :)

  17. Yael Aldrich
    May 27th, 2010 @ 10:51 am

    Albany Jew,

    Of course, one size does not fit all, but the overwhelming majority of families, Jewish or not, do not see this as an option at all. If your philosophy truly holds, then there would be a significant number (not one or two families in a small town and a handful in our largest communities) who homeschool for positive reasons, not just because the kid was kicked out or can’t thrive because the school doesn’t have appropriate resources or is being bullied.

    PS do you really think we stay at home all day? The reason I compact our school week is to spend several mornings or afternoons at private sports lessons, group sport lessons, music lessons, art lessons, free play time for our preschooler, homeschool bowling and outings, museum visits… Need I go on? ;)

  18. Bob Miller
    May 27th, 2010 @ 12:00 pm

    Yael,

    I’m not skeptical at all about what home-schooled kids can achieve under the right circumstances. However, this is not within the reach of all families.

    Also, I object to people characterizing the school world as a jungle. Every place is different.

  19. Judy Resnick
    May 27th, 2010 @ 3:04 pm

    Charter schools might possibly be a viable option for Orthodox Jewish families, if we could only get together the financing and the determination to start them. To avoid the church-state problem, a charter school could be established with an all-Ivrit curriculum, open to all who wish to apply for admission, not teaching religion but teaching all of the secular studies to take that financial burden off the Yeshivos and the parents.

    I don’t believe that unschooled equals uneducated, I just believe that women who don’t have those precious pieces of paper are going to suffer later on in life. There are some very smart women out there, but without credentials it’s difficult to obtain secure employment, unless a woman decides to work for herself.

    I think that many parents of homeschooled and unschooled children do take into consideration the “re-entry” of their children into the world of diplomas and credentials. I mentioned in my earlier comment that there was a young man (non-Jewish) who was homeschooled who later attended Harvard College and Harvard Medical School. Several other commenters have mentioned their homeschooled and unschooled children gaining admission to seminary, college and university.

  20. Yael Aldrich
    May 27th, 2010 @ 5:06 pm

    Bob and Judy,

    I hear you that not every family can or will take on homeschooling, but that homeschooling is POSSIBLE is something every family should hear, in my humble opinion. People (not you) seem to get their knickers twisted when homeschooling is brought up (even if they are the ones doing so!) as if we are bringing judgement on the rest of the world! We aren’t — if only for the fact that there are days I would put my kids on the school bus, ANY school bus!

    The OU just had a conference about using K12, an online school (with public school and private school options), in day schools as the secular education. According to them, it could save 20-30% for parents. There are a couple of schools nationally looking into this program.

    Neither the article nor any commentator used the language of jungles about schools.

  21. Mordechai Milotay
    May 27th, 2010 @ 5:26 pm

    Reb Miller,

    In response to your comment “So I’d feel better if home-schooling advocates did not seem to be on some “crusade”.” The only reason that home schooling is in a crusade mode right now, is that in many jurisdictions it is still having to fight for recognition as a valid form of education. My family is lucky to live in a province in Canada that is very supportive of home schooling with both money and support from the Ministry of Education, as well as the opportunities for my children to access courses online. They can learn at their own pace both for core subjects, as well as having access to a range of courses from Mandarin to Equine Studies. The reality is that most children can learn the basics they would learn in school, in about 100 hours. Instead we make them spend many times this, while a teacher tries desperately to manage thirty kids and get a little bit of information into them. I truly believe that for those who are willing to make the commitment, that home schooling is the best way to educate our children.

  22. Eric Ackland
    May 27th, 2010 @ 6:32 pm

    Hi Folks,

    Thank you for all the thoughtful feedback and support.

    My reason for writing the article was neither to denigrate yeshivot and dayschools nor to upset their boosters, but to let people know that there are viable and richly rewarding alternatives that can work well for many (but not all) families.

    That said, many families (religious and otherwise) only come to homeschooling because of their great frustration with the way the dominant conventional system works (or rather, doesn’t work) for them and their children, rather than through an a-priori idealistic conviction that homeschooling is superior, and so the larger context for motivation towards homeschooling needed to be explained. Further, although beyondbt is a site for religious people, I crafted the article with a broader general audience in mind (and still hope that it may find that audience) and this is another reason the context was required.

    To pretend that there are no problems with mass education would be absurd, and moreover some of the deficits of ‘normal’ education are invisible to many people because ‘that’s just how things are done and have ‘always’ been done.’ So by outlining and highlighting some of those issues, the idea was to get people to take a fresh look at things they may never have really seen or thought about critically before.

    Further, I’ve also found that many people have preconceived, very fixed ideas about what homeschooling is and what it entails, and yet when one really examines the reality of how it is practiced, and meets the people who practice it with an open mind, they find that it is very different than what they’d previously imagined. I had hoped the article portrayed a revealing glimpse of the reality of homeschooling, but encountering homeschooling families in real life is an essential and ultimately irreplicable experience.

    I really urge those of you who are intrigued by homeschooling and who wish to learn more about it to: a.) ask questions of the homeschooling parents who have posted here -I’m certain they have a wealth of experience and knowledge that they’d love to share with you; and b.) to research the subjects of homeschooling and unschooling more -both online, at the library, or in your favorite bookstore; and c.) to attend the conference in Baltimore two weeks from now.

    It would also be fantastic if more of the homeschooling parents could share more of their stories about their experiences and explain how their families have benefited from homeschooling (or how homeschooling didn’t work for them.)

    Best Wishes,

    Eric

  23. Judy Resnick
    May 27th, 2010 @ 9:59 pm

    This thread has been a fantastic experience, and truly a great example of what the blog Beyond BT is seeking to accomplish. Both the article and the comments were immensely informative. For BT parents desperately seeking guidance on this important topic, there was plenty to chew on. That’s what an online community should be all about: not mudslinging or ad hominem attacks, but a sharing of vitally needed information on critically important subjects. Yaasher Kochachem to Eric, Yael, Bob and all of the others who joined in this discussion.

  24. Shoshana Z.
    May 27th, 2010 @ 10:08 pm

    Dear Eric,

    Let me give an insider’s response to the piece. I sat down and read a print-out of your article while I was eating breakfast a couple of days ago. As I slowly made my way through your well-written and laid-out piece I felt a knowing smile spread across my face. You gave me such a gift with this article. I just said to myself, “Wow! Someone who gets it!” It was a jam-packed piece that covers a lot of ground. That can be very daunting for readers who are unfamiliar or hostile to the subject of Jewish homeschooling. The ignorance and fear that is elicited by this topic is especially noticeable in some of the comments you received on this blog. But to me, a veteran home-schooler of seven years whose kids never stepped foot into a school, it had a ring of truth and authenticity that was a true pleasure. You articulated truths about the learning and camaraderie that goes on in my home that I often can’t explain myself. When I finished reading, I felt very proud and fortunate to part of the homeschooling movement. My husband and I are pedagogically and idealistically married to the idea of educating our own children and being their primary role models. I think we would have chosen homeschooling even if we had not become Torah observant Jews. That being said, I applaud every parent for making whatever they feel are the best educational choices for their children. There is room enough for all of us and the Jewish people are that much richer for our diverse experiences. I will print more copies of your article and keep them on hand for the many curious friends (and strangers!) in my community who want to know more about what we are doing and why. You explained it better than I am often able to myself. Thank you.

  25. Eric Ackland
    May 28th, 2010 @ 8:10 am

    Thanks so much Shoshana (comment 24), Ellen (6), and Judy (23)!

  26. Albany Jew
    May 28th, 2010 @ 11:59 am

    Anyone have any links to a totally unbiased study comparing outcomes of traditional schooling to home-schooling? Love to see it.

    Being in a small town, our day school has a typical class size of 7. This raises some problems (mixed genders in the same class) but it also gives a fantastic opportunity for small ratio attention to the individual students. I’m sure some home schools have bigger class sizes!:)

    That being said, if we lost some to home schooling, it would really hurt our school, so I do kind of have a horse in this race.

    Please don’t kill me, but I see an basic outlook difference between some who say “I looked at both and prefer home schooling” vs. “I would never let my child set foot in any school no matter what!” The latter is almost a religion in itself. Just my 2 cents.

  27. Eric Ackland
    May 28th, 2010 @ 12:51 pm

    Hi Albany Jew,

    I don’t know of “totally unbiased” studies, but you can read about the studies which have been done on the wikipedia entry for homeschooling which follows (and which have been criticized as well and there is a section on the wikipedia page that discusses the criticism:

    Test results
    Figure 2. Homeschool Students Compared to the National Norm Group in Grade Equivalent Units, Scholastic Achievement and Demographic Characteristics of Homeschool Students in 1998, Lawrence M. Rudner, University of Maryland, College Park. From Education Policy Analysis Archives
    Figure 1. Academic Achievement of Homeschool, Catholic/Private and the Nation’s Students, Scholastic Achievement and Demographic Characteristics of Homeschool Students in 1998, Lawrence M. Rudner, University of Maryland, College Park. From Education Policy Analysis Archives

    Numerous studies have found that homeschooled students on average outperform their peers on standardized tests.[92] Homeschooling Achievement, a study conducted by National Home Education Research Institute (NHERI), supported the academic integrity of homeschooling. Among the homeschooled students who took the tests, the average homeschooled student outperformed his public school peers by 30 to 37 percentile points across all subjects. The study also indicates that public school performance gaps between minorities and genders were virtually non-existent among the homeschooled students who took the tests.[93]

    New evidence has been found that homeschooled children are getting higher scores on the ACT and SAT tests. A study at Wheaton College in Illinois showed that the freshmen that were homeschooled for high school scored fifty-eight points higher on their SAT scores than those students who attended public or private schools. Most colleges look at the ACT and SAT scores of homeschooled children when considering them for acceptance to a college. On average, homeschooled children score eighty-one points higher than the national average on the SAT scores.[citation needed]
    [edit] Social research

    In the 1970s Raymond S. and Dorothy N. Moore conducted four federally funded analyses of more than 8,000 early childhood studies, from which they published their original findings in Better Late Than Early, 1975. This was followed by School Can Wait, a repackaging of these same findings designed specifically for educational professionals.[94] Their analysis concluded that, “where possible, children should be withheld from formal schooling until at least ages eight to ten.”

    Their reason was that children, “are not mature enough for formal school programs until their senses, coordination, neurological development and cognition are ready.” They concluded that the outcome of forcing children into formal schooling is a sequence of “1) uncertainty as the child leaves the family nest early for a less secure environment, 2) puzzlement at the new pressures and restrictions of the classroom, 3) frustration because unready learning tools – senses, cognition, brain hemispheres, coordination – cannot handle the regimentation of formal lessons and the pressures they bring, 4) hyperactivity growing out of nerves and jitter, from frustration, 5) failure which quite naturally flows from the four experiences above, and 6) delinquency which is failure’s twin and apparently for the same reason.”[95] According to the Moores, “early formal schooling is burning out our children. Teachers who attempt to cope with these youngsters also are burning out.”[95] Aside from academic performance, they think early formal schooling also destroys “positive sociability”, encourages peer dependence, and discourages self worth, optimism, respect for parents, and trust in peers. They believe this situation is particularly acute for boys because of their delay in maturity. The Moore’s cited a Smithsonian Report on the development of genius, indicating a requirement for “1) much time spent with warm, responsive parents and other adults, 2) very little time spent with peers, and 3) a great deal of free exploration under parental guidance.”[95] Their analysis suggested that children need “more of home and less of formal school” “more free exploration with… parents, and fewer limits of classroom and books,” and “more old fashioned chores – children working with parents – and less attention to rivalry sports and amusements.”[95]

    John Taylor later found, using the Piers-Harris Children’s Self-Concept Scale, “while half of the conventionally schooled children scored at or below the 50th percentile (in self-concept), only 10.3% of the home-schooling children did so.”[96] He further stated that “the self-concept of home-schooling children is significantly higher (and very much so statistically) than that of children attending the conventional school. This has implications in the areas of academic achievement and socialization, to mention only two. These areas have been found to parallel self-concept. Regarding socialization, Taylor’s results would mean that very few home-schooling children are socially deprived. He states that critics who speak out against homeschooling on the basis of social deprivation are actually addressing an area which favors homeschoolers.[96]

    In 2003, the National Home Education Research Institute conducted a survey of 7,300 U.S. adults who had been homeschooled (5,000 for more than seven years). Their findings included:

    * Homeschool graduates are active and involved in their communities. 71% participate in an ongoing community service activity, like coaching a sports team, volunteering at a school, or working with a church or neighborhood association, compared with 37% of U.S. adults of similar ages from a traditional education background.

    * Homeschool graduates are more involved in civic affairs and vote in much higher percentages than their peers. 76% of those surveyed between the ages of 18 and 24 voted within the last five years, compared with only 29% of the corresponding U.S. populace. The numbers are even greater in older age groups, with voting levels not falling below 95%, compared with a high of 53% for the corresponding U.S. populace.

    * 58.9% report that they are “very happy” with life, compared with 27.6% for the general U.S. population. 73.2% find life “exciting”, compared with 47.3%.[97]

  28. Shifra
    May 28th, 2010 @ 1:05 pm

    1. Homeschooling in its own right can be a productive choice for some families, but bashing the day school/yeshiva system in the process is the classic example of making one’s self feel better at the expense of another.

    2. I know of no day school or yeshiva that would require a family to pay $150,000 in tuition if it could not afford it. Of course, tuition is a very significant financial burden, but virtually every institution has a scholarship program to help parents, often significantly.

  29. Eric Ackland
    May 28th, 2010 @ 1:25 pm

    And Albany Jew, I’m glad you believe you’ve found a great place for your kids to thrive, but absolutely no one here has expressed any homicidal tendencies towards the other side, and neither I, nor any of the pro-homeschooling parents featured in the article or who have commented on this post has said anything remotely like,
    “I would never let my child set foot in any school no matter what!” Indeed some of those featured in the article did send their children back to school when their children expressed the desire to attend.

    Even the most idealistic and committed homeschooling parents simply want what is best for their children, and if they’ve tried everything their values endorsed, and still saw their children unhappy, flailing, or failing, and felt unable to help them, they get pragmatic and find something that does work, which may well be school. Homeschooling families are generally very attuned to their children’s needs -often that’s why they’re homeschooling in the first place, because they want the child to be fulfilled and happy, and they believe that the best way to do that is to let the child discover what he or she enjoys doing and wants to do. (Many homeschooling parents also come to homeschool not from prior conviction, but precisely because they saw and responded to their child’s unhappiness, and rather than insist on the child suffering and toughing it out, pulled them out, thus demonstrating a greater willingness and capacity than most schooling parents to do what will make their child happiest, even at great inconvenience to themselves. So of course, if the child changed his or her mind, they’d send him back to school.)

    What is, in fact, vastly more common, is an ultra-dogmatic “I would never/could never homeschool my children” mentality that many parents persist in maintaining despite their children flailing, failing, and/or being utterly miserable in school, and despite the multitude of glaring inadequacies found in many schools. I would argue that it is k-12 schooling itself that has become a false religion for so many, and far too often, most people uncritically offer their children and their financial resources up upon its glossed-up but groaning and ramshackle faltering altar.

  30. Michoel
    May 28th, 2010 @ 2:20 pm

    Eric,
    I am very impressed by homeschooling parents and in favor when appropriate. We would consider it for our kids and are not dogmatic either way.

    However, the study that you quote from is a very weak evidence unless we would see all the controls that the the study used. How many poor, inner city kids are homeschooled? Nearly zero. So to say that homeschooled kids have higher SATs etc is irrelevant. People should look at other families of similar religious, social and financial backgrounds and see how they are succeeding at homeschooling. Many are doing very well and that can be a valid basis for judgment. But national surveys quoting irrelevant statistics should not be brought in to confuse this important issue.

    Good Shabbos

  31. Michoel
    May 28th, 2010 @ 2:35 pm

    “What is, in fact, vastly more common, is an ultra-dogmatic “I would never/could never homeschool my children” mentality…”

    Eric,
    Respectfully, your article does come across as with an agenda. It is advocating a certain viewpoint over another and presenting opinions as facts. So it is anticipateable that some may object. I know the Werners very well. They are unusually special people who should not be held up as the anticipated norm. Also, they are hardy “from very serious Orthodox backgrounds”. I went to the very secular SUNY Binghamton with Osher Werner.

  32. Albany Jew
    May 28th, 2010 @ 2:48 pm

    Thanks for the info Eric Ackland, I think feelings are strong on both sides (look closer at some of the comments, you will see the, my kids have never stepped foot in a school quote.)

    Many parents, if not most (especially BTs, the theme of this blog) are simply not equipped to teach their children necessary torah subjects and therefore do not have this choice. Some think they are (as I have seen) but are not, and their children suffer. There are just so many variables here beyond the school environment not being a positive experience(which I know is true for some)

    Not that this is a deciding factor, but this site has talked about parents and other relatives thinking we are crazy for becoming frum, I can just see the reaction to taking the kids out of school (we might get involutarily committed!!!)

  33. Eric Ackland
    May 28th, 2010 @ 3:01 pm

    Hi Michoel,

    Thanks for your thoughts.

    I did acknowledge in the article itself regarding higher test scores for homeschoolers that, ” . . .since on many tests, conventional schoolers are compelled to take them while homeschoolers aren’t, there is a self-selection factor that makes real comparison difficult.”

    Second, I did say that I knew of no completely unbiased study, and I referred to the criticism of these studies and directed people to read about the criticism on wikipedia.

    And sure, I wrote the article to promote awareness of homeschooling as an option, but it wasn’t one-sided. I presented the views of various people with different degrees of support for homeschooling, and took care to mention that it isn’t the right choice for every family. And as I said before, the article didn’t “bash” schooling as Shifra said, but pointed out many of the deficits with the system that drive parents to homeschool their children, which is very relevant contextual information. People are not making the decision to homeschool in a void.

    Also certainly, just as with Orthodox Jews, most Christians, and most Americans for that matter, only a very small minority of black and other non-white, lower-income parents homeschool, but the number is definitely not near zero. Grace Llewelyn who wrote the absolutely outstanding, “Teenage Liberation Handbook” also wrote “Freedom Challenge: African American Homeschoolers” which features 20 different African-American families who have homeschooled their children. Also, although I am not endorsing the study, because I haven’t examined it, according to the wikipedia entry I quoted, “The study also indicates that public school performance gaps between minorities and genders were virtually non-existent among the homeschooled students who took the tests.”

    Good Shabbos.

  34. Eric Ackland
    May 28th, 2010 @ 3:18 pm

    Hi Albany Jew,

    Shoshana indeed wrote that her children have never set foot in a school, but this is a far cry from saying (as you alleged) that they “would never let my child set foot in any school, no matter what!”, which is a very different thing.

    I can’t speak for Shoshana, but in my experience, as I wrote above, most very ideologically committed homeschooling parents would send their child to school if the child really wanted to be there or if they came to see the child was not doing well outside of school. I am not fortunate enough to have a family yet, and I do hope to homeschool them, and do believe that it is the ideal, but I would certainly send them to school for either of those two reasons, and there could conceivably be other reasons why I would opt send them to school, even though I’d generally prefer not to do so.

    As I mention to Michoel, I did observe in the article that homeschooling isn’t for everyone. And yes, homeschooling can cause grandparents distress, just as can becoming Observant. When a mature adult knows what’s right for them, and right for their children, they do it regardless of what people think, and deal the best they can with the opposition.

    Peace.

  35. Bob Miller
    May 28th, 2010 @ 3:33 pm

    Just to throw everyone a curve:

    What do the Jewish spiritual leaders of our time and place have to say about the home schooling option?

    Being orthodox, we ought to find out.

    Some might expect them to be committed to the present system, but, if that’s so, wouldn’t that be one reason to work within and try to improve the present system?

  36. Yael Aldrich
    May 29th, 2010 @ 11:21 pm

    Bob,

    As I do not ask the Gedolei HaDor my halachic shailos, I also don’t ask them about homeschooling my children. I asked my rav though and as I said previously, he is mentioned in the article and has in fact homeschooled his children in the past.

    We can help the system while not putting our children in it (We donate a nice sum of maaser/tzedakah money every year to several schools to whom we have a connection). The “system” was created many years ago because children were not able to be educated (as the fathers who are obligated to teach their sons were dead). The system is not a lechatchila, but bideved. We (fathers specifically) give over the schools the parental responsibility to educate our children (sons).

  37. ross
    May 30th, 2010 @ 11:07 am

    No matter how outstanding a yeshiva is, the system is not ideal for educating a child. Grouping children just because they’re the same age? Chinuch “al pe darko” is such a struggle in the yeshiva setting where the rebbe, no matter how amazing he is, teaches to the middle of the class. It’s no one’s fault…just no one is capable of teaching 25 different lessons in one class. (No, Moshe R., this lesson is for Moshe M.)
    And although I still feel (it’s an emotion, mind you) that the social aspect of homeschooling is still an issue, on the other hand there is still a good deal of bullying in certain grades…if you are not up to standards (playing ball, being outgoing etc.), it could mean trouble.
    Still, it’ll be hard to change the world.

  38. Judy Resnick
    May 30th, 2010 @ 11:41 am

    “What school did you go to?” is a very common question in the frum world. A woman who went to Bais Rochel may differ in her outlook and worldview from another woman who attended Shulamith School for Girls. Certainly a Baalas Teshuvah who graduated from Midwood High School or a Giyoris who went to Saint Agnes is also going to be very different from a woman who attended Bais Rochel. Someone who has been homeschooled is going to face a certain amount of pre-judging when it comes to shidduchim and job interviews. Of course people who were homeschooled as children still wind up with good jobs and marriage partners. They are probably psychologically better off than those individuals who suffered bullying or labeling as miserable students in the classic school system.

  39. Skeptic
    May 30th, 2010 @ 2:05 pm

    Bob,

    Many of the gedolei hador were themselves home-schooled. Indeed, a surprisingly small number of major poskim of the last century actually attended yeshiva — many learned with private tutors or with their fathers. And they seemed to turn out okay.

  40. Bob Miller
    May 30th, 2010 @ 2:43 pm

    “The system is not a lechatchila, but bideved.”

    OK, but what are Gedolim (any Gedolim) saying about the pracical applicability of lechatchila in our time? Aren’t we curious at least?

  41. Orthonomics
    May 30th, 2010 @ 3:12 pm

    Someone who has been homeschooled is going to face a certain amount of pre-judging when it comes to shidduchim and job interviews.

    Let’s not be ridiculous! With the exception of job interviews within the frum world perhaps, has anyone sat in an interview where questions about were asked about high school? I just updated my resume. Anything high school related has been gone for at least a decade now. The only thing that has come up are hobbies I’ve been involved in since pre-high school.

    Bob-Regarding home education, you can see my recent post. I don’t believe that homeschooling receives the support of many Jewish Spiritual Leaders. It is a foreign concept for many educators and leaders currently. So was the founding of the Bais Yaakov network then again.

  42. Judy Resnick
    May 30th, 2010 @ 4:38 pm

    I wish it was ridiculous. I wish that people weren’t pre-judged on these factors.

    There was a classified ad in the newspaper that said, “No GED,” which shocked me because the GED is supposed to be equal to a high school diploma for all purposes.

    The well-known New York City prison named Riker’s Island runs a high school equivalency program named Island Academy. Now maybe in San Francisco or Juneau nobody knows it, but every NYC potential employer understands what an Island Academy diploma means.

    Because it is forbidden to ask someone’s birthdate, potential employers sometimes use date of high school graduation to calculate a candidate’s age (I graduated High School at 16 so that calculation makes me even older).

    It is possible that young people looking for summer jobs and internships before college study or during the post-high-school years might be asked to show a high school diploma as proof of age and education. Also, although frum people generally don’t enlist in the U.S. Army due to Shabbos and kashrut issues, I don’t know how the military here or in Eretz Yisroel views homeschooling. Probably once a homeschooled student has completed at least two years of college it’s no longer an issue.

    I did say in my comment above that many homeschooled children do manage as adults to get good jobs and marriage partners, despite any pre-judging by the intolerant.

  43. Yael Aldrich
    May 30th, 2010 @ 5:26 pm

    Please Google “homeschool graduation” and be amazed that homeschooled children do graduate! A family can give a spiffy sounding name to their school and make a transcript and even a diploma.

    That should not be a problem.

    Oh and to give at least one answer to Bob’s question: homeschooling is a parent’s choice for a child, not a blanket idea for the Jewish olam, so why would it need a blanket heter (I assume you think it would need a heter)?

  44. Bob Miller
    May 30th, 2010 @ 6:22 pm

    Some prestigious Gedolim, both Chassidic and Misnagdic, gave active support to the early Bais Yaakov movement. Who are their counterparts with respect to Jewish home schooling today? We ought to consider inviting them to contribute articles here.

  45. Belle
    May 30th, 2010 @ 8:31 pm

    Reading this article and thread has been fascinating and informative.

    I would have liked to have heard the perspective of adults who were themselves homeschooled. Whereas my guess would be that the majority will have positive things to say, I am wondering if there are pockets of people out there who feel they were somehow deprived, mistreated, or were the unwilling objects of their parents’ ideological and pedagogical fervor.

    Are there any studies which highlight their perspective?

  46. Shoshana Z.
    May 31st, 2010 @ 12:05 am

    “I am wondering if there are pockets of people out there who feel they were somehow deprived, mistreated, or were the unwilling objects of their parents’ ideological and pedagogical fervor.”

    Not to be too flip, but I wonder the same thing about kids who’ve been through the yeshiva system! ;) Funny how it sounds when the dominant paradigm is put through the same grinder as the alternative path.

  47. Avivah Werner
    May 31st, 2010 @ 1:57 am

    >>They are unusually special people who should not be held up as the anticipated norm.<>Also, they are hardy “from very serious Orthodox backgrounds”. I went to the very secular SUNY Binghamton with Osher Werner.<<

    I'm guessing that Eric was referring to 10 years of kollel following four years of yeshiva (post college), at yeshivos such as Lakewood and the Mir. :) I grew up frum and went a BY type high school, followed by two years of seminary post high school. (Clarifying lest anyone think Eric misrepresented facts.)

  48. Judy Resnick
    May 31st, 2010 @ 12:29 pm

    I’m wondering if Belle #45 is thinking about the famous California surfing family, profiled in a recent AARP Magazine article. The father of the family was a Stanford-educated doctor who turned his back on the conventional world. He and his third wife raised nine children in a small camper van near the beach. None of the nine children went to school; they were on a permanent summer vacation, surfing all day. Later on, some of the children resented that the lifestyle they’d been forced to lead left them unprepared for the real world (it was unschooling in the most extreme sense). The sole daughter of the nine children found the lack of any diploma or credentials to be a big problem when she reached adulthood.

    I would venture that most homeschooled and unschooled children are not kept isolated from the real world in this manner, but are very engaged in the world through frequent museum trips, travels to historical sites and other outings. Even frum families who send kids to yeshivos are also trying to find this balance between shielding kids from the worst of the world and allowing children to understand fully what’s out there so they can cope as adults.

  49. Eric Ackland
    May 31st, 2010 @ 4:14 pm

    Thank you Avivah.

  50. Belle
    May 31st, 2010 @ 4:45 pm

    Shoshana:

    I am SURE there are plenty of yeshiva kids who have felt mistreated! Read about them and weep. But that’s not my question–

    I am asking about the “objects” of the “experiment” just to get some perspective. It would only strengthen the resolve of those considering homeschooling if the perspective of the children is highly positive across cultures (ie religions) and ages. If it is mixed, then that would raise different considerations.

    From my point of view, even though all of my children went through the yeshiva system, it seems intuitively better to homeschool if one has the ability and proper home environment. It is a) the way the Torah contemplates chinuch, and b) gives loads of personal attention to one’s kids, which usually leads to all things positive.

    However, there are plenty of families in which fathers have to hire a chavrusah for their sons because the relationship, for whatever reason, turns negative when learning together. People aren’t perfect (ie parents can be critical, kids can be lazy), and relationships might be okay until they become full time, all day, every day, with the accompanying pressure to accomplish.

  51. Avivah Werner
    May 31st, 2010 @ 8:04 pm

    “They are unusually special people who should not be held up as the anticipated norm.”

    (I responded to this above but for some reason it didn’t appear.)

    It’s inaccurate to think that we’re unusual or special, and I can’t see this and let it pass as fact. We’re pretty average people – that’s not false modesty speaking, that’s accuracy! What is special is that we chose an alternative model of education for our children that has exceeded our hopes in terms of all the benefits.

    I believe every family who wants to home educate and is committed to it can and will see substantial benefits. Of course the end result looks different for everyone, but that’s true of every family regardless of where their children are educated.

  52. Avivah Werner
    May 31st, 2010 @ 8:16 pm

    “People aren’t perfect (ie parents can be critical, kids can be lazy), and relationships might be okay until they become full time, all day, every day, with the accompanying pressure to accomplish.”

    My experience has been that for most people, when they begin homeschooling the relationship between parents and children improves quickly and significantly, since they are spending more time together and school related pressures are removed. That being said, of course there can still be bumps in the relationship because that’s the nature of human interaction.

    Also, just because you’re home all day together doesn’t mean you’re interacting without stop! Parents and kids can be in the same home and still have their own space.

    As far as what kids think, my oldest three kids (teenagers) all think they’d like to homeschool their own children one day. Next year I’ve been thinking that I’d like to address this at the conference by having second generation home educated parents share their experience (ie they were homeschooled, and are now homeschooling their children).

  53. Shoshana Z.
    May 31st, 2010 @ 9:44 pm

    Belle-

    I really meant that with a smile and a wink. Over the years I have really cultivated a sense of humor and often sarcasm (!) in response to the pressure I often get about our choices. I have read and appreciated your thoughtful comments. My reply was really just to tweak those who are so “anti” homeschooling. It can be very effective to turn something completely on its head. I have to agree with Avivah that the parent-child relationship takes a major turn for the better when the outside pressures decrease and the amount of meaningful family contact increases. The learning we do is almost the icing on the cake. The main thing is the family that has been built by our homeschooling decision. It’s hard to explain how little effort it takes to learn/teach once the relationships are loving and secure.

  54. Martin Fleischer
    June 1st, 2010 @ 7:59 am

    I neglected to make 2 other points. I didn’t want my daughter in the PS at the point when we did the “independent study” option because of the potential for influences in the PS….I’m not saying she would have fallen prey, but after what she went through in her last year in middle school (which at the time was the same school as the high school), I didn’t want to chance her going back.

    My other point is that even though she was in the Yeshiva over a year, she did become more Frum! I also became, for lack of a better term, her “Rebbe” because I read to the girls every Shabbos somethng about the Parsha, Pirkei Avos (in season!), and other Dvar Torahs..and this has been done by me since they were very small!

    Marty

  55. Michoel
    June 1st, 2010 @ 8:31 am

    Eric,
    Do you live in Baltimore? We would like to have you come for Shabbos. Please get my email address from the Mark and Dave. thanks

  56. Abe
    June 1st, 2010 @ 11:31 am

    “What do the Jewish spiritual leaders of our time and place have to say about the home schooling option?”

    Bob, we the parents of our Jewish kids are the Jewish spiritual leaders of our time and place.

  57. Bob Miller
    June 1st, 2010 @ 2:00 pm

    Abe,

    Ever heard of rabbis? Why do you suppose we have them?

  58. Michoel
    June 1st, 2010 @ 5:14 pm

    Look, I don’t want to debate with Mrs. Werner in public about whether or not the Werners are unusual people are not. I know Osher. I think it is a valid point that others parents may not be as qualified to pull of off successful homeschooling. The where what and when (a Baltimore magazine) just published a great article by Mrs. Werner dealing with a lot of these same issues. I don’t think the online version has it yet, but it would be worthwhile to get the whole article re-posted here, if possible.

  59. Abe
    June 1st, 2010 @ 9:04 pm

    Bob,

    Ever heard of brains? Why do you suppose we have them?

  60. Shoshana Z.
    June 1st, 2010 @ 9:24 pm
  61. Bob Miller
    June 2nd, 2010 @ 9:48 am

    “Ever heard of brains? Why do you suppose we have them?”

    To study and apply Torah, not to think we’re the final authorities.

  62. Abe
    June 2nd, 2010 @ 10:25 am

    There is no siman on “chinuch” in Shulchan Aruch. There is no gadol, no spiritual leader, and no final authority on how to best mechanech your own children. With regard to raising and educating children, parents are the final authority. God gave us that authority. It comes with the responsibility of being a parent.

  63. Bob Miller
    June 2nd, 2010 @ 11:36 am

    Everyone has to be able to know when to delegate and when not. Everyone has to defer to or at least consult with the more learned when a matter is important enough.

  64. Abe
    June 2nd, 2010 @ 12:24 pm

    There’s a big difference between “defer to” and “consult with”. NO ONE has to defer to anyone when it comes to making choices in the best interest of their own children. I agree that consulting with many people, both learned and lay, is always good advice when dealing with important matters.

  65. Judy Resnick
    June 2nd, 2010 @ 1:26 pm

    It really helps to have a Rav who is not only a halachic authority but also a wise person with tons of common sense. Rav Avigdor Miller, zatzal, was consulted by many members of his Kehillah on issues of chinuch and child raising.

    The book Encounters With Greatness contains many stories of various people’s experiences with Rav Avigdor Miller, zatzal. One of the narratives in the book is about a young father whose oldest child, a three-year-old boy, was starting preschool at a major yeshiva. The parents were constantly getting phone calls from the school to take their son home. The child had serious behavior problems; he was hitting and biting the other children. The yeshiva kept telling the parents, “Send him for therapy, send him for special ed, get him tested, get him evaluated, etc.” These were inexperienced intimidated young parents, their first child in school, having to deal with the administration at a large established yeshiva. The mother was turning into a nervous wreck, always dreading the phone call to come pick up her child and take him home. Finally the frustrated mother and father went to Rav Avigdor Miller zatzal to ask him what to do. Rav Miller listened quietly to the parents, watched the boy playing with his younger siblings, and commented, “Seems like a nice boy.” (The child basically was normal; he had no physical or mental health issues). Rav Miller told the parents not to rush into special ed as the yeshiva had suggested, as that seemed unnecessary and might cause future problems for the boy. Rav Miller’s advice was: “He’s not yet ready for school. Take him home. A child is not a block of wood. Let him grow up a little and learn to behave. Next year, when he’s ready, put him back into school.” The parents were surprised but followed the Rav’s advice and took their son out of school. The yeshiva was shocked by their decision, still suggesting therapy and evaluation, but the father was firm. Everyone in the family was relieved by the decision. The mother calmed down and the little boy was much happier at home. Months later, the child went to summer day camp and got a Best Behaved Camper in Bunk Award. That September, the little boy started preschool at yeshiva (a regular yeshiva, not special ed) and got along just fine with the other students. The happy father concluded his narrative with: “I love you Rav Miller. You saved my son.”

  66. Iahaloma Zion
    June 4th, 2010 @ 10:12 pm

    I can certainly accept homeschooling if there are special circumstances,however,I disagree completely in case good adequate schools are at reach and the children wish to go to school.
    People are sociable beings,there is no argument that can overturn this fact.Parents homeschooling their young against their children wishes are not doing the right thing I believe at least the child should be given a choice.
    I feel very sorry for all the children that long to go to school but are kept at home by their parents.
    Socializing is a very strong and legitimate human need.
    Looking at our ancient and beautiful Jewish Masoret /tradition we see proven ways to educate the young,that did not fail through the dorot.
    Iahaloma

  67. Iahaloma Zion
    June 4th, 2010 @ 11:02 pm

    Abe,
    Is your statement backed by any Rabbi or written word?
    “With regard to raising and educating children, parents are the final authority. God gave us that authority. It comes with the responsibility of being a parent.”

  68. Judy Resnick
    June 6th, 2010 @ 4:38 pm

    It was said about Rav Moshe Feinstein zatzal that he lamented that no one ever asked him two things: one, where to give Tzedaka; and two, where to send children to Yeshiva. So after the petirah of Rav Moshe Feinstein zatzal I asked his son-in-law Rav Moshe Tendler please what are the answers to those two questions? (I’m giving just the answer to question two). Rav Tendler replied that basically parents have to go down to the Yeshiva, ask questions, observe the style of teaching, talk to other parents, etc.

    I relate this as it is of utmost relevance to the debate between Abe and Bob. Rav Feinstein zatzal wanted to be consulted by parents in this area, wanted parents to seek guidance from Gedolim as to where their children should go to Yeshiva. Yet when asked, his son-in-law told parents to do their own hands-on research first and then consult with a Rav.

    I have the letter from Rav Moshe Tendler somewhere in a drawer, it’s from 1986, right after Rav Feinstein’s petirah. Please accept my paraphrase, I believe it is basically an accurate summary of what Rav Tendler wrote.

  69. D.
    June 7th, 2010 @ 8:37 am

    Michoel,

    The Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) has links on their website to studies about homeschooling. The studies show that the more than 30 percentile point improvement in homeschoolers’ test scores holds true regardless of the family’s income or the parents’ level of education, including where both parents had not attended college.

    Here are the standardized test results based on income and parental education:

    If neither parent attended college, the children scored 33 percentile points above average.
    If one parent had attended college, the children scored 36 percentile points above average.
    If both parents attended college, it was 40 points – the kids scored on average in the 90th percentile!)
    (The overall average for all homeschool families was 36 points above national average.)

    Income – Percentile Points Above National Average
    $70K…………..39 points above average

    You can read one of the studies here: http://www.hslda.org/docs/study/ray2009/2009_Ray_StudyFINAL.pdf

  70. D.
    June 7th, 2010 @ 8:45 am

    “Iahaloma Zion
    June 4th, 2010 23:02 67
    Abe,
    Is your statement backed by any Rabbi or written word?
    ‘With regard to raising and educating children, parents are the final authority. God gave us that authority. It comes with the responsibility of being a parent.’”

    Devarim 6:7 – “And YOU shall teach them to your children and speak of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk on the way, and when you lie down and when you rise up.”

    R’ Avigdor Miller, in a tape on chinuch, said that the mitzvah to be mechanech our children was originally supposed to be homeschooling, and that yeshiva was bidyeved. He said that people only began to need schools because they weren’t doing the mitzvah of being mechanech their children at home, but hat it is definitely the second choice. I don’t remember the name of the tape, but the title was related to chinuch if anybody wants to track it down and hear it for themselves.

  71. D.
    June 7th, 2010 @ 8:49 am

    Ack, the rest of the study got cut off. It was:

    Income-Percentile points above average
    $70K………39 pts above average

    So while having more income or higher education gives kids a few extra points, it’s clear that kids whose parents have low incomes and little education still score 35+ points beyond their public school peers.

  72. Avivah Werner
    June 7th, 2010 @ 11:12 pm

    “I can certainly accept homeschooling if there are special circumstances,however,I disagree completely in case good adequate schools are at reach and the children wish to go to school.
    People are sociable beings,there is no argument that can overturn this fact.Parents homeschooling their young against their children wishes are not doing the right thing I believe at least the child should be given a choice.
    I feel very sorry for all the children that long to go to school but are kept at home by their parents.
    Socializing is a very strong and legitimate human need.”

    Iahaloma, you’re welcome to pity all those poor suffering homeschooled children, but I think your sympathies are misplaced. You’re assuming that home educated children are forced to be alone from all the fun and action, lonely and wistful at missing the good life the kids in school are having. And since most of us grew up with only one social outlet – school – many don’t realize how wide the world is and how many opportunities there are outside of school – even for kids! Opportunities that kids in school are missing when kept limited to their same age peers, year in and year out. Opportunities to expand themselves and have experiences that challenge them, motivate them, excite them – it’s not all about following the pack and worrying about how you measure up to the next guy, but about defining yourself and living life in a way that is meaningful to you even before you become an adult.

    And what about the social skills that children are stunted in as a result of not accessing those older and younger than them, the peer domination and dependency that is at the root of school interactions? Do you truly believe that healthy social skills are developed in children by long term interactions with other same aged children without the ongoing guidance and support of a loving adult?? Studies certainly don’t support that reasoning. If it were so, wouldn’t all school kids have excellent social skills, good middos, and high self esteem?

    Any responsible parent makes choices against their child’s wishes at times. It’s absurd to think that if a child is unhappy about something that his parent has wronged him. Since when does an adult ask a child without life experience to determine their own future? I’d consider that somewhere in the realm of emotional abuse. I don’t let my kids eat chocolate whenever they feel like it, because I know much more about what growing children need to be physically healthy. And I wouldn’t ask a six or ten year old to make a huge decision like where/how to educate them when they have no experience or framework from which to make that decision.

  73. D.
    June 8th, 2010 @ 3:09 pm

    Replying to #66: “I feel very sorry for all the children that long to go to school but are kept at home by their parents.”

    I feel much MORE sorry for children who suffer at school and are forced to stay there.

    I personally know eleven homeschooled children and I have asked all of them if they want to go back to school – not one of them wants to return to school. Meanwhile, I teach part time in a Bais Yaakov and almost all my students have expressed jealousy of my kids for being homeschooled.

    I think that very few homeschooled kids who have been to school want to return, but those I’ve heard of (online) who want to go (mostly who never had been and were curious) have been permitted to go. A few loved it and stayed, while others chose to return to homeschool having found that their fantasy of school life wasn’t reality.

    Very few parents will force their own child into a miserable situation. Well… except parents whose kids are being bullied and the parents feel there’s no choice because the problem will likely follow the child from school to school, or because they think he needs to “learn how to deal with it” because “that’s life” – often they don’t even consider homeschooling, which is a pity. Why should a child grow up with no self esteem? Is that life? What adult is bullied at work? And if they are, wouldn’t they move to a different job? Children are often not given that choice.

    Here’s an example. I know one boy from my son’s former class from when my son was still in school – such a nice boy! But with a speech problem and very overweight, which sadly makes him an easy target in school. This kid was bullied so terribly I don’t even want to tell what my son told me happened to him. I know the parents know the worst of what has happened to him because they told me.

    But even though the parents know he’s bullied, they told me they don’t even know what goes on half the time. The mother mentioned to me that sometimes when she runs into the principal (who is very on top of things in that school – he’s great) and he tells her, “Oh, about what happened to your son the other day – don’t worry, those boys were suspended.” And she has no clue what he’s talking about because her son doesn’t even tell her anymore.

    And yet, this should be a big red flag, don’t you think? That your son has no friends, doesn’t talk about what happens at school, and you have heard many times that other boys are suspended over what they do to your child? Yet this child is still in that class, still in that school. The principal and rebbe can only do so much – they an discipline the boys when they are caught bullying, but they can’t make the other kids like her son or even be decent to him. Probably after a few years of good chinuch they will change and grow – but what will happen to her son during those years? THAT’S a child to feel “very sorry for.”

  74. D.
    June 8th, 2010 @ 3:12 pm

    Belle (#45) Yes there was a study of adults who were homeschooled. It was quoted above in #27, but I will copy and paste it here for you:

    In 2003, the National Home Education Research Institute conducted a survey of 7,300 U.S. adults who had been homeschooled (5,000 for more than seven years). Their findings included:

    * Homeschool graduates are active and involved in their communities. 71% participate in an ongoing community service activity, like coaching a sports team, volunteering at a school, or working with a church or neighborhood association, compared with 37% of U.S. adults of similar ages from a traditional education background.

    * Homeschool graduates are more involved in civic affairs and vote in much higher percentages than their peers. 76% of those surveyed between the ages of 18 and 24 voted within the last five years, compared with only 29% of the corresponding U.S. populace. The numbers are even greater in older age groups, with voting levels not falling below 95%, compared with a high of 53% for the corresponding U.S. populace.

    * 58.9% report that they are “very happy” with life, compared with 27.6% for the general U.S. population. 73.2% find life “exciting”, compared with 47.3%.[97]

  75. D.
    June 8th, 2010 @ 3:56 pm

    I just want to clarify – we did NOT choose to homeschool because of bullying. Baruch Hashem, our children were well loved in school by their classmates and teachers, and our decision to homeschool was for the positive benefits (more time with family, accelerated learning, more flexibility, etc.). I was just bringing up the example of bullying to Iahaloma, who felt sorry for kids who are forced to homeschool against their will, that there are children who suffer at school against their will.

  76. Michoel
    June 8th, 2010 @ 5:29 pm

    Hello D,
    Thanks for the link. I remain very impressed by home schoolers, yet very unimpressed by these surveys. There are definitely a lot of social pressures that can effect academics in schools that are not found at home; bullying, co-ed classes etc. These issues are much less a factor in yeshivos. Also, certainly in homeschooling there is more opportunity to personalize the education. The flip side of that is (maybe) more opportunity in schools for kids to learn to deal with un-personalized life circumstances. (I said maybe, so please don’t jump out of your seat.)

    There is definitely what to be m’falpel with a lot of the pro-homeschooling points presenting here and in Mrs. Werner’s excellent article and like to put together a thought-out response. But sof sof, I strongly agree that parents should be true to what they believe is best for their children. If I would say that “A” is a potential problem for homeschoolers, it might be true, but intelligent caring parents will come up with a way to address the problem. And yeshivos are certainly not perfect. I’ve met enough home schooled kids that are VERY impressive.

    A much bigger concern for me (and for the audience of this blog) is the likelihood that BTs may choose to homeschool for the wrong reasons. A smart friend once commented to me “a person’s children are more him, than he himself”. I am only my present. But my children represent my future, and thus my real aspirations. A normal parent will quickly risk their very life to save their child’s life, and loves them much more than anything else in the world.

    So… I am not saying this is the case in a majority of cases but I have seen it many times. Parents that are insecure about integrating into the frum world, will tend to try to protect their children from a society that they feel is threatening. One expression of that is choosing schools that allow for the most individual expression. Another is homeschooling. BT parents that only daven in BT shuls, and have only BT friends, will tend to fear having their kids become full FFBs. I consider that unhealthful. We need to feel good about being part of traditional Klal Yisroel.

  77. D.
    June 8th, 2010 @ 7:12 pm

    Michoel,

    I hear your concerns about BT’s homeschooling for the “wrong” reasons of wanting to “protect their children from a society that they feel is threatening.” The fact is, that society IS threatening to BT’s, which is why children of BT’s ARE at increased risk of going off the derech. These kids aren’t stupid – they know they’re second class. Who can blame someone for not sticking around where they are second tier?

    In your last paragraoh you say, “BT parents that only daven in BT shuls, and have only BT friends, will tend to fear having their kids become full FFBs.” What then, is FFB, if not frum-from-birth? Those kids who grew up in a BT shul with BT friends are still FFB’s themselves. They might not be accepted as readily by the frum world as full FFB’s, but the same is true even if they attend FFB schools, don’t kid yourself.

    It sounds as if YOU haven’t accepted BT’s as full-fledged frum people and therefore you look down on their shuls and their friendships as somehow artificial. This is a prejudicial cultural issue, not a religious one, so if you prefer to try to blend into an FFB community and marry your children to children of FFBs that’s your choice. But don’t judge others who chose differently. I personally think that my children would be better suited to marry children of BTs, so I see no problem with a BT choosing to move among BTs socially and religiously.

    As for BT shuls, I WISH we had a BT shul here. My husband was in a local shul and listened to the Rav’s drashah – all about how if a yid grows up frum, even if he goes off the derech his yiddishkeit can’t be taken from him, because it’s a part of him, but a BT is just a goy dressed in Jewish clothing and will always be. I’m not making this up, I wish I were. Why would we bring our children there??

    Also, in our old shul, also in this area, the rebbetzin wished me mazel tov when my non-frum father died! What would my children have thought if they had heard this?

    Anyway, then you go on to say, “I consider that unhealthful. We need to feel good about being part of traditional Klal Yisroel.” YES, we do – and our children do as well. Children need to feel good about being part of Klal Yisroel – but if they are looked down on, they will NOT feel good.

    Maybe you’re lucky and live in a place where you truly are accepted, but in our case we had to send our kids to schools of a different derech to ensure they would be fully accepted and treated as equals. It’s like this… Despite wonderful recommendations from rabbonim in our area, we were literally told by our local chareidi school that BT’s were not wanted, and that if we used our connections to force our way in as other BT’s have done, our kids would suffer because they would be placed on the list of kids it’s not allowed to play with or be friends with. (They do have such a list – I know others who have lived through it.) This school is wonderful – IF you fit in, IF you’re not placed on the black list. We did have connections, but for the sake of our children walked away. (We even had other BT’s urging us that it’s “worth it” to get our kids in there!)

    We sent our children to other frum schools of a different derech where they were accepted beautifully and thrived, until we chose to homeschool them for other reasons (see my earlier post), though these factors were on our minds as well. But my point is that prejudices are real, and I wouldn’t blame a BT for homeschooling for this reason. On the contrary, I would applaud them.

    In many places the prejudice is not as overt as in our experience, and hopefully there are places where it doesn’t exist, but don’t fool yourself that it isn’t there, or that your kids won’t notice. As I mentioned above, they’re not stupid. We chose this life, they didn’t. The least we can do is make it easier for them.

  78. Michoel
    June 9th, 2010 @ 11:04 am

    D.
    I apologize if I struck a nerve. I think we must live on different planets. Here in Baltimore a very large percentage of boys in my son’s cheder are children of BT’s, maybe %30 percent or more. And many of the very best learners are from those homes. They are not looked down on. They are looked UP TO!

    “but a BT is just a … dressed in Jewish clothing … Why would we bring our children there??”

    B’mchila, your citing this incident as some how representative of the larger frum world reflects tragically on your outlook. If you really believe that is the normative attitude found in FFBs shuls, that is just a disaster. You gave up a lot, I’m quite sure, to become frum and now you live in a horrendously cold world. But if you realize that this attitude is far from standard, you should not be quoting it to make your point. We need to discuss the normative middle ground if want to have reasoned discussions about this topic.

    In truth, your writing reminds me of my wife when she get’s onto an emotional tizzy. She is a very great person and I thank Hashem every day for the fact that I am married to her even thought I often can’t understand what she is hyperventilating about. You are shlepping in to the discussion best marriage partners for children of BTs, whether or not kids notice prejudice, going off the derech etc. These are all good subjects but we need slow down a bit.

    Does home schooling save kids from prejudice? How does that work exactly?

    Please, no-one should project their own fears on fears and hang-ups onto their kids. Klal Yisroel is g’valdig. Absolutely wonderful, and it is the greatest honor to be part of it.

  79. Michoel
    June 9th, 2010 @ 11:47 am

    “It sounds as if YOU haven’t accepted BT’s as full-fledged frum people and therefore you look down on their shuls and their friendships as somehow artificial. ”

    Heh? I think you confusing me with another guy with a black hat, beard and a job in IT.

    Just the opposite of your assumption…

    Since I fully accept and respect BTs (actually, I have tremendous respect for BTs), I have utter confidence in their ability to succeed in the frum world and see no need to keep them segregated. (This is already off the original subject of home schooling, where I agree that there may be very good reasons to do it.) It is you who are favoring a “Back to Africa” movement, implicitly admitting second tier status. We don’t need to do that and it is not desirable.

    If some 2 cent rav publicly insulted all baalei t’shuvah is the best response to whimper and run away? Or is the best response to build myself into the biggest talmid chacham I can become and m’meilah upshlug all his rayos? Yes, there certainly are some areas where it may be nearly impossible for baalei t’shuvah to integrate and be accepted and we can just ignore those places and go vieter. But that is by far the exception.

  80. D.
    June 9th, 2010 @ 1:08 pm

    Micheol, you missed the point entirely. Let me start over and explain it more clearly.

    I was responding specifically to this:

    “Parents that are insecure about integrating into the frum world, will tend to try to protect their children from a society that they feel is threatening. One expression of that is choosing schools that allow for the most individual expression. Another is homeschooling. BT parents that only daven in BT shuls, and have only BT friends, will tend to fear having their kids become full FFBs. I consider that unhealthful. We need to feel good about being part of traditional Klal Yisroel. ”

    My goal was to show you that for some BT’s who suffer prejudice – I didn’t say all – the FFB world where they live IS threatening, and it is natural (even commendable) to protect your children from a threat. I wanted you to see that it is *understandable* that they stick to other BT’s for shul and friendship or even homeschool. I cited two examples of what happened to my husband and myself in local FFB shuls to illustrate why they might feel that way – because many FFB shuls are NOT welcoming to BTs. I never said that all FFB shuls are this way.

    I also gave one example of an FFB school that very clearly discriminates against children of BT’s. I brought up that example to show you that it is *understandable* that BT’s might choose to homeschool to protect their children from such prejudice. I never said that all BT’s face this prejudice, or that every school discriminates. You did read the part about my kids being accepted into another school, and being happy there, right?

    Since you asked, I brought in the subject of marriage to show that if a BT chose, as you said, to daven in a BT shul, have only BT friends, and homeschool, they would have no need to leave that BT bubble because they could then marry their kids to other BT kids – but they would still be “full FFBs” who can “feel good about being part of traditional Klal Yisroel.” These were the concerns you listed.

    I also pointed out that many FFBs, and apparently you, might not consider them “full FFBs.” (Why?) I then pointed out that many FFBs wouldn’t consider them as “full FFBs” even if they DID go to FFB schools.

    Now do you understand?

    I’m happy for you that you live in a warm, accepting community. Be grateful that do rather than judging other BT’s who perhaps don’t feel that way and therefore choose to act differently than you.

  81. Bob Miller
    June 9th, 2010 @ 1:10 pm

    We generalize too much.

  82. Bob Miller
    June 9th, 2010 @ 1:11 pm

    …or did I just do that, too?

  83. Michoel
    June 9th, 2010 @ 1:49 pm

    Thank you for taking the time to clarify but I actually understood pretty well before also. You’re correct that I don’t consider them full FFBs. That does not mean that I don’t consider them full human beings or full Jews, but I do feel that being integrated into the larger community is a very important ideal. I do not “judge” those that feel differently, I just strongly disagree with them. Is that not allowed? Or is one only allowed to judge other frum Jews on their assumed prejudices? If a Russian Jew, 30 years ago, found a kitzur shulchan aruch in attic somewhere, learned threw it 100 times and kept it perfectly, I would still feel that there was a big lack in his Yiddishkeit (not withstanding his incredible achievement). One needs to attach themselves to a mesora.

  84. Judy Resnick
    June 9th, 2010 @ 2:21 pm

    Michoel #83: Your comment reminded me of something I had read about Eliyahu Essas, who was at one time considered to be the “rabbi of the refuseniks.” Years ago in the old Communist Soviet Union, he secretly learned the halachos of making Kiddush on Shabbos. He could have recited all of the relevant laws by heart. Yet he still didn’t understand how Jews made Kiddush on Shabbos. He finally managed to get himself invited over for Shabbos by an old Latvian Jew in Kiev, the Baltic Republics having had one more generation of freedom before the Soviet takeover in 1940. It was only when he actually saw and heard a Jew making Kiddush on Shabbos that Eliyahu Essas finally understood what to do. You’re entirely correct that book learning alone will never replace obtaining the practical mesora from a live, breathing rebbe or role model.

  85. D.
    June 9th, 2010 @ 2:33 pm

    So a BT attending a BT shul and having only BT friends is comparable to a Russian finding a kitzur shulchan aruch in the attic and learning it alone? I think we’ll just have to agree to disagree.

  86. Michoel
    June 9th, 2010 @ 2:34 pm

    Yeah, he was an incredible tzaddik. If one does not have access to a mesora, they have to do whatever they can. But if they do have access, they need to make good use of it.

  87. Michoel
    June 9th, 2010 @ 2:37 pm

    D.,
    In some sense, yes, I feel they are comparable.

    Ok, let’s disagree.

    You should have much hatzlacha and nachas,

    Michoel

  88. Judy Resnick
    June 9th, 2010 @ 2:45 pm

    I also remember being told by a Giyoris, righteous female convert, about how difficult it was for her to bake Hamatashen the very first time. She had no idea what a Hamantash looked like, and the cookbook she used at that time lacked photographs, illustrations or diagrams. It’s tough enough to fold the corners properly even for those of us who have seen and eaten them, let alone somebody who had never seen one before!

    You can read the Haggadah a dozen times over, but it’s very hard to imagine how a Pesach seder is conducted without actually sitting through one. Even the tunes for the traditional songs like Dayeinu and Chad Gad Ya are impossible to figure out without either a musical score or having previously experienced a Seder.

  89. D.
    June 9th, 2010 @ 2:59 pm

    I think we might be imagining different situations. If an entire Jewish congregation became BT together without an Orthodox Rav to guide them, I would agree that it’s like the Russian finding the kitzur shulchan aruch in the attic. I was picturing a BT shul being a shul where most if not all congregants were BT and the Rav was either a BT but had learned many years or FFB.

    That being said, I do know a Russian man who became frum that way. He taught himself aleph-bais from a Russian encyclopedia and then got his hands on Chumash with Rashi and then on from there. I think he learned a few years before communism fell and he went to yeshiva. But then again, this man is an incredible genius and possibly a tzaddik, so I wouldn’t generalize from him. But it is an interesting case in point.

    Which leads to an interesting thought – CAN a person learn everything from seforim? I would say no, but I think a person can do pretty well.

    But I would add that if a person were righteous enough, he could merit having Eliyahu Hanavi or other tzaddikim from the past come and teach him, as happened to the Baal Shem Tov as a young child. He was an orphan and would wander the woods, and a tzaddik from the past came and learned with him (Eliyahu Hanavi and/or others). But for 99.99% of people, I agree we need real human connection.

  90. Michoel
    June 9th, 2010 @ 3:42 pm

    You mention the Baal Shem. But he also interacted with Yidden that were deeply connected to mesoras Yisroel, even more so than kids in traditional chadorim today. My oldest (now ten) came home from nursery with expressions that he picked up from his very frum, very m’yuchasdig morah and then 1st grade Rebbe. My younger kids heard it from their brother and still use some of those expressions, which bespeak an attitude of yiras shamayim and other good hashkafos. And that is something that they would not have gotten so easily or authentically from their BT parents. When my son’s 5th grade rebbe, sings out “Zacht the heligeh Rashi…”, it is something that he feels deeply and consistently. If a lot of BTs would try to do that, it may come across to their kids as “put on” and consequently, they might have less of a feel for how Jews is supposed react to hearing a Rashi.

  91. Judy Resnick
    June 9th, 2010 @ 9:13 pm

    A funny anecdote: Even after 36 years of being frum, I still mix up expressions like “bli neder” and “bli ayin harah,” plus I stumble over the “ch” sound in words like “hashgachah” and “chinuch.” Also due to my wide reading of English language Judaica, I tend to use English expressions for Jewish topics instead of the usual Ivrit or Yiddish,so I might talk about “saying a prayer” instead of “being mispallel,” or “reading the Torah” instead of “laining.” I can’t pretend not to be a BT, my tongue gives me away.

  92. Bob Miller
    June 10th, 2010 @ 7:56 am

    I often see people write “hashgafah” when that Hebrew word really has a kuf and not a gimel.

  93. D.
    June 10th, 2010 @ 10:24 am

    Speaking of BT language issues – Michoel, it would be “Zakt der heiliker Rashi” (Litvish/Chabad Yiddish – ei sounding like a long a as in hay) or “Zukt der hailiger Rashi” (Galician/Hungarian Yiddish -with zakt changed to zukt and ai rhyming with eye) – but not “zacht the heligeh Rashi” as you wrote LOL. :)

  94. Michoel
    June 10th, 2010 @ 11:16 am

    Yeah, I new I was not correct. Certainly the “the” part.

  95. Rabbi Ron-Ami Meyers
    June 10th, 2010 @ 10:54 pm

    Just wanted to inform the Torah homeschooling parent body of a new service, starting mid-summer, geared towards supplementing learning of students in yeshivos and homeschooling situations.

    Anyone interested in discussing tailoring a home-study videoconferencing-based/text-based learning program for your child can feel free to contact me at torahtutors@gmail.com

  96. Judy Resnick
    June 11th, 2010 @ 9:17 am

    Don’t forget that this Sunday, June 13th, is the date of the Second Annual Torah Homeschooling Conference, being held in Baltimore, Maryland.

    To those attending the conference: Kindly post your comments on this thread so that those of us unable to go can share with you the valuable insights that will be discussed on Sunday.

    Thank you very much.

  97. D.
    June 11th, 2010 @ 10:34 am

    Yes, please post your comments about the conference if you’re able to attend. A CD of the lectures doesn’t give a feeling of the event – stories about your experience there would be great.

  98. Michoel
    June 11th, 2010 @ 2:24 pm

    D.,
    A friend who knows me well, saw some of my comments above and felt that my tone was not consistent with who he knows me to be. Sorry if I was to feisty. I have yetzer that I actually enjoy arguing. It is not such a good mida. Good Shabbos.

  99. Judy Resnick
    June 20th, 2010 @ 9:28 am

    Let’s hear from some of the conference attendees. Please share some of the enlightening and informative stuff that you heard at the conference. We your support group at Beyond BT could all benefit!

  100. Zalman
    August 21st, 2010 @ 9:32 pm

    Any parent who is thinking of homeschooling should first try tutoring their children to help them with schoolwork. First, they will soon find out if they have any teaching ability. Second, they will find out just how well their relationship with their children will handle the added pressure.

    Parents who think they can homeschool their children are seriously deluded. The overarching, overprotective relationship that will ensue will be emotionally and socially crippling. Hire private tutors, if you will, but leave parenting to parents and teaching to teachers. It’s that simple.

    You don’t have the resources you need to have, you don’t have the objectivity, you don’t have the physical space, you don’t have the right to inflict this on your children!

    In my entire childhood, the best people I knew were not only my teachers, but all the teachers in my school. They, and only they, had a true respect for me, and were truly encouraging of me to do whatever I could do. No parent can do that, for it is a threat to their dominion, authority, and their feelings. Parents naturally want their children close and contained, but they must have proper, structured freedom, and a school should provide that.

    Hey, if you don’t like something about your children’s school, get in there and make it better! Volunteer, get on a committee, but pulling your kids out is just stupid.

  101. Chana
    January 23rd, 2011 @ 10:24 pm

    Hey all,

    I just want to say that I was home schooled all the way.

    I finished high school at the age of 15, and then attended a university online (at the time, it was the #6 business school in the whole US), where I got a BA in business management.

    After I graduated at age 18, I attended grad school, also online, and got a post-graduate paralegal certificate and two advanced certificates before I turned 19. I graduated with honors, a GPA of 3.9, and in almost record speed.

    While I was still 18, I was accepted to a prestigious law school (in the end, I decided not to go because I’d rather get married and raise a family, but still, I got accepted!).

    While I was in college, I worked during the day as an assistant store manager, and at night I volunteered as a tutor to Bais Yaakov girls in various subjects, both religious and secular.

    Today, I’m 20 years old and a professional with two years of experience, and I also have a volunteer job on the side.

    Many Ph.D’s have commented about what a good secular education I have, and many rabbis have commented about what a good Jewish education I have.

    I think home schooling can work very well, and I highly recommend it to those who are able to do it!

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