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Article on the Homeschooling Conference

I know I said I would write more about the homeschool conference, but as usual, the week has flown past, and I just HAVEN'T.  But then a writer contacted me for some quotes about why I came so far to attend the conference, and I thought I'd share some of my answers here because they touch on why I homeschool as well as my nutso irrational love of sitting on buses and planes... :-)
 
----- Original Message -----
1) Why did you travel so far to attend the conference and waht did you get out of it? (Was it just you, or you and your husband that attended?)
I came by myself.  Partly, I love travelling, love time away from the kids, but mostly because I'm resigned to the fact that there is nothing going on in terms of Jewish homeschooling in Canada.  A few years ago, a group of Jewish students from Toronto got on a bus to travel overnight to a demonstration in Washington, D.C.  I forget what the event was, but I was impressed that they were so dedicated to travel all that way, even though I realized it they were probably doing it mostly for fun.  My trip was mostly fun (yes, 26 hours alone on a bus can be fun!); the fact that I learned a lot and got to meet other Jewish homeschoolers was a wonderful bonus.
 
My husband works every other weekend, but luckily, he had last Sunday off, so he stayed home with the kids.
 
2) How many and what age/ages of child/children are homeschooled? If you have more than one child, are/were they always homeschooled?
 
We have 4 children; 2 and a half are homeschooled.  The two younger ones, 6 and 3, are home full-time.  My older son, who's 16, attends yeshiva in the morning and does his high school online in the afternoon.  He wasn't always homeschooled, but we couldn't find a yeshiva that was a good fit - that would provide intellectual stimulation, excellent limudei kodesh and also strong attention to secular subjects.  He also has a few individual learning challenges - don't we all?  We also have a daughter, 15, who's in a wonderful girls' high school.
 
3) What do you do about your child/children's Jewish studies?
 
With my 6-year-old daughter, I do it all:  we are starting chumash in the next couple of weeks, but we have been davening all along.  We have also created lapbooks together for holidays, which is a fun interactive way of covering a curriculum and creating a project the child can show off.  For me, weekly parsha is very important, so I try to touch on it a few times during the week, incorporate it into writing practice, etc.  It was nice having that emphasis on parsha validated at the conference:  one of the speakers pointed out that there are many valid paths into limudei kodesh - I've seen so often that yeshivas and girls' schools try to tell us there is only one way to do things.  We are also studying Hebrew, but in general, our Jewish studies is less formal, more unschooly, than secular subjects.  We LEARN English, but we LIVE Jewish. 
 
 
 
3)Where did your child/children go afterwards? To yeshiva/seminary/college? (If an age appropriate question.)
 
Nobody has flown the nest yet, but I've raised the older kids to know that they WILL spend a year in Israel before anything else.  Before university, career, etc.  You have to know who you are before you can plan your life.
My husband and I are planning to make aliyah after our older daughter graduates from high school, so the younger kids' lives will be totally different - and are so far, totally unmapped.
 
4) Why do/will you homeschool? Because day school/yeshiva tuition is unaffordable, etc.?
 
It began as being a lot about tuition, but has become mostly about balancing secular and general studies.  I haven't found a school that excels at both.  It's also about Israel - we have a fine religious Zionist school here, but it tends to attract a less religious crowd.  I don't believe I have to compromise my religious standards to embrace Israel AND to embrace a rigourous (even classical) secular education.  Initially, I began homeschooling my older son because his day school, financially strapped as they all are, didn't have the resources to meet even his very minor special-ed needs.  Their own psychologist recommended simple steps like following up quickly on classroom problems, assigning a resource person to help him out.  For two years, they didn't listen and then, as I told my son, I fired them.  They simply were not doing their job.  It was a fine school for the "middle" kids - not too smart, not too difficult.  There are no schools here for kids who are bright but who need help to learn.
 
5) Or, if not, is lower tuition a factor at all, in making your decision?
I won't pretend tuition is not a factor.  Day schools here cost $10-12,000 a year.  Though subsidies are available, the subsidy process is terribly humiliating.  I've been through it the last eleven years running and it never gets easier.  And paying so much for MEDIOCRE education?  Sickening.
 
If I may, I'd like to thank Avivah for having the vision and persistence to organize this conference three years running.  I know she won't be able to do it in future years, and I really hope that despite slightly diminished attendance this year, somebody else will take up the mantle and carry on.  There are so many Christian homeschool conventions, but not many that are completely secular - and only this one which reflects Jewish values and ideals.  Professional development is essential in any field, especially one where you're working so much in isolation, as teaching parents often are.
 
I love the fact that this conference recognizes us as educators and professionals, while at the same time supporting us as parents through this wonderful homeschooling journey with our children.
 
Thanks for your interest, and good luck with your article!

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