Friday, June 24, 2011

Interview with MOI in Where What When?

A few weeks ago a writer interviewed me via email for Where What When, Baltimore’s Torah magazine,  about my travelling such a crazy-long distance for the Torah Homeschool Conference.  Here is an excerpt from the article about the conference, which may appear online someday.  For the record, I ALWAYS use “homeschooling” as one word and the author has taken the liberty of splitting it up into 2 words every single time (argh):

Worth the Trip

“…Jennifer MamaLand traveled to the conference for 26 hours on a bus, all the way from Toronto; her husband stayed behind to watch their children. “I’m resigned to the fact that there is nothing going on in terms of Jewish home schooling in Canada,” she said. “I learned a lot, and getting to meet other Jewish home schoolers was a wonderful bonus. We have four children. The two younger ones, ages six and three, are home schooled full time. My older son, who is 16, attends yeshiva in the morning and does his high school online in the afternoon. He wasn’t always home schooled, 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?” The MamaLands also have a daughter, 15, who is in a “wonderful girls’ high school.”

Jennifer teaches their six-year-old daughter all of her limudei kodesh studies. “We are starting Chumash in the next couple of weeks, but we have been davening all along,” says Jennifer. “We have also created lap books 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 are less formal, more ‘unschooled,’ than secular subjects. We learn English, but we live Jewish.”

What was the impetus for the MamaLands to choose home schooling their children?

“It began as being a lot about tuition but has become mostly about balancing secular and general studies,” explains Jennifer. “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 rigorous (even classical) secular education. Initially, I began home schooling 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. There are no schools here for kids who are bright but who need help to learn.

“I won’t pretend tuition is not a factor. Day schools here cost $10,000 to $12,000 a year. Though subsidies are available, the subsidy process is terribly humiliating. I’ve been through it the last 11 years running, and it never gets easier. And paying so much for mediocre education? Sickening.

“There are so many Christian home school conventions but not many that are completely secular – and only this one which reflects Jewish values and ideals,” continues Jennifer. “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 home schooling journey with our children.”

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