Thursday, April 11, 2013

Why don’t Jews here homeschool?

Last week at our regular Thursday homeschool drop-in, somebody mentioned that their first couple of weeks there, they saw me and my friends Rachel and Shira and our kids and we must have seemed like such a unified, cohesive bloc that they were actually afraid they were going to be in the minority because they weren’t Jewish!

Halevai.  (if only)

As it is, I usually feel like we’re the only ones in the world. 

Finding Jewish homeschoolers around here is a crazy enough challenge, even with no stipulations about observance, Jewish knowledge, Jewish studies curriculum or any other criteria – just folks who identify as Jewish along with their kids, and who are homeschooling.

I have put out feelers every single year, and have never figured out why there are so few of us.  It’s lonely, and I wish there were more.  There seem to be enough Jews in Toronto’s religious community that there would be more than a few families homeschooling at any given time… and yet, there aren’t.

  • Is it because we love our Jewish day schools so much?  (It’s weirdly NOT because we love bargains, even though homeschooling is waaaay cheaper than even the cheapest day school.)
  • Is it because, as the People of the Book, we feel unqualified to teach our own kids?
  • Is it because we believe so strongly in the authority of teachers and experts (the flipside of the above)?
  • Is it because we desperately need our kids to attain traditional measures of academic success? (clearly not in the frum world)
  • Is it because of the pressure in the frum community to be “normal” and not rock the boat?

The latter is, sadly, my suspicion.  When almost any deviation from “normal” is rumoured to potentially affect shidduchim (marriage prospects) of any child in the family, there is a strong motivation to not make any sudden movements or unexpected twists in your kids’ chinuch (schooling).

Yet even if that IS the case, it doesn’t explain where the other Jews are – the ones who might send their kids to the Reform or Conservative or unaffiliated day schools.  Being “liberal” in religion apparently doesn’t translate to being “liberal” in your views on education (see “academic success” above)?  I dunno.

No good answers here, but this loneliness is one of the big reasons why I am going to the Torah Home Education Conference in Baltimore one last time this year, even though this homeschool thing is probably running aground for us in just a couple of months. 

I don’t want to think about it, lest I weep.

But – oh, what a nice feeling.  To be normal for one day.  To surround myself with people who have put THIS MUCH thought into their kids’ education, as much or more so than me… even if their conclusions are slightly different from mine.  Or maybe because they allow themselves the freedom to think differently from me and to disagree with me or anyone else.  Maybe that’s why hanging out there the last two years felt like coming home.

Are there homeschooling Jews where you are?  If not, why not???

8 comments:

  1. Not only are there almost none in NYC (I can count on one hand the number of Jewish families homeschooling in Brooklyn--which certainly has no shortage of Jewish families), but, should you try to enroll your kids in school after the ripe of age of two, you are treated like you have three heads and leprosy. Or so has been my experience.

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  2. So that means I will see you again at the conference, iy"h? :-)

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  3. The answer is definitely the last item on your list, the conformity issue.

    As for Reform/Conservative: it's a different boat for non-Orthodox. Public education is an option, so basically no one homeschools to avoid tuition. I would think there would be a core of people who are naturally interested in homeschooling, but outside of fundamentalist religious communities, that pool is very small.

    I say all this as a member of an Orthodox community who has embraced (as opposed to merely tolerated) public education for some of my children - and I have dealt with the inevitable consequences.

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  4. We will play with you...
    -Erin & Jordan.

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  5. There are quite a few homeschooling Jewish families I personally know here in suburban Los Angeles. Maybe that is because LAUSD isn't doing a very good job! And with the cost of living here, many families, especially those with a parent at home, can't afford day school, or private secular school. I certainly couldn't and that is why I began homeschooling. In our little community here, those of us who homeschool together, there are currently 10% or more of us are Jewish. We also have a non-religious, non-faith based, non-denominational group, meaning that in many here you have to sign a statement of (Christian of some sort) faith. But none of us are frum, we are Reform or Conservative Jews. I do know one Modern Orthodox homeschooling family. I wish there were more Jews around who could gather for study for our children. We don't have a critical mass to be able to do that, and the kids are all at different places educationally.

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  6. We're here, we're here!! It is very hard to be one of the only Jewish Homeschoolers around our area (NJ suburbs of Philly)I have so much more I want to say but apparently have typed myself into a writer's block! Or something. Can I ask why your journey is winding down? (mine may be as well, and for me-like you-just the thought of it makes me cry)

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  7. @LGR - good reasons. :-)
    http://aliyahland.blogspot.com/

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  8. I am the Jewish pioneer in my synagogue. 5 years later and there are now 2 other homeschooling families. Over the years I occasionally cross paths with a member of the tribe.

    My biggest challenge is finding other homeschooled Jewish teens. Mine seem to be the only ones. Fortunately, thanks to involvement in our synagogue and Hebrew High on Sunday mornigns they are well connected with their roots and have a fair amount of Jewish friends. They do wish there were others like them, though.

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