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???