Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Why We Homeschool

I've been wanting to write about this, but Avivah just posted something on this very topic. It's unusual for a frum (orthodox) Jewish family to choose a learning-at-home lifestyle, and there aren't many of us who do it for ideological reasons. Here's a great quote from her:

Choosing to homeschool wasn’t coming from negative motivations, but rather from a strong philosophical belief that it was the best thing for my children, to educate each of them according to their individual needs and personalities (’chanoch l’naar al pi darko’). I didn’t and don’t believe that a one size fits all institution with hired workers can know and understand a child and their needs (crucial to effectively educating them) as well as a loving and motivated parent. I felt that building a strong family would happen most effectively when the family had ample time to spend together in a relaxed way, not pulled in lots of directions all day long, every day, with everyone coming together at the end when they were tired and uptight.

Here's a link to the rest of the post.

Many people assume we homeschool because we dislike the educational alternatives that are available to us here, and are surprised to learn that we anticipate homeschooling all the way through even if we live in a community with very strong Jewish day schools. It doesn't mean we intend to do ALL of the educating ourselves. At some point we will certainly need Hebrew, mishna, and talmud tutors. But overall, we are the ones guiding their development and fine-tuning their educational (and other!) needs.

I honestly believe it is an impossible task for students to receive an education that is truly alpidarko ("according to their way") in an institutional setting. I do believe that it is possible to get a good education in such a setting (I got a pretty good public education), but when I see how many fine adjustments I make to my approach with teaching Amirah, it pales in comparison to my former classroom teaching experiences. In a classroom, you can teach to the middle, offer an extra challenge to the better students, and simplify things a little for those that haven't quite caught on. To try to address the needs of more than three different levels is rarely possible. But in a class of 25 students, there are going to be 25 different levels. In each subject!

I have a great amount of respect for classroom teachers. I think it is one of the most difficult jobs there is. Of course, the rewards are enormous too when you see what you do as you help students along the path. Teaching my own children is an entirely different experience. My level of investment is much deeper (and I really loved my students in my former life!). My interest in their success and understanding is paramount. Nearly every waking moment is either educating my children, or thinking of educating them. Speaking of which... I'd better get back to it.

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