When I meet people for the first time at a simcha or at the park, the conversation quickly moves past names, addresses and Jewish geography. They see my children and ask which school they attend so they can figure out a little more about me. When I tell them I homeschool them and have done so for eleven years questions always erupt from the ladies around me.
Here are some of the questions I (and all homeschool moms/parents) get and some of my answers:
You homeschool? I could never do that! You must be so patient/creative?
Actually, I am not patient at all. Really. Ask my husband and kids. What I do have is a tremendous love of helping my children learn new ideas and skills. I love to teach my children how to take care of a house and car, how to travel the world, to learn lashon kodesh so they can delve into the texts we all hold sacred. I love to go to the library with them and find books that excite their imaginations and expose them to new concepts in history, science, technology, and literature. I love when they find a favorite author. I enjoy finding tutors for limudei kodesh, martial arts, and music lessons. Outside tutors not only teach my children, they give them a new viewpoint and another adult to mentor them and love them.
I do get frustrated. Very frustrated.
My children are not angels and they still have days (weeks?) where they don’t want to learn or listen. In reaction to that reality, I have learned to take time for myself every school day to be by myself and to take off some time every six weeks so that I do not burn out in addition to my daily exercise plan and occasional pampering. My children have learned early in their lives that my job is not to entertain them. They learned how to entertain themselves, and even more importantly learned that boredom isn’t scary or to be avoided. I am also not a creative person. Thankfully, there are classes my children have taken over the years that let them explore their artistic side. I also leave art and craft books around the house and supplies, but they know they have to clean up!
Are you a teacher by training? How can you know Hebrew/calculus /Chumash/science? You must use a computer program to teach the kids, right?
I am not a teacher by training, although I do have graduate degrees. What I do have is a strong interest in education and the ability to get organized. So at the beginning of my homeschool journey eleven years ago, I started to do research, reading every book in the library and asking if anyone my friends knew were homeschooled or homeschooling. I found out that you don’t have to know it all, and there are many methods to help your children learn. I do have a seminary background so it really helps me with my teaching of limudei kodesh. If I didn’t, I would be looking for a community member interested in mentoring and working with my child or even better, working with me so I could learn and then teach my child. I outsource some subjects in limudei kodesh (Jewish subjects) and limudei chol (secular subjects), mostly because I think that a classroom situation will be better for that subject, or I choose to use my time for other priorities. Some of my friends use online curricula but there are many other options. I use real books, textbooks, and workbooks, but other people use stories, real life, travelling, exercise, and any other way to help children learn.
I always wanted to homeschool, but I was too scared. Can you help me?
Sure! Homeschooling is a wonderful choice, but not everyone should homeschool. If you are able to carve out some time (it doesn’t have to be “school hours” and homeschooling never takes as long as a regular school day) almost every day for intentional education, you can start to think about how you can create your own homeschool journey. Go to the library (or bookstore) and get every book on homeschooling off the shelf and read them. You want to get the greatest amount of information about homeschooling – philosophies, curriculum/book suggestions, tips and tricks to keep your sanity, and how to keep house and put meals on the table while you school.
You should try to find people who actively homeschool in your community. Real people (virtual or in your city) are crucial for taking the theoretical to actual, nitty-gritty life in the trenches. Meeting homeschooled children will show you the exciting possibilities from a uniquely crafted education. They also can show you the field trips, park days, conferences, and support groups that your homeschool community creates. You will want to find your Jewish homeschool community as well. Most local Jewish homeschool communities are not large, but there are online networks on YahooGroups, Facebook, and WhatsApp, including the largest Facebook one, Jewish Homeschoolers . You can ask your specifically Jewish questions there and find families similar to yours. You can also look at the information in my bio for a new course I am putting together for potential homeschoolers.
Future columns will iy”H talk about our homeschool journey.