2010 Torah Home Education Conference recap

Things have been pretty busy this week but after spending months on planning and organizing the Torah Home Education conference, I wanted to at least share about how it went!

First of all was the shalosh seudos, which a number of families who came for Shabbos from out of state as well as those in Baltimore attended. I don’t know how many families or individuals came (maybe 60?), but it was so nice to see all the kids as well as their parents getting to know each other. I went over to the older and younger girls groups to introduce myself and make sure everyone else knew one another, and there were at least ten in each group (older – approx 13 – 16; younger – approx 7 – 10). That was a nice opportunity to meet some attendees with nowhere else to be and nothing competing for time and attention.

The conference was the next day, and started with a bang with Rabbi Daniel Lapin, bestselling author, radio talk show host, and nationally sought after speaker.  Following that were two simultaneous workshops; one was given by long time home educating parent Susan Lapin from WA, discussing the long term view, how her children, and areas that were successful and not as successful. The other was given by Chana Lazaroff, also a long term homeschooler  who has two sons with Down’s Syndrome, talking about special needs children across the spectrum and how to educate them according to their unique learning styles.

These workshops were followed by the second general session of the day, given by Rabbi Yosef Bentzion Bamberger, an experienced mechanech with over 30 years in the field who is a new home educating parent. He spoke about the challenges in the yeshivos and shared about his feeling that home education was a very valuable way to educate one’s child/ren.

Then there was a 90 minute lunch break during which some people left to check on kids or take care of other things, while most stayed on site to have lunch together and chat. I was glad to see the more in depth conversations people were able to have at this time, since social connection is a big part of the benefit of attending the conference.

After lunch, we reconvened for another set of simultaneous workshops – I spoke about specific ways to keep the costs of home education low, in addition to some philosophical points regarding the ability of parents to learn with their own children, rather than feel disempowered and as if they have to hire out learning to paid tutors/services. Yehudis Eagle (listmember from Baltimore) gave a talk about prayer and how to approach it as a home educator, which I enjoyed hearing afterwards (since I have the benefit of being able to listen to recordings right away :)). I particularly enjoyed hearing her speak about being inspired in tefilla/prayer by my now 11 year old son (he wasn’t named during the talk which I’m sure is what he would have preferred :)); hearing someone else’s perspective about your children helps you appreciate them even more.

Then we had another set of workshops: Malky Adler from Detroit spoke about dealing with feelings of separateness and isolation that occur when home educating without a local support network, which I think is an issue that is relevant even to those in a community where there are a decent number of other home educating families. Russell Hendel spoke about teaching Rashi, an approach he has put years of time and effort into developing.

Finally to close the conference, Rabbi Simcha Feuerman from NY spoke about home education and the Oral Tradition. Then I added an additional feature for those in MD – a workshop on the state laws and legal compliance given by veteran homeschooler Celia Greenberg, who used to run an umbrella program that many Orthodox area homeschoolers were registered through. About 40 minutes after officially calling the conference to a close, we had to leave since the building was closing! All in all the feedback to me was overwhelmingly positive, BH. A number of people told me they walked away feeling proud to be homeschoolers; one person told me that last year she was embarrassed at the thought of associating with homeschoolers, thinking they would be strange and weird. This year, she said, she feels proud to be one of the elite! Big change, isn’t it?! Others have told me they were considering home education but were very unsure and felt alone, but now they realize there are others doing it and so many resources that they feel much more confident about the option. Since a major goal in founding this conference was to put home education on the map of the frum community and put a proactive positive face on the presentation of homeschooling (since the general position is that people feel forced into a defensive posture on the topic), I’m delighted to hear that this goal is being achieved. The other goal was to build a stronger sense of community among home educating families, something I also think was achieved as kids of all ages and their parents from around the country got to know one another face to face. The internet is wonderful but there’s no substitute for personal, real-life connections.

All in all the feedback to me was overwhelmingly positive, BH.  A number of people told me they walked away feeling proud to be homeschoolers; one person told me that last year she was embarrassed at the thought of associating with homeschoolers, thinking they would be strange and weird.  This year, she said, she feels proud to be one of the elite!  Big change, isn’t it?!  Others have told me they were considering home education but were very unsure and felt alone, but now they realize there are others doing it and so many resources that they feel much more confident about the option.  Since a major goal in founding this conference was to put home education on the map of the Orthodox community and present a from a position of proactive positivity, rather than the typical defensive posture most people feel cornered into, I’m delighted to hear that this goal is being achieved.

The other goal was to build a stronger sense of community among Orthodox home educating families, something I also think was achieved as kids of all ages and their parents from around the country got to know one another face to face.  The internet is wonderful but there’s no substitute for personal, real-life connections.

I’ve been asked when cds of the talks will be available; the first set has been purchased but only because someone was in a rush to NJ and wanted to take them to a meeting of parents there discussing home education.  At the beginning of this week (Monday) I plan to officially make the talks available for those who couldn’t attend, or those who did but want to hear the messages and information again!

Avivah

PS – I’ll try to post some conference pics soon.

4 thoughts on “2010 Torah Home Education Conference recap

  1. It was wonderful. I can’t describe the chaiyus that I received from all of the wonderful people there. It was especially gratifying to finally meet Avivah and her family. Thank you Avivah for all of your hard work. I’m sure I speak for many other families living a little further out in golus when I say that your efforts have really fortified and nourished our minds and neshamas. :)

  2. Ellen, I hope in the future you’ll be able to come!

    Shoshana, it was wonderful to meet you in person. And thank you again for the marvelous state bingo game!

    Jess, it was nice to meet you last week as well! To subscribe to Torch-d, go to shamash.org, look up Torch-d, and then follow the subscribe info.

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