Yesterday I saw an article in this online newsletter, entitled The Best Form of Birth Control regarding the tuition crisis in the Orthodox community. Below was the response I sent to the author in response to this statement: “Home schoolers abound, but the kids spend their learning hours in front of a computer, without healthy peer-to-peer interactions.”
>>I read your recent online newsletter, forwarded to me by a friend. As a long term home educating parent of nine children, she felt I would find your discussion about the challenges day school parents are facing today, as well as your token comment regarding homeschooling, of interest.
I share your belief that the best birth control the Jewish community has is tuition. We have an unsustainable system that is causing tremendous financial pressure on parents throughout the country. It is painful for me to read articles like yours, as well as to hear a similar message in personal discussions on a regular basis because I recognize how much anguish is represented.
Despite my belief that the current educational system is in serious trouble, I have faith in the ability of individuals to look for solutions. Will we have to adapt, and to think differently about education? Absolutely. There are options that parents are either not willing to consider, or are, like yourself, hardly considering before discarding them without thought.
I’m referring to your almost flippant dismissal of homeschooling as an alternative that could bring significant financial relief to parents, without religious or academic compromise. Not only without compromise, but with benefits of individualized learning, increased social and extracurricular opportunities, along with the enhanced self-image and self-esteem that accompanies those who develop without constant comparison to peers on a daily basis for years. A not insignificant benefit is the enhanced family bonding that takes place when siblings and parents spend significant amounts of time together in a healthy and supportive environment.
When I read your comment about homeschooling, I couldn’t help but wonder how you’ve drawn the conclusion that homeschoolers are socially deprived and glued to the computer for hours a day. How many homeschooling families do you know personally who match this description? Many parents share my feelings that computers are a tool that need to be used with caution, lest the time be spent displacing activities of much more value and importance; we limit our high school age children to an hour a day, and our younger children hardly use the computer at all. After homeschooling over a decade, I’ve met numerous families (in person and online) who homeschool, but hardly know any who match your description.
I’m on the other side of the country, but if you were closer, I’d without hesitation invite you to come to our monthly homeschool gatherings to see what homeschooled kids actually look like. Many parents who are interested in homeschooling initially fear that by choosing to homeschooling, their children will be socially weird; it’s actually meeting homeschooled kids and seeing that overall they are more mature and confident than their schooled peers that is the encouragement parents need to begin homeschooling.
If you’re truly looking for an option that isn’t dependent on a wealthy individual to magnanimously throw a lifeline to the struggling schools in time for your family to benefit, I’d suggest you consider looking into homeschooling. There are as many ways to homeschool as there are families, and every family has the ability to make the experience what they want it to be based on their vision. Even for those who don’t make the decision to home educate, thinking outside the box may help you come up with some other viable options.
Best wishes to you and your family in finding a solution that helps you meet your goals and brings you serenity and joy.<<
The article that I linked and responded to brought up the challenges to families of high tuition costs, something I’ve repeatedly seen clearly identified as communally a problematic expectation in forum after forum. Despite being confronted with this reality, one common response seems to be to talk about pulling in more funds from somewhere without making any other substantial changes. I believe that charity dollars are limited but in any case, if a system is fundamentally broken, then bringing in more money to keep it afloat a little longer isn’t tenable long term.
From my vantage point, it seems that homeschooling is slowly becoming more accepted in the Jewish world, and it is one option that can offer tremendous hope to families and communities, if people are willing to look at it with an open mind and find out what it really is – and isn’t – about.