>>This is a personal question, but do you plan to keep homeschooling? Maybe you won’t know the whole answer until you get settled.<<
This is a really good question that I’ve already been asked quite a few times, and I don’t yet have a definite answer. I’ve spent hours going back and forth on this question, taking into account a lot of factors.
It’s funny, some people have assumed that obviously I’m going to send my kids to school in Israel, and others assume that I’m just as obviously going to homeschool everyone there!
There’s a certain amount of pressure I feel about making the decision to homeschool or not. As my ds12 said when I broached the idea of school to him, “You’re the most famous homeschooler in the frum (Orthodox Jewish) world – you’re the queen of homeschooling. You can’t send me to school!”
There’s a danger in getting reflexively locked into a position. A couple of weeks ago I was at our synagogue banquet, and someone said to me, upon hearing that my oldest is in bais medrash (post high school learning program), “Isn’t that against your homeschooling philosophy?” I really get exasperated with that kind of question – why would I be against my post-high school student studying in the framework of his choosing?
To clarify: I’m not against school. I’m for my kids and family’s best interests. There’s a really big difference.
A decision like this isn’t just intellectual, but emotional as well, and it’s in the emotions that there is a lot of room for things to change! There are a lot of things that I do/have done that require a certain amount of physical and emotional energy to carry out – and to do them all from scratch in a totally different framework means reassessing from the beginning as to if I have the necessary energy to do it well. An example would be canning – as much as this is something I’ve enjoyed and appreciated being able to do, I won’t be taking my supplies with me to Israel. It’s something I’ve consciously chosen to let go of in order to declutter my life emotionally – because as we all know, everything can’t be equally important.
Back to homeschooling. When I’m feeling tired and drained, when I wonder if I’m doing a good job with my kids, if they’re getting what I want them to get, when I question if the effort I’m investing and the results match up, then I’m more likely to consider putting the kids in school.
Another factor is that it’s nice to do what everyone else is doing and ease into a community without starting off being different from everyone in a visible way – for my kids, I mean. For me, when I decide something is right, if people approve or not isn’t a critical factor.
I go back and forth on some points – here are some of my other thoughts:
– it will be faster for the older kids to learn Hebrew when surrounded by a Hebrew speaking peer group
– they would be entitled to several hours of tutoring each week to help them get the language
– the littles are getting older and would enjoy the fun and activities of gan (pre-kindergarten/kindergarten), which is only 4 hours daily
– I don’t plan to have a car and that limits my ability to connect with other homeschoolers in the country or do outings – transportation by bus to sites of interest will involve a lot of travel time (and cost) that is intimidating to a family with all the age groups that we have.
– the cost of schools and playgroups is appealingly low
– the school day in Israel is much shorter than the US and would still allow us lots of time together as a family
I’m not going to write the other side – there’s plenty to say about it, but that’s what I’ve been writing about for a long time here! The fact of the matter is, I really believe in home education in terms of providing a strong emotional developmental base, developing character, and building relationships within the family. And I don’t have much confidence in the school system to educate children. Maybe to school them, but not to educate.
So far, here’s how it’s looking:
– Ds2 will be home.
– Ds4 and ds5.5 (those are the ages they will be by then) may go to gan (playgroup) for four hours a morning. This depends in part on me finding what I consider to be a good framework for them; many ganim are fantastic, nurturing places where the kids do lots of fun stuff, no academic pressure. Others aren’t. Another real issue with this is determining how much I’m meeting the older kids’ needs while keeping the littles entertained – they’re at a stage that they need a consistent amount of time and structure. When I’m feeling overextended, I lean about 60% in favor of them being at home; when I’m feeling less overly busy the percentage goes way up. I really love having our little guys home with us, even if they are a source of constant mess!
– Ds8 and dd10 (will be 9 and almost 11) will be homeschooled.
– Ds12 is the biggest question. I’ve checked out the schools in the city we’re going to, and there are pluses and minuses of each. Ds12 will do well in a school framework, socially and academically, so I have no concern about that. It’s more a question of what he won’t get in school that he would get at home. Dh will be busy finding a job and then settling in to that, and won’t have the necessary time to give ds12 what he’s ready for right now, which is substantial daily Torah learning. Not learning regularly when he’s chomping at the bit and SO ready for serious learning isn’t an option.
Both of the boys’ schools are religious (chareidi). One has secular subjects in the afternoon, a shorter school day, and is government funded so it’s quite inexpensive – this is my preference for these reasons (most important is the length of the school day). The second option has limited secular subjects, more intensive Torah studies, and I think is a better fit for our family, religiously and socially. I have reservations about both. (Again, this is based on what I know from a distance; close-up would probably clarify/change some of this.)
– Dd14 wants to go to school, and I’m very supportive of that. She wants to integrate socially, learn the language, and I’m confident she’ll do well. She has a strong sense of herself, and can be with others without losing herself. She understands the down side and is ready for it. She also knows she can choose to homeschool at any point and I’ll fully support her. She’ll be 15, and in tenth grade.
The older kids are a topic for another post – we have a lot of talking and exploring of options to do, since for both dd16 and ds17, this means a lot of changes to the plans they had been making for a long time.