Will I homeschool in Israel?

>>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.


13 thoughts on “Will I homeschool in Israel?

  1. We lived in Israel for 2 years and your assessments of your children’s ages and needs is right on. My twins were in 3rd grade when we went and while we registered them for school, they ended up basically being home schooled for that first year. They went to school maybe twice a week. There were great after school activities that they went to where they were able to socialize and get more language practice. The ganim in Israel are generally great. They have a much more laid back attitude there and do let the kids be kids. I think the whole lifestyle in Israel fits in with your family life and values. I wish we could go back. Mazel Tov! BTW, canning is a lot of work. Lacto fermenting is much easier and less time consuming and you don’t need a lot of equipment to do it. There is a Weston Price chapter leader in Bet shemesh that might be helpful for you to look up.

    1. That’s interesting to hear, Tami. I was thinking of the same thing with my middle age kids, to involve them in after school activities for the social and language aspect.

      Canning is a lot of work and it’s true that lacto fermenting is pretty easy, but lacto fermenting doesn’t replace canning. Canning preserves the food long term; lacto fermenting is a short term food preservation technique and needs to be in cold storage after the fermenting process is completed. (I’ve been lacto fermenting some foods for several years now, while simultaneously canning other foods.) Were you suggesting I meet the chapter leader there to discuss our common approach to nutrition?

      1. I hate to answer to Tami and if this isn’t what you meant, please correct me! But I’ve spoken with the chapter leader because she knows where to find lots and lots and lots of things, pastured meats and dairy, organic eggs, things like that. It’s a bit scattered, as things tend to be all over the country, but she’s a good person to know in case you want to know where to find stuff.

  2. Wow, very interesting, very well thought out! It’s great that you know your children so well. I have a friend who lives in Gush Etzion who homeschools her large family, but sends her little ones to gan for a year or two, when they’re around 3 or 4 or 5 (I don’t remember :) Then they come out and are homeschooled with everyone else. I don’t know, what you said made me think of that. I have thought of doing the same, but as of yet, I haven’t.. I wish you tons of luck with everything, I’m excited to hear about what will happen with your oldest!

    1. Maybe you thought of that, Chava, because that’s the logical conclusion you came to after reading what I wrote about gan? :) What your friend did is what we would do, if we send the littles to gan – bring them back to homeschool when they’re a little older.

      Ahh, the oldest kids…that’s going to take some time to work out. I’m sure they’ll both be glad to have this aspect of their immediate futures clarified! (I’ve told ds17 that when he’s home for Pesach we can discuss some possibilities – until now we’ve been limited to short weekly phone conversations.)

  3. To homeschool or not in Israel is a very complex question because it touches on more things than just education such as integration and other aliyah related issues. I’ll limit myself to a few comments here but I have thought and continue to think a lot about this question. I’ll be happy to elaborate more on the subject if you are interested so feel free to email or call me. Right now I have some kids that are home all the time , some in school and some in school some of the time. I could really only comment based on my own personal experience. To legally homeschool in Israel could be very bureaucratically challenging but there are people that do it. There is a support network, I could give you the address for their list. Homeschooling here is definitely viewed as something very alternative and not at all mainstream. Additionally, there is the language issue, unless hebrew is the spoken language at home, in order to gain fluency and not just proficiency, some kind of immersion is probably a must. Then there is the general question of integration. Also there is a tendency to encourage conformity in many segments of Israeli society, a collectivist kind of an idea across the religious and secular spectrum. So as of now, I basically keep the kids at home until gan chova – 5 years old. then we send them to a school under the chareidi umbrella- strong limudei kodesh, but pretty basic limudei chol which we wanted to homeschool for anyhow. Because the institutions under the chareidi umbrella are not required to conform to many governmental regulations they might be more flexible in allowing you to implement your own stuff. So one of my boys is in the cheder for limudei kodesh and home for the limudei chol. but it would depend on the administration and sometimes on the individual teachers if they would be willing to work with you. We kind of try to have both hebrew immersion and home education combined. I know other people as well that associate themselves loosely with some umbrella program or institution here or in the US but in essence they are basically homeschooling for most part. It’s not a perfect solution and we have to keep reevaluating things. But depending on the cheder the length of day varies, so I’d advice to find one that is acceptable to you that has a shortest possible day because as the boys get older the days could get very very long, which leaves less time for you to do all the family learning things you’d like. Also schools by their nature come with various issues that one happily avoids while homeschooling. Again I can give you more specifics and share other aspects of our experience which might be useful, but I think this covers it in a nutshell.

  4. I have to say, I’m a little confused by your decision. Did you homeschool in the US mainly because of the cost, and not because of ideological reasons? Because, if anything, I find more ideological reasons to homeschool in Israel vs the US. Schools in israel have an even more “one size fits all” philosophy than they do in the US (I know that doesn’t seem possible@), and administration does not think highly at all of parents who try to “meddle” (i.e. get involved) with their child’s education.
    Israeli schools aren’t so cheap either in comparison to israeli salaries…

    I guess I’m just a little… i dunno… by your announcement, because I’d used you as “proof” that you can homeschool kids long term… and now that you’re stopping to homeschool now that you’re coming to israel, I’m almost starting to second guess myself. Almost, but not really.

    1. In the US, I homeschooled my eldest son through 12th grade. My daughter chose to go to school for 11th and 12th grade and I homeschooled my youngest two sons until we made aliyah. Education has definitely been the biggest challenge of our aliyah and school worked out fine for our son who turned 13 the day we flew but not for our then 15 year old. After a year of sleeping through school – the “guaranteed hours of school ulpan” is a joke – neither had access to such a thing. I ended up taking the 15yo out of school. He homeschooled/unschooled the next two years and then went into the army. Baruch Hashem, he is now acculturating well, but this is a very difficult and complicated subject, and you may just have to play it by ear.

      Which I know you will do just that. Please let me know when you are due to arrive, I’d love to greet you and welcome you home.

      1. Hi, Penina, welcome!

        You’re very right that we’re going to have to see how it all plays out. There are too many variables to predict which way it will go, and if we see the choice we made for one child isn’t working well, we’ll adjust.

  5. I am surprised at reading some of the responses about homeschooling here. First and foremost, homeschooling in Israel is legal and doesn’t require anyone to follow any set curriculum or school board requirements as in the US. There are many homeschooling support groups throughout Israel. There is a very diverse group of families who homeschool from all religious, political and philosophical backgrounds. I home schooled my three children who are now teenagers, one in her second year of university, one studying to be an interior designer/architect and one learning jewelry goldsmithing. We speak only English at home. I taught them Hebrew grammar rules at home and they learned most of their vocabulary at afternoon chugim (classes) and from friends (of which they have plenty from all over the country). I especially recommend homeschooling for olim families who have older children. The adjustment of aliya is hard enough for a family and going from homeschooling to school can make it a lot harder on the children (albeit it seemingly easier for the parents until they have to deal with school issues and then it’s a nightmare). There is ulpan to learn Hebrew and afternoon activities for children to help them integrate into Israeli society.
    I recommend that homeschool families continue to homeschool in Israel until they have learned to navigate the system a little bit so they know what they are getting themselves into if they send their children to school.
    Also, pre-teens and teens may find the bagrut a little difficult since it’s in Hebrew and meant for native speakers. I recommend US citizen teens get an American high school diploma (not to be confused with a GED) instead of taking the bagrut exams. It takes away the stress.

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