Response to comments about our first year of homeschooling in Israel

A  reader left the following comment to yesterday’s post in which I summed up our homeschooling year.  Since my response became lengthy, I decided it would be more helpful to post here than in the comments section.

I appreciate the questions and comments – usually there’s someone else wondering the same thing and it gives me the chance to clarify!

>> “You don’t need to be perfect, you just need to be adequate.” Wrong – sort of. You truly do not need to be perfect, but if “adequate” means that worst case scenario they will be equal to their public school peers, I disagree. Why set the standards that low?

I’m strongly against perfectionism as it’s dangerous and unhealthy, and the comment of mine that was quoted was intended in that spirit, to remind mothers that perfect isn’t necessary to get great results.  I know of some excellent public schools (eg Howard Country, MD) and some that are quite bad (eg inner city Baltimore) so there’s quite a spectrum for public schooling accomplishment and it’s not accurate to assume that the standards are always extremely low.  While I don’t think we have to use what the public schools are doing as a standard, let’s be fair – if most of the kids in the country are schooled in this manner and it’s considered good enough for them, why is it a failure if a homeschooled child’s  academic achievements are parallel to the schooled kids?

Having said that, adequate to me has never been defined by what public schools do or don’t do.  My references are to homeschooling, which gives our kids so much more time and opportunity to develop themselves while at the same time helping them learn the academic skills that will be important for them in life.

Being an adequate parent – concerned, involved, committed – is what our kids need and will help them be successful.   They don’t need one hundred percent consistency every day, all day, they don’t need parents who are perfect role models, they don’t  need a home that is perfectly organized to create a great learning environment.  Too often homeschooling moms have raised the bar so high for themselves that they feel like they’re constantly failing rather than look at what they’re accomplishing.  I hope that it’s clear that I’m not encouraging mediocrity.  My approach is relaxed but even so our four oldest children have been academically quite successful in the school frameworks post-homeschooling (high school and post high school) and it’s my assumption that the rest of our kids will also do well.

>>I’m not saying it’s right, but it’s understandable why an Israeli school teacher would recommend meds for a difficult problem: she probably has 40 (!!) students in her class and simply cannot give extra attention when needed. (I have a collection of horror stories from a similarly over-burdened teacher when our daughter was in grades 3 -4 )<<

Yes, I understand that it’s convenient for them and wouldn’t expect them to be able to take a personalized approach – though thankfully my son was in a class of only 24.  If the classes are set up in a way that don’t allow teachers to meet a child’s needs, this isn’t fair to the teachers or the students.  My focus isn’t on the schools and what they do or don’t do, but rather that I can make a choice to address an issue at the root rather than cover it up; my goal is to either give a child time to grow into himself so the issue disappears, or if the issue isn’t resolving itself, help remediate it so it’s not something that continues for life.

When my son was in school for just a year and a half, I saw that the way they determine how to address a problem depends on what their current tools are.  When they could offer play therapy, they told me that was the answer and then when they didn’t follow through on that, and I reminded them of it and requested it several months later, they said they no longer offered it but that it wouldn’t have helped anyway!  Why did they work so hard to convince me I should enroll him when it was available if it wouldn’t have been of help anyway?  Of course they can only offer what they have but I’m pointing out that schools don’t have much room to explore options to help kids, even if those involved truly want to help.  A parent has the ‘luxury’ of seeking out for his child the help he actually can benefit most from.

>>Socially, culturally, and professionally, it may or may not be a big deal that the kids’ Hebrew is as yet not up to par (this may come back to bite you, but time will tell). But the real thing to be careful of in a bilingual situation is that they are truly proficient in at least one of the languages, rather than fluent but mediocre in both. Speaking from experience.<<

We made a decision to move to the north to help our kids acclimate culturally in the best way possible and didn’t want to go to an Anglo bubble though life would have been much easier for our teens who made aliyah in large part because I feel it’s important for our kids to be able to integrate into Israeli culture, and giving them these skills remains important to me.  It was also for this reason that I sent them to school for our first two years here.

I’m not suggesting that Hebrew doesn’t matter; while I’m relaxed, I’m in no way blase’.  I’m not waiting until they enter an Israeli high school and saying they’ll learn the language then.  Their language skills aren’t yet on par with their Israeli peers but just because it isn’t yet at that stage doesn’t mean that it will always stay like this!  In fact, I would have to work hard to keep them from improving their Hebrew even without my direct input being that we live in a Hebrew speaking country!

I obviously can’t know how things will turn out, but so far I have two kids who are in the Israeli high school/post high school system who are doing quite well who had the same amount of Israeli schooling behind them as these kids – and I don’t see the younger kids as being at a disadvantage.  Having the desire to succeed and the motivation to learn are a big part of success in any framework and this is a natural part of a child’s development when appropriately supported, which homeschooling does better than institutions.


One thought on “Response to comments about our first year of homeschooling in Israel

  1. Hi Avivah,
    Can you tell us how you handle kodesh studies with your boys?
    Do you teach them to ready Chumash and Rashi? Mishnayos? Do they have tutors?
    How do they get fluent enough in these areas to be ready for yeshiva?
    Thanks so much for your amazing posts as always!

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