Why should Jewish parents homeschool their children?
King Solomon said we must “train a youth according to his way.” In other words, we must teach a child according to how he or she learns best. Thus, the Torah’s basis for homeschooling.
Why is homeschooling better suited to achieving this educational goal than an academic institution? Because it is the parents who teach their child or children, making for a low teacher-to-student ratio. Plus, parents naturally have a greater interest and investment in their children’s progress, both emotionally and academically, than would a schoolteacher of several students.
A good argument for homeschooling lies in the story of Jacob and Esau. Isaac and Rebecca put both twins on the “yeshiva track,” though only Jacob took to it. Rather than learning and growing from Torah, Esau rebelled against it, and became a symbol of Jewish oppression.
The personal reasons for choosing homeschooling over academic institutions vary. They include the desire to instill in one’s children better values than those often found in the public, and sometimes private, schools; the overwhelming cost of tuition for private school; the many hours Observant children spend in day school, away from their parents; the need for more recreation time; and, most important, the ability to tailor a child’s education to his or her needs.
Larry Beck, a Southern California native who started homeschooling his sons when he and his family moved to Atlanta more than ten years ago, talked to a prominent rabbi about his desire to homeschool.
“The answer I got basically told me that I could homeschool,” says Beck. “What he told me was, the Torah puts the chiuv [obligation] on you to educate your children. Therefore, if you can do as good a job as the schools, then you do the schooling. The only time you should put them in a school is if the school can do a better job. Now, his opinion and many other people’s opinion is that the schools are always going to do a better job. But I don’t see it that way.”
Harry and Mariela Broome, of North Hollywood, California, homeschool their four children. “Our decision to homeschool was made only after a great deal of information-gathering and much thought,” says Harry. “It wasn’t really anything negative about the schools that prompted us to do this…. But we homeschool because we feel that, for our family, right now it gives us the best opportunity to tailor our children’s education to their own needs, abilities and learning styles.”
“One of the things homeschooling does is give you the opportunity to really teach your kids your values,” says Sara Morrow, also of North Hollywood. Sara and her husband, Reuben, pulled their three children out of day school and started homeschooling because they suspected that they could impart Torah values more effectively than an institution.
“We’re not even fans of the word ‘homeschooling,’” says Broome, “because it implies trying to duplicate school at home. That’s not at all what it’s about – we just think of it as a personalized education.”
Many people ask homeschoolers, “How do you socialize your children?” Mariela Broome regularly gets her children together with other Jewish parents and children who homeschool. This small homeschooling group makes regular field trips during the year to places such as the Huntington Library, the Getty Center, the Hollywood Bowl, Kid Concepts, the Zimmer Museum, the park and the beach. Sara Morrow has involved her sons in a Jewish boy scouts troupe for years. In addition, homeschooled children often take classes outside the home, with other children (such as music, science, sports or dance).
“Socialization is no problem at all,” says Broome. “The truth is that most homeschooled kids spend much more time out and about than schooled kids and probably have more day-to-day interaction with people of different ages than school children do. Homeschooled children also have play dates with friends, outings with other homeschooled children, Shabbos dates with friends, and lots of time with their siblings and parents.”
This issue of socialization presents itself in a more complicated way in the Torah world. Observant children will eventually meet a marriage partner based on their social connections in the community, as well as the day school/high school/yeshiva/seminary they attended. Though many homeschooled kids eventually go on to yeshiva and seminary, these guidelines on how to make a “good match” have to become more flexible in order to accommodate the growing number of homeschoolers in the various Orthodox communities.