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“It is ironic that not only in the frum world, but also in the secular world, the question of socialization takes top place on every list,” reported Mrs. Eagle. “I find it mind boggling and it has perplexed me from day one. I feel that kids who are homeschooled are easily able to socialize in all situations, and I think that socialization is more of a personality issue than an educational one.”
Mrs. Eagle was quick to point out that while her children may be educated at home, they have many opportunities to socialize with their peers and that there are advantages to spending time with people of all ages.
” My kids take classes, are out of the house on various pursuits, connecting and engaging with others. If someone came to our house with children who weren’t the same ages as my children, my kids would never say ‘don’t they have any kids our age?’ They welcome all guests and rarely leave the Shabbos table even when it is adults only because they are fascinated by the conversation. They enjoy the company of others and if anything, I have found that it is the children who attend conventional schools who have difficulty conversing with adults.”
While the Internet has been a wonderful tool for the homeschooling community, putting so many resources literally at their fingertips, Jewish parents face a unique challenge when it comes to homeschooling.
“Most families aren’t intimidated by the secular part of educating their children, but when it comes to limudei kodesh, that seems more challenging, particularly for baalei teshuva,” explained Mrs. Eagle. “But there are so many resources out there for the Orthodox Jewish homeschooling population. There are gemara classes online, Torah tutoring online and other sites that offer classes, blogs and more.”
Informing the Jewish homeschooling community of the resources available to them is the main goal of the Torah Home Education Conference, an annual event hosted in Baltimore at the Park Heights Jewish Community Center by the Jewish Homeschooling Network. This year’s conference took place on May 26 and marks the second year that Mrs. Eagle has served as program coordinator for the event, which had over one hundred attendees from all over the world and featured speakers, workshops and panel discussions.
“My main goal is to let people know that Torah home education is a viable option,” reported Mrs. Eagle. “This is a wonderful choice for a frum family, particularly those who live in more remote areas.”
In addition to the annual conference, the Jewish Homeschooling Network has recently begun providing webinars throughout the year, a means of not only providing information but also offering support to homeschooling parents.
“This is it,” said Mrs. Eagle. “We are the only Torah education homeschooling network and it is important to keep the connections that we forget at the conference going. We have many women who are isolated, several are military families and it strengthens them to talk to other homeschooling moms.”
* * * * *
For many years, Chabad shluchim scattered all across the world in remote areas found schooling their children to be a daunting experience. Since its inception in 2005, the Shluchim Online School has grown to an enrollment of over 600 children worldwide, providing a solid Jewish education via live audio/video Internet classrooms.
Serving children from ages four through thirteen, it follows a typical school day format, with breaks for recess and lunch and all students in the online school are required to wear the school uniform. Students are required to have a computer with a webcam, a microphone and earphone combination headset, a secure Internet connection and standard school supplies. Three different divisions allow the Shluchim Online School to accommodate students in different time zones and the school’s special software allows students to hear and see each other to give them more of a “classroom feel.”
The school’s specially trained teachers use cooperative learning methods, encouraging students to connect with each other and to work together both on class projects and extracurricular activities as well. Other social outlets for students include clubs and rallies, with two annual gatherings giving students the opportunity to meet in person and further deepen the bonds already forged via online classrooms.
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