Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Homeschooling- A Viable Option

Here is an article about homeschooling that we wrote that recently ran in the Jewish Voice. If after reading the article you would like more information about if homeschooling is right for you, please leave a comment below or email me. We would love to host an information session for anyone who might be struggling with tuition payments, have children who just are not thriving in school, feel that they would like more freedom in their family life and child's education.

 Homeschooling- A Viable Option

            When it comes to education the debate runs deep concerning topics like teaching styles, cost of education, and religious philosophies of our Yeshivot. Most of us have never thought of homeschooling as a viable alternative. Homeschooling is on the rise nationwide, growing between 7 to 15 percent each year, according to the National Home Education Research Institute. It is estimated that more than 2 million children in the U.S. are being home schooled, a 75% increase since 1999.  

            Even with those statistics, we never thought homeschooling would be in our future, but after some online research and attending the annual Torah Home Educators Conference in Baltimore last May we decided to give it a try. It has been an exciting and challenging endeavor and we are optimistic about its future. Over the course of the year, we have received many questions and concerns regarding homeschooling. Here are our responses to the most common questions we have received.

 1. What about socialization? Aren't your kids going to be socially awkward?
            We must first debunk the myth that homeschoolers spend their entire day sitting around the kitchen table pouring over books. Many homeschoolers complete their lessons in just a few hours leaving time to pursue interests and chesed activities in social settings. Homeschoolers get together for field trips, organized sports, academic classes, park days, etc.

            The socialization that homeschoolers partake in happens out in the real world. They learn to navigate social settings with mixed aged peers and have more opportunities to learn proper behavior from adult role models. Opportunities constantly arise to model and discuss proper social skills like treating others with dignity, controlling our emotions, and dealing with hardships.

            Research studies conducted by Dr. Larry Shyers concluded that homeschooled children have fewer behavior problems and higher self confidence then their age-matched peers from public and private schools.

2. What about academics? How can a parent teach their child everything a school can teach?

            Each family takes their own approach to home education.  Some families feel more comfortable buying premade curriculums and having official "school" hours. Others follow the path of unschooling which believes that children have an innate desire to learn and by following their interests, self directed and independent learners are created. Many families find a balance between these approaches. Families can outsource for subjects they do not feel equipped to teach independently by hiring a tutor, rabbi, using online programs, or by joining a co-op. In addition, students can learn along with their parent or self-teach with appropriate curriculum.

            Research conducted by Dr. Brian Ray (2009) shows that on average, homeschoolers scored about 37 percentile points higher than the national average on standardized achievement tests. This study also revealed that factors such as student gender, parents’ education level, and family income had little bearing on the results of homeschooled students. These results are not surprising since homeschooling provides true individualized instruction, as Shlomo Hamelech advised "חנוך לנער על פי דרכו".

3. How do you find the patience to homeschool your children?

            It is a constant work in progress. We imagine teachers have good and bad days just like we do. What keeps us going during the trying times is our conviction that we are fulfilling the mitzvah of ושננתם לבניך. We feel grateful that we can spend this time with our family building a strong family unit, imparting a love of Torah, and using the world as our text book. Our children learn at their own pace and explore topics they are excited about. Much of our learning is a byproduct of living a meaningful and exciting life together.

            Part of the impetus for writing this article is to find those few families that would be interested in this challenging but greatly rewarding endeavor. When like minded families take on the challenge of homeschooling together a homeschooling community develops. This allows for pooling of resources and a plethora of social and educational activities amongst peers of similar values.

            To get a glimpse of what our homeschooling journey looks like, please check out our blog: http://jewishhomeschoolnyc.blogspot.com/.  If you would like more information about Jewish home schooling, please don't hesitate to contact us. In addition, please consider attending the Torah Home Education Conference on May 26, 2013 in Baltimore to get inspiration from other Jewish homeschoolers.

Ilana Masri, M.S.
Speech -Language Pathologist and Owner of Classy Crafts- a kids crafting and baking program

Daniel Masri M.D.
Diagnostic Neuroradiologist
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