Rabbinic Response to Homeschooling

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Jun 18, 2009, 8:38:30 PM6/18/09
to Toronto Jewish Homeschoolers
Here is a message thread that I began on a web-group in the states
called Jewish Orthodox and Homeschooling.

Hi everyone,

Just curious, been getting LOTS of feedback here about the idea of
homeschooling, some supportive, some not so much. I would love to hear
some of
the feedback from different rabbi's that people here have spoken to as
to the
observant take on homeschooling, for and against. I'm trying to really
understand the issues as best I can, and I'm having trouble getting
some real
clarity. Help!

Thanks in advance,

Here are some of the responses I recieved:

"With all due respect to our rabbeim, I think one should be cautious
about asking a rabbi about homeschooling unless the rabbi a solid
understanding of homeschooling and has had experience with
homeschooling families. Furthermore, the issue should not boil down
to "for and against". I'm certain that no rabbi would say that there
is just one type of yeshiva for every Jewish child. Likewise, a rabbi
cannot tell a family that homeschooling is not an option for a Jewish
child. For some families, homeschooling may not be the best choice,
but this doesn't mean that homeschooling itself is bad or good."

Oy, have I been through this! Still am to a certain extent, but at
least they pretty much ignore me now. A few years ago, I was a major
topic of conversation and dispute. Even more so when the head rabbi
in our community told me that if I didn't send me kids to the day
school I could no longer be part of the community. Let's just say I
now know who my friends are -and for the most part the Anash in the
community have been supportive, even if they don't agree.

On the advice of some friends when this all went down, I ended up
calling a Beis Din. I am a Chabadnik - albeit a rebel one - living
in a mostly Chabadnik community - so I called the Beis Din in Crown
Heights and spoke with one of the Ravs there. Unfortunately his name
is now escaping him. This wasn't a formal Beis Din case of course -
and I called anonymously - but he was very nice and helpful.

He listened to all my reasons for homeschooling and why I felt it was
the best choice for my family. The only local day school is a Chabad
school and he listened to why I don't want to send my children there.
When I was through he told me that he didn't see anything wrong with
my continuing to homeschool - even if there is a Chabad Day School in
the area. But that I also needed to be open-minded and remember to
meet each child's needs. That if one of my children would be best
served in school, I would enroll him/her. Basically not to be so tied
to the idea of homeschooling, that I was doing so at the expense of my
children. I assured him that I was not doing that, that I had in fact
tried the school when we first moved her and that it hadn't been a
good fit. But that, I"H, someday we may live in an area with more/
better options and then we would reassess the situation. So he was
fine with that and wished me hatzlocha.

The next time the Rabbi brought it up, I told him that I had called a
Rav and gotten permission to homeschool and he hasn't brought it up
since. I also still go to the shul, go to community activities -the
Rabbi, et al are all very pleasant to me and everyone acts like all is

Good luck!

Well, let's be honest here. Homeschooling is not a normative thing to
do in
secular society and kal v'chomer (all the more so) in frum/Jewish
society where
formal education is so highly prized. So most rabbis just don't know
about the
positive aspects of homeschooling one's children.

Baruch HaShem, our family has a rav who has homeschooled his children
and wished
he had continued doing so (maybe not forever, he says) and understands
reasoning behind what we are doing (some of it pragmatic and some of
philosophical). He understands while there can be a lot of good in
sending your
child to a regular school/cheder/yeshiva, a child can pick up
(philosophies) and middos (personality traits) that are not at all
Torah based.
He has answered my questions with grace and forethought and allowed us
to teach
things I for sure thought he would say, "Are you crazy?!?! That isn't
(like Greek/Roman/other culture mythology, the roots of Xianity). He
gives us
approaches which firmly support the Torah but allow us to give an
of why those cultures believed as they do/did. We basically love
him. :)

Oh, my husband is a rabbi too, and he agrees with homeschooling ;)

I will nudge him to join our group (but he is super busy) and if you
want to
meet him, he hopefully will be at the Torah Homeschooling Conference
Baltimore this month.

Have a great Shabbos!




Jun 19, 2009, 11:38:42 AM6/19/09
to Toronto Jewish Homeschoolers

Wow Ellie, that was a very informative series of responses. I'm glad
to know a bit more about the Jewish community's general response to

Is there a compilation somewhere out there, of all of the evidence for
the benefits of homeschooling, from both secular/psychological/
education perspectives and Jewish perspectives? I'd love to have that

And, I find that while Orthodoxy has really preserved wonderful midos,
generation after generation, many many Jews have picked up all of the
common opinions regarding anything alternative in education, medicine,
childbirth, etc.

When we've told orthodox Jews that we want to homeschool, they've
never questioned our ability to teach the Jewish subjects, which is
our real concern. They always take the 'socialization' angle. Which
is good for me, because I've read the research and know that concern
is not reality.



Jun 19, 2009, 2:49:02 PM6/19/09
to Toronto Jewish Homeschoolers
Very interesting!

My own fear is that probably many rabbanim would say I'm not qualified
in this area.
As a baalas teshuvah, my own awareness of limudei kodesh subjects was
VERY limited until my kids started in day school. I have picked up so
much over the years: practical things like how to lead kids through
the davening, ideas for craft projects, songs for brachos and various
yamim tovim, how to read Rashi script... everything I know about
Yiddishkeit, I learned from Uncle Moishy. :-)))

At this point, the older kids are far beyond my skills. Sometimes,
Elisheva gets frustrated - "why won't you just sit down with me and
study Navi!" Okay, maybe if I had some background, I could. She has
no concept that an adult would not know elementary-school Navi. These
days, I only study with her if she makes up flashcards ahead of time,
which actually helps her get her thoughts organized and helps me help
her despite my ignorance.

Here's a thing I wrote ten years ago or so about how I began the
process of my own Jewish learning as YM started kindergarten (at
Yesodei HaTorah - ha ha ha):

My fear now, as I embark once again on this elementary school journey
(Elisheva graduated from Grade Eight this week, so they're both
finished, just as Naomi Rivka is starting), is that I am still so
woefully deficient, still so "making it up as I go along" that there
is no way I could offer the kind of living Jewish curriculum that a
day school run by FFBs could ever do.

Thoughts on how BT/geir parents can make up for a lack of Jewish
elementary education...? (perhaps with an eye to countering rabbinic/
community opposition)

Good Shabbos, all!



Jun 20, 2009, 9:55:35 AM6/20/09
to Toronto Jewish Homeschoolers
Well, this is what I was referring to in one of the other topics. I
think we can accomplish teaching the Jewish subjects in a few ways.
One way might be to hire a teacher, as a group, who we think will
teach in a way we can respect. They would still be homeschool (no
school credit), but not necesserily by their own parents for every
subjectt. Another way would be to swap talents. If I can sew, I'll
teach sewing lessons, if someone else can dance, they can teach dance
lessons, and if there are some parents ever among us who is FFB, they
could teach some of those subjects.

But its true, unless your child is in dayschool, they aren't going to
have those subjects EVERY SINGLE DAY.

But its also true that ancient Jews learned their Judaism from their
mothers. Boys went to Yeshiva's, at a particular age, and girls
stayed home and learned with their mothers. I'm not so sure that
every Jew needs to be a scholar. The things that we think of as basic
subjects that every child should learn... are they really? Or has
that just become the 'standard' to make us feel like we can't teach it

And, whats more valuable to a child? To have the drive to go out and
learn, because they haven't been forced to learn in school their whole
lives? Or be sent to school and learn, but maybe not enjoy any of it,
and never look back when they finish? If we give them good tools and
opportunities, and let them pursue their interests, I think they'll go
for what is interesting, in their own time. Who was it? Rabbi Akiva?
Only learned Torah at the age of 40 and became a great scholar?


Jun 21, 2009, 8:41:11 PM6/21/09
to Toronto Jewish Homeschoolers
I think this is an important group of topics.
What subjects will be taught?
Who is qualified to teach them?
How will this work?

I think the keys to this co-op working are also some of the ways to
approach answering these questions:
open dialogue,
constant re-evaluation,
clarity of purpose and
consistent honesty with respect to our abilities to meet our goals.

One of the reasons that I wanted to have a pool of people doing this
together was to also increase the likelihood of varying expertise in
different areas, and that we could all bring this expertise and love
for particular material to bear on our teaching of different subjects
and genres.
Now the secular curriculum is all provided, but as for the limudei
kodesh, this is something we will have to find is either within our
capabilities or not. It seems from what I have read that the first
young years that we are beginning with ( pre-k, jk, sk and perhaps
grade 1 ) are all things that we can collectively cover with a lot of
different materials and with some hebrew speakers on board. There is
already a possibility that we may have some people that not only
speak hebrew, but also teach it. The ideal of course is to have
someone or a few people who are either FFB or have been immersed in
the learning for a long time. However, I do think/feel that this will
have to be evaluated on an ongoing basis. If at any time we feel that
the curriculum is beyond our skills within the group, then we can look
at different options -
a) hiring someone together to come and teach these areas, (still
probably less financially stressful than sending the kids to day
b) revisit the idea of integrating the kids into the day school
c) find some new families that have these teaching skills and
integrate them into our co-op,
d) other ideas that anyone else may have.

For sure the most important thing is to convey the values and love for
Torah that we all want our kids to grow up with and into, in the ideal
ways that we see for our families and future families. I think the
more honest we are with each other from the get go about our goals and
values, the more likely we are to be able to consistently re-evaluate,
and to measure whether we are in a place to continue as we are or
whether we must change in order to truly potentialize the education
process for our kids.

My husband and I also feel that it is important that we evaluate
before beginning each new year to see if this is still a working
process or if there needs to be a change. So each new year we will ask
ourselves if we are to continue homeschooling or if we need to look
into formal education in order to get the best learning situation for
our kids. I think this is important so that we don't get stuck in just
thinking in one direction without asking what is the best way to go

So, these are some of the thoughts I've been having in response to
these questions and concerns, I would love to hear more from others on
this board to hear thier input and ideas, and more questions and
concerns. The more we put on the table, say and talk about now, the
less we will have to haggle our later.

Shavuah Tov,


Jun 21, 2009, 11:42:24 PM6/21/09
to Toronto Jewish Homeschoolers
Thanks for your input, Shira. It's true that there is a lot of
pressure to learn and progress through certain subjects in the
community without a lot of thought as to why or whether they are
actually important for every child.

Ellie: I have been thinking about and like what you're saying about
re-evaluating, as that was my approach to begin with. :-)
I'm intrigued that you say "the secular curriculum is all provided"
because, actually, one of the things I've learned from my kids' day
school experience is that the secular curriculum can (and SHOULD!) be
addressed in a Jewish way.

Like learning math from Chanukah candles, there are so many Jewish
learning opportunities every single day, I'm often sad that I missed
out on these "secular" Jewish moments in my own upbringing. (though,
of course, there's a fine line between appreciating something and
hitting your kids over the head with it so often they're sick of
hearing about it!)

> > Only learned Torah at the age of 40 and became a great scholar?- Hide quoted text -
> - Show quoted text -- Hide quoted text -
> - Show quoted text -

Risa Alyson Strauss

Jun 22, 2009, 11:32:47 AM6/22/09
to toronto-jewish-ho...@googlegroups.com
hi there....kindly take me off this list.  i forwarded this to some friends of mine for one of the group members and ended up on the list myself.  i dont have children (yet....) and am trying to reduce the number of e-mails i read in a day :)  thanks!
these are important conversations to be having....i'm just not there yet.....
with light,

2009/6/20 Shira <shirar...@yahoo.ca>

Program Director
Kavanah Organic Community Teaching Garden
The Jewish Nature Centre of Canada - Torat HaTeva
(416)805-8382 (TEVA)

Eli Bass

Jun 22, 2009, 11:59:30 AM6/22/09
to toronto-jewish-ho...@googlegroups.com
hi risa, no problem, we'll remove you right away.
all the best,
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