Homeschooling From A Jewish Family’s PerspectiveApril 6, 2021
Guest author Bethany Shondark Mandel.
Much to my confusion and chagrin, homeschooling isn’t very popular in the Jewish community. I think it’s a bit of the chicken and the egg situation: Nobody homeschools because nobody else they know homeschools. Someone always has to go first, and in every Jewish community, there are a few brave souls who have chosen to do so. What goes into the decision to homeschool for Jewish parents, especially those on the more observant side?
Beneficial Factors of Homeschooling
It usually starts with a desire to stay out of the “day school” system, for any number of reasons. They usually center on a few themes: The cost of day school, the length of the school day, and the availability of special needs resources.
The Initial Draw — For many parents, the cost of tuition is equal or even exceeds that of the salary of one parent. If one parent is willing and able to, homeschooling provides a welcome alternative to the idea of working just to pay for school. In our family, this was the initial appeal to considering the prospect. Our days and weeks are more flexible to allow for shorter school days, the addition of extra opportunities like mid-day pottery or art classes, and the possibility of going on vacation during off-season times.
Our Family’s Journey With Homeschooling
As we opened our hearts and minds to the idea (okay, as I slowly began to convince my husband to get on board with the concept of homeschooling), other benefits began to present themselves, in large part due to the philosophy we elected to follow.
Our Homeschool Curriculum — We are fans of the Charlotte Mason method, which means our homeschool days are filled with a lot of downtime for play, our lessons are short, and the emphasis is on living books, nature study, handicrafts, art, and classical music.
We currently have two children “doing” school, in first grade and kindergarten, though we have two younger sibling stragglers always hanging around absorbing what we’re doing. Our day starts around 9 am (we’re late risers and slow starters), with “Morning Time.” During Morning Time, we have a rough list of things we tackle every day, and over the week, those include Bible readings, practice with Hebrew prayer and blessings, reading Jewish stories, working on Bible memory and recitation, as well as enjoying and discussing pieces of poetry, art, and classical music.
The rest of the day my kids separately tackle lessons in math, Duolingo (for Hebrew), twice a week Hebrew classes on Zoom, and piano (with Hoffman Academy). Together we learn a bit of history, music (Solfa), natural history, geography, and more with the secular curriculum we use: A Gentle Feast. The morning time guide sold with A Gentle Feast is also the backbone of our Morning Time plans, as well, and we alter them somewhat to make them more Jewish (I discuss how we made A Gentle Feast work in our Jewish homeschool on my YouTube channel).
Our Homeschool Schedule — Thanks to the short lessons with Charlotte Mason, we are generally finished for the day around 11:30 am, wherein we prepare lunch and spend the rest of the day playing or doing “after school” activities like dance or gymnastics. We often gather with other local homeschoolers to play in nature during nice weather, as well.
Overall, we feel very lucky to have chosen this path and hope that other Jewish families will take the leap to join us.
More About the Author
Bethany Mandel is a homeschooling mother of four living in the Maryland suburbs of Washington D.C. She is also an editor at the political site Ricochet.com and a freelance writer on politics and culture. You can follow her on any social media platform imaginable @bethanyshondark.