Tuesday, May 8, 2012

MD trip part 2: the conference

The conference was on Sunday, so we spent Shabbos in Baltimore. There was oneg on Friday night for adults. By the time I got there, I was so tired, that, I think, I did not make the most of it. I met a few other parents, heard some stories and got the feeling that there are a whole lot of homeschoolers in Baltimore. For some reason, I thought there wouldn't be. I assumed that it was too frum, that there are so many school choices, that people are very stuck on doing a mainstream thing. It was a pleasant surprise to discover otherwise.

Then, on Shabbos, there was get-together for adults and kids at the park. As we were walking there, 8 yo asked if all the people there will be Jewish. I said, they will all be Jewish and frum. Then I realized that he had no idea what a convention was. I explained. He said, oh yeah, my teacher once went to a convention, they taught her that it is easier to use smartboard with knuckles than with fingers.

When we got there, there was quite a crowd. I met with a few people from Friday night. The boys first kept to themselves, but then they joined in the global tag game and seemed very happy. The 2 yo made an instant friend.

The following morning was the conference. 8 yo seemed embarrassed to go to babysitting. I reframed it as childcare. By the end of the day, the boys did not want to leave. They ran in the gym, made pottery, played table games and ran on the stage. I saw them waving to some other kids in the hallway as we were departing.

As for me, I was a bit nervous. I was worried that it might have been a whole crazy trip for nothing. But I was mistaken. First of all, just sitting in an auditorium with over a hundred frum homeschoolers was amazing. As I looked around the room, I saw tichels, hats, sheitels, snoods, hair tucked in, hair hanging out, hats on top of the sheitel. I saw people from all over. I saw young mothers, just starting to homeschool their oldest. I saw older people, with their grown-up homeschooled children, who are now homeschooling the next generation. I saw husbands, wives and couples. In short, the overall picture is that all segments and groups of Jewish people are homeschooling, not just a few weirdos who did not fit in.

The other vibe that I got, is that it is good to be swimming against the current. As one of the first presenters said, we are being shut into progressively smaller boxes, until the size is 2 inches by 2 inches and there is no leeway. This conference showed the bigger picture.

A few highlights:
  • When you embark on something new, there are three reactions: ignoring, ridiculing and fearing. Based on the Yated Neeman's article, frum homeschooling is feared and being lashed out against. I am hoping for eventual acceptance.
  • To teach kids one needs to have an end goal in mind. Is the goal to produce kids who think that Judaism is something that we do because everyone does it, or independent thinkers who "work" for it?
  • A parent is not an instructor, but an educational facilitator. Not a slave driver. The children will study what interests them and parent will provide resources necessary to support those interests. The environment needs to be set up appropriately, the atmosphere has to conducive to learning, but the drive to learn will come from the child. 
  • Children carefully observe their role models, primarily their parents. There could not be any hypocrisy, as it will be immediately picked up.
  • A strong relationship between a parent and a child is desired and encouraged. Before you say, duh, think: when the child is in school the whole day, the allegiance is to the pack. When the child is home, the allegiance is to the family. Besides, I have met plenty of people who cannot wait to ship off their 2 and 3 year olds to someone's care because they cannot tolerate their own kids.
  • Limudei kodesh and chol can and should be seamlessly integrated. One needs a deep understanding of the sciences in order to understand Torah, but one also needs to a close relationship to Hashem in order to appreciate the marvelous world around us.
  • Your relationship to finances will impact your child's relationship to money. Should we define ourselves by how we make a living? Are you fiscally responsible? A child should be taught basic skills, such as making a budget, balancing a checkbook, giving tzedakah, paying bills, conducting cost-benefit analysis, allowance management, etc.
I also got to meet a few of my fellow bloggers and posters. But the most interesting part was meeting people who are not homeschooling yet, but came because they are interested.

There is a problem with our educational system, both public and private. There are courageous people who will find a way to educate their child, even if it's not mainstream, even if everyone frowns on it, even if the outcome is not guaranteed. In short, there multitudes of people who take veshinantam levanecha seriously.


  1. "When you embark on something new, there are three reactions: ignoring, ridiculing and fearing."

    The reaction I get most often is none of these. It's almost across the board, and has been for the past decade+: "Wow, I could never do that." (To which I answer, "I don't think I could cope with getting everyone out in the morning and carpool and cramming homework in the evening.")

    thanks for writing about the conference!!

    1. The above was describing people's reaction to a new movement. Also, people assume that when you say that you homeschool, you sit there with textbooks and kids all lined up and you teach them every subject, to each kid. I think that's the part that people feel they cannot do.