Saturday, May 19, 2012

whose kids are these, anyway?

There has been a lot of discussion about this article:

Now, imagine, that all your kids will be home with you, all the way till they turn 18. No preschool, no day school, no yeshiva, no high school. For the argument's sake, let's assume that you are unschooling them, to the degree that you do not have to formally teach them anything. Your only job is to feed them, clothe them and keep them healthy, and let them tag along in daily doings of the household.

Does this plan send shivers down your spine? 

Is it because you do not know what to do with all of them?

Is it because you cannot spend so much time with your family?

Is it because you kids will fight the whole time?

Is it because you cannot imagine running an errand with all of them hanging around?

You probably had too many kids.

Before you pelt me, hear me out. Somewhere out there, there is a limit on how much you can handle. But that limit should not be yeshiva tuition. That limit should not be set by your friend, who had her fifth, while you only had your third.

That limit should be set by the fact that these are your children. It is your job to teach them manners and middos. It is your job to tuck them in at night and slay their monsters. It is your job to cheer at their successes and hurt with their failures. It is your job to look at them as little humans, and not projectors of your aspirations. It is your job to help them map out their goals and then reach them.

Tracy Hogg of the Baby Whisperer talks about "accidental parenting". She refers to patterns that parents accidentally fall into and then unwittingly reinforce till they have a problem. She is talking about babies: not napping, nursing round the clock ( ok, now attachment parenting enthusiasts can stone me too), waking up at night. She says that you have to be your baby's expert. Why do we assume that by the time kids start school, that expertise miraculously switches from parents to teachers? Why are we in such a rush to transfer the authority?

There is a famous Bar Mitzvah blessing that a father says: now I am free from the punishment that is due to this boy. Now, that my child is 13, he is responsible for his actions. But till that point (and in our infatuation with prolonged childhood, I think that age is 18-21) the parent it responsible. Not the day school, not the principal, not the rebbe, not the friends. The parent is.

The original schools were set up for orphans. Everyone else was taught by their parents. Somehow, all the great rabbis of Mishna, Gemara, all the commentators were taught at home and. somehow, managed to become great Torah scholars. I am assuming that most of them did not have parents who were Torah scholars, but the attitude must have come from within the household.

I think we are approaching the tuition crisis from the wrong end. I think that if home education would be a viable competition to dayschool, the dayschools would be compelled to provide what they were supposed to provide in the first place: education for those who cannot get it any other way. For this to happen, parents would have to approach parenting as a full-time job, as a career, as an avocation.

So before we complain about tuition crisis, I would like to hear complaints about those over-the-limit children, the ones that parents keep producing for the community to parent.


  1. I have had neighbors put their two-year-old children on school buses. A few started their kids in nursery within a month of having a baby--tell me that kid didn't feel like Mommy traded them in for a younger model! One of my neighbors started her two-year-old son in school, and then went into labor on his first day. She couldn't have held him out for a year? And, over and over again, I hear the same thing, "if I had to be stuck with my kids all day, I'd go crazy." So, why did you have so many? Children are not just the cute baby we ooh and aah over until the ripe of age of two when we send them away. It's a lifetime commitment.

  2. The sad part is that parents are being told that they are not capable of either teaching or parenting their children. It is common these days for parents to be told (either subtly or overtly) that the are neither religious enough nor competent enough to raise and educate their own children. In my mind, husband and wife should be able to choose to have a dozen children or more. As long as they have the means to bring them up healthy in both body, mind and spirit. But the prevailing current in the frum world is that no parent can do this as well as the school. And parents are believing it.