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Posts tagged " homeschooling "

Update: From Bibs to Boardrooms

December 8th, 2016 Posted by Susan's Musings 8 comments

My husband and I love hearing comments on all our posts, be they Thought Tools, Ask the Rabbi, or my Musings. This week’s Ask the Rabbi question focused on whether retirement meant something different to women and men. One response came from Claire, who started her comment with these words:

Thank you for validating stay at home mothers, especially homeschooling ones. I passed the CPA exam 8 years ago and was just getting ready to return to work (part-time) while my children were in school. I learned more about the Common Core and decided against it. I actually think the way things were being “taught” was part of the reason why my son was confused. I knew he was capable of much more so I decided, once again, to focus on my family first. I began homeschooling him and have been very thankful for that decision ever since. I would say the only difficult “thing” for me is that, at times, I feel uncertain of my future once my children grow…

Claire’s concern resonated with me as I’m sure it did with others. It also reminded me of a very early Musing I wrote almost ten years ago. I thought that some of you might not have all my Musings memorized (just kidding!) and that this piece might deserve reposting. Enjoy.

I had lunch the other month with a powerful group of women. Around the table sat a highly intelligent and accomplished bunch made up of small business owners, executives, and/or entrepreneurs.

 

I didn’t meet these women through a business organization or college alumnae program. We actually met many years ago, when it seemed as if all of us were always pregnant or nursing (actually this wasn’t an illusion – for years we were always pregnant or nursing) and we spent a lot of time together learning, swapping advice, laughing, chatting and simply being there for each other. Had you asked us to look ahead at that point to the time when our children would be grown, I think you would have been met with sleep deprived gazes that couldn’t comprehend that there would be a day when diaper pails and bibs would no longer be the central decorating theme of our homes. Our short term goal was to get a solid night’s sleep, our long term one to finish a magazine article in one sitting; I certainly don’t think any of us anticipated our present lives, still dedicated to our families, but also engrossed in careers.

 

And yet, here we were. What had been a group of full time stay at home mothers who shopped together for triple strollers, bought pots at restaurant supply stores and were mistaken for a preschool when we went to the park en masse, had in the blink of an eye found ourselves the mothers of adults who no longer needed us hovering over them.

 

And while our husbands, by assuming full financial responsibility, had given us (and themselves) the precious gift of time with our young children, by the time those years passed, our families’ bank accounts were in dire need of infusion. While we all had college degrees and some of us more advanced ones, our resumes had huge spaces in them that were less than impressive to prospective employers.

 

Yet, somehow, as I looked around the lunch table, each of us when the time was right had turned the vast skills and experiences we had gained in those years of focusing on being wives and mothers and transformed ourselves into driven, competent, and savvy professionals. Rather than being discouraged by how little others would appreciate our home based accomplishments, we assessed our own talents and interests and carved out a niche for ourselves.

 

I think it is entirely possible that if in the early years of our marriages we had been aware of the financial realities of the future, we might have been drawn to make different, perfectly rational decisions. Perhaps we would have had fewer children or kept our feet in the door through part time employment, or opted for nannies to enable us to work full time. Looking back, I’m glad we were naïve. While I don’t advocate digging one’s head into the sand, sometimes we need to thank God for keeping the future hidden in a mist and trust ourselves that when we need to step up to the plate, we will be able to do so. 

If You Give a Homeschooler Some Salt

November 23rd, 2016 Posted by Susan's Musings 18 comments

If you have avoided children for the past thirty years, you may not be familiar with the classic book, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. This popular tale, written by Laura Numeroff and illustrated by Felicia Bond, reveals a probable chain of events familiar to us all. If you give a mouse a cookie he might want a glass of milk; the glass of milk might lead to a request for a straw and so on and so forth until the mouse’s desires loop back to requesting another cookie. We’ve all been there, whether with mice, children or ourselves. How many of us have upgraded an outfit, room or website only to discover that the new and improved look compels us to upgrade another and then another item?

This just happened to me. I decided to clean out my pantry and discovered a ridiculous amount of salt. I know how this came about – I don’t cook with salt very much yet I buy new boxes of both table and kosher salt (which describes the size of the crystals, not its kosher status) for Passover each year. Since we never finish these containers, they pile up.

These days, salt is not an expensive item. Even so, I was reluctant to simply throw it away. I texted my two daughters asking if they wanted salt to make relief maps with their children who are in a homeschool geography club. I should have known better. I got an immediate response saying what a wonderful idea it would be if I would make relief maps with the girls. That of course led to searching for videos on how to actually make the salt dough and finding printable maps of Washington and Maryland, the girls’ respective assignments. I needed to pull out paint and scissors and run to the store for flour as well. Since two of my darling granddaughters were already coming over, they might as well stay for supper so I put up a batch of macaroni and cheese which, incidentally, called for a pinch of salt.

I may not be crazy about mice, but if you give a retired homeschooling mother some salt, she will think of an educational project which will lead to enjoying her blessings. Wishing you all a blessed Thanksgiving with your loved ones.

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Should we homeschool?

June 2nd, 2016 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 1 comment

Question:

“How do you feel about home schooling? My wife and I are thinking of doing this to finish educating our two daughters who are now in 4th and 6th grades.”

∼ Heath N.

Answer:

Dear Heath,

This question is like telling the late Steve Jobs that you are thinking of switching from Microsoft to Apple and asking what he thinks about that. In total, we homeschooled for about sixteen years. One of our children was home for only one year, most spent some time in high school and for some, college was their first entry into the organized educational system.

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I May Not Agree with What You Say…

July 12th, 2011 Posted by Susan's Musings 3 comments

My soon to be eight year old grandson has taken to peppering his conversation with phrases like, “Golly” and “That’s swell”. This is not surprising for those of us who know of his fascination with the Hardy Boys series. He is an avid reader and books expand his vocabulary (sometimes amusingly) as well as his knowledge of geography, history and so much more.

But danger as well as treasure can lurk in books.  While the Hardy brothers with their sense of responsibility, honesty and respect for law are welcomed into his home, his mother, the doorkeeper, keeps some other books out. Recently, supervision of reading material was a hot topic on a homeschool web discussion group to which she and I both belong. The fascinating and provocative exchange of ideas that shot across cyberspace is one of the reasons I stay on this group even though my own homeschooling days are over. 

To an outsider, the group would seem to be homogeneous; Jewish mothers and fathers who approach homeschooling from a Torah perspective. However, even within those parameters, differences emerged. Members passionately (homeschoolers tend to be passionate about anything having to do with their children) explained why they do – or don’t – allow their children to read various genres of literature; what types of books they prefer; and how strictly – or leniently – they impose their views on their children.

Despite the variety of opinions, respect for each other’s ideas permeated the conversation. Just the opposite took place when the Wall Street Journal’s children’s book reviewer, Meghan Cox Gurdon, wrote an article criticizing how dark young adult literature has become. While her point seemed a no-brainer to me since I long ago learned to steer clear of much of current young adult literature, it provoked a firestorm of controversy. As she wrote in her follow-up article, “If the American Library Association were inclined to burn people in effigy, I might well have gone up in smoke these past few days.” Many who disagreed with her engaged in personal attacks on her intelligence and character rather than her ideas. 

The contrast between the conversation on my homeschool group and the one sparked by the Journal article was stark. The fact that so many of the belligerent participants were young adult authors, librarians and teachers, seemed to me to be one more reason not to entrust one’s children to their influence. While, to their credit, some later offered apologies for their ad-hominem assaults, the vehemence and nastiness of the offensive suggested that Ms. Cox Gurdon was quite accurate when she said in opposition to crude and violent literature, “Entertainment does not merely gratify taste, after all, but creates it.”

 

The Child Equation

June 22nd, 2010 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

 

Reading an article in Saturday’s Wall Street Journal entitled, “The Case for More Kids,” gave me the impression its real headline should have been, “Having Kids Isn’t as Bad as You Might Think, but It’s Still Pretty Bad.” A sunny, optimistic view of family it was not.

Maybe I am overly sensitive but phrases such as, “every additional child makes parents just 1.3 percentage point less likely to be ‘very happy’,” and “child No. 1 does almost all the damage” didn’t leave me with a warm, fuzzy feeling.

The piece would leave most readers wondering why in the world anyone has any children.  It did not have this effect on me.  My children have brought immeasurable joy to my life (despite occasional periods where I need to remind myself of the long term picture).   I was further inoculated from the article’s baleful proposition because I had spent the previous Sunday with parents who delight in their families.

That day, my husband and I both had the privilege of speaking at the second annual National Orthodox Jewish Homeschooling Conference in Baltimore, MD. This event brought together mothers and fathers from around the country who are a part of a growing group of religious Jewish homeschooling families.   My husband spoke about stepping outside convention by removing our daughter from the school we had ourselves founded.   For my part, I tried to give newer homeschoolers reassurance that down the road their children would be well-balanced and happy members of the larger community.

But we received more from the conference than we gave. Firstly, I delighted in meeting women whom I have known as members of an online support group, but never before had the opportunity to greet face to face.  Getting to know them was such fun.  Over the years, we have shared questions, suggestions, difficulties and triumphs and it was a thrill to actually talk in person. 

But more importantly, the day was an opportunity to be surrounded by folks who are passionate about parenting.  While this passion for parenting isn’t exclusive to homeschoolers, it is overwhelmingly present in the homeschooling community.  Rather than adding up the financial cost of having children as the author of Saturday’s newspaper article did, these parents count the blessings. Rather than seeing children as an emotional drain, these parents view their kids as a source of emotional pleasure. Most importantly, rather than asking, “What’s in it for me,” these parents see children as a gift from God to be treasured. 

There was a great deal of practical homeschooling advice offered over the course of the conference, which is no longer relevant to my daily life.  Nevertheless, the day provided an injection of fun and optimism along with a reminder that there are still young parents who view having children through a bright lens rather than with a jaundiced eye.

 

How Dare You!

January 19th, 2010 Posted by Thought Tools 6 comments

This past week my daughter brought her homeschooled six year old son in for his state-required annual evaluation. Now, Emily (name changed upon request) may have her own family and business and present herself to the outside world as the competent adult she is, but she is still one of my babies. This is to say that the possibility exists that I might not be totally objective when a bureaucrat assaults her.

But to my mind, when an arrogant, rude, officious, taxpayer funded “expert” evaluator has the gall to suggest that Emily is anything less than a supremely competent and talented mother and teacher, that official is saying more about herself than about my daughter.

I don’t expect this pen-pusher to be familiar with Emily’s high school record, or know that she attended college on a complete academic scholarship. She has no way of appreciating that while in college majoring in biology, the administration implored Emily to enroll simultaneously in the School of Education and get a teacher’s license. Obviously, she isn’t aware that after attending a few education classes Emily felt that the standards for the courses were so appallingly low and the ideology level so high that it would be a waste of her time to enroll.

It is also unrealistic to expect this administrator to know that while a full time student in college, Emily simultaneously taught geography in a private junior high school and was called in by a puzzled principal who told her that in all the years that he regularly asked students what classes they especially enjoy, he had never before had anyone, let alone a majority, answer “geography”. Nor was this taxpayer-funded woman present six years later when some of the girls from that class ended up on a bus with Emily’s younger sister and proceeded to sing the songs Emily had taught them naming all the countries of Africa and Asia.

The official had no way of knowing any of those things. But she did see a six year old reading, writing and doing math at an advanced level for his age. She ignored those things and instead berated my daughter for not having dated worksheets and reams of tests.

She observed a child excited and enthusiastic about history. That was unimportant. She scolded my daughter for having a method of instruction that didn’t correlate with the authorized forms she was meticulously filling in. 

She faced a youngster who reads and writes a second language in addition to English. First graders aren’t supposed to do that, so it was immaterial.

Similarly, my grandson’s fascination with and knowledge about airplanes and his understanding of the processes by which plants and vegetables grow was irrelevant; all that mattered was the lack of “official” science curricula.

All of which helps explain why large swathes of public education are a mess. There is no doubt in my mind that the children in the state in which Emily lives would benefit more from having Emily coach and evaluate their teachers rather than being evaluated herself. Quite frankly, I think any unbiased outside observer would agree.