How Did You Homeschool?

Hello Rabbi and Susan,

My husband and I have chosen to homeschool our children. Our oldest will be seven in a few months, our other two children are four and two.

There are only two families in our Jewish community who have homeschooled their children. Overall, not many people in the Jewish community homeschool, especially those of us who are Orthodox. It can be very difficult “swimming upstream”.

One of the challenges we are dealing with is making sure our children’s time is structured, but not trying to make school at home, if that makes sense. How did you plan out your homeschool schedules over the years? How structured were your days? What did you do to make sure your children would continue their love of learning? Also, how involved were you, Rabbi Lapin? Perhaps you can put together a course for Jewish homeschoolers. There are a small number of us, but the movement is growing! Thank you a lot for your wisdom.

Yasminah H.

Dear Yasminah,

Congratulations on starting a wonderful adventure! It is a bit unfair to ask us a question on homeschooling because our space to answer in this column is limited. (We will link to a few resources below that you might want to check out.)

I [RDL] will jump right in here to say that when I proudly tell people, “We homeschooled our children” I use the word ‘we’ in the same way as I use it when I say, “During the childhood of our seven children, WE changed a total of about 30,000 diapers.” Sure, I did change some. A few. But the bulk were changed by Susan. Similarly, though I helped with Torah study and with science and math, the overwhelming bulk of the homeschooling was done by Susan. Among the countless ways in which she has blessed me, homeschooling our children is a gift for which I will be grateful to her forever.

The crux of your questions comes down to this sentence that you wrote: “What did you do to make sure your children would continue their love of learning?”

While we were well aware that there was nothing we can do to “make sure” our children did anything since they are each individuals rather than puppets of ours, we did put much effort into exposing them to those things that are important to us, including a love of learning. They saw us constantly reading and heard us discussing what we read. They participated in intelligent discussions at the dinner table, played games, and did puzzles (often with us) that were fun – and educational. We had maps and charts all over the walls so that it was hard to brush your teeth without seeing the countries of Asia and Europe. We read aloud at the dinner table and listened to books on tape as a family while driving. Learning was built into all parts of our lives rather than something that you ‘did’ at certain times and in certain places.


This is not to say that everything was fun. Learning the times tables, rewriting and improving an essay, and acquiring a good Biblical Hebrew vocabulary and commensurate grammar skills, for example, can demand working with discomfort and boredom. I (Susan) have a more structured personality and our homeschooling reflected that. I have friends who are more laid back and artistic and their families structured the day differently. One of the joys – and responsibilities – of homeschooling is figuring out what works for your family as a whole as well as for each family member. This is not a ‘one time and done’ project.

Our schedules changed based on the children’s ages and what else was going on in our lives. I (Susan) did the bulk of choosing curricula, books, and activities as well as teaching, but I (RDL) supported and supplemented everything as well as taking the lead position when the children grew and expressed interest in topics that played more to my strengths, such as physics. Torah included both specific skill sets that needed to be acquired as well as being part of everything we did, including being the lens through which we looked at history and literature.

In other words, you will find your own way and adjust as you go along. You might want to look at some of Susan’s Practical Parenting columns and check out our (homeschooling) daughter’s website Mother’s Guidance. Homeschooling is popular in the Baltimore, MD orthodox Jewish community and you might want to make some connections there.

Enjoy!

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

This Ask the Rabbi is dedicated in memory of Lidor Levi and Nitzan Rahoum, both age 28, who were murdered at the Supernova music festival on October 7, 2023. The previous night, the engaged couple had told their families that Lidor was four months pregnant.

And with prayers for the safe release of the remaining hostages and among them, we pray for Shomo Mansour, age 85. Born in Iraq, (which kicked its Jews out in the 1950s) Mr. Mansour lived with his wife, Mazal, in Kibbutz Kissufim. When the Hamas terrorists came to their home, Mazal managed to escape while he was taken to Gaza.


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