Letter: Dear teachers, schools, principals

Dear teachers/school/principals:

I’d like to begin to conveying my deep appreciation for everything you do to educate our children. All the tremendous hard work, extra devotion and dedication that you all do is both so apparent and appreciated! It is not going unnoticed and I am extremely thankful to you all.

At the same time, I struggle so much with what I see every evening when I come home from work. It’s the vision of my girls, elementary age school children, sitting at the table and plowing through endless hours of homework. When I ask them when they began, they tell me from the minute they’ve walked through the door.

My heart sinks and I need to use all my strength to hide my extreme disappointment in the system. My children, who are extremely scholastic and bright, have just sat through hours of school. They’ve worked hard at school to try their best and give it their best. They come home tired and hungry and yearn for a few hours of time to relax and unwind. However because of the pressures of immense amounts of homework, they have none of that.

I just don’t get it.
What am I not understanding?
Did they not do enough in school?
Did they not try hard enough?
Did they not give it their best?
Are they not human?

Would you want to sit down after a long day only to deal with hours of homework?
We have one chance and only one, to give them the most beautiful and positive schooling experience.
Do we want them to remember it as a time of dread and stress?
Thankfully my children don’t struggle with it on an academic level and I can only imagine what it’s like for the children who aren’t as bright. The hours of tutoring, frustration and stress. All for what??

By the time they are finally finished, they are absolutely spent.
Is this what we really want to do to our children?
Are these the memories we want them to have of their school years?
Stress. Competition. Tests. Marks. Grades.
Is this what it’s all about?

On another note, I ask you an honest question.
Today, do you really remember every ramban, pasuk, midrosh that you have studied and memorized for hours on end?
Does it serve any purpose for them to know every explanation to every pasuk?
Does it help them to know every single Halacha about the shofar?
Do they really need to memorize all of the yideos klaliyos that they are forced to?
Do you remember any of it at all today?
Did you remember it a year later, or even a month later?

What are we teaching our children?
Are they just machines, that we need to download as much information as possible and have them replay it back to us in perfect sync?
Are we turning our beautiful, innocent and pure children into computers?
We are we trying to do?
What’s this all about?

It hurts me so much to see it.
We have one chance to instill in them the beauty of yiddeshkeit, the pride of being a Jew, the joy in being Hashems children and so much more.
Their brains are being developed and we have this one opportunity to mold it into what we so badly want in our children.
Having them study for ours on end, memorizing random facts that they won’t ever need, teaching them that Judaism is all about rules and regulations, in my opinion, just won’t do it.

Please correct me if I’m wrong and I’m open to criticism, but if you ask the average school child, are they truly a proud Jew, do they feel Hashem’s love for them, do they feel happy about all the halachos they are keeping, I venture to say that we both know what they would answer. And that answer scares me.
I just don’t see the hours of homework, the homework subjects and the way everything is forced down their throats as the way to instill in them what we hold and believe in, so deeply and dearly.

I’m not angry, nor am I bitter. I’m writing this as a result of an article. I’m simply trying to understand and make sense of this all and it breaks me, that I, an adult, had to teach myself everything about true yiddeshkeit, Hashem’s infinite love, and what religion is all about. It was all my own learning, searching, asking and working on and nothing came from the hundreds of hours I’ve spent studying.

These children are our precious assets. They are out next generation.
They will carry over the mesorah to our grandchildren.
Can we take a deep, brave and authentic look at what we are doing and perhaps more at what we are not doing?
It has been bothering me for years and that vision I see every day when I come home from work, breaks me so much!
It just feels so off.
If this is truly what they need, I plead with you to give me the answer to tell them when they cry to me how little time they have, how stressed they are and how frustrated they are with the endless work.

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  1. I wholeheartedly agree with the letter writer. The fact that my kids went thru the system and have random halachos memorized but haven’t a clue how to operate a kosher kitchen aside from what I have taught them is wrong. The stress involved and anti secular studies they are taught just makes their adulthood more difficult. But the system is not going to change unfortunately. So it is our job as parents to give them their real education.

  2. You’re exaggerating!!!! They have 15-30 mins of hwk at night. I have girls in high school and upper elementary at the moment. Maybe this goes on during testing season, but on a regular.night that is NOT the case.

  3. I was also wondering about this, why is my daughter memorizing everything and learning seems to be without any heart and feeling.
    Read the books about Sarah Schenirer, the whole concept of Bais Yaakov was to build people and give a feeling for yiddishkeit, am I missing something?

  4. So well written!
    And especially the kids that sit on a long bus ride home if living outside Lakewood and don’t get home until long after school ends and then they have to do all the homework stuff, ludicrous!!!

  5. Such a well expressed letter! Truly, as adults what are the PRIORITIES that we want our children to take with them for the rest of their lives? Looking back, what have we, ourselves taken with us?

  6. Homework is important. Too much homework can be problematic. I have been involved in schools and have brought up kids, but haven’t seen homework to the extent that you are describing. Although sometimes I wondered if what I was seeing was too much, it wasn’t so extreme. I’m not sure if you are exaggerating or if you chose schools that are a bit extreme. Either way, you can do something about it.

  7. From what I understand this is a terrible misunderstanding, if you took all the knowledge you learned in 12 years of school and learned it as an adult you can probably learn it all in a few months.

    School uses subject matter to train the mind to compute, comprehend , analyze, retain information, it’s not really important what you learn it’s the subject matter training the mind to operate and understand.
    As in physical exercise the more you do it the better you get, it goes without saying there are limitations and not everybody can do exercise but yes children need training We all know of adults who are sort of handicapped at certain skills and it hampers them from earning a living or earning the salary they would like, and contributing to society.

    We have a responsibility to train children to be capable and industrious so that they can lead happy successful lives, that is the goal of the schools while everything can use fine-tuning there is a purpose to the hard work. This is why children need to work hard they need to develop and without hard work they won’t develop and they won’t remain children forever either, they grow up without skills. sad.
    It might be painful to see your child working so hard but take the Long view your child’s employer won’t look so favorably and be so understanding as you are to your child’s lack of skills.

  8. I won’t deny I enjoyed a homework free summer but the way the letter writer describes it, is NOT how it is in my 6 kids’ school. (except finals of course) Homework is given only 4 nights a week and kept short. It’s beneficial for kids to review ON THEIR OWN what they learnt.

  9. I guess I didn’t know to count my blessings that both my boys school and girls school give a small amount of homework!
    Enough that there is some chazara but really not much time consuming!

  10. I just came home from meeting my sons teachers. The rebbe said if the homework he sends home takes more then 5-10 minutes, stop immediately and to call him. Because he said that means he failed in teaching my son and has to review it again to make sure the boy knows the chumash inside out. Nothing being sent home should be fresh taught from that day, but been reviewed several times already.

  11. Beautifully written πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘ I could not agree more!!

    There needs to be a change ASAP!!

  12. ok – my kids have endless homework yes on thursday night as well with test on erev shabbos and alwyas a big test right before yom tov

    can we stop it – its overdone i send them to school to learn – learn in there and them be kids when they get home

    • Your kids have homework Thursday night??? Tests on Friday and before Yom Tov??

      I never ever had that. Homework on Thursday night is helping for Shabbos.

  13. We (parents and teachers) teach our children that we must follow our Gedolim, even if we don’t fully understand them. It is very well known that Reb Matisyahu Salomon Shlit”a was very against long homework. The schools though, send a very wrong message when they torture students (and parents) to spend many long grueling hours doing homework and studying. They are, in a sense, saying “doing as we say not as we do.” Is this proper Chinuch???

  14. This is complete exaggeration. If the parent would have said his/her child struggles academically, maybe it would be believable. My kids in 3 different schools spend less than 20 minutes (many times less than 5 minutes) on homework, 90% of the time, 3 or 4 days a week.
    As an aside, the only things I do remember are the things I memorized in my lower elementary years. And I think the yedios klalios programs are very important. They teach basics of yiddishkeit that everyone should know.

  15. Agreed they pressure the kids so much it isn’t fair I have no problem with learning in school but the homework and even the finals and midterms are unnecessary. No problem give test but more often so it’s easier after a few chapters. The finals and midterms are so stressful the kids are staying up till all hours but yes unfortunately I’m sure nothing is going to change. And the worst part is that there are kids that aren’t good test takers and the majority of their grade are these tests

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