Op-ed: Homeschooling For Lakewood’s Children – Give It A Chance

By Aaron Joseph. The title says it all really. Homeschool. Homeschooling is done is every community in the United States, and around the world. Homeschooling is the original natural order of childhood education since the beginning of time, and Homeschooling allows parents absolute and unlimited rights and abilities to provide their children with the all-encompassing Chinuch experience custom tailored to fit the parent’s objectives. Homeschooling as well is a completely legal alternative to the conventional school system.

In the United States, nearly 3 million children are homeschooled. The three concerns of parents in the United States that choose to homeschool are: 1. Have concerns regarding others providing their children with education. 2. To provide a more religious or moral setting and educational experience. 3. Dissatisfaction with academic instruction at traditional public and private schools. In fact, a recent poll found that 48% of parents home schooled because they believed they can offer a better education at home. That is nearly half. The religious or moral setting reason was mentioned by 38% of American parents who home school their children. As a point of interest, the most gifted and talented children are homeschooled, and this includes the majority of young American celebrities in the various arts. These children are deemed too valuable to place in other then personalized surroundings.

The “modern” eduatcional system that we know of today, was a creation of the German’s during the late 1600’s. The United States gradually amended to such a system during the 1850’s, then only to mostly be disrupted during the Civil War, and once again re-implemented during the 1860’s. The general school system worked and still works fine for a population that would like un-intrusive time for themselves, and which doesn’t mind allowing their children to degenerate away from home values. However for the societies that emphasize tradition, even in today’s world, there is no such thing as a general school system, and the homeschool prevails. In the United States, a prime example would be the Native American communities, who have overall vehemently resisted sending their children to a school system, and retain the homeschool method.

In New Jersey, it is completely legal to homeschool a child. State law requires children to be educated. However, if parents or legal guardians choose to homeschool it is fine. State law provides local school boards with the ability to request documentation, such as a letter of intent from the parent/guardian confirming that the child is either attending a nonpublic school or receiving equivalent instruction elsewhere than at school. This law applies only if a parent does not appeal a public school’s decision not to accept their child, or if removing a child from a high school. New Jersey Department of Education *only encourages* parents to notify the local board of education of the intent to educate the child elsewhere than at a school, so that questions do not arise with respect to the parent’s compliance with the compulsory education law. As well, the local school board has no say in regard to a homeschool curriculum, or who does the teaching.

For the more entrepreneur minded, small groups learning with a Melamad in any particular local Bais Medrash would find much collective success. It can be done in comparative stature to any small community which has but a few children of any specific age. Perhaps a centralized homeschooling office which can field logistics would be beneficial, and the 200 Botei Medroshim or so around Lakewood can host homeschool groups and would greatly contribute to and would make such an arrangement practical and ideal. Back to the days of the Melamad.

Of course the Melamad days carried with it varied flaws in such a system, yet, with the awareness, foreknowledge and wealth of lessons which the bygone era of Melamad has informed us of, why not reinstate it with progressive adjustments for our times? Think of all the hundreds of various other groups around town which work so beautifully: Baby-groups, playgroups, Sunday groups, nightly groups, Motzei Shabbos groups, groups, groups, groups.

Any particular group can be limited to that one specific group throughout their formative years. Why not? Illustration in point: A small group of 6 primary children are taught by a Rebbi / Morah. This group then continues bonding together through their early years. An option exists to even keep the same Rebbe for many years, allowing the child/ren an added precious resource of a close relationship with a worthy mentor. In fact, this is sought in courts of royalty.

Groups meeting for whatever activity have proven to work exceptionally well in all areas and arenas that those groups meet for. Year after year throughout childhood, the same kids meet together, over and over. Of course sometimes a change of venue or method is required. Yet with an across the board implementation of such a homeschool/group innovation, breaking the bonds of stigma, any eventuality requiring recourse would be expedient and quite the norm.

Obviously homeschooling is not for every child. Granted. Some, maybe you or your kid, or both, really need the outlet- the already taken-for-granted innovation of the current Yeshiva K’Tana system. Your kid must be sent ‘out’. Beautiful! While you and your zeesa kint require this particular method, it is not necessarily proper for every child. In fact, nearly every single study proves that most children would be far more successful in their studies if they were to be homeschooled. Most studies show that the conventional school system inhibits a child’s development to say the least, to being down right detrimental to his growth. Think about it. And while it just so happens to be that you and yours are well provided for by today’s educational system in place, many, many others are not.

The one and only hindering factor that comes to mind for an immediate implementation of such a fabulous homeschooling idea is the lack of any such homeschooling fad, and the potential for an initial stigma involved. A false stigma, one created by those who thrive on the system that is now in place. Both the ones who require the [numbers = cash] equation and those that earn from it, and those that would be seen as requiring an institution to handle their child, as opposed to doing the job themselves, if the homeschooling becomes mainstream.

A secondary factor of importance would be financing. Elementary school tuition is bordering on $4,000 per child. A Rebbi shared by a few children, either together, or independently would be economically feasible. As for general education or vocational skills, many mothers are good with children! Ask any English tutor, a classroom lesson of 45 minutes, can easily be properly and fully delivered and implemented in 10 minutes in a small group or in a one-on-one setting. As for all that “extra” time available for children to be children… think of the millions of benefits that can be achieved by allowing children to develop skills and talents of interest.

In Lakewood in particular, homeschooling, or groups, would eliminate the whole forum of stress related issues involving schools. The initial process of getting a child into a school would be forgotten, fitting in on the outside at least, and maintaining a cumbersome veneer (that the school’s Hanhala sees right through anyway) until all your children graduate. Homeschooling would also allow your child much needed attention that would allow him to thrive as an individual, as opposed to a number. Bussing. What bussing? Best of all, there would be immediate and a completely open diaolog with any Rebbi or teacher.

Granted, not every parent has the ability to homeschool, yet for a small fee, the capable parent in the neighborhood may be more than happy to assist. There are a potential 5,000 Rabayim in the Lakewood Kollel as of today. As well as mentors, counselors, role-models, and tutors.

All homeschooling requires right now is a chance. Give it one.

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  1. Attention Op-Ed. Home School is being done already in Lakewood but is a burdon becuase it is forced on the parent. But you are right that if it is not a stigma but a positive it would be seen diferently. It works.

  2. We have homeschooled. However I decided that there is more of a social life in school for me and my children. When I sent him to Tashbar in 4th grade he was ahead in all areas except for socially and it did take him time to get used to the rigid structure of a school setting and in his words that the boys act differently in school than out of school. It was a healthy experience and one that he gained from.

  3. What you are describing is not home schooling. There is no real difference between sending to a rebbe or to a school You would still have the problem that a popular successful rebbe would be under pressure to accept more children in the group and other parents may want to limit the class size or have veto rights on accepting particular children.
    You seem to be suggesting that we divide the city into hundreds of mini schools. Each parent would have to negotiate separately with rebbeim for each of their children. A family with 5 boys would each year or so need to find 5 new rebbbeim. Since you are keeping your class sizes small, each bais medrash would have 5 or ten classes functioning at once. In my neighborhood there are over 400 elementary aged children KAH kein yirbu. Our shul is not big enough even on Shabbs let alone for 40 classrooms. This plan would lead to chaos especially for distractible children.

    There also would be no safe area for ball games and recess which are important parts of a childs education. Who would pay for the increased wear and tear on the local bais medrash when children color on the tables and spill on the carpet?
    mechanchim would have no oversight. Safety issues would be ignored. Without a community based system, children with any kind of learning or social difficulty would not be accepted anywhere and would spend the day running hefker.
    Since each rebbe is their own mossad there would be no organized fund raising. a parent who cannot afford full tuition would be unable to find anyone to teach their child.
    Home schooling is when the primary instruction comes from a parent who tailors each lesson to each child. Sometimes outside teachers are employed for special areas like music lessons.

    I do think that there are many children who would benefit from a personalized home school curriculum . Unfortunately not all their parents have the time and resources to provide it. And this suggestion would have little benefit for anyone.

  4. I can testify to the merits of homeschooling. I homeschooled my children from 2nd grade through high school. My initial reason to homeschool involved the health of my children. Later, I learned there were so many other valid reasons to continue. I taught the majority of the subjects and substituted DVDs and other tutors as I felt I needed for assistance. I graduated both of them last June, and although not currently going to college per se, they are continuing their education through other non-traditional means. I was also active in a local homeschool support group, maintaining a leadership position for most of my time in it. Although I’m not from the Lakewood Orthodox community, I would be willing, as I’ve done for so many others, talk with anyone who is interested in learning more about homeschooling in NJ or starting a support group. If you are interested, let me know and I will somehow notify the moderator to give my personal contact info.

  5. BTW, if your children have been attending private school the whole time, there is no need to notify the BOE or State that you intend to homeschool. They essentially do not know about your children anyway, are not coming out of system that is funding your child. As a courtesy, you would notify the private school so that records can be forwarded to yourself. However, if anything should happen, as in someone decides to send an anonymous unfounded tip to DYFS or reports your children as truant, you will need some kind of proof that you homeschool. Simple portfolios or showing curriculum used usually suffices.

  6. I home schooled my older boys. Taking them out of yeshiva and learning with them or and arranging chavrusah, and they are much happier and know much more then the regular bachur.

  7. Just be aware many have started out to homeschool then decided that their child was better off in scholl only to find out that no school is willing to take them since the schools don’t feel any achrayus to accomodate them by adding them to already overcrowded classes.

  8. In the olden days in the shtetle, people hired a private melamed for their sons. It was done until modern times when schools became the norm and became mandatory. (of course, then the boys only learned limudei kodesh and most girls didn’t learn even how to read, unless one had money to hire tutors for their children, some didn’t learn very much at all.) I think it it’s a good idea and wastes less time, because children learn at their own pace and level of understanding, one on one and can accomplish much more than in a class with 30+ kids on all different levels of comprehension. More people should give it a shot if they can. It’s better for their kids. As far as social skills is concerned, they can have play dates or join some after school clubs etc.

  9. The costs can surely be far less. That all depends how much you or your husband are willing to take on by yourself. No matter what you spend however, the quality education of what your child receives being homeschooled is far greater than in a traditional school.

    Potential costs are: English text/work books, which can be found at extremely good prices on ebay or amazon. CD’s (again found on line at very discounted prices or for free in the library) tutor’s and mentors depending on how many you decide you would like.

    Families have but one Rebbi for all the children over a set time period. Of course if your husband has the time himself, this is free. As for general studies, I myself oversaw the lessons, which on the elementary level are all read ahead a few days so as to be prepared.

    Research wholesome activities and hobbies that would best benefit your child’s talants, as there is ample time for them to be developed, include a second language as well.

    Educational trips are a wholesome activity as well which can be done as frequently as you wish. I myself tried to schedule one every two weeks. This includes geographical and science oriented trips. Many musems have discount rates as or are free free for home schooling.

    A big plus is to network with parents who may appreciate your child doing homework together with theirs, as this completely offsets any lack of social losses and allows. Other parents appreciate this, as your homeschool child is far ahead on grade level and can help others.

    Homeschooling is a healthy and happy period for any child fortunate enough to have a parent capable of doing so.

    If you have additional funds extras can be added. The fundemental implementation of homeschooling is not expesive. Under $500 for materials. An English tutor may be suplimented 30-45 minutes 1-2 times a week (more is not required) for under $75.

    The key, as in any other area of life is consistancy. If you can schedule responsably, it will work for you. #4 & #5 above offers to assist. See above.

  10. I am an experienced home school Rebbe and General studies teacher with references. If anyone would like to form a small group, please leave your contact information. I do have a shul available to me, if you’d like your children to learn outside the home.

  11. I did not see this as Lakewood Scoop blocks our server.

    Lakewood High School is now offering free English education, our full curriculum, to all children of Lakewood. We have one student who is taking all of her courses from home. Lakewood High School teachers monitor the courses and supervise student work.

    She will be receiving an authentic Lakewood High School diploma without stepping into the building.

    The authority of a school district to educate students from home through distance learning is N.J.A.C. 6A:8-5.1. We electronically monitor the amount of time the student spend on course-work so that the student is “in attendance” as a public school student bringing in full state funding.

    Lakewood religious student have a constitutional right to not to have English after eighth grade Wisconsin v Yoder, 406 U.S. 205 (1972). As such, no Lakewood child can be forced to learn English. However, those whose parent desire English education now have it available for free.

    Our program will solve the yeshiva tuition problem in addition to the state funding problem. Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403 U.S. 602 (1971) disallowed to sectarian institutions for English teachers. On the other hand, Agostini v. Felton, 521 U.S. 203 (1997) allowed such payment for to sectarian institutions for Title I instruction. Lemon was per capita aid targeting the school, while Title I in Agostini, targeted the student.

    Zelman v. Simmons-Harris, 536 U.S. 639 (2002), the voucher case, did not have the restrictions of Agostini, relieving the school of a substantial burden or if the aid is diverted to religious studies.

    Our program is better that Zelman. Whereas in Zelman, ultimately the funds go the school of the targeted student. The Lakewood High School program is for all children of Lakewood. It is irrelevant if they are in a sectarian school doing their course work, at home as a homeschooled student, or out of an educational framework (above 16) altogether. This solves the constitutional problem of providing education to yeshiva kids.

    I currently have 13 netbook programed only to go to our course site. Student can use them for free and access our courses from home if they have internet or from the library.

    I am now researching a different setup, a LAN server interface, without internet. If we switch to this kind of platform, we can delver the interface to a yeshiva outside of the tachum or to a girls school in Lakewood, to provide free education without internet to all the children of Lakewood.

    As a thought experiment, consider the 2009-10 state aid formula using the 2011 count of 21,000 school age students in Lakewood. It comes out to $273,388,049. This is almost a whole order of magnitude more than the uncapped $33,619,687 aid for 2010-11 and a 1,063% increase over the capped amount provided for 2009-10. Although state aid increase are capped, the formula has a provision to allow 10% increases in enrollment per year. Even if we reach 1% of this potention, it solves our funding, property tax, tuition and educational opportunity problems.

  12. Students do not have to be full time to access our courses.

    The authority of a district to allow homeschooled students part-time access to its program is Alpert v. Wachtung, 13 N.J.A.R .110, 119 (1986).

    Contact me at: [email protected]

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