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Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Teach Your Children Well

There's been some talk on the blogosphere about choosing schools for your children. Jewish or Secular? Chassidish or Modern? Hebrew or Yiddish? A Simple Jew (on this post), Jack, Aidel Maidel and even Dovie have discussed it. How do you decide?

I think before you can make such a decision, you have to ask yourself what you want for your children. What type of life do you want them to lead? Where do you want them to be at the end of their education?

I ask these questions about my daughters. As Shira is fond of saying, I have six children. Not Three BOYS and three girls. I want for my girls the same things that I want for my boys:

I want them to be Shomrei Shabbos, Shomrei Mitzvos. I want them to find loving, supportive spouses with whom to build a home, and to have as many children as they can handle, and have the same warm, fun-loving home life that my wife and I have tried to provide for them.

I also want them to have the knowledge and ability to use the many gifts that the Almighty has given them to find personal and professional fulfullment, and to bring honor to the Jewish people.

I want a school that will teach them how to do this, how to incorporate both the Jewish and secular aspects into their lives. I don't want their future growth artificially stunted by small-minded people who think that all square pegs must be ground down until they fit into the round holes they provide.

They will have to make some sacrifices to remain frum. I understand that. But I don't want people telling my daughters that they shouldn't learn something or aspire to something or pursue something because they are girls.


Doctor Bean said...

Sounds beautiful. Sounds modern orthodox.

Stacey said...

This was great, PT. Your children are very lucky.

ball-and-chain said...

So, public school then?

A Simple Jew said...

A follow-up to this posting:

My 3 year-old daughter will be returning to a Chabad preschool next month. [We will send my son there as well when he is old enough]

My wife and I are very pleased with her wonderful teacher and my daughter looks forward to going each day.

Who knows what the future holds...

torontopearl said...

There are mainly 3 day schools in Toronto that I had the option of sending my children to. (the others are either too religious or not religious enough.)

One was the day school I attended, but it's changed in all these years and there aren't as many observant kids, and in each location of the school they're known as the "shomrai Shabbos" class -- I want my kids unified, not separated in school.

The second school has a population that is slightly mixed -- all Orthodox, but some black-hatter, peyis types, and the administration is against TV watching, their secular studies are not quite up to par with other school, and stuff like that. Yes, I did go in 5+ years ago to get an application for their preschool for my oldest and even then I felt "different" than the mothers gathered there. 1) I wasn't wearing an extra-long, sweeping the floor-length denim skirt--don't own any! 2) I wasn't wearing a sheitel or baseball cap or snood
I didn't have to think too hard nor convince my husband with much difficulty that the school really wasn't for us.

The same day I went to pick up an application at that day school, I had an evening information night at the 3rd option school. When I went into the building that night, and sat among the other potential parents, I felt as if I'd "come home." The fit was just right.

Since 2000, when my oldest started there, I haven't regretted our decision. Yes, there is still a slight variety in the kids who go there and the homes they come from, but all in all, everyone is on the same path of Torah, with similar hashkafa.

It is a difficult decision to choose "the right school" for one's children, but like anything else in life, people can change their mind -- and do -- and send their children elsewhere after they've had a taste of the education and the school's angle.
Our hope is that our children will flourish with our choice for their education.

Jack's Shack said...

Very nice. You are a good father.

PsychoToddler said...

Dr. Bean: Guilty as charged.

BAC and ASJ: I'm not trying to imply from this post that everyone needs to do what I do. I'd like this post to be more of an airing of opinions and some honest discussion.

That being said, I firmly believe that education in a Jewish Day School is a necessity for bringing up frum kids. ASJ, you're a special person who managed to find your way back to Yiddishkeit on your own. You are the exception, not the rule. You can't bank on that as far as your kids are concerned. My grandfather's generation was full of people who kept shabbos and kosher and sent their kids to public schools, and it was devastating to the next generation. Give your kids a good headstart. Sounds like you are already doing that.

TP: That's an interesting thought you just caused me to have. Rather than looking at the kids, maybe we should look at the parents of the kids at a given school and see if we feel comfortable with them. If these are the kinds of people we feel comfortable hanging around with, maybe our kids will do well with their kids.

Stacey and Jack: I'm trying. I'm reaaaaalllly trying.

A Simple Jew said...

Psycho Toddler: Thank you for your warm words.

Sometimes the choice of Jewish education vs. public school education is an economic one. Orthodox Jews are known to have large families and thus tuition costs can run them into considerable debt.

Consider the following scenario:

4 kids X $8,000 a year tuition [price in my area] = $32,000.

Now, if $32,000 of your annual salary will to go to your children's education, you need to work in a profession that pays a very high salary.

While economics alone should not be the sole deciding point on this, unfortunately it is in many cases. My wife recently told me of many people she knows who have taken their children out of the local yeshiva and are strongly considering sending them to public school.

I do not know what I will do when my daughter is old enough for me to make this choice, I daven that I will have the option you recommended.

PsychoToddler said...

I hear you loud and clear ASJ. I haven't gotten around to posting one of my pet peeves with the Jewish community: priorities for Jewish philanthropy. In my opinion, no Jewish kid should be denied a Jewish education based on financial status. Scholarships should always be available to make the burden on parents bearable.

It turns my stomach when the local federation calls for their annual fundraising campaign, telling me about the new campus with the olympic sized swimming pool, the tennis courts, and the fully equipped gym at the JCC. Meanwhile my rabbi has to go from town to town like a shnorer to raise money for our school.

Looks like I ranted after all.

Don't discount the school based on tuition. Go in and talk to them. You may be surprised.

ifuncused said...

Same issue here.
Two and a half schools to choose from. Yeshiva or Hillel and a Jewish Montesouri school that doesn't have all the grades.
Cancel that one and you are left with two schools.
Which one?
the Hillel is a right wing Hillel, a frumer Hillel than most but a Hillel nonetheless.
The Yeshiva school is just that.
Tough choice.
High school is easier in a way, because you have a bigger selection, they tend to let the girls commute a bit further and the boys..you have out of town Yeshivos.

I do want a GOOD education for my kids.
I want a good Jewish education.
No brainwashing
Yes English.

As for tuition, don't we all have that problem? It just goes up every year, whether or not our salaries go up. And our other expenses do not decrease....oy oy oy.

Jack's Shack said...

One of the Day schools we have looked at runs about $13,500 a year. That is a big chunk of change for one and then when you expand beyond that well........

queeniesmom said...

the tuition issue is causing a major stir in the 5-town community in NYC. (wealthier jewish community that has large jewish community.)
we've been wresting w/ this isue for our kids (3, girl and a set of twin boys). yes i'm on long island, close to the 5-towns and in the nyc area - you would think it would be an easy decision but many schools keep moving further right and have been shanghied by the "my hat is blacker than yours" attitude. i want my daughter to have as good as an education as my sons - to be encouraged to earn a living, (yes i know that's a dirty word in some schools) and go to college if that's what she wants. i want the boys to be encouraged to do the same.
when we looked at schools i did as TP did - i looked at the other women, easier to do than with men given the unwritten dress codes that seem to have come into existance in the last few years. this helped us decide. we're sending to a centrist MO yeshiva that we hope cont to be viable as they keep loosing students to the "other" schools - it seems ours allows too much mixing of the sexes ( kids together until 4th grade and then seperate for hebrew but together for eng). our other problem is tuition as you keep loosing kids someone has to make up the $. keep hoping we'll be able to afford this. don't want to even think about hs.

Safranit said...


I find it interesting, knowing the choices you have made....keeping your kids at home as opposed to using Chicago...most of the "commited" folk at our former community opted to leave as soon as their kids hit high school (esp. girls) or sent them to public school.
My husband and I have talked much about "Fudge's HS" I don't know if I could have done it--he keeps saying but look at Fudge and a certain "rebel girl" that we knew there, but I think they are the exceptions....

Whats a MO to do????

PsychoToddler said...

You can talk to Fudge about her impressions of her HS. Yes, it was a big issue for us. Fudge was definitely a square peg there.

We had to decide on whether it was better to keep her living at home with us, but going to a school that was clearly to the right of us, Haskafically, or sending her out of town, hopefully finding a school that matches us, and hoping some other family will raise her for us.

Tough choice.

Sorry folks, public school was not an option, although it would certainly have saved us a lot of dough. I realllllly believe Jewish schools are required for Jewish education.

I don't know if we made the right decision. Certainly I am glad that we had Fudge around for the past 3 years. I've seen plenty of parents send their kids off at age 13 to have them return very changed individuals.

Safranit, the advantage to Fudge's school, aside from being significantly cheaper than any other Jewish option, was the access that we had to our daughter and the ability to play a role in shaping her persona. Whether that's a good or bad thing...time will tell.

ifuncused said...

I think it is good that you kept her home. Reality is that it is hard to send a girl off for school at a young age. Not so sure why it is easier to send a sond off...

You def. did shape her and help mold her and gave her a sense of what there is out there and how to apply what she learned to her daily life.

PsychoToddler said...

BTW, here's a little plug for Milwaukee:

There are two advantages to living here:

1) from what I'm hearing, tuition here is significantly cheaper than on the east or west coast or even Chicago, and they are willing to work with you if you have more than one kid (group discount as it were).

2) We have school choice, so if you qualify based on income, you get a voucher from the government for each kid in the school. Say what you will about entitlement, but I pay a crapload of taxes, and I have no problem with some of that money going to my kid's school. The advantage to me being that parents who would otherwise get a free ride are now contributing to the budget of the school, and there's less pressure on me.

Housing is cheap here!

PsychoToddler said...

ifucused: Ya think?

It's hard with sons too. I send mine away, but they come back everyweek to do laundry. How can i miss them when they won't leave??

JC said...

From visiting her blog, I would say that whatever it is you are doing with fudge is going well. I am lucky that I didn't face this issue. I had a child that had to have lots of surgeries, I can't imagine a big tuition bill on top of all those medical bills. I also couldn't imagine having my child sent to live with someone else! I am glad I didn't have to face this one.

Shira Salamone said...

Would that those of us whose children have disabilities and/or delays in development even had a choice. My son was turned down for admission to the local Solomon Schechter (Conservative) Day School. I was later advised by the Modern Orthodox mother of one of my son's fellow special-ed. pre-school students that *she'd* been advised, by someone in the day school "system," that her son would *not* get an appropriate education in any Jewish day school. When we *finally* gave up on the public schools and fought for and won state funding for a private special-ed. school, it turned out that her son had already been a student there for several years.

As for Aidel Maidel's concern about sending her children on a long commute, those of us whose children have special needs don't have any choice about that, either. My son *never* attended a neighborhood school in all his years in special ed. Some special ed. kids are even bussed to another borough, or even out of the city.

This leaves the Jews among the special ed. parents playing "Little House on the Prairie" with their special-needs kids' Jewish education. Our son attended 2 different after-school Hebrew Schools as a child, and, considering his behavior problems at the time, I consider it a nes gadol/great miracle that he wasn't expelled from either one. But that pretty much left the serious Jewish education up to us. I credit the Hebrew School with teaching him the basics about the Jewish holidays and about Israel, and how to read the alef-bet. But the rest was up to us. *We* taught him Kiddush. *We* taught him what s'chach is, and how to bentsch lulav. *We* taught him Ma Nishtanah. *We* taught him to cover the 3 racks of pots—milchig, fleischig, and parve—on our kitchen walls with foil and to tape the kitchen cabinets shut for Pesach. When he was in 7th grade, we had to pull him out of Hebrew School and get him a private Jewish Studies tutor because he already knew everything that the Hebrew School was teaching and was bored. We didn't have the option to send him to the local Hebrew High School because his social skills were still such that being placed in a classroom full of strangers was not something that he could handle, nor were we able to put him into USY (we tried twice, 2 years apart) or Camp Ramah for the same reason.

So those of you with "normal" children should consider yourselves fortunate that you have choices.

PsychoToddler said...

We have an organization here called "Keshet" which is involved in mainstreaming kids with disabilities into the Jewish Day Schools. It is non-sectarian, so it services all the Jewish schools here. They provide a personal aide to the student while they are in class, and whatever special tutoring is required.

My 2nd Son had a boy with Down Syndrome in his class from K4 onwards and he recently graduated 8th grade with him, and the boy layned his whole haftorah flawlessly.

I think things are different now, Shira, than when you were raising your son. Still, Keshet is privately funded and dependent on charity.

Shira Salamone said...

I'm always delighted to learn of organizations that help kids with special needs get a Jewish education. As luck would have it, many of the organizations of which I've heard, including Keshet, work with kids in a mainstream environment. Mainstreaming works for some kids with special needs, but not for others. In the case of our son, his delays in emotional maturation and in social-skills development interfered with his ability to function in a mainstream environment. He did much better in a school that was for special-needs children exclusively. Unfortunately, there's not much help offered by the Jewish community to those special-needs children who don't function well in a mainstream classroom.

In my dreams, I'd love to see more special-ed Jewish day schools. But I can't, for the life of me, figure out how anyone could afford to pay the tuition for such schools. Unless there were some kind of voucher system enabling a local government's tax money to pay for the secular faculty and for the maintenance of the facilities, the cost would be completely beyond the ability of 95% of the population to pay. My son's school had to raise $4,000 per child per year to make up for the difference between the state funding and the actual cost of each student's education. In a day school, the cost differential would be sky high.

I can't help feeling that many of the Jewish community's special-needs children will continue to fall between the cracks, and that's really a depressing thought. Neither my husband nor I came from anything remotely resembling traditional backgrounds. Neither of us went to a day school. Between our own ignorance and our not-always-successful attempts to work around our son's pervasive development delays, we managed to raise a young man who's even more of an "am ha-aretz" (Jewish illiterate) than either of us is. And that makes me very sad.