Unhappy & Doing Something About It Part 3


Six –Continued (Home Schooling)

Parents should be aware that total home schooling can cause as many problems as it solves. One of the greatest challenges of home schooling is the social factor. Without peers, children can’t learn the necessary skills needed in order to be reintroduced back into the classroom. If parents decide to remove children from school they must be confident that they can create all (not most) of the necessary components. These include: teachers, mentors (they can be the same), friends, patience on the part of the entire family, making sure that the children attend and participate in the home schooling, and the ability to keep the children as busy as they would be if they were in a regular school.

Parents must also keep in mind that once the children are out of a regular school they may become so comfortable that they may not agree to go back. Most parents attempt home schooling as a temporary step, but find that, once  the children are home schooled, they do so well that it “doesn’t make sense” to send them back. However, that may be more than the parents can handle. Home schooled children, even with an army of teachers, will require several hours a day from the parents.

In other cases the homeschooling experience turns out to be a failure, but the children, who’ve been home for weeks, refuse to go back to school. In many of these cases the parents, who were so angry at the school, finally realize that it’s the children, and not the school, that’s in need of fixing.

More and more parents are choosing home schooling as a first choice, and not only because their children found regular school difficult. For whatever reason parents want to home school their children, they should network for other like minded parents, and combine their children, financial resources, personal time, and create small groups, in order to make the experiences a success. They also have to be sure that they want the other children to be with their children all day, before agreeing to join forces. (Yeshivas Birchas Eliyohu, which began in a similar manner has grown into a permanent project, offering personal attention and small classes for 11-12 year old boys.). . (There are numerous websites offering support to parents considering home schooling for their children.)

The seventh is that it’s often necessary to try therapy and medicines (although I’m not a fan of medication). If this is done while the children are still young, and with a proper professional team, it may only be necessary for a short time. Using medication should not be rejected without serious thought.
More parents responded to one particular point of this series of articles than to any other. I wrote that, “They tell me stories of a class bully, the Rebbi, principal, or teacher, who responds without listening to the entire story.”

I don’t know the personal circumstances of those parents who responded to this point, but it does give me an opportunity to discuss something that I feel is very important. Every once in a while I write an article which attracts a large amount of positive attention. It always amuses me when the comments are, “My wife really needs to read this” or, “Can I have a copy e-mailed to me. There’s someone to whom I want to send it.”

People reading these articles will, hopefully, absorb its messages and use them the next time they approach similar incidents. However, many people read these articles and use them as opportunities to purge themselves of guilt. They listen to descriptions of bad Rabbeim, or mistakes in school systems, and they feel better. They can now divert blame for their children’s poor performances to another party. It’s even easier when the other party can be the scapegoat, such as “the system”, or a “need for medication”.

Blaming a problem on a third party purges one of guilt. Admitting ones contribution to a problem can be therapeutic for parents and children. In general, I remind people that guilt is intended for two things: It forces us to admit to ourselves that what we did was wrong. (This helps us change our actions when we face similar opportunities.) It makes us aware that we must make amends to the people we may have wronged. Successful people focus on their contributions to problems, unsuccessful people focus on other people’s contributions.

A system or individual can fail others. However, a singular incident, or school year, will generally not destroy children. Destroying children generally requires that they already have a lack of self esteem, a weak support group, or a lack of empathy.

When considering contributing factors for the lack of children’s successes, parents must consider not only what was done wrong, but also what should’ve been done but wasn’t. Parents who’re very busy, and/or parents who lack the ability to connect with their children, may have done nothing wrong, but they’re still guilty of not doing what was necessary. (Remember guilt is about tomorrow, not yesterday.)

Not doing what‘s necessary is usually intangible. Who’s to say how much time parents should spend with their children? Who’s to conclude that parents are too impatient or that children are too difficult? Add to this a tangible failure on the part of the school, or some neighbor’s family, and the parents are able to escape any blame for their children’s lack of success. If the child is the youngest, little needs to be done because there are no more children. Sadly, in many cases it’s older children. An honest assessment on the parent’s part is important, in order to avoid repeating their failures with their younger children.

Children are both rewarding and difficult. The exact proportion depends on every individual child. Despite the huge amount of effort that our younger children may require, the more effort you place into them when they’re young, the less you’ll have to when they’re older. Give them as much attention as they may need, but don’t forget to enjoy them along the way.

Rabbi Shmuel Gluck is director of Areivim, a teen crisis intervention center. R. Gluck’s articles are widely published in the Torah Chinuch world. For previous articles or for speaking engagements you can contact R. Gluck at Areivim: www.areivim.com 845-371-2760 E-mail: areivim@juno.com.

(Rabbi Shmuel Gluck – YWN)


  1. You have a very limited idea of what homeschooling is! I have several children who went through religious (non-yeshiva) school and am now homeschooling my youngest. A public or private school could never provide for students nearly the advantages (academic, social, or otherwise) that I can.

    Where can you find a school that provides one-on-one learning for even a small part of the day? Where can you find a school that provides a social environment that will truly prepare a student for the real world after graduation? I have never heard of a workplace–or even institute of higher education–where everyone in the room is within 12 or 15 months of age! Homeschooled children don’t just learn to socialize with age-peers; they learn to socialize with people of all ages.

    Moreover, in talking about preparation for the real world, where are adults *ever* locked (to all intents and purposes) in a single building–often in a single room–for hours a day with complete loss of civil rights except as the authorities *choose* to allow them? If life with a particular boss at a workplace is unbearable, there are options–you can talk to someone higher in the company, bring a lawsuit, find a new job (all of these, of course, dependent on circumstances). If a teacher is abusive (and there are many, though obviously not most), the principal can ignore complaints, a lawsuit may not be possible, and a student can’t just “quit”.

    You claim that temporary homeschooling has the problem that a student might not want to return to school. First of all, if the student has been abused (and it is sometimes very subtle and nobody may know about it), there is good reason! Hashem created people with the knowledge and instincts to avoid dangerous situations; did He make a mistake in doing so? Most cases of temporary homeschooling fall into the category of avoiding bad situations. But homeschooling *does* prepare students to join a classroom at a later date. I have many friends who have homeschooled through high school, and their children adapt remarkably well to college, even though they’ve never sat in a classroom before. And, if this *is* a concern, there are many academic “after-school” activities that homeschoolers can participate to learn the “skill” of sitting in a chair and listening.

    I strongly suspect that you have no experience with *successful* homeschool families. By condemning homeschooling, you are generalizing what you see in troubled families and assuming it must be true in all. That is as reasonable as judging the yeshiva world by the worst of the yeshivas.


  2. I would like to take exception to the article, “Unhappy and Doing Something about It.”

    In the article you say, “In many of these cases the parents, who were so angry at the school, finally realize that it’s the children, and not the school, that’s in need of fixing.” Perhaps this might be true for SOME of the children, but definitely not for the majority.

    MOST parents choose to homeschool their children because of the treatment their children received at MANY of the frum schools. Children who are belittled, threatened, bullied, or worse can suffer irreparable damage. Parents who are willing and able to homeschool their children in a warm, nuturing, and loving environment will reap the rewards as the children grow into mature, well-adjusted, and educated young men and women.

    Also, children who are homeschooled have plenty of opportunities for socialization: siblings, family members, children in their neighborhoods, etc. In addition, many homeschooled children do chesed work as well which brings them into contact with other adults. Rather than being socially on the fringe, they are in the center of everything. The few minutes each day they have to socialize with their classmates is only a tiny fraction of the total amount of time they are in school.

    Furthermore, spending nine hours a day away from their home (8:00am bus pickup and 5:00pm dropoff) means that someone else is raising your child. It says in Devarim 6:6-7 “And these matters that I command you today shall be upon your heart. You shall teach them thoroughly to your children and you shall speak of them while you sit in your home, while you walk on the way, when you retire and when you arise.” Homeschool families are doing just that.

    If anyone is interested in finding out more about frum homeschooling, the Second Annual Torah Home Education Conference will take place on June 13, 2010 from 8:00am – 5:00pm in Baltimore, MD. Information about the conference can be found at http://jewishhomeschooling.worldpress.com.

    Leah Bloom (not my real name)
    Homeschooling in Spring Valley, NY

  3. You assume a lot about homeschooling. We don’t happen to live anywhere my children can get a Jewish education in fact, here, they hand out copies of the New Testament in school for the kids. It’s an evangelical haven here. My children are better off for being homeschooled than not. That kind of socialization they do not need.

    No one was protecting them from the gangs and the bullying and the teachers who didn’t like that they were Jewish. No one was doing anything to help my kids learn anything. It was an exercise in psychological stress testing for them to be in school.

    I can’t find the other two sections of your article but just mentioning medications means you have some other idea about homeschooling than is what it is. Homeschoolers don’t have to medicate their children to get them to learn. It happens naturally and beautifully and it happens with love. That’s something you don’t get in the public school system.

    I agree with the above poster…judging homeschoolers, all of us by the one family you met is like judging all yeshivas by the worst of yeshivas. Shame on you for that. You ought not to condemn us all as nuts or bad parents based on limited exposure you’ve had. There are VERY successful homeschoolers, you should make an effort to meet some of us.

  4. Rabbi Gluck asserts that “homeschooling can cause as many problems as it solves.” The only problems he raises are that once taken out of school the students are often reluctant to return (which should cause one to wonder about how happy children are in school), and that “without peers, children can’t learn the necessary skills needed in order to be reintroduced back into the classroom.” (I disagree, but it’s irrelevant anyway – I wasn’t planning to send them back.)

    Yet Rabbi Gluck then goes on to note that “most parents attempt homeschooling as a temporary step, but find that, once children are home schooled, they do so well that ‘it doesn’t make sense’ to send them back.” In other words, once they see how successful homeschooling is, they don’t even want to send their kids back to school. What’s the problem with that?

    Rabbi Gluck also notes the trend today that “more and more parents are choosing homeschooling as a first choice” – which it truly is for many people. The question then arises, why would homeschooling be considered a first choice? Do the children learn better? Do they grow up to be happy adults? Are they successful in their careers?

    Plenty of research has been done on these questions, and the answer is an overwhelming “yes.” I have culled the following statistics from these studies through the Home School Legal Defense Association’s website:

    · Homeschoolers score more than 30 percentile points higher than the average American student on standardized tests, and this advantage holds true regardless of the parents’ income, or level of education, or whether either parent is a certified teacher, and regardless of the amount of legal regulations in the state where the homeschoolers reside.

    · 61.4% of adults who were homeschooled as kids are happy in their career, compared with only 39.7% of the general population – a 50% increase.

    · 58.9% of adults who were homeschooled report being very happy in life, compared with only 27.6% of the general population – that’s twice as many, with the majority of homeschoolers being happy while the majority of regular people are unhappy.

    · Only 4.2% of the homeschool graduates consider politics and government to be “too complicated to understand” as compared to 35% of U.S. adults.

    · 76% of homeschool graduates between the ages of 18 and 24 voted within the last five years, compared to only 29% of the relevant U.S. population – a 250% increase.

    So what about frum children and homeschooling? Our experience has been that the children are far happier than when they were in school. At the tender ages of 6 and 7, the bus would pick them up at 7:35 and drop them off at 4:45. These kids were gone nine hours a day – that’s more than a full time job! At that age they need eleven hours of sleep, so aside from school and sleep only four hours a day were left to spend with the family – but most of those four hours were spent waking them up and rushing them out the door to catch the bus, doing homework, eating supper, and taking a bath/getting ready for bed. Very little time was left over to spend with their family or – gasp! – play. Young children needs less stress and more unstructured time, especially with his/her family.

    Due to the dual Hebrew-English curriculum, our children’s learning hours have not reduced significantly at home, but the learning is very relaxed with plenty of playtime, indoor and out, woven in throughout the day. The learning has accelerated at an astonishing rate, since most of it is either one-on-one instruction or independent work. The difference is that the children are HAPPY to learn and say they don’t even feel like they’re in school – whereas homework used to be a major battle.

    And what about socialization? If by “socialization” you mean “friends,” the children still have friends and playmates. But we don’t feel that being forced to spend two hours a day unsupervised on a bus along with seven hours a day in a classroom with twenty or so peers your exact age is necessary to grow up feeling like you fit into society. In adult life, we choose our friends and peers, and the real world consists of people of all ages in a variety of contexts. So, if we take our children to visit a nursing home, shop in the grocery store, or come to the recycling center to drop of some bundles, they are seeing life as it is really lived.

    Sitting in a classroom seat for seven hours doesn’t necessarily give this over. While it does provide an opportunity to make friends, the truth is that children are expected NOT to socialize during class time. The socialization that takes place in school is during the fifteen minutes of recess, over lunch for twenty minutes – and for two hours on the bus, unsupervised. And I would not call most of what my children witnessed on the bus a good model of positive social behavior.

    Is homeschooling easy? No. It’s a full time commitment. But so is parenting. You only get one opportunity to raise your kids – isn’t it worth the effort?

    One point on which Rabbi Gluck and I do agree is that homeschoolers should network and combine resources, which is why conferences are so useful. If anyone is interested in learning more about frum homeschooling, you can attend the Second Annual Torah Home Education Conference in Baltimore on Sunday, June 13th. More information on the conference, including a list of speakers, can be found at jewishhomeschooling.wordpress.com.

    Rabbi Gluck, I hope to see you there, learning about homeschooling as it’s really done.