A Growing Trend
According to the US Department of Education, homeschooling is on the rise. In the 2011-12 school year 3.4% or 1,770,000 children were educated at home – an increase of 300,000 from 2007.
Why did they opt out of the classroom? 91% cited concerns in the school environment, 77% wanted to provide moral instruction to their children, 74% wanted a different type of academic instruction.
It makes sense that children’s individual needs can often be better accommodated at home than in an institutional setting. Many kids have health issues precluding regular attendance or concentration; others can’t focus well when they’re with a group. Sometimes homeschooling is spurred by the parents’ individualistic tendencies; regardless of the school’s quality, they prefer to guide their child’s education without being dictated by standardized criteria. Other times, it’s the advantages to the family lifestyle that are the draw. Globe-trotting parents can now take their children with them, without being tied to school vacation schedules.
As yeshiva day school tuitions continue skyrocketing, homeschooling in the Torah community is growing as an attractive option due to its affordability. Do the math: Instead of working full time to pay tuition bills and meeting up with their children at the end of the day when both are at their lowest energy level, mothers can decide to quit chasing their tails, and simply focus on bonding with their children by providing their education themselves! Other times, homeschooling is an unanticipated reality, compelled by external factors such as a child’s health, rocky development, behavior and emotional challenges, a problematic social setting, or a lack of a Torah observant facility providing special services.
Homeschooling also has many educational and practical advantages:
- Price: Educating each Orthodox Jewish child in the US today, costs an average of $150,000, including tuition for preschool through the post-graduation Israel year. High-end Modern Orthodox day schools run double, for a $300,000 price ticket. Each year that the child studies at home represents a significant cost savings for his family.
- Emotional Stability: Homeschooling parents say goodbye to the morning rush, expensive peer pressure, the infamous school bullies, and external pressure created by school demands and meetings discussing criteria that the child isn’t meeting. Now it’s just the happy family who is responsible only to their own standards (and the state’s requirements)
- Learning that Matches the Child’s Natural Rhythm: Classroom teachers are dealing with constraints of managing a group, plus they must complete the textbook by the end of the year. All those external pressures translate to stress, and cut-short conversations that don’t allow a child to explore and develop an intellectual curiosity about a subject. He may have liked studying fish, but now the class is moving on to amphibians – there is no time available for lingering. Homeschooling provides the optimal setting for fostering the child’s initiative and stimulating his inquiring mind.
- Close Family Ties: Parents who prefer to remain the primary role models in their child’s life are thrilled with the results of homeschooling. Children who are firmly rooted at home grow up with a strong family identity in terms of lifestyle, values, and Torah standards. Also, children who are home for more hours a day are more agreeable to pitching in with household chores; they feel part of the household, not just visitors. Teens, especially, will enjoy seeing their positive contribution to the family with home repairs, cooking, and preparations for family celebrations and events.
- Efficiency: Even preschoolers can have commutes or bus rides of an hour in each direction, to school and back home. Also, travel time cuts into play time needed for child-appropriate development. Did you know that the average six-year-old in Lakewood, NJ, spends 1000+ hours every year in the car? Homeschooling makes for an efficient day. The actual curriculum can be covered in fewer hours, plus there are no hours wasted while buckled in a seat-belt. Extra hours in the day can also help recoup lost sleep time, resulting in happier, calmer, well-rested kinderlach.
- Educational Freedom: In school, a student must absorb new facts in the designated time frame, or risk falling behind and being forever doomed to playing catch-up. Alternatively, a quick learner can spend lots of wasted time bored hearing the same facts repeated, reviewed, and then practiced again. A homeschooled child doesn’t feel labeled by his unique developmental progression. He also has time for extracurricular activities and talent development – plus the family still has the funds available to pay for these activities.
Melamed Academy educates students in both day-school and home-based settings, including many students who are studying from home temporarily due to a variety of personal reasons. Homeschooling parents deserve admiration for the increased responsibility they carry, as the child’s parent and educator, combined. Melamed collaborates with parents to design the optimum setting for the child’s education and development, with emphasis placed on gaining self-confidence in one’s abilities and fostering self-directed achievement.
However, when parents are choosing homeschooling as a proactive choice, there are important factors to consider:
- Parental Authority: Does your child listen to you? Do you stick to your demands when the child whines, or do you end up compromising and lowering your expectations? When you are the parent, a lack of authority may result in a child going out to play while leaving their toys behind on the floor. If you will now be the teacher, a lax discipline will result in a child who can’t read or spell. Think carefully before becoming the sole authority in your child’s school life, and especially for a teen.
- Time Management: Homeschooling generally becomes the mother’s responsibility, adding to her daily regimen of household tasks. Do you always complete your “To Do” list? If not, do you prioritize according to long-term goals or do you only manage according to the urgency of the task? There will be days of sick children, renovations, repairs, and erev Yom Tov. Is it important to you that your child spends the requisite daily time on each subject? Do you have a plan how to make that happen?
- Child’s Study Habits: Is this a child who loves to learn, or who runs away from books? How do you plan to motivate the child, and foster his natural talents?
- Social Interaction: A peer group plays an important role in developing social skills, such as being part of a team, giving and sharing, teaching and learning from one’s peers. Some children may gravitate towards older or younger friends, but there are certain healthy developmental skills that are best learned when children relate to peers. Any home-schooling arrangement should incorporate a plan for creating opportunities for the home-schooled child to develop peer friendships.
- Community Connection: Torah Jews have a community-centered life. Men daven daily with a minyan, and families join up with other like-minded neighbors to form mini-communities and larger community networks. There is a strength gained from living Torah in a community, maintaining the religious standards demanded by a community, and being part of the rhythm of communal life. A child’s community is generally his school, and the teachers serve as role models. Think about where your child will connect to community role models as a homeschooler. Will it be in a Bnos/Pirchei group, being part of a shul, or having a private tutor?
- Long-Term Plan: Sometimes homeschooling lasts successfully for years; other times, it’s short-lived. Are you leaving your options open, in case it doesn’t work out? A wise home-schooling arrangement will ensure that the student covers all grade level curriculum, with documentation that can be presented to the next formal school at which he will wish to study.
For these reasons, many homeschooling families choose Melamed Academy.Online learning is vibrant, appealing, and active – highly conducive to independent study and much friendlier than reading a textbook in each subject. Also, homeschooling parents have lots of wisdom and knowledge to import, but that doesn’t necessarily translate well to teaching math and science at every grade level. That’s where it’s good to have a computer-based program to present concepts visually, and drill facts in fun and exciting ways.
Homeschooling Program with High School Diploma
Melamed Academy’s full-time enrollment track empowers parents of homeschoolers to manage their children’s education, by using Melamed’s curriculum in both Torah and general studies. Melamed Academy also provides the full learning experience, complete with songs, sheets, contests, prizes, and theme units – comparable to a yeshiva day school environment.
Torah lessons are built from both computer-based and paper-supported curricular materials, designed to be studied with a parent, tutor, or chavrusah – maintaining the traditional chain of Torah education with 21st century materials. The secular studies are studied independently by the online student, primarily with computer-based lessons – including plenty of interaction with Melamed’s online teachers and classmates. Workbooks are included for grades K-6, while high school students type their assignments. Class discussion boards and bulletin boards provide forums for sharing the educational journey and collaborating on projects.
Online school accommodates a student’s flexible daily schedule which fluctuates according to the rhythm of his home life. Students have a weekly syllabus in each subject, with the leeway to spread schoolwork into segments throughout the day. Melamed online teachers supervise students’ progress and are available for their questions.
Servicing Every Student
At Melamed Academy, students on all ends of the learning spectrum receive appropriate lessons for their level and learning style, at no additional charge. Diagnostic tests evaluate the student’s starting point, and IEPs are implemented with courseware that includes audio-support, visual learning, and interactive knowledge checks that don’t require writing. It’s gratifying to see how students quickly see success, scoring 100s on their tests and charting new accomplishments every day. All of a sudden, a Yeshiva boy who failed science is staying up late to learn his Melamed biology course. A Bais Yaakov girl who couldn’t do math is now motivated to spend hours a day studying.
Melamed Academy also services the growing number of students slipping through the cracks in traditional yeshivos and Bais Yaakov schools. Some good kids experience a temporary non-conformist stage which results in having no appropriate school. Morning-challenged kids need the breathing room of online school, so their inability to arrive at the start of the day doesn’t doom their chances for success.
Whatever the reason may be, all students have a place at Melamed Academy. Students now have the chance to explore their interests such as art, calculus, psychology, or animation programming. Teenagers’ Torah studies lead to college credits, driving motivation for mastery – over 84 college credits can be earned during high school for Torah studies alone. Combined with college credit exams for general education requirements, an average student can graduate high school with an accredited BA in Liberal Arts – a giant leap forward for the student, and a tremendous value for the parents.
Homeschooling with a Group
Many families have expressed interest in homeschooling with a “round-robin” neighborhood rotation, enabling parents to hold jobs even while educating their children at home, meanwhile providing their homeschooled children with friends and playmates.
For the upcoming school year of 2015-16, Melamed Academy is facilitating the formation of homeschooling groups, so parents can collaborate, share tips about homeschool dynamics – and join up with other Melamed Academy families in their neighborhoods.
For registration, and to receive demo lessons, contact the Melamed Academy office at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (732)228-8800.
See more information and view the course catalog at melamedacademy.com
Source for education statistics: National Center for Educational Statisticsnces.ed.gov