Last fall we embarked on a new journey–homeschooling our 6-year-old son. We chose homeschooling for a variety of reasons, but mostly because we wanted our son to be free to learn things at his own pace in his own way. Choosing to homeschool was easy. Finding a community was not.
A quick Google search revealed over 20 Christian homeschool groups within a reasonable driving distance. When I dug deeper and expanded my search to a 90-minute driving radius, I also found three secular groups. I found two Facebook groups. One, a national support group, and one based out of my closest big city. Neither hosts weekly, or even monthly, co-ops or events. I spent hours down the proverbial rabbit hole on Google, blog, and Facebook searches to find very few current resources for Jewish homeschooling.
Why not? Where are all the Jewish homeschoolers? Statistics on homeschoolers are a bit shaky due to self-reporting, but somewhere around three percent of school-aged children in the US are homeschooled. Of that group, between 80-90 percent include religion as a primary reason for homeschooling. Although homeschooling is on the rise with non-Christian religious families and secular families, I’m still left wondering why we Jews aren’t already a bigger slice of the homeschooling pie.
Education is a core Jewish value. So is family. Put them together and–tah dah–homeschooling! Over and over again, our religious texts and sages impart the responsibility to teach our children. In Deuteronomy, fathers are implored to teach their sons the Torah. In every version of the Passover haggadah we are told to teach our sons the story of our exodus from Egypt. It seems a natural extension of our culture and family values to play a large role in educating our kids.
Homeschooling allows us to celebrate holidays without worrying about missing school, or finishing a science fair project before sundown. We can make challah together (and measure how much it rises after one, two, and three hours). We can hold class in our sukkah. We can travel to spend Purim, Pesach, and Hanukkah (and any day) with family. We can engage in tikkun olam (healing the world) on a regular basis–we harvest food from local farms to feed the homeless and volunteer to track wildlife bio indicators in a local woodland park.
With just eight months of homeschooling under my belt, I’m certainly no expert. But, I can say that choosing to homeschool has brought so much ruach (spirit) into our home. The only thing missing is our minyan!