School is ending, or over, depending on which school your people are in, and yet again we are switching a child to a new school. I feel like we do this every year, probably because we do.
We’ve tried day school, homeschool, public school, charter school, no school. And from each there is something to learn.
Day school has given our kids an incredible passion and love for Judaism. It’s also given them a breathtaking scope of sheer knowledge that I could have never imparted on my own. In a pure sense, Judaism was meant to be taught from parent to child – a theme that is repeated over and over again throughout the Torah. Our Jewish school systems are a concession, and it’s the parent who bears the primary responsibility to transmit this love and this knowledge. But in contemporary times, we partner with our schools who specialize at this – and by and large our day schools are doing a good job of transmitting Judaism. I am amazed at what my kids come home with – the creativity and earnestness of the teachers is something to behold.
Homeschooling has given our kids breathing space and safety when they needed it most. It’s allowed for complete customization and comfort. It’s allowed for curiosity-driven education and being completely in sync with the needs of the student. For us it was only a temporary solution, because the social piece and structure were lacking, but it was a fine solution for a finite time.
Public school, while never our first choice – we have always been day school advocates – has given our kids something I will always be grateful for: unlimited options to succeed no matter the need. Public school has given us the message “we are here to support your child” and “we will not stop until we have figured out a way to help your child succeed.” One of our kids tried three different programs within the public school system until we found the one that was the best fit. Public school has opportunities for art, music, and sports that most day schools simply cannot afford. Public school, in our experience, always put the child’s welfare first whereas private schools are often concerned about the reputation of the school or the job security of its teachers.
Charter schools have been there for us in the lurch – when we needed a stopgap option. We’ve tried several and have been grateful for those opportunities.
And sometimes, not going to school at all is the best path when a child is suffering, when school is the problem, when every day entering that building is a further knife in the heart of the kid’s self-esteem. I have been known to pull a kid out of school without knowing what’s next, because I simply cannot have my child further traumatized. I quit my band that I was a part of for five years, dropped work obligations, stopped entertaining guests, because I needed to put my kids first. Sometimes what a kid needs most is to not be in school. To have that immediate relief of the pressure. To learn that school is not the be all and end all of your identity, and that grades and report cards can never define you.
In the haunting words of Margaret Renki in a recent New York Times article directed to the “average child”:
“Summer beckons, a great, green, gorgeous gift. We’ve already kept you far too long, so let us send you forth with just one last reminder of a truth that somehow you already understand, though school is not the place where you learned it:
Life is not a contest, and the world is not an arena. Just by being here, unique among all others, offering contributions that no one else can give, you have already won the one prize that matters most.”
To me, life is a lush party and education is the buffet. Never feel you are stuck in one model – there is a cornucopia of opportunities out there. A new year, a new school means more opportunities for proving to our kids that we will never stop trying, never stop searching, never stop praying to find what works.