Teaching Our Children The Story Of Passover

Ever since our first year of marriage it has been a tradition for my husband and I to eat matzo pizza while watching Prince of Egypt at some point during the week of Passover. It is one of the most beautiful depictions of a Biblical event that exists, and no matter how many times I’ve seen it I am always struck with the magnificence of the Passover story. I cannot watch (or listen to) the burning bush scene without my emotions being rubbed raw. Between the dialogue and music it always manages to bring the sting of tears into my eyes.

So, you can imagine the conflict I felt when my son (who has yet to see the movie) asked to join our annual viewing. On one hand I was excited. Finally I get to share this gorgeous biblically based filmography with my kid. On the other hand I was hesitant. Is he ready for certain scenes? Is he ready to know the specifics of what Moses was up against?

This year Passover has gotten a little more exciting than it has before. My son, being 3 1/2 years old, is at a point in his life where he is starting to internalize the more abstract workings of the world. This means that as we prepare for Passover he is asking a lot of questions. Why do we need to buy special crackers? Why do we need to deep clean the house? What is a Seder, and why do we have to eat horseradish? Sometimes his questions have a straightforward response. Other questions require significantly more detailed explanations and a careful choice of words. Exodus is packed with the theme of G-d’s redemption and the fulfillment of His promise. I am beyond joyful to share those elements with my children. There are, however, darker portions of the narrative. Slavery. Murder. Even justice is a struggle to understand in the situation of the exodus. Telling only half of the story isn’t good enough. To understand the magnitude of G-d’s miracle, one must be aware of what Israel was being freed from, and what it took to accomplish that redemption.

I am a firm believer that if children are able to ask the right questions, they are ready for at least some version of an honest answer. Yet I don’t feel ready to explain to my small child the wrath of G-d,  and it pains me to introduce him to things such as slavery and oppression. His perception is still innocent. In his mind people are still good and the world is a safe place to live. Evil isn’t something that has caught his attention yet, so why point it out while he’s still in this very brief moment in life where everything is secure?

As much as I wish to keep him in the dark for a little longer, I am also against the idea of purposely withholding honesty in favor of over protectiveness. He has been asking questions, therefore I have been delicately crafting careful yet honest answers. As we prepare for Passover this year he has become a little more aware that there are, in fact, bad people in the world. There are people who hurt other people. There is unnecessary sadness caused by evil. And sometimes, in order for the greater good to prevail, G-d responds with force.

As my mind shifts from the chaos of seder preparations to the intricacies of how to explain what is true in a way that is not going to scar a child’s mind, my thoughts are also churning over the deeper messages I as an adult still need to contemplate during this season. Part of observing Passover includes the acknowledgment that people around the world have always suffered, and continue to suffer, under the hands of oppression. Persecution and annihilation attempts directed toward Israel didn’t stop upon leaving Egypt. From Antiochus’ desecration of the Second Temple, massacres taking place as a response to blood libel in the 1100’s, the still-tender memory of the holocaust, or the more recent comments made by leaders such as Iran’s former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (e.g. Israel is a “disgraceful blot” that needs to be “wiped off the face of the Earth”), antisemitism has presented itself within every generation.

And if it isn’t antisemitism it’s other people, in other places, with other versions of suffering.

Rwanda. Cambodia. Child soldiers. Bosnia. Darfur.  Blood diamonds. Guatemala. Sudan. Isis. Human trafficking. Civil war.

We have a list of buzzwords that can easily cause us to wince and recoil, because they serve as reminders of atrocities human beings are capable of. This is all too evident as news reports and videos of the recent Syrian chemical attack make their rounds in our media at this very moment. As I sit here contemplating how best to comfortably present a movie to my child because it depicts an animated and watered down version of evil, parents elsewhere in the world do not share that same luxury. The nightmare of such maliciousness is an everyday reality for them, and it has no care for the age of it’s victims.

I take for granted that I am able to shelter my children from the vile ways people can treat one another. I have the ability to protect their innocence, and build for them a foundation of safety and security. That is a blessing I am relieved to have, and I bow my head in thanks for the mercy G-d has given our family.

But that is all the more reason to not shy away from the specks of curiosity our children begin to show. Our unviolated safety makes it even more important for us to introduce them to things we would rather pretend don’t exist. Eventually these issues will hit their radar. They will process a little more clearly the events described in their books. They will catch snippets of news reports and over hear the adults whispering among one another. The existence of evil won’t be hidden forever, and when we leave them to process this information on their own we run the risk of allowing such things to turn their hearts and minds bitter.

We need to confront the situation and we need to extend a guiding hand for our children. We need to teach them that they can be different than this. They can be the difference. After Israel came out of Egypt, G-d introduced them to laws that included instructions such as feeding the poor, caring for the orphans and widows, and treating the sojourners among them humanly. The commands within Torah are filled with love and compassion. After being redeemed from enslavement and abuse, Israel is called to be something better than those who had oppressed them. They are called to improve the world by example.

This is the element I cling to when talking to my children about the Exodus, and all the baggage that comes with such themes. Yes, there are bad people in this world. Yes, people hurt other people. There is no use hiding from it since those truths will be crystal clear eventually. But rather than pulling the covers over our head and pretending there’s nothing to be done, we need to think about what contributions we have to fix our situation.

Fred Rogers, known as the beloved Mr. Rogers, once said, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things on the news, my mother would say to me, ‘look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping'”.  As we explore these difficult topics with our children this is the attitude we need to have. While they are still young and soaking in all we have to instill within them, we need to point out the warriors who combat nefariousness with love, compassion, and mercy. We need to draw attention to the midwives Shiphrah and Puah, who’s fear of G-d led them to defy Pharaoh’s command to kill newborn Hebrew boys. We need to point out the “righteous Gentiles” who helped hide and aid Jews in Europe during the holocaust. We need to show them the various ways people continue to work toward feeding the hungry, caring for the sick, sheltering those in need of protection. We need to teach our children how to become those people.

I could give it another year. I could choose to ignore the grit of what Passover is, and leave it as a holiday where we have a fun dinner and eat special crackers for a week. But a lot of development happens in a year, and more of my son’s personality is going to establish itself within that span of time. Eventually we have to teach our kids this reality, because it is not something we want them stumbling upon elsewhere. We shouldn’t let the bad overshadow the good. We have to be intentional in pointing out that for every mean person who raises their hand against others, there are good people rushing to defend. We learn our history so that we don’t repeat it. We retell these stories so we become familiar with what went wrong in the past, as well as what went right even in the face of monstrosity. There is a G-d who has upheld His promises and will continue to do so. The world is currently suffering, but He will intervene at the time He deems right.  He led us out of Egypt, He brought us our Messiah, and we can confidently believe with complete faith that He will come back to correct the wrong and bring restoration. Until then, however, we have our own work in repairing our broken world. Despite the challenges that are sometimes found in upholding kindness, compassion, mercy, and love, it is what we are called to do.

I want my children to grow into people who stand up in righteousness. I want them to be an example of love that casts a light against the shadow of hate. These lessons start in our home and from there they are carried to the playground, extra curricular activities, schools, work places, and wherever else life takes them.

So I stick with my original conviction that if children know the right questions to ask, they are ready for some version of the truth. We don’t have to side swipe them with the gory details that can haunt their psyche,  but being age appropriately upfront and honest at a time when personalities are being cemented is, perhaps, one of the most effective ways we as parents can change the world.

My Free Range Childhood

Back in the 90’s and early 2000’s you could look around my hometown and see kids wondering the streets unsupervised on a regular basis. Among those kids you would almost always find a ten year old me riding my bike to the park or pool down the street, or walking the 1 1/2 miles to the public library or Tasty Freeze. If I wanted to go to the mall or a movie, my parents had no qualms with dropping me and my friends off for a couple hours. If I wanted to go to a friend’s house within town, I didn’t have to wait until I had a ride. My feet were perfectly capable of taking me.

If I wasn’t around town I was running through the woods in my backyard. I built forts, climbed trees, scrapped my legs on thorn bushes, brushed through poison ivy, played war games, had campfires, and generally lived as if I were Pocahontas herself from the time I woke up to well past dark. If my parents needed me they could step outside and yell my name, but I was otherwise left to do as I pleased without their hovering as a distraction.

I was to a tee a free range kid, but that wasn’t what it was called back then. Instead it was simply refereed to as being a kid. My parents always knew my whereabouts. They trusted that I exercise the caution they taught me, and simply let me be.

These days when I visit my hometown I take a glimpse around and realize that while there were once handfuls of kids roving the place, I have seen very few unsupervised children lately. The kids at tasty freeze or the library are almost always accompanied by an adult. Children on bikes seem to be confined to their driveways rather than allowed to zip through the neighborhood.  I don’t remember the last time I saw a kid under 16 in a movie theater or mall by themselves. Times have drastically changed since I’ve grown up.

On one hand I can understand why this is. It is incredibly easy for parents to imagine in very vivid ways the driver of a rusty windowless van sitting at the side of a park, beckoning young children to get in. It’s a chilling thought, but it’s also mostly one of the imagination rather than practicality. We’ve heard it said that times have changed since “back in the day”, but that seems to be an assumption built out of emotion rather than evidence. In fact, when we do look at evidence we can find that times have actually gotten better. The chances of a “stereotypical kidnapping” (a case of a stranger snatching a child) is extremely rare.

In a 2011 report it is noted that homicide rates in general have “declined to levels last seen in the mid-1960’s“, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, with the majority of homicide cases against children being the fault of a parent or other family member. If you’ve ever stopped to look at the missing person’s bulletin board at Walmart you can see that most cases of kidnappings involve a custody issue within families, or a runaway situation.

It is heavily unlikely that a child will be picked up at the mall by a stranger, yet I rarely see kids hanging out in the food court alone with their friends like I used to do. What’s far more likely is a stranger meeting a child through social media, and yet there are more children at younger ages carrying their own smartphones and laptops. The idea of allowing children the freedom to explore their physical locations unsupervised is becoming significantly more challenged by the justice system (you can see a few cases here, here, and here). However, the idea of a 12 year old having practically unlimited access to the internet isn’t as widely considered to be neglectful.

It is natural parental instinct to constantly worry over a child’s safety, and it can sometimes be a struggle to make decisions that effect their well being. There is a comfort in having control over a situation, and when a child is under direct supervision it is easier to believe they are doing okay than when they’re allowed to drift on their own. Strangers can’t threaten them, bullies can’t hurt their feelings, and we can step in when they’re about to break a bone. Not only is it hard to trust the world around them, but it is also hard to trust them. It’s almost as if there is a piece of parental subconscious that believes children have no regard for their own well being, and lack any awareness of safety. Whether we want to admit this out loud or not, it is easy to withhold trust unfairly rather than giving them the space to take responsibility over their own security.

Is our knee-jerk reaction to be overly safe the best for their long-term welfare? Hovering over our children will grant us the ability to swoop in when a situation becomes uncomfortable, but at some point the lessons children will learn from their freedom will outweigh the risks taken when parents let go of some control. As I think back on my own experience as a free range kid I strongly believe that the freedom I had as a rover instilled some of the traits I find most useful as an adult.

If I wanted to go somewhere in town, and my grandmother (who raised me) was too busy to drive me, I was told to walk. To this day I maintain a “if you want something done, do it yourself” mentality that has gotten me through a number of stressful situations where I couldn’t rely on others. The idea of walking a mile to get ice cream, or to meet a friend, or to pick up a book from the library, or to buy supplies from the hardware store for a creative project was not foreign to me. I was motivated to abandon a little bit of laziness in place of determination. My schedule wasn’t under the dictatorship of my parent’s schedule, which allowed me the opportunity to learn how to manage my time and efforts. To this day my determination can get me up and going when I need something done my way, and I have always blamed that on the fact that my grandmother told me to walk myself from point A to point B if I wanted to do something bad enough.

Not only was responsibility and character built through free-ranging, but I also feel I had a better sense of safety than I would have, had my parents chosen to hover. If they were going to let me out and about unsupervised, they were going to be sure I knew how to handle myself in various situations. My freedom provided opportunities for us to discuss the common sense of keeping safe, and had I spent my childhood with an adult helicoptering over my every move I doubt it would have been as effective. I would have grown up with the expectation that my parents had my safety and well being covered, rather than understanding that I share responsibility in taking care of myself. When I walked through a neighborhood without my parents I was well aware that I needed to be cognizant of anything suspect.

And yet, I also believe that it helped me keep reality in perspective. The majority of people out and about are generally good, and I was comfortable accepting help from strangers when I needed it. Asking to borrow an unknown person’s cell phone at the library to call home when needed (which I did once or twice) is a far cry from climbing into the back seat of a windowless van. Rather than encouraging fear and over caution, my parents allowed me to have a healthy mix of common sense and a comfort in seeking help when I needed it. It is without a doubt necessary to teach  “stranger danger”, however, as we go through life we will find that strangers are significantly more likely to lend a helping hand rather than carry evil intentions. Had I been more sheltered I would have been less able to accept that help. As I grew into the person I am today I couldn’t count the number of times simple acts of kindness from strangers helped make my life a little easier, and in turn my comfort has allowed me to be on the giving end of these interactions . A dear friend and role model of mine once said to me that it is easier to instill caution than it is to get over fear, and I could not agree more. I didn’t start off afraid of the world around me. Instead I became aware of true dangers after I saw that most people at the library, or the park, or the public pool were regular humans. As an adult I realize that if something were to ever truly go wrong while I’m out and about, it would be these strangers who I would call out to for help.

But aside from the lessons and responsibility I’ve gained, the true benefit of my free range life was having a real and genuine childhood. I have been bumped, bruised, and my skin has been permanently scarred, but with each injury I have a history that I wouldn’t trade for the world. With my parents inside the house and unable to disrupt our activities in the middle of the woods with their watchful presence, the other kids and I shared a world that no one else could ever experience. No one could understand the battle lines of our war games, and our inside jokes will never make sense to an outsider. We trusted each other in a way that is incredibly unique among children, and encouraged each other to take new risks and overcome challenges. We developed teamwork and comradery while building forts and attempting the crazy ideas we came up with. We knew how to be silly, we knew how to be brave, we knew how to productively argue with one another, we knew how to encourage each other, we knew how to pick ourselves up when we fell, we knew where to find adventure, we knew how to make the most out of our carefree days. We knew how to live, because those were the first moments in life we were free to be who we were separate from authority.

Someday my son will experience something I could never be part of. He will have a world separate from anything I could understand, and there will be things he won’t be able to find the words sufficient enough to explain to me. My hope is that I can trust him enough to look out for himself, and that wherever we are at that time it is a place where I feel comfortable unleashing him. If I’m able to do that, I know he will learn things I could never teach him. They would be the type of things a child only learns while their parents are not looking. They are the things that will help shape him into the person I want him to be.

Mothers: An Image of G-D

We live in an age where women are not bound to a specific role in life. They can heal people as doctors, defend justice as lawyers, spread knowledge as teachers, voice a message as authors, or lead an entire nation as politicians. Women have the ability to be of great influence, and they can choose among a variety of opportunities in life.

For those women who choose to stay home with their children, it can sometimes be discouraging to think about our worldly influence. While we proudly make the decision to put all our efforts into raising a family, our self-worth can be damaged by the question of “what do you do?”. It sometimes may seem that people ask that question expecting to hear something exciting and worthwhile. When we answer “I stay home”, it’s suddenly as if our influence in the world is minuscule. All believers strive to have a role in the coming of the kingdom. We all want to participate in bringing forth “tikkun olam” (repairing of the world). If we choose to stay in our homes, concentrating on our specific family, how are we ever going to contribute to G-d’s greater plan? It’s a question many of the stay at home mothers I know struggle with.

Overall I don’t dwell on this question too much. I’m thrilled to do what I do, and I chose to stay home because I feel it is a necessity for my family. G-d made it very clear to me that I need to focus on my child, and I dare not question His intentions for me. That does not mean, however, that I am not struck with self-consciousness every now and then, especially when I’m speaking to someone who is out and about changing lives through their work. Every now and then I need something that uplifts my spirits, and reminds me that my role in life is worth a great deal.

A great encouragement, however, came this past weekend at my community’s annual women’s retreat. The theme this year focused on being created “in the image of G-d”, and how we as women reflect that image. For part of the time we glanced at the characteristics of G-d, and how He possesses both masculine and feminine traits. We are familiar with the masculine language used to describe G-d (such as the Bible’s use of the word “He”, or referring to Him as “The Father”), but there are also times when G-d is compared to a motherly figure as well (Isaiah 66:13, or Luke 13:34 for example).

For me, this presented a new and improved perspective as the matriarch of my household. We know that G-d created both man and woman in His image, as stated in Genesis 1:27. However, the first time we see G-d declaring something as “not good” is in Genesis 2:18 when He says that it is not good for man to be alone. As G-d is the definition of what is good, His reflection (man) should be good as well. So G-d solved this by giving man a woman.

This small detail really hit me, and it’s something I have been thinking about ever since coming home from the retreat. I had already known that my son needs both a mother and father figure for a variety of practical reasons. However, I walked away from this weekend realizing that together as man and woman, husband and wife, father and mother, two people working as one unit, we present a reflection of G-d.

The two distinct roles of father and mother are not required solely for the every day functions of our house. These roles are needed to help show my son who G-d is. G-d presents Himself in many ways, whether it’s through His word, prophetic dreams or visions, blessings, the words of our congregational leaders, or even the actions of complete strangers. One of these manifestations is the reflection a father and mother show their children. The role of a mother, half of a complete image of G-d, is no small thing to be. It is a responsibility that cannot be taken lightly, and one that can have great impact not only in the lives of her children, but in the world as a whole.

As we raise our kids we are presenting them with a message and way of life that will be passed down from generation to generation. They are the future. The people who will continue leading by example and spreading this message. What we instill in them will be spread to their friends, their coworkers, their own children. There is something special and important in the decision to give up any personal success in order to focus solely on one’s family. It’s something that shouldn’t make us feel ashamed, but proud. We see that what we impress upon our children will have a variety of ripple effects, so we might as well give it our all.

This does not mean that G-d expects all women to stay home with their children. It does not mean that there isn’t another purpose and path that G-d may lead some women through. Women have made great impacts throughout history outside of their homes, and they too have contributed to tikkun olam. Their work should never be diminished, and everyone should be encouraged to follow the path G-d has set forth for them, traditional or not. It most certainly doesn’t make them any less of a mother.

I am, however, saying that those of us who choose a more subtle and traditional life are worth something as well. We are not stuck in the house because we would be unsuccessful in other areas of life. We are not the weakened damsels who remain locked away at home under our husband’s enslaving authority. Our kids are not the chains that make our lives a miserable Hell. That imagery is pathetically deceitful, yet very common in the mindset of general society these days.

We are so much more than that. We too strive to accomplish G-d’s work, and we have a purpose in our roles. We play a part in the completed reflection of who G-d is, and we present that image to our children who will continue the progress of tikkun olam.

So, remember that next time someone asks “what do you do?”.

You strive to present the future generations with the image of G-d.

Above all else, that is what we were created to do.

My Obsession With Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a huge deal to me. Once November hits I immediately begin brainstorming menu ideas, and researching new techniques for old recipes. I start eyeing the turkeys at the grocery store, and crossing my fingers in hopes that the sugar pumpkins don’t go out of stock before I’m ready for them (because yes, I use actual pumpkin puree in my cooking). Since my husband and I have been spending our holidays together, I’ve scratched my brain over how to make Thanksgiving work in my favor. I disliked the idea of sharing responsibilities and not hosting in our home. Hospitality is a particular gift I want to strengthen within myself, and it’s a form of ministry I want to keep up with. However, I also need to respect the traditions of my husband’s family. I completely understood that I couldn’t dominate the holiday and expect everyone to make their pilgrimage (no pun intended) to my house from various parts of the region just because I wouldn’t give up my insistence that I host Thanksgiving every year..

So I compromised. Thanksgiving is always on a Thursday, and within Judaism we prepare special weekly meals on Friday nights in order to welcome in Shabbat (the Sabbath). Right there was an easy solution, and one that actually adds a deeper meaning to this beautiful holiday. Thursday we do whatever the rest of the family is doing, while the next Friday night we extend the celebration with out closest friends for a Thanksgiving-Shabbat meal. It also gives us an opportunity to be thankful not just for our blood relatives, but also for our closest friends who we consider part of the family as well.

This would be the first year I’m throwing this Shabbat Thanksgiving dinner, and I’ve been pondering what it is that makes it so important for me to host Thanksgiving. Taking one look at my son, I knew the answer to this immediately: It’s for my children.

In my memories, Thanksgiving is distinct and precious. My grandmother woke up early to prep the turkey, and by noon the house smelled incredible. I remember the happiness that radiated off of her as she stood in the kitchen all day, watching every detail that went into preparing the food. I remember sitting at the table stirring various mixes, and taking in all of her kitchen know-hows she was passing along to me as I assisted her. It’s a memory heavy with warmth, and something I believe helped shape me into the person that I am.

I want to cook Thanksgiving dinner, because that is a memory I want my children to share with me. I want them to see me planning menus, comparing turkey sizes, spending a week dividing the work into increments of what can be prepared ahead of time and what will be cooked day of. I want my kids to see me in the kitchen, radiating with happiness and spouting my own kitchen know-hows as I create culinary masterpieces from scratch. I want them to inhale the same smells I breathed during the Thanksgivings of my own childhood.

In our world, we get so caught up in our individual successes. We want the jobs that come with flashy titles and fancy pay checks. Our vacations and adventures define how much we are truly “living” life. Simplicity is boring, and we’re pushed to spend our most lively and energetic years in “self-discovery”. As I’m growing more and more into my role as a stay at home mother in the most traditional sense, I’m beginning to realize the worth of this simple lifestyle, the kind of lifestyle where cooking Thanksgiving dinner for my family and friends every year is an enormous deal.

Despite the simple lifestyle I lead, I still acknowledge the fact that I’m in my years of self-discovery, and I fully take advantage of the energy I have as a young 20-something. I learn who I am by the things I’m instilling in my child, pulling out the morals and convictions that are most important to me, and observing the changes in the way I view the world now that I’m responsible for raising another human being. I wear myself out keeping up with a toddler while at the same time keeping my home a comfortable environment for the entire family. As Thanksgiving rolls around, I’m making shopping lists and looking ahead to a week of constant food preparation. I’m doing these things while I’m still young and able, fitting in as much of it as I can in my life.

Yes, I am definitely living life. As I sit back this Thanksgiving basking in the tremendous relationships that I am blessed with (whether it’s my son, husband, family, or friends), I will be spending every moment thanking G-d for the beauty of it all.

So perhaps I’m a little frantic when it comes to Thanksgiving, but it is my way of showing my loved ones how Thankful I am for them. It’s not about the food itself, though I do admit I have a deep love for cooking. It’s about the message that the food carries. When I’m 65 years old, perhaps I’ll be ready to pass the kitchen over to someone else. Preferably a daughter of mine (be it my own child or an in-law). That is still quite a few decades away, and until then I fully intend to exhaust myself, because that is what my loved ones deserve, and that is how I want to live my life.

Why Homeschool?

This is the excerpt for your very first post.

I went to public school, and for the most part I had a pretty decent time. When my husband and I first started dating soon after I graduated, he offhandedly mentioned the idea of homeschooling future kids. At first I wasn’t particularly thrilled about the idea, having just come out of high school and having a tiny bit of withdrawal. As time passed the idea grew significantly more appealing, and I quickly found myself more attracted to homeschooling.

Unfortunately a scary factor with taking on such a huge responsibility has nothing to do with how I’m going to provide a wholesome education. The challenge I find myself facing has more to do with how society reacts to my child’s education. I don’t know how often I’ve heard debates regarding the legality of homeschooling, or the accusations correlating homeschooling with child abuse. It’s so funny to me, because when I think about what a parent is risking by sending their child to a standard school (private or public), I cannot honestly see how such a choice is a better option. I’m not saying homeschooling isn’t without it’s struggles and concerns, and I’m not saying all parents should home school, but I do feel that if a person is ready to criticize a family for their decision regarding homeschooling, they should think about the package that comes with the other options available as well.

So, here are my responses for common criticisms I’ve personally received regarding homeschooling, and a few reasons why I feel it is the best option for my family:

1) What about socialization?
This is the number one complaint people have against homeschooling. I understand the concern, and it is a concern. I know of a couple home schooled kids who demonstrate the stereotype of a socially awkward person who never really learned how to communicate and interact with others . You know what though? I knew kids in public school who had those same habits and behaviors. I also knew kids in public school who had plenty of friends, but gained those friends through sketchy and shallow methods.

There are also the kids who come out of homeschooling as confident and pleasant people. They are the type of people who will light up any room they walk into, or make friends with complete strangers in a moment’s time simply by being engaging and friendly. Not every parent who chooses to home school does so for the purpose of sheltering their children from society. These days, there are communities for home school families. There are also a variety of extra curricular activities that get children out and among other kids.

When a parent chooses to home school, they usually know socialization will need to be a priority, and it will be something a parent will need to concentrate on. It should not, however, be a concern that is restricted to parents of home schooled children. Parents who send their children to public school need to be concerned with the socialization their child receives as well. Homeschooling may result in a lack of socialization, but to criticize homeschooling because of that issue means putting too much faith in the socialization a child receives in standard school. Public school produces the type of socialization that results in vanity, a lack of self confidence, bullying, and stupid decisions for the sake of impressing others. To pretend a public schooled child will be better off than a home schooled child is a serious assumption. With a strong family supporting a child, it is possible to get through public school without much damage, but it’s just as possible to successfully home school as well.

2) Will it be a decent education?
While talking to a friend of mine who was home schooled, I asked her what her perspective was regarding her experience (she is a very bright and successful person, and I really valued her opinion). She replied with words I could never forget:

“When you’re home schooled, the world is your classroom”.

One of the reasons behind our decision to home school is the fact that we want our children to have a different educational experience than what a standard school can offer.

The word “exploration” often comes to mind when considering the method of learning that children should be given, but that is the last word that comes to mind when thinking of the method traditional school uses. In a standard school setting, think of how much time a child spends in a chair learning from a lecture, book, or power point. Not to mention, schools are being thrown into testing hysteria. Teachers are so harshly pushed to teach by the test that schools end up concerning themselves with whether or not children will be able to fill in a scantron the correct way, rather than trying to instill valuable knowledge.

In my high school there was a unique program called “studies” that a handful of students had the opportunity to take. It was a two hour period where History and English were combined into one class. The entire structure was different from other classes I had taken. More often than not we were up and out of our seats experiencing our lessons through alternative methods. We participated in simulations. We did experiments. We acted out scenes from history and literate, and we debated complicated issues. It was ground breaking, and I had never learned from one class the amount of things I learned from the studies program. Unfortunately, there was always the threat that the studies program would be eliminated. The school, for whatever reason, was never too sure about the existence of the program, and a couple years after I graduated I had heard that it was cut. It had been a unique experiment in a dull and failing system. A diamond in the rough so to speak, but there is just no room for that sort of thing in many public schools.

That opportunity opened my eyes to the fact that education could be so much more than retaining knowledge from a book or lecture. It could be an experience. When I say I want to home school, I don’t mean to have my children sit in their pajamas at the kitchen table doing whatever work sheet happens to be in a book. I mean to do all that I can to involve them in what they are learning. With home schooling, I have the ability to turn education into something so much more than sitting in a classroom taking notes. Are we learning about American History? We can hop in the car and drive over to DC and see the Declaration of Independence. Are we learning about geology? There are some awesome places around here where you can find very rocks to hold in your hands and observe up close. Are we learning about the solar system? Get up and go to the planetarium.

Will children receive a decent education through homeschooling? It depends on the parents and tutors, just like it depends on the teachers a child happens to be placed under. As for me, I want the type of education for my children that is not restricted by a desk, liability, bureaucracy. I want to give them the type of education that the world has to offer.

3) You’re trying to push your religion on your children
I often internally laugh when people say they want to raise children to make their own decisions and form independent beliefs from what they (the parents) believe, because let’s be honest, no one truly lives by that, nor should they. Parents are a child’s number one teacher, whether they want that responsibility or not. They should be the ones who take charge in setting morals and foundational world views for their children.

With that said, I know of the parents who would intentionally hide a variety of subjects from their children in order to “protect” them from questioning their faith. However, that parenting flaw is no more dangerous than the idea that parents shouldn’t push their beliefs on their children. If parents don’t stand for something, their children will fall for anything.

There is a middle ground. It is possible to instill beliefs in children, while at the same time being honest with their education. Personally I think it is a disaster waiting to happen when children are hidden from certain subjects that might test their faith. They will not be in the nest forever, and eventually they will have to face those issues. A lot of homes schooling parents realize this. I am not keeping my child from public school in order to hide potentially faith breaking subjects. I want my child to know about Evolution. I want them to know the teachings of Bart Ehrman and Friedrich Nietzche. The difference, however, is that I want to present what I believe to be true as well.

In the end, I want my child’s faith to be their own. I don’t want them to believe in something simply because mommy and daddy told them to. I want them to take hold of it for themselves, test it, and persevere with it. I want them to have the type of faith where they are not ignorant of what else is out there, and yet they still stand strong in what they believe. That does not mean I leave them to draw their own conclusions. If children are supposed to be completely independent when it comes to their decisions on what to believe, there would be no point in school at all.

As parents, people are supposed to do the best they can to instill what is right and true into their children. That is exactly what I will do. That does not mean I hide from the criticisms, or the information that might stir a number of questions. It just means I present what I believe to be true, and why I believe it to be true. I offer the chance that maybe, just maybe, we are right and the standard is wrong. If my children come out with the faith of their parents, it is not because they were deceived. It will be because they have the evidence, both for and against, and made their own decisions based on that.
4) Family
Think about the amount of time a child actually spends with family when they are placed in public school. They might have a rushed breakfast with the parents (even that is often not the case). They get to school around 9:00 AM. Finish school around 3:00 PM. If the child is “well socialized”, they will probably have an extra curricular activity that might end by 5:00 PM. Kids get home, possibly have a meal with the parents. They then get up from the table and go straight to homework. By the time they complete their homework, it might be about 8:30 PM (and let’s not fool ourselves, this is pretty early for a high school student. Realistically we may be talking until 10 or 11, possibly midnight). Maybe two or three waking hours on a week day where a child might have time with their family. Sure you have weekends, but children have friends they might want to spend time with (it’s the whole socialization thing).

Some families are not okay with this. They may see a value in being able to have time for a relaxed meal vs.a rushed one. They may want to have flexibility in random family fun nights. With the schedule set by a standard school day you really have to twist an arm in order to find the time for families to enjoy one another, which is sad considering you only have 18 fast paced years before a child is packing their belongings and making a home someplace else.

Homeschooling in and of itself is family bonding. Families not only learn together, but they don’t have to conform to a schedule set by some system that accommodates millions of other families. They can take vacations when it is most convenient for them rather than when it’s most convenient for an administration. They can rearrange their schedule so that they can enjoy a night of board games or bowling, and not worry about a bed time. I want to enjoy the time I have with my children, and I especially want my children to enjoy their time with me. Families shouldn’t have to sacrifice their time together for the sake of their child’s education.

The decision to home school is often misrepresented, and misunderstood. It is often written off based on stereotypes and preconceived ideas. However, for those parents who choose to learn a little bit more about the home schooling option, and to explore what it can be, they often find something they believe to be better for their children. These parents often understand the concerns that accompany home schooling, and choose to work through those struggles rather than give in to the alternative.

It is not an option for everyone. Some families would benefit more from a standard form of education rather than home school, and that is okay. A child’s education must be a family by family decision. What works for one family may not work for another. In either case, however, there are struggles. It is important to recognize the fact that there are challenges in whatever decision a parent makes regarding their child’s education, and to assume that those challenges are without benefit could mean missing out on a truly valuable educational opportunity.