Jewish Homeschooling on the Rise in Uncertain Times
In over a decade of homeschooling here, in Los Angeles, I have seen our local Jewish homeschooling group grow and evolve, adjusting each year to the needs of new and continuing homeschool families. But never in all those years have I seen such a tremendous influx of new members in our group as we are seeing in this 2020-2021 school year. The group more than doubled in size as Los Angeles Jewish families opt for homeschooling in the face of global uncertainty.
Before the coronavirus pandemic, homeschooling had not been a popular choice in the Jewish community. The majority of the community relied on school to meet their children’s spiritual, educational, and social needs. But when the pandemic hit, many families experienced the advantages of homeschooling, and some of them never want to go back.
“We’ve been staying home since March, and for our family it’s like Heaven,” says Tali Krutovski. “My children love it. They learn well. We get to be together, get to know each other better.” One of Tali’s children had struggled in school and always needed extra tutoring. At home, Tali is able to provide tutoring for him without the extra stress or the pressure of keeping up with his classmates.
Another new homeschooler, Aliza Fuhrman, echoes Tali’s sentiments. “I took [my children] out of school right at the beginning of the pandemic. I love it, and so do they. They thrive. We are having so much fun!” Aliza had considered homeschooling before, but it was the pandemic that finally gave her the opportunity to take this step. “We get to pick our own topics, we delve into whatever the kids are interested in, we order tons of books and do huge unit studies,” she says, explaining that her children are much more enthusiastic about learning when the curriculum is structured around their interests.
Sarah Roven shares a similar story—she’d wanted to homeschool before but was concerned about her children’s social opportunities. With the pandemic limiting everyone’s social life, Sarah decided to give homeschooling a try. While homeschooling has its daily challenges, Sarah strives to make learning fun and interactive for her children, with lots of arts and crafts. She also teamed up with her neighbor, whose children are similar in ages, and they take turns homeschooling their small “pod.” That way, the children get some social interaction.
Ruvin Spivak also formed a pod together with three other families. The children had been in school together, and the transition wasn’t difficult for them since they were able to maintain these friendships. While currently most of their interactions are virtual, they are hoping for more in-person learning opportunities in the future. Ruvin gives two primary reasons for homeschooling: flexibility and control. “I love the idea of forming our own schedule,” he says, explaining that education becomes much more efficient and effective when it is adjusted to the students’ needs and interests. One of his children is academically advanced, and in a homeschooling environment she is able to move through the material faster and have more time for other, “not cookie cutter,” educational opportunities.
Since both Ruvin and his wife work full time, their children take online Judaic studies courses and are signed up for a public online charter school. The online school is much more flexible than other schools since the children can work on their lessons at their own pace and schedule. They enjoy this flexibility and don’t miss the morning rush.
Financial considerations also play a role in local families’ decision to homeschool. Tali explains that paying for much needed tutoring in addition to full tuition is very difficult at a time when so many families’ resources are tighter. “I believe that I can give [my children] a lot more at home,” she says. Sarah and her husband also found themselves strapped financially and did not want to commit to paying tuition with so much uncertainty about what this school year would look like. “Homeschooling is much more affordable,” she says.
All the families we spoke to intend to homeschool long term. While they expressed concerns about their children’s social lives once the world returns back to normal, they are also finding hope in the fact that so many families are homeschooling this year. Perhaps if they all continue to homeschool, social life will no longer be a concern.