1 2 3 a b c

Last week on Facebook I saw the statuses of my friends change to things like: “4a, 2b and Ka anyone?” I felt happy and nostalgic at the same time, as the posts were referring to class placements at our former school, and previously I had done the same thing, hoping to find out which of their friends my children had been placed with.

The school year has begun again, and for my family it has brought an entirely new adventure. Our Plan B was always the Ben Gamla charter school in Plantation. Plan A had been the Ben Gamla charter school in Boca, that sadly never materialized for this year. So we defaulted to Plan B. We didn’t give it a lot of thought initially, until I learned that the bus to school was leaving at 6:50am, and I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how that was ever going to happen for us. OK, I’m kidding, clearly that was obviously NOT the deciding factor!

A group of very committed individuals spent many hours during the last school year working to develop a curriculum for an after school Judaics program for the Ben Gamla in Boca. A program that would teach limudei kodesh on par with the best yeshivot in the country. A program that would be located on the same campus as the charter school, so that the children would seamlessly move from secular to religious studies, and hardly feel that they were no longer in a day school. A program that would enable many families to guarantee a Jewish education for their children without putting them into further debt. Alas, it was not to be. For reasons that remain unclear, there is no Hebrew language charter school in Boca Raton.

Something didn’t sit right for me. Not just the ungodly hour of the bus, but that Plantation was always “Plan B”, how did it suddenly become “Plan A”? I’m not a Plan B kind of person. I like to have a backup, but I prefer to come up with a Plan A that works. Last summer, when the educational future of our kids was unclear, we spent a lot of time researching homeschooling. Ultimately we were able to keep our children at HDS for one more year, but we had done the groundwork for homeschooling. We understood the state requirements, we had found a wealth of information (mostly online), and we had discussed with the kids the pros and cons of homeschooling as compared to conventional schooling.

The decision to homeschool was relatively easy to make, and to my great surprise I found a number of local Jewish families who also homeschool their children. Since we already planned to homeschool in Judaics (a tutor for 3 kids was well beyond our budget), had we gone through with Plan B, that part of the curriculum was already taken care of. Keith will teach the majority of the Judaics curriculum while I am responsible for their secular education and for Hebrew language.

The older two children will be using an online curriculum that covers Language Arts, Math, Social Studies and Science. I hope to review it properly on the blog once we’ve been using it for a while. So far, I’m impressed with the content and the appropriateness of the grade levels. The youngest, entering kindergarten, will be taught one on one by me, and as she is really eager to learn, I look forward to watching her as she begins to grasp concepts such as reading and math. She will also use the computer for some things, as it does make it more fun for her .

The reaction of most people has been supportive and positive. I am not pretending that I think it will be easy. I know that it will be a challenge, and I expect that there will be days when I am ready to throw the towel in and put them on that 6:50am bus the next morning! Mostly I am excited, and so are the kids. The options are endless, the flexibility will allow us so much more freedom. We will regularly socialize with other home schooling families, and obviously my kids will always be available for playdates with their schooled friends – during the week and on weekends. Our first week has gone incredibly well – my eldest commented more than once at how much she can learn in 30 minutes when she’s not in a classroom full of friends…

For the record, I still firmly believe that Hebrew language charter schools can pave the way for the future of Jewish education. With the support of communal leaders there is no reason why an afterschool program, like the one we worked so hard to establish this past year, cannot give public school children a superior Jewish education. I cannot fathom how anyone believes that it is good to teach our children that major debt is the responsible way to live, because Jewish Day Schools are the only option.

I look forward to blogging about our homeschool regularly. We have named it “Yeshivat Shalom Bayit” and so far it lives up to its name.

Shabbat Shalom.


3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Northern Lights
    Aug 25, 2012 @ 15:05:14

    So glad to hear your update Vanessa! Keep ’em coming!
    We are now starting our 5th yr of homeschooling! The flexibility is great! My kids are choosing to focus on things they love. And my now 9th grader is already opening doors for his future. It’s so awesome. (Ok it’s not always perfect, but this works so much better for us!)


  2. Mordechai
    Aug 25, 2012 @ 22:04:20

    Check out the Florida Virtual School for secular education. http://www.connectionsacademy.com/florida-virtual-school/home.aspx Its paid for with your tax dollars, gives you everything you need and records from the public school system that would make going back to a regular school easier if you want it or for when the children want to go to collect


    • vanessabrooksceo
      Aug 25, 2012 @ 22:19:21

      Yes, we opted not to do Florida Virtual School, as it severely interferes with the flexibility of homeschooling. In addition, students are mandated to take the FCAT, which I view as entirely unnecessary. The online curriculum that we are using is excellent, and I’m very impressed so far. The cost is minimal for two kids (even if I decide to add the youngest at some point, it will cost under $500 for a year of tuition for all the kids!) and they are enjoying the lessons immensely.


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