And so it begins…

My oldest daughter, turns 5 this summer. That means it’s time to start kindergarten. Before we were married, my wife and I had discussed schooling. I was raised in public schools and thought they were excellent. She was raised in private schools, and the only thing she had heard about public schools were all the problems reported on the news. Still, I had told her at the time that I wasn’t saying ‘No’ to private school, I just wanted to consider all the options. Especially since we now live in an area that has excellent (nationally ranked) public schools. People move to our neighborhood so that their kids will go to the local elementary, junior, and senior high schools.

After we were married and had our current two daughters, and I started becoming more religious, I saw more value in the private schools. Not so much because of problems with public schools (I still think they are very good), but because I wanted my girls to get a richer Jewish education than I had received. They are both in the local Chabad preschool, and are quickly absorbing material that I’m still struggling with myself. (e.g.

So now come the hard decisions. Where we are located, there are basically 4 choices for schooling:

1) Public school – No Jewish education, and would have to do the “Kids need Yom Tovs off, no food other than what we provide, etc.” dance pretty often.

2) Local Jewish Day School – There is a local Jewish Day School. However, it was developed by many people in the area and while it’s a good school, it’s not at as high a religious level as what we wanted for our kids.

3) Send to more religious Jewish Day Schools – There are a few Jewish Day Schools that are more religious, but they are not as local. The travel time during “rush hour” is about an hour each way, assuming no major incidents. Our neighbor does this with their current kindergartener, but others in our community wait until the kids are a little older before putting them through such a commute. On the other hand, the neighbor’s son does seem to learn a great deal there.

4) A new school – A few families in our community are working with our shul to see if we can start up a new program, initially at the kindergarten level, maybe to go up to first or second grade. It would be a more religious focus than the local JDS, but a smaller group of people, an untested program, and is currently still struggling to get organized.

We are still working on deciding what we will do. The application for the local JDS is due this month. We haven’t even checked when applications are due at the schools farther away, but really don’t want to see our 5 year old commuting that long. Our best hope is with the new school, and we are participating in meetings and all, but are afraid of putting all our eggs in one incomplete, untested basket. We’ll probably apply for the local JDS, but if the new school does fly, go over there. Hopefully we would know before the various payments are due.

I usually try to have a nice neat conclusion/learning experience at the end of my write ups, but this one is still very open ended. However, if anyone has suggestions/comments, I welcome them.

8 comments on “And so it begins…

  1. Yehuda, give my 18 month old niece a hug for me, will ya? And I knew you wouldn’t be able to resist your usual (and entirely correct) plug for Israel. 8^)

    A woman in my Hebrew class has kids in the local JDS (1st and 3rd grade I think) and she said her kids are speaking Hebrew pretty well, better than us in the class anyway.

    And Danielle, glad to hear about your friend and her school. It takes a lot of nerve to be a pioneer! I’m hoping it’ll work out for us, but we need to see where things head, and being a former Boy Scout, I still practice “Be Prepared!” :)

  2. One of my friends was the pioneering student of the local girl’s high school. Now, twelve years later, it has over sixty girls from 9th-12th grade and has received many accolades for both religious and secular education. Although I understand your fears of starting with the new school, imagine the benefits you could be providing not only for your children, but for those who may not have the same options you have in the future.

  3. Do you know where there is really cheap, meaningful and plentyful Jewish education?? In Israel!! Ok, that was my zionist propaganda for the day- just needed to get that out of my system.

    Seriously though, I see the difficult choices to be made. I am a father of an 18-month old, so I don’t really have parental experience with your dilema…BUT I remember from my own youth, people coming from all sorts of backgrounds and taking completely different directions as adults. My personal experience tells me that what matters most is what type of values are inculcated by the parents, at home. Ideally the school should complement, not replace the Jewish/secular values and knowledge.

    All the choices you have present something positive that can complement what you teach at home – but none of them give a complete package. As I see it, all your choices are good, but each has a catch. Given that you plan to move to Baltimore anyway and put your kids in a solid, established Jewish school there, the current choice is only temporary and I don’t think it will such have a huge impact on the child’s education long-term. I could be wrong, but that’s my impression.

    I concur with Bob Miller’s comment though – the bases for speaking Hebrew are important at an early age if the child is expected to continue in a Jewish day school.

    Best of luck.

  4. misnaged, could you contact me (off line is fine) with info about your Chabad Cheder? Our Chabad rabbi is trying to help with the school if we do it in the shul, but if I can give him some resources for a place where it’s already working, I’d love to use it to pass on.

    ChanaLeah asked “Is there any chance that you would move closer to the schools that are an hour away.” Actually in about 1-3 years (depending on construction and how they organize the move) my job is supposed to move near the Baltimore area. Most people in the office are mumbling and grumbling. I asked how soon could I get up there!?

    So whichever school we pick, it would only be a few years anyway, (then we get to start searching again, but from what I understand there are a lot more schools in the B’more area!) but I’d rather start them out strong.

    Also, to adress your other comment, we approached the administration with our concerns and tried to talk about ways we might be able to work with them, but after some discussion we came to the realization that it was their school and they were going to do it the way they wanted to (which is their right). We were definitely in the minority.

  5. One important consideration is preparation for Jewish high school.

    If the Jewish elementary school curriculum will not include (at least as an option) enough Jewish and Hebrew content to prepare the student for the desired type of Jewish high school, outside tutoring will be necessary. Tutors have to be available locally.

    A related consideration is living, even now, within range of a Jewish high school.

  6. Sorry for a 3rd post, don’t mean to be greedy:
    Our kids have also been in a more eclectic school such as the one you describe as the local Jewish Day School. It was a mix of orthodox, conservative and reform students, but the administration was orthodox. That is a key issue to look at in this type of school; if decision-makers will be open to changes in the school to reflect more religious interests.

  7. Is there any chance that you would move closer to the schools that are an hour away, if they worked out for your daughter? That is another thought, that the commute doesn’t have to be forever. As for start-up schools, obviously it’s a risk both for the quality of education and the amount of your own investment, not only $$. On the other hand, you are a young family and maybe have the strength to put your Kochos into this project. In my own community, which is growing rapidly, there was a start-up school a few years ago, and it closed down after a short time, but not until after several members of the community put tremendous effort into trying to make it work. If I had your choice, and I have some experience with a variety of schools, I would go with the school whose academic program you feel confident about, and where you feel a likelihood that your child would fit in and have continuity.I think it’s important that each grade will actually be a building block for the next grade. This process gets disrupted if you have to change schools.

  8. In my town, a Chabad Cheder with Secular Studies opened this past year. About 20 students. Bochurim and Post-Seminary Students teach the children both Jewish studies and English. It is run like a homeschool. working are learning tons

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