Lately, I have had the opportunity of discussing, with a person I highly respect, the disadvantages of a system which is designed in such a way as to draw young children away from their mothers from an increasingly early age. I was struck by the following statement:
“There is no denying the system is faulty, but if you don’t want your children to become outcasts, you had better conform to it.”
In my eyes, this is a dangerous line of thought, and I can by no means be satisfied with such logic. Why? Because it implies that we ought to do what everyone else is doing, rather than what we believe to be right and best for our families. What follows next? “You had better not insist that your teenage daughter should wear such long skirts; after all, most of her friends’ parents are far more lenient – you don’t want her to feel like a weirdo”; “all my friends have a boyfriend, why can’t I have one too?” – I am not attempting to debate those specific issues, I am simply saying that –
We ought to be guided by what we believe is right, not by what everyone else is doing. Now, as we are Jewish, the principles we live upon of course have foundation in our faith – but it is very possible that other Orthodox Jews will live in a different way, when it concerns matters which are not entirely black and white.
Then the question is asked, are children made outcasts because they are the only ones educated at home in their area? I hope and believe not; of course if people have no contact with each other beside school and work, if community life is nonexistent and like-minded families are not to be found at all, it may be difficult. But the majority of us, with the help of conscious effort if not naturally, will develop a relationship with neighbors and friends. Of course, it makes sense to me that a homeschooled child will be less “blended in”, will experience less dependence on a group of peers. But who said it is a bad thing? I believe it is quite the contrary.
Also, because of the very short distances in most of our country, because of the virtual absence of truly remote and isolated spots, Israelis are forgetting that such spots exist all over the world, and that children are brought up in a multitude of ways and places and generally can grow up as fine adults without rigid requirements of a specific system.
As for the necessity of socialization… we are all social creatures, and there is a time and place for peer play. However, I am convinced it is not in the best interests of young children to spend the chief portion of their day in a large peer group. The younger the child, the worse such an arrangement is for him. And I don’t really believe that it’s all about one “bad” child who is “spoiling” the rest. Rather, from my observation, children simply behave differently in groups, and the qualities brought out are not their best ones. I have seen several children each of whom is fine him/herself, behave in an unruly, insolent, even cruel way, when left together unchecked for any length of time.
I believe that an hour or two of play with peers of the same age is plenty for a young child of two or three, and that it is very desirable, instead of jumbling children of exactly the same age together, that a child will have the opportunity to also play with children who are a little older than himself, and learn more mature behavior – and also with younger children and babies, to learn gentleness and patience.
Children who have a sibling or two get all that and more at home, with the enormous advantage of their mother’s personal attention throughout the day, and the advantage of being part of a home life, of observing and performing real-life tasks from an early age. I believe it is far more beneficial for my toddler to be running barefoot among chickens in the yard, than to be shut up somewhere occupied by amusing but mindless tasks, the only object of which is to keep a group of children quiet.
Another statement that is imprinted in my mind: “your children will have to become part of an organized system at some point of their lives, so it is better for them to get used to this as early as possible.”
You know what this reminds me of? Hearing otherwise sensible parents saying, “our children will be exposed to candy sooner or later anyway, so it’s OK to start giving them lollipops when they are babies.”
They don’t realize that exposure to harmful refined sugar is not a Yes or No question. It is a question of quantity; and every month, every week, every day they can keep their child off sweets is a contribution to future health. Similarly, in many families it’s not a choice between handing the baby over to daycare from infancy, or homeschooling throughout college. There is a great area of diversity between these two ends, and every day and every week, every hour actually, that a young child spends with his mother is worth struggling for.
Let’s consider a child who followed the standard route of institutionalized schooling from preschool, versus a child who, for some reasons, was homeschooled perhaps through the first four or five grades, and then was entered into school. The first child will perhaps be better adapted to the system, but does it speak in favor of his mind when the adaptation is to rigid discipline, repetitive tasks and waste of time necessarily stemming from a large group of children being taught at the same time?
Now, the second child might go through a period of adaptation – a lengthier period than if he had been a toddler sent to daycare from the age of one or two years. But the value of what he had acquired during the years when his personality was shaping is immeasurable. If nature took its course and his parents were diligent supervisors of his education, he gained curiosity that wasn’t stifled, the ability of self-discipline and self-learning, and in all probability acquired the beneficial habit of reading for pleasure.
These qualities will remain with him throughout life, and will serve him much better as an adult, in whatever he is called to do, than the mere conformity to an artificial system. As for organization and discipline, if these aren’t found in our homes, if these are only imposed on us in school and in the army, then our situation requires serious re-assessment.
I could write a lot more on the subject, but as usual, time is pressing and I must stop for now. I eagerly wait for your comments on this, and remain your friend,