Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Bittersweet Beginings

My oldest starts school tomorrow. Not sure how I feel about this yet. She has been home with me for three years, although she did go to day camp this summer, this just feels different. Maybe it's because I had a hard time in school, but I feel bittersweet at her starting school. I definitely feel we chose the right school for her and that she will thrive and flourish at this school. She is smart and funny and very social, and yet something in me is saying "don't let her go, keep her home another year". I hope that she succeeds in school and does well both socially and academically, but I also want to be certain that we aren't pushing her and putting too much pressure on her. (I know, I know she's only 3! this is what keeps me up at night. indulge me.)
As I said this may be coming from my own experience in yeshiva day school, which unfortunately wasn't great (in elementary school, by high school it managed to level off, but I was so traumatized  by elementary school that even though high school was good it took me a long time to get over it and not sure I ever fully did). This is one of the reasons we chose to send her somewhere not quite as traditional, because the traditional schools still haven't quite figured out what to do with kids who are not exactly in the "mold". This is where i get on my old soap box :) Yeshiva day schools serve a specific purpose and therefore end up catering to a specific type of child. If a child happens to be a little "different" or more unique that child will have problems throughout their school experience. While the attitude is slowly changing, it is just that: slow. Also, many people do not think or want to think that there are any problems with Jewish day schools. To quote one rabbi "I am not aware of discipline problems in Yeshiva" (apparently the kids in that school are perfect). It is this exact attitude that causes problems. Jewish kids are just like any other kids. Some are well behaved, some are not, some are quiet, some are loud, some learn slower and some learn faster. And unfortunately some of them can be really mean to each other. Despite my negative early experience, my high school experience was far better, which is why I am still frum today (although a little more on my own terms), but the experience has definitely given me a different view on Yeshiva. In the meantime, I will be sending my child to a Montessori school, where she will learn how to be a mench as well as her ABC's and 123's etc.
I wish her lots of luck and Mazal, and I hope I myself will have the wisdom to see how she is doing and help guide her in the appropriate way for her.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Shidduch "problem"

So I may not be the most qualified to talk about this topic as I did get married while I was still in school, but I have talked to friends/family who have gone/are going through this situation and I ponder how we got to this place. What is really the root of the Shidduch problem? is it the unrealistic expectations people have for relationships? Is it the approach we as a community have taken to teaching about relationships? I have a few theories regarding what causes/caused this situation.
1: We have become as a society so superficial and self centered that we have a need to have the perfect mate. Even if such a person does not exist. People are not perfect. Everyone has annoying quirks and faults no matter how wonderful they are.
2: We as a community lack a standard and consistent method for teaching teens about relationships especially sexual relationships. As far as I know no Jewish day school even broaches the subject of sex ed until possibly senior year. The serious lack of sex ed and relationship ed is a major underlying problem, which ties into the expectation problem. if we don't teach kids what to expect they will make it up as they go along.
3; The pressure to  get married. There is so much pressure to get married, settle down and have a family that when you are thrust into the world of dating you have only one goal: Marriage. While I don't believe dating should be "only" fun, dating should not be this pressure filled race to be the first to get married. Young people who are dating should relax and enjoy the period of life that they are in.
If we as a community make some fundamental changes in our attitude and education, we might be able to, if not fix the current situation then at least make it better for our children.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

School is starting soon!!

We are very excited that our oldest will be starting school this fall. After much consideration she will be attending a Montessori Yeshiva (One of only two that I know of). The question of course is how did we come to this decision? Well thank God we have a number of options in our community so we actually had the ability to decide on which course was best for our daughter. In our community we have essentially three options.
1) A standard MO day school. co ed attendance but separate classes. Basically a community school
2) A more yeshivish school which is actually two separate schools one for boys and one for girls.
3) A Montessori Yeshiva.
There are a few schools in nearby communities but those require some travel which we felt was too much for a three year old.
So back to the question, why the Montessori school? There are in fact several reasons:
1) I personally grew up going to pretty much standard Jewish Day schools, and I found (for myself) that in order to succeed one had to fit into a specific mold (which I do not). I did not want to place this burden on my child who is already showing signs of chafing at the bit and wanting to do her own thing.
2) After learning about the Montessori Method and observing the classes at the school I have come to the realization that there are great benefits to a Montessori education. It encourages independence, learning and growth in children. It also focuses on the whole person rather than just academics and therefore imbues the students with good  middot (traits) without force.
3) While the yeshivish school has an excellent reputation, our religious views do not lie that far to the right and decided that since we have this third option we should take it.
At some point in the future as i get more comfortable with my blog I will perhaps share some of my opinions regarding standard Jewish Day schools, but for now we are simply looking forward to a great year of learning and growing!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Why I am a Stay At Home Mom.

I am a stay at home mom (SAHM). Unfortunately today I actually have to explain to people why I am a stay at home mom. First of all the cost of child care is ridiculous. Day care is approximately $250-$300 a week per child (full time), and a full time (live in or out) nanny is also $300-$400 a week. Second of all, I personally do not want someone else raising my child. I have worked in day car (good ones) and as a nanny/babysitter, and I know that no matter how much we loved the kids and time we spent with them it was not the same. I do not believe that being a SAHM is the right choice for every mom. However I do believe that being a SAHM is a perfectly viable and acceptable choice for a woman to make. Does it mean that we have to budget more carefully? yes. Does it mean that we have to make sacrifices in other aspects of our lives? Yes. We only have one car (bought second hand and financed), we don't go out to nice restaurants very often (once every few months or so). We don't go away on vacations to exotic locations, in fact we rarely go anywhere, (except Israel, thanks to my in laws who live there and want to see their granddaughters, and therefore allow us that opportunity which we otherwise wouldn't have had). I buy clothes for my kids at walmart and target and watch for sales. I take advantage of consignment shops and hand me downs. We rarely eat meat and chicken usually only on Shabbos.
Are these (and other) sacrifices worth it? for me the answer is YES! absolutely. I get to be the one who sees my children when they reach all their milestones. I am able to nurse full time without pumping ( I have had friends who pumped, and i completely admire their dedication, if i had to do that i would never have been able to do it.). I get every hug and kiss every boo boo. I don't have to scramble when one of them is sick because I am here with them.
For me, staying home was the best decision, especially because it was MY choice. I wanted to do it, and my husband and I made it happen. Staying home is not the right choice for everyone, and there are times it is not financially viable for a woman to stay home. However I don't criticize women who go to work because I am well aware that this choice is not for everyone. I just hope that women who work don't criticize my choices, because they feel that there is only one way.
Would we be better off financially if i worked? Honestly I'm not sure. I am not a doctor/lawyer/businesswoman etc. I have a degree in Jewish studies. I hope to complete my teaching certification so that when my children are all in school i can go back to work and help us out financially. But for right now staying home is actually more fiscally responsible than working. So again, for ME being a SAHM is 100%  the right choice and i stand by it. Being Orthodox will always mean that things will be even more financially tight for us then other SAHM families, but for me there is no other way.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

What is Jewish Education? and is it worth the price?

Is Jewish Education actually worth the huge price tag? What do our children get from going to a Jewish school?? I went to Jewish day schools as a child, and I am still not sure I have fully recovered from the experience. By Junior high we are in school almost the same number of hours then the average American spends at their job. (traditional jobs of 9-5 are approximately 40 hours, Most day schools start at about 8:30 and go until 5:30 Monday-Thursday and end slightly earlier on Fridays putting kids in school approximately 42 hours), and they get less time for lunch (and no recess). So children ages 11-17 are expected to sit in school all day and learn how to be good Jews, and have no time for extracurricular activities or socializing. This is a powder keg for discipline problems, nervous breakdowns, drug abuse and a host of other problems (which by the way do not exist in the Jewish community at all. note the sarcasm.). What would happen if we pared down the day school curriculum to basic? if we had to hire less teachers and operate the school for a shorter day, therefore using utilities for 2-3 hours less PER DAY. how much would we save in operating costs?
In addition to saving operating costs we would also have happier healthier children. Children who have time to be children. Children who might be able to see the glory of G-d and the beauty of Judaism instead of children who are burnt out by age 15 and hate being Jewish and learning. What the schools should focus on is HOW to learn instead or cramming in all the material, and on teaching children how to be menches rather then twelve prakim of Gemara every week. We need to embody our children with a love for G-d, Judaism and the Jewish people. We need to bring down tuition prices.  Doing the two together at the same time? PRICELESS!

demoralized Judaism

As Rosh Hashana looms, as well as the start of a new school year I have become demoralized. I am committed to having a Jewish home and family, but the financial burden of doing so has simply become too much. We do not drive fancy cars, we do not own a huge house (we do not even own a house yet and given yeshiva tuition we may never be able to), we do not go on fancy vacations. I do allow myself a few luxuries, but they are few an far between. I see people blogging about not needing such fancy things and not needing the best of everything, i don't think these people really get it. I am not talking about getting an Ipad or even an Iphone, i am talking about being able to pay our electric bill versus buying RH seats. I've been told that preschool is a luxury, what am i supposed to do keep my child home until she is 5? Who will she play with? All the other children her age are in school. I am not begrudging the institutions the money they need to function, the shuls and schools do need to be financially viable. I am also not expecting a few wealthy people to carry the entire community. However something does need to happen. Whether we follow the Talmud Torah model where the children go to public school in the morning and have Talmud Torah in the afternoon, or follow the Kehilla model where each family gives 10% (maaser) to the Kehilla and the funds all the Jewish institutions or some other yet to be discussed model, something has to change.  People can not maintain this lifestyle any longer. Something very basic in our community has to change. I don't have all the answers, i don't even have some answers, but i know i am not alone in my feelings and hope that instead of rehashing the problem, we come up with some viable solutions.