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Self-Assessment Tool for Sending Children to Eretz Yisroel - Part Two
by Rabbi Yakov Horowitz

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11/22/06

ACADEMIC SUCCESS AND LEARNING PROFILE:

Your child’s past academic success is an extremely important issue to consider when contemplating sending a child to Eretz Yisroel for the year.

In assessing appropriate school settings, you may wish to consider:

  • Does your child have a track record of success in previous years in school?
  • How is his or her attitude to studies?
  • Are there any learning disabilities?
  • Have you had any testing done in the past?
  • Is it possible that there are learning disabilities that may have gone undiagnosed?

All of these factors should be considered in your decision-making process as you search to find the right program for your child. If your child has been learning well and is achieving success, it is, in theory, easier to find a program that is geared to his or her needs. If your child’s learning profile requires specific attention, it may be more challenging for you to find a program geared to his or her needs.

GETTING IN, OR GETTING ON

Very often, parents are (rightfully) anxious about the application and admission process and may be tempted to withhold information about learning issues regarding their child. Although this attitude may be entirely understandable, it is usually counterproductive. If you are worried that sharing this sensitive information may turn off potential schools, those schools are probably not right for your child. Bear in mind that getting your son or daughter in to a school is not the most important objective. Getting into a school where your child will thrive is what you should be considering. Placing your son or daughter in a school setting for which they simply are not equipped – or is not equipped for them – will often result in frustration and anxiety for your child and the faculty members. If your child has a specific learning profile and requires an educational program to address these needs, you will be well served to share this information with prospective schools.

HOBBIES:

A huge question for parents to address, primarily for boys, is what will our child do during his or her down time? Please be aware that there is a great deal of unstructured time – in the evenings, on weekends, and especially during bein hazemanim breaks such as the summer months and around the Yomim Tovim. Your child will have blocks of time with little or no structured activity. In future columns we will be discussing preparing your children for independence, the prospective school’s attitudes towards these times, and their level of supervision. But it is important to consider your child’s profile as well. Unless your son is a true masmid (diligent student) who learns every free moment, he will have lots of time on his hands.

I attended Yeshiva Torah Voda’as High School and Beis Midrosh in the 1970’s. We had the highest-caliber limudei kodesh program, and a rigorous program in general studies. We had the zechus of hearing shiurim from the greatest Torah minds of pre-war Europe. Nearly 25% of my classmates earned Regents Scholarship Awards (The New York City general population was averaging 4-5% Regents Scholarships at that time.) We also played basketball and other sports for two or more hours every single day. Many of the leading 40-and-50-year old k’lei kodesh and communal leaders of the current generation were outstanding masmidim … and great basketball players.

I think it of great value for children to have healthy hobbies in their formative years, and opportunities for exercise. I also attribute the exponential growth in cigarette smoking and alcohol consumption among our teens partially to the lack of opportunities for early-and-often exercise in school and on the weekends. Children, especially boys, who do not have hobbies, play sports, or find healthy recreational activity are more likely, in my opinion, to engage in smoking, drinking, ‘clubbing’ or other dangerous activities. I therefore included a lack of hobbies as a risk factor. Which brings me to …

VICES:

Sorry to be so blunt, but cigarette smoking is much more prevalent among our teenage boys then we would care to believe, and alcohol consumption is far, far too high. Don’t believe me? Don’t trust the other ‘talking heads’? Then, do your own homework.

Here are some ideas:

  • Ask several teenage boys what percentage of their friends are smoking (I did, and the answers range from 20-50%, or more)
  • Ask your local Hatzolah member how many calls he has responded to over the past 12 months due to teens ‘overdoing it’ with alcohol. (I have heard horror stories of teens who have become nearly comatose or beyond from alcohol overdoses due to hard, unsupervised drinking at ‘vort’s, weddings, and other parties.)

Obviously, these are exceptions rather than rules. Most of our sons and daughters are doing well or wonderfully is school. But we need to address these issues and realize that we are not immune to their ramifications.

And, please get to know your child before you consider sending him (or her) to Eretz Yisroel – where there is no legal drinking age, and cigarettes are available in vending machines. More on this in next week’s column.

© 2003 Rabbi Yakov Horowitz, all rights reserved



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Related Articles:
Self-Assessment Tool for Sending Children to Eretz Yisroel - Part One


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