If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.”
This famous quote by Lewis Carroll, author of Alice in Wonderland, cynically reflects the reality many parents face, striving to meaningfully guide their children’s educations. Even the most discerning parent can be misled by the educational buzzwords that attach sweeping significance to terms that are not clearly defined or universally understood even by educators who use them.
Current research and conventional wisdom shed light on many questions parents ask about schooling and education. Yet the answers to most of these questions are ensconced in the Torah, which provides explicit, enduring guidance and timeless wisdom on the subject of education.
These lessons from the Torah provide a “roadmap” for parents wanting to identify the educational setting best suited for their family. Consider these words of wisdom:
“Educate a child according to his way, and even when he grows older he won’t stray from it.”
Not everyone learns in the same way. Curriculum, instruction, and assessment should enable a student to demonstrate knowledge and understanding in ways that correspond to his or her individual learning style.
“There is no one wiser than the one who has functionally lived the lessons.”
When learning happens in the context of real world experiences and problem-solving, and it is relevant to the child’s experience, it is authentic and enduring.
“Dignity and respect are a prelude to learning.”
When respect and dignity characterize the learning environment, students try harder and take risks in learning. When there is no fear of ridicule, shame or blame, students reach beyond their comfort zones and achieve more.
“Love your brother as yourself.”
When teachers and adults are models for integrity, honesty, kindness, and caring, students learn that these are integral to learning and being successful.
“Teach your child values and values will guide him.”
Teaching life- and leadership skills is just as important as teaching academic skills because academic skills alone aren’t sufficient to cultivate moral, ethical, and responsible leaders for the next generation.
Time should not be wasted. Children’s brains are uniquely adept at language learning; learning Hebrew expands their brains and their ability to think.
Learning should be purposeful. Education should be meaningful and connected to something larger than one moment or one’s self. In this context, it will lead a student forward with purpose and clarity of vision.
Study Torah. Parents strive to find environments that teach children to think. Meanwhile, for 2,500 years the academic discipline of Torah study has shown itself to be the most enduring model of critical and creative thinking. Learning torah empowers students, academically, not just spiritually. Judaic studies offers more than lessons, wisdom, and history; it teaches us how to learn, and how to be for ourselves and for others in the world.