I received an interesting response to my post Two Visions of Jewish Education.
I read your blog post, “After BARJ, two visions of Jewish education” and i write to tell you that while many think in the binary terms you describe about Jewish education, it does not need to be this way.
My children attend a Jewish Montessori school in Edison called Yeshivat Netivot Montessori. While it is an Orthodox day school, it is reasonably inclusive and the parent body comes from across the spectrum from haredi to self-described pagans.
There are no tests, no grades or report cards and no homework. Children learn in multi-age classrooms and they are learning fundamental text skills in limmudei kodesh while also gettign an oustanding general education.
The children learn because they want to, not because they have to. It is true Torah lishmah.
The kids are so engrossed in their humash lessons, the teachers need to push them out the door for recess and pull the humashim out of their hands.
The curriculum is integrated, so math lessons about fractions are woven into learning about maasrot [tithes]. When our fifth graders, with their own hands, sawed wood dowels to make groggers and then drilled holes for bells and burned in the words ‘arur haman, baruch mordecai”, they also learned about the musical instuments of the Persian era in history.
It is not magic, it is Montessori and very real. And I will also add that it is not unique, there are roughly 20 Jewish Montessori schools in North America.
While this is a day school, Jewish Montessori could be productively applied to after-school forms of Jewish education. The key is to stop thinking that great learning happens with a frontal teaching model and we must choose either to have rigorous academic approaches or “softer” more nurturing approaches and structure our curriculums and instruction accordingly. We need to think about how all children and adults best learn, which is through self-directed, hands-on experiences.
Please come to Edison and see what’s possible for Jewish education.