A FEW years back, when Nachshon and Shoshana Zohari made their first tentative steps to educate their children by themselves, they weren’t entirely sure how to go about it.
They had researched the practice known as “homeschooling,” but there were still a number of unanswered questions. After all, both parents had themselves been educated in standard classrooms in everyday schools.
“We didn’t have any other model,” says Shoshana, a stay-at-home mom who considers being her kids’ primary teacher a fulltime career. “We had to de-school ourselves to some degree. We wondered, what is homeschooling going to look like?”
At first, when they began instructing their oldest son, Avraham, they opted for a method that more or less simulated an ordinary school routine.
“We even had a phase where I’d stand in the kitchen, he’d put on his little backpack by the front door and he’d say ‘Bye Mommy.’
“You don’t know what to do. You want it to be official. You don’t want your kids to feel like they’re missing anything.
“A lot of people start out that way and then loosen up. You move into a much more organic mode.”
That is certainly evident in the Zohari home today, a Southeast Denver condo whose living room is dominated by a large, classroom-style flat table, surrounded by shelves adorned with textbooks and a colorful array of school supplies.
Shoshana spreads her arms wide and smiles.
“We live in a small house,” she says. “This table is school.”
AVRAHAM, the Zoharis’ eldest child, is now 14 and will be entering the ninth grade when the familial school starts up again in a few weeks. His classmates are his siblings — Sheliya,11, Shalom, 9, and Baila, 6.
None of them has ever attended class at a regular school. And all of them agree that they don’t miss that experience at all.
“I’ve heard a lot of stories from my friends who go to school that they don’t really like school,” says Sheliya.
“And I like being at home. You can get your schoolwork done much snappier and then you have the entire art room and all these toys to play with, and can spend the rest of the day doing fun things, instead of staying in school all day.”
Avraham agrees. His friends tell him about the demands of homework — and the perils of bullying — at school.
“It doesn’t sound very fun,” he says.
Shalom says he likes to build things, and at home he is given sufficient time to develop and execute his ideas. He doesn’t think that would happen in a traditional school.
Baila, at six years old, is just embarking on her home educational experience and doesn’t have the track record of her elder siblings. She likes the idea of homeschooling for a straightforward, if not entirely accurate, reason: “I like to play every day, all day, and every night,” she says.
To all appearances, the Zohari kids are intellectually bright and socially adept. They display little shyness and have no trouble expressing themselves.