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Friday, April 3, 2020

Homeschooling Resources for Canceled Religious Schools

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I began my religious school teaching career by being drafted after volunteering one too many times. Terrified I somehow was going to impart inaccurate information and incorrectly mold the minds of children, I began searching for resources to help with accurate and informative teaching.

Having left the synagogue after my bat mitzvah, I celebrated holidays at home, only returning to organized religion after having a child. I wasn’t as knowledgeable as the other teachers. I had to teach myself before I could teach my students. No matter what resource I used, I translated it into something engaging or humorous. I remember my Sunday School experiences well, and I did not want my kids to zone out and start wishing they were somewhere else.

With most religious schools shut down during the COVID-19 pandemic, parents and educators might be worrying about a lapse in Jewish education. However, like with public and private secular schools, there are resources available that may help you should you choose to homeschool Jewish studies and Hebrew.

Below is a list of “me approved” educational websites dedicated to Jewish learning:

1. JTeach is a property of the Board of Jewish Education of Metropolitan Chicago. Some of the material is exclusive to members, but there are numerous free resources. This is my go-to site for Jewish arts and crafts for beginner and intermediate levels. JTeach also offers games and instructional lessons for Jewish holidays, as well as on Shabbat, Israel, prayer and mitzvot. This site tries to keep up to date with what kids are interested in, suggesting appropriate apps, videos and playlists related to Judaism.

2. My Jewish Learning is geared toward adults, so the resources are best used for higher-level classes, or you need to restate the information in a way appropriate for younger children. This site covers numerous subjects, and I find it to be very thorough. The articles are longer than those on sites dedicated to children, but not so long that you are overwhelmed with information. My Jewish Learning sections include Jewish food, holidays and daily living. One section readers might find useful is Health and Wellness, which has the Mi Sheberach (prayer of healing) on it. Just a reminder this is not a children’s site, so it contains some adult subject matter, such as suicide and gender issues, so use at your discretion.

3. Akhlah is a great site for Hebrew letters practice sheets. It is one of the few sites I’ve found that also offers sheets for script Hebrew. In addition to Hebrew, Akhlah has sections on Israel, the Torah, Jewish heroes, Jewish traditions and holidays.  The site is geared toward children, and offers a suggested curriculum for each grade level.

4. An amazing blogger by the name of Danit has created a site dedicated to Jewish homeschooling. In addition to feeling relief that someone else already tackled creating ideas for you, Danit has included a section dedicated to Jewish printables. A few of the printables cost money, but they are the ones that include multiple sheets; the rest (and there are many) are free. Danit groups printables by subject, such as the alef bet, Shabbat and Pesach. The sheets and activities on this site are geared toward younger children.

5. Jewish Kids! is a joint effort of Chabad.org and Tzivos Hashem. Information is sorted into one of the following categories: videos, games, fun stuff, stories (audio and printable), music and holidays. There also are comics, recipes for kids, Torah for kids and crafts, among others. This site is for educating children and allowing them to safely explore topics on the Internet. Jewish Kids is a good resource for beginner and intermediate levels. Hebrew is not included on this site.

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