I can’t claim that teaching Torah through literature is a Torah idea. Perhaps it’s not even a Torah ideal. Perhaps ideally all Jews should be learning Torah directly from the Tanach, Mishna, and Gemara. But desperate times require desperate measures. And one thing I am sure of is that literature-based curriculum works!
Ever since I began homeschooling my children nine years ago I’ve spent quite a bit of time exploring whatever homeschooling curriculum was available for any subject. When I looked for homeschooling limmudei kodesh curriculum I found… none. We’ve settled for Torah Umesorah materials, originally intended for classroom use, along with many many good Jewish books which have made our learning exciting and fun.
For secular studies, however, there is an abundance of curriculum out there. But a lot of it is not quite secular. Many serious, committed homeschoolers are deeply religious Christians who would not send their children to public schools for reasons similar to ours. And these creative parents have produced amazing learning materials that inspire and educate their families.
Recently, some of these materials have been “secularized” and adopted for the use of secular homeschoolers. I’ve used a number of their ideas and books over the years. The approach that appeals to me and my family the most is literature-based curriculum, where well written, engaging books are used to teach pretty much every subject under the sun. This year, we’ve used a literature-based curriculum for math, science, and history. My children love it and look forward to learning.
Which brings me to teaching Torah through literature. Why should our children find secular studies more exciting and engaging than Torah studies? And why should we settle for “secular” curriculum when we are religious Jews with religious values which we hold close to our hearts?
My vision is to create a literature-based curriculum for limmudei kodesh, as well as a secular studies curriculum infused with Jewish values.
As it turns out, I’m not the first religious Jew to use this approach. In the 19th century Germany, when many Jewish youths were losing their connection to the Torah, some learned rabbis made a valiant attempt to rescue the youth by writing engaging, well-written books saturated with Jewish values. Among them were Rabbi Meir Lehmann and Rabbi Zelig Shachnowitz.
Times have not changed for the better. Today, many forces fight for our children’s attention. It is more important than ever to provide materials which make Torah alive and relevant for them.
So that’s why I began this blog. I’m hoping that it will become a place where anyone involved in Jewish education, whether at home or in a school setting, can exchange ideas and book recommendations. And the creative souls among us can create our own curriculum and get it posted and reviewed here. IY”H I’ll post more about our learning journey and the books we’ve been enjoying.
Comments, feedback, and suggestions are very much welcome!