There is no doubt that this Pesach took a tremendous amount out of me. In addition to the shlepping and shopping and cleaning and cooking, I devoted quite a bit of time and energy to preparing my son for the sederim.
He goes to a wonderful school. But sadly, though it is a Jewish school, he really gets no Jewish content in school. His teachers are wonderful - and they are not Jewish. It is unfair to expect them to educate my child. So that leaves it up to my husband and me.
Initially I thought this would be fine. I am a Jewish educator, and I like being the one in control of the information he gets. Each night at dinner, we would have a model seder, which he loved. We listened to Pesach songs in the car (ad nauseum.) We told the story of Pesach over and over. We even made Matzah covers.
Then the big night arrived. My 4-year old niece showed up with her handmade Hagadah, which she made in school. She knew the four questions. She knew lots of English songs. She was raring to go. Truthfully, I don't think she knew that much (if any) more than my son. Yet, I still felt a sense of emptiness as I watched her so excited to show off her Hagadah and all the songs she had learned.
My niece had learned about Pesach at school - in the context of peers and community. All of her friends had made a Hagadah, too. And it was something she did independently of her parents.
This year's sederim made me realize that just as I don't want to home school my children for their secular studies, I also do not want to home school them for their Judaic studies.
It is not a dynamic I want in our family. I want my children to be able to learn about Judaism with their friends at school - from their teachers there. The parent-child relationship is complex enough without adding this kind of pressure - both to the parent and the children.
Of course the education will be supplemented - and most importantly - lived out in our home. And all of this depends on the very uncertain reality of us actually being able to afford Jewish day school. But I really know now that Jewish day school is really and truly my first choice.
And not because it guarantees the best Jewish outcome for my kids. There is certainly no guarantee there, and I know so many people who have left observant life because of experiences in Jewish day schools. I want my kids to go to Jewish day school because I want to experience the next 18 or so years of holidays, shabbats, and life in general with them learning about Judaism in the context of a school community.
I want my children to be able to bring their handmade preschool Hagadot to the seder and feel happy and proud. And I want to sit back and appreciate their work - not as their teacher, but as their parent.