I hated school. And I often wonder if homeschoolers self-select because they wish they had not gone to school. So I want to tell you about the day in school that I would not have missed for any homeschooling agenda. Except it wasn’t regular school. It was Hebrew school.
Mrs. Zak was my Hebrew school teacher. She said, “A v with a dot inside is a b.”
On every day, no one is listening. On this particular day Barry Rosenthal raises his hand, and says we can’t concentrate today because last night the Brady Bunch got stuck in Hawaii, and we need to leave class early so we don’t miss the beginning of tonight’s episode.
We are all embarrassed for Barry’s bad behavior. But we are quietly waiting for Mrs. Zak’s answer.
Mrs. Zak is quietly waiting, too. She is looking at us.
She tells us to close our books, and she passes out licorice to the class. This is a big deal, because you can’t make the guttural sounds with food in your mouth.
Then she tells us she was at Auschwitz. She says she will tell us a story about it. She folds her hands on top of her desk, and she tells us from the beginning, from the time when she was a fifth grader, too. She tells us her mother didn’t let go of her hand for three days. That’s how scared her mother was of being separated. But they were separated anyway, and Mrs. Zak never saw her mother again. I think about if I never saw my mother again, and I can’t believe Mrs. Zak isn’t crying. Her hands are shaking, though.
She lets us touch her tattoo, and it is black and bumpy. Then she lets us out of class early.
I don’t tell my son this story. But when my son says it’s stupid to learn Hebrew, I tell him I don’t care. He’s learning it. And we open the book that Mrs. Zak’s hands closed in our classroom that day.
It’s a drill book. No whole language learning. No self-directed learning. We are using the Hebrew equivalent of memorizing flashcards. It’s terrible pedagogy but I don’t care. And for a moment I feel like I understand that parents who can’t give up the system that made them who they are today.