As a parent of young children, I am well aware of the challenges of finding quality Jewish education options for them as we bounce from duty station to duty station. While it’s not impossible to provide them with a consistent education, it can certainly be quite difficult – especially in more remote or “less Jewish” posts.
Distance learning is nothing new, but it is becoming more and more of an option to fill this gap in Jewish education for kids. I’ve written about education options for kids in the past, but most of these revolve around bar/bat mitzvah prep. If you want something beyond that, or something that can continue to engage your teenage kids past the age of 13, there is a great option in JconnecT.
I was actually first referred to JconnecT through a fellow Jewish Marine whose son is participating in the program. They have been very happy with the curriculum and their son is enjoying the program tremendously.
JconnecT is an online supplemental Hebrew school for grades 6-12 that uses technology to provide opportunities for both Jewish education and Jewish socialization. They offer two dynamic, live, weekly study sessions with an experienced teacher in Jerusalem via a web-based platform that provides full audio and video conferencing for guaranteed small groups.
Some current sessions include: Jewish Choices: Then and Now , Hip Hop Hebraics, and Contemporary Jewish Issues. The online instruction is also supplemented by two optional Shabbatons held in Memphis, TN.
As a former Sunday School teacher myself, one thing that really stood out to me about the program is that it appears to do a great job engaging teens both socially and academically. At this age it almost seems like you have to “trick” kids into learning. The curriculum at JconnecT looks like it does a good job of making the learning fun and focusing on topics that interest teens. See the video below for a brief intro:
Also, a significant focus of the program is to provide a forum for the students to interact with one another. This is a real need for Jewish kids of servicemembers who may not have a real pool of Jewish kids to socialize and interact with. Having a set of classmates that they can meet with online (and in person at the Shabbatons) is a huge asset for kids in these situations. The nature of the classes (and who takes them) also presents a unique atmosphere for the students. A testimonial from one of their students says it all:
…there’s lots of companionship, everybody’s participating and learning from each other. You can’t get that in many places. In face to face classes, you could be scared to say things ‘oh, he said that, and he’s not that cool.’ But when you’re on the computer, you can say things that you usually don’t say. Sometimes that’s bad, but in this case, it’s good.
The school has 2 regular sessions, 32 weeks a year, from Sept-May, excluding Jewish and American holidays.
- Session 1: 10-10:45am CST: Subjects: Hip Hop Hebraics OR Jewish Choices: Then and Now (TBA)
- Session 2: 11-11:45am CST: Subject: Contemporary Jewish Issues
- Shabbatons in Memphis, Fall and Spring. Cost: Free. Pay for your transportation only.
They also have a few “asynchronous” or self-paced programs for those who can’t fit in to their regular sessions.
To show interested parties what JconnecT is really like, they are providing a free trial to join a JconnecT lesson. You can join in any Sunday from 11-11:45CST, until May 19. Their only requirement is that you test your connection prior to the lesson.
The normal cost is $450 per class for the year (both classes for the year would be $900). However, JconnecT has agreed to offer a military discount to JIG readers. If you mention that you found out about the program through JIG, you will receive 10% off. If you have a group of 6 or more students that want to sign up, they will double that to 20% off.
Note: If you have a group of 5 or more students that want a specific time other than the standard Sunday morning offering, JconnecT can arrange for a time that works better for your group.
For full details on the program, including faculty information, curriculum, and an online application, visit their website at bit.ly/jconnect