I was raised in a home where education was always encouraged (a slight understatement ?). We were motivated to challenge ourselves and to always” give it our best”, whatever that was. In today’s generation where maps, books and research done in the library have all been replaced by the all-knowing “GOOGLE” I still try to encourage our 5 children (ranging from 1st grade to 12th grade) to read, open up a dictionary and am looking for a spot in our kitchen for our newfound world map. But it’s a real struggle to get kids today to put down their electronics and focus more on their education. That’s a tall order within itself. And then add to that moving across the world, to a new country where English is not the mother tongue. Now we need to encourage our kids to excel when something as simple as understanding a teacher speaking in class becomes a difficult task. How do we rise to the challenge and at the same time help our children? Adjusting to the school system in Israel is a long process and I’m not sure the adjustment is ever complete. The different educational system, different culture and lack of funding many times make for a very different school experience than what we knew back home. Here are a few tips that I hope will help you and your kids have an easier time navigating and integrating into the Israeli educational system: • Ask the school secretary for a school guidebook. This will explain school rules, general procedures (such as who to go to when picking up a child early or dropping off late), yearly calendar of holidays and other useful information.
• Get to know the school staff (Mechanechet – main teacher, ulpan teacher, guidance counselor and principal). It may be daunting to communicate in a language that is not your mother tongue, but make the effort. The more you communicate with your children’s educators, the more they will understand your children and be better equipped to help them.
• Get a clear understanding of your kids’ schedules and how many hours of ulpan they are getting. Ask what classes they attend when not in ulpan.
• Plan together with your children’s teachers a “road map” for the upcoming school year, including stepping stones for reaching short term and long-term goals.
• Ask is there are any other resources in the school that your children can benefit from (private lessons with Bnot Shirut, special resource teachers that work one on one and older children in the school that can mentor new Olim.
• The classes in Israel are probably bigger than what your children were used to Overseas. The more you keep in touch with your children’s teachers, the more they take note of them and their progress and the less chance of your children falling between the cracks. I used to call my children’s teachers every month to get an update. Some may feel like it’s being a “nudnik.” I don’t! I felt that it was my job as a parent to advocate for each of my kids, especially during the first year after making Aliyah.
• Be involved. Just because Hebrew may not be your first language don’t be intimidated. You can still contribute to the parent body by being part of the class PTA or school PTA.
• Encourage your children to make play dates with Hebrew speaking children. That is the easiest way for them to acquire the language. I know it’s much easier to mix with children who speak English but it hinders on their learning process and their integration into Israeli life. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing, but I do see the importance of encouraging our children to seek out Hebrew and English-speaking friends.
• A very smart person told me that the most important achievement for children during their first year of Aliyah is that they feel happy. As motivated as I was as a child to be a good student, we as parents need to remember that our children (usually) did not make the decision to make Aliyah. We made the decision for them and there are so many ramifications to this life changing move. If after being here a year you can look at your children and answer that they are happy I think you have done a great job! A drive to succeed in school and good grades are soon to follow…
Olim Advisors was founded because we recognized all the different challenges a family faces today when making Aliyah. Whether it’s dealing with government offices, Israeli banks, translating documents in Hebrew, helping kids with their studies, dealing with a new culture and so much more, no one truly knows the challenges they may face when making Aliyah.
That is why you should contact us to see how we can be your guide throughout this process and help make your dream of living in Israel come true. We will save you so much time, effort and aggravation. www.olimadvisors.com