My son is in 8th grade, and we are arguing about high school. He wants to go to REDACTED, and I feel that it’s not a great environment. The boys going there are not a good group, and we’re worried he’ll really fall apart. However, I want him going to a different local Yeshiva where some better boys are going. My husband disagrees and says he should go to an out-of-town Yeshiva. This has become somewhat of a sore point, and we need some input. We were hoping you can advise us a little bit since you are both an excellent Rebbe and a parenting expert, and you could shed some light on this situation. Thank you so much. K.D.
Thank you for your kind words. There is a famous story of a psychologist who wrote many parenting articles designed to teach parents to remain calm when dealing with children. Early one Sunday morning, a bunch of children were playing loudly in front of his house. He came running out of his house in his bathrobe screaming at them and wildly waving a cane at them. (This was obviously before the rise of cellphones, so this incident never went viral.) When confronted, this psychologist explained, “In theory, we should always talk calmly to our children. Realistically, I don’t have any, so I can preach away.”
I only mention this story since you called me a parenting expert. I don’t believe there is such a thing as an expert in parenting. I’ve seen fantastic Rabbonim and well-known psychologists give courses on parenting, and yet they are unable to deal with their own children. At the same time, there are many typical families that have no issues at all with their children. Therefore, I’m very wary of the title “parenting expert”. My methodology on parenting is based on years of watching and listening to some wonderful people, ranging from Rabbonim to parents in the Yeshiva.
In any case, your question is a very serious one. In my opinion, there are four main parts to choosing a high school.
The educational aspect is very important as well. You need to speak to current parents in the Yeshiva. What level are they learning on? If there are boys falling behind, what steps are taken to help them catch up? What AP classes do they offer? After 12th grade, where do the majority of boys go?
The 3rd part was regarding the Rebbeim and teachers. What type of Rebbeim are in this Yeshiva. Do they focus on Middos? Do the Rebbeim have a Kesher with the Talmidim? Does the administration make time to talk to the parents? What is the turnover for the English department? High turnover is always cause for concern.
The last part is, unfortunately, usually ignored by many parents. What does support at home have to do with High School? The answer is, everything! If your son is in a local Yeshiva, you need to be prepared. Carpool isn’t so much fun at 10:30 at night, but it will happen. Your son might come home some days stressed out. Starting at 7:30 and finishing more than 14 hours later can take a toll. He might need some downtime, which can be frustrating since you want to spend some time with him. If you feel that you might not be able to deal with this, an out-of-town Yeshiva is a great option.
I always suggest that parents speak to the Menahel of their current Yeshiva and their Rav before making decisions. Many parents have started giving their 8th graders the choice, which I think is a horrible idea. You can ask them for their input, but they’re in 8th grade! They should not be making decisions of this magnitude. The one last point I would like to make is as follows. I heard from a very prominent person (I didn’t get his permission to quote publicly, so I can’t use his name yet), that if you have a stable home, you should keep your kids local. If there are any issues in the house, let them go to an out-of-town Yeshiva. It’s something to think about.
Have a great Shabbos.
Rabbi Yitzie Ross is a Rebbe and has been working with parents and kids for many years. You can read more about him in the "about" section.