Over the last several weeks as many public and private schools have been transferring to online educational platforms and families are becoming more responsible for their child’s learning, comparisons are being made to homeschooling. While it is easy to assume that any learning that takes place outside of a school building and inside of one’s home is “homeschooling,” don’t be fooled. Homeschooling is not when teachers and their students are transitioned into a virtual learning environment due to a crisis such as a global pandemic. Teachers are continuing to design and provide learning opportunities and technically, are still ultimately responsible for academic achievement. Parents, hang in there! I know how hard you are working to keep your children on task; learners are not prepared to be thrust into an online learning environment and this is tough. I have purposefully refrained from placing a label on how our children are learning, but if I had to, I would say that students are “learning at home from teacher provided resources with the support of their families.” That is not homeschooling.
What is Homeschooling?
Simply put, homeschooling is when a family chooses to educate their children outside of the public or private sectors and take responsibility for their children’s education at home. The homeschool movement has its roots in the early 1970’s and has been growing steadily since. According to the United States Department of Education’s last report in 2012, the number of families choosing to educate their children outside of the public and private sectors has reached 1,770,000 students, which is 3.4% of the school-age population (https://hslda.org/content/docs/news/2013/201309030.asp).
Homeschooling parents are motivated to homeschool for a variety of reasons including: the active role they play in constructing their children’s educational experiences, the strong sense of efficacy parents possess as it relates to helping their children achieve academic goals and the positive perceptions regarding life context parents hold, such as having the time and energy as well as possessing the knowledge and skills to educate their own children. In addition, the value of one-to-one learning over large classrooms, the ability to create a safe and healthy learning environment, and the ability to provide learning supports for both students with special needs and gifted children are also motivating factors. Parents have also indicated bullying, concerns over the Common Core standards and school safety as reasons for homeschooling.
Today, a combination of state policy and technology have led to significant changes in the nature of homeschooling. As I am sure you have discovered by now, there are more choices how to homeschool due to the many options that exist including ever-growing online resources, learning cooperatives, hybrid micro-schools, extracurricular activities arranged with school districts such as participating in sports leagues and even school district support for homeschooling families. For example, Trifecta Education consults with several local districts and assists in developing educational programming for families transitioning to homeschooling.
Who can Homeschool? Anyone. There are no educational requirements for parents to educate their children at home. However, there are policies in place that vary from state to state and parents should refer to their own state’s laws and regulations. While government funding varies by state for homeschooling, most families fund their children’s studies themselves. Depending on the choices the family makes, homeschooling can have minimal costs or can require higher expenses if using resources that are not open source, or free. In general, homeschooling costs more when families use a resources that provides a complete curriculum such as an existing online homeschool program.
There are also a variety of homeschooling methods from Unschooling to Eclectic Homeschooling. Families can select the method that is most in alignment with their needs, values, beliefs and goals. Oftentimes, families will pick and choose the ideas and suggestions that fit their own family and end up creating their own method. For example, some children prefer structure and do their best work when adhering to a schedule, some children do their best work seated at a desk and others excel when they are outside. Knowing what your child needs to be successful should drive the curriculum and the strategies used.
The process of homeschooling requires several steps and a great deal of planning including: reviewing and abiding by the state policies and requirements, developing an understanding of your child’s needs and what motivates them, determining homeschooling goals and researching curriculum. Finding the supporting materials and resources can be very time consuming and may see intimidating, however there are support systems readily available for families. One can solicit help from homeschooling organizations, local homeschooling co-ops and groups, online forums and collaborations, private consultants or even their own school district.
What about Now?
Right now, hundreds of thousands of parents are trying to balance their children’s schooling at home while balancing their day-to-day activities and professional lives. Unfortunately, as a parent you will absolutely receive more pushback from your child than would their teacher. My recommendation is to take some deep breaths and simply do your best with what you have. If your district is providing work for your child, create a schedule with your child that is manageable; let them have a say in how their day progresses. Include time for breakfast, a morning walk, a break, recess and other pleasant activities, as well as the time they need for their school work. For example, provide a space and an array of materials for projects and crafty activities and let your child create; I know you have a bunch of stuff hanging around the house that will inspire creativity. Start with your recycling bin- there's a treasure trove of loot in there for creating. And then, enjoy the downtime. You too, deserve to have some space to yourself and while your child is getting crafty it is the perfect time to pick up a book, do some yoga, sit quietly with yourself or if you're like me-- indulge in that pint of Ben and Jerry's you've been hiding in the back of the freezer. Cherry Garcia. Forever.
Want to learn more about homeschooling or need some help adjusting to the educational changes taking place? Contact Trifecta Education for a free consultation. Teachers, we'd love to help you create exciting online activities and project-based learning modules for your students. Contact us!