Virtual learning during COVID-19 has had mixed results across the country. No matter how good a teacher is, the online learning environment does not work well for many younger students, and some older students may struggle to focus.
However, some families have successfully supplemented their online learning with at-home lessons or pod learning with other families to create an environment where their children can thrive. A home learning environment provides more flexibility and custom-tailored learning experiences for students with unique needs or interests.
If you’ve found at-home learning has high potential for your family, there’s no need to go back to traditional schooling. With a solid stash of supplies like printer ink cartridges and enough time and energy from parents, homeschooling and virtual schooling remain viable options throughout your child’s school years.
Pro #1: Not as Time-Consuming as Before
Several variables affect whether homeschooling is a good fit for a family. Although a parent’s free time and energy used to be a huge factor, this influence has been reduced due to remote learning technology improvements.
Families that previously couldn’t afford to homeschool may now be able to, thanks to the rise in work-from-home options. Even after COVID-19, professionals may not have to return to the office. Since high school and junior high school students can stay home by themselves, parents may be able to work part-time.
Pro #2: Better for Meeting Unique Learning Needs
Homeschooling may be a better option for some kids on the autism spectrum or who have emotional or behavioral needs that make traditional learning environments challenging to manage. Although many schools do an excellent job providing special education support difficult to replicate in a homeschool environment, some districts are not as strong in this area. You’ll need to compare their school services’ overall value with what you can provide at home.
Pro #3: Take Advantage of Co-ops and Virtual School
Teaching your child entirely by yourself isn’t the only homeschool option. Many families choose to create homeschool co-ops, where parents pool resources and expertise to create a learning environment while allowing students to work independently as needed.
Co-ops come in a variety of forms, and some don’t meet every day. However, they often have one or more parents supervising day-to-day learning and some kind of physical space to meet in. Even during COVID-19, these groups’ flexibility has allowed them to continue functioning virtually or in a socially distanced physical setting.
Virtual schooling involves paying an online homeschool program to provide curriculum and limited teacher support for your child. You may also choose to supplement your traditional or virtual homeschooling with additional virtual tutoring, especially in subject areas you can’t help your child with. Since the best tutors tend to be teachers, their availability may be limited, so be open to using evenings and weekends for extra help.
Pro #4: Choosing Your Curriculum
Although states usually have some minimum requirements for homeschool subjects, one of the strengths of homeschooling is you can choose curriculums for different subject areas. If your child excels in everything except math, for example, you can let them tackle more advanced topics in other subjects while keeping them working at grade level for math.
Start by familiarizing yourself with basic schooling approaches, like classical, Montessori and even Unschooling. You may find the approach your teachers took might not be a good fit for your child. From there, you can dive into curriculum needs and possibilities.
No matter what your final curriculum looks like, give your child a break from staring at a screen. Printing out assignments is a good starting point, and this process becomes much easier if you have a stash of inexpensive bulk laser printer toner on hand. Ensure your child has hard copy books to read as well, including access to a library with plenty of fun and student-friendly fiction.
Con #1: Getting Social Interaction Is Difficult
Homeschoolers of all ages may struggle to find the kinds of friendships and interactions vital to their socialization. Homeschooling parents should facilitate social interactions, even if your child has multiple siblings for daily interaction.
Homeschool co-ops provide some interactions but be prepared for the possibility your child may have little in common with the other students, especially if they are of different ages. Try a local community organization or after-school program offering art, music or sports. Consistently enrolling your child in the same program for several months or years allows them to build lasting friendships.
Con #2: Navigating High School and College
Since high schoolers are usually more responsible and focused than younger students, this can be a great age for homeschooling. One of the only major challenges is convincing colleges your child is a qualified candidate.
High school is a difficult time to transition a student back into a school setting, so the beginning of freshman year is the best time to do it. If you commit to homeschool throughout high school, make sure your child has sufficient extracurriculars and is writing at a high enough level. Although standardized test scores are important, colleges increasingly look for evidence of writing skills and a generally well-rounded high school experience. Volunteering, a part-time job and a leadership role on their sport’s team or another extracurricular activity can help them compete in the college application process.
Con #3: Researching State Laws and Academic Requirements
Generally, state laws are lenient and only require you to notify your local school district that you will be homeschooling your child. However, a few states require the homeschooling parent to have at least their high school diploma or GED.
States also have some requirements for subject areas included in your curriculum, so start by seeking out homeschool resources specific to your state and age range. Start with your state’s published subject requirements, and then branch out to read blogs and advice from other parents. In some cases, you may choose to go a different route with your content and curriculum choices, but other parents’ experiences are essential when weighing your options.
Getting Your Child Ready
Homeschooling younger ages can be difficult for parents who work full-time, but if it’s the best option for your child’s education, then it’s time to dive in. Your child’s experience with virtual education during COVID-19 is likely a good indicator of whether homeschooling allows them to learn better than before.
Ensure you understand all applicable state regulations and design a curriculum that balances your child’s social, emotional and academic needs. Although local co-ops and virtual schooling are fantastic options for many families, they are by no means the only ways to provide an excellent homeschooling experience. With a little guidance and patience, your child may thrive in new ways through a custom-designed curriculum taught at home.
School Post-COVID is a feature post