It’s easy to become overwhelmed and paralyzed by indecision, as the list of education possibilities grows, thanks to the Coronavirus. Full-time, face to face learning? Completely virtual learning? A hybrid of both? None of the above?
It’s difficult to discern which option is best for our kids.
With uncertainty surrounding school growing, you may even be considering an entirely new or different path than how your kids have previously been educated. Private schools or charter schools may suddenly be more attractive. Or — dare I say it — maybe even homeschooling.
It looks more and more likely that the 2020-2021 school year will primarily be made up of virtual learning, and I wanted to encourage you that you can homeschool — even if you don’t want to.
It may seem like a scary option that you’re not willing to explore. But hear me out.
You see, I’m about to begin my fourth year homeschooling. I was not the parent who “always knew” she’d homeschool. I was not the biggest homeschool cheerleader. When I began four years ago, I did so reluctantly.
We were zoned for a not-so-great school and our attempts at getting into a local Montessori school fell flat. So homeschooling emerged as our best option. I went into it with the mindset of “it’s kindergarten, I can’t screw it up too badly, can I?”
Still, I was overwhelmed. I thought I was in over my head. I felt inadequate; I was a journalist, not a schoolteacher! I sought advice from my mom, who has decades of teaching experience, and one of my best friends, who is an excellent elementary school teacher.
And then, because I was so nervous about starting, I just ripped off the band-aid and started in early August. We quickly settled into a routine and now I homeschool two of my kids. Each year we reevaluate our schooling choices for each child and currently, homeschooling continues to come out on top.
If you know your child will be doing most of their schooling virtually this year, I’m here to tell you homeschooling is a great alternative. It’s not for everyone, but it could be a great option for this year.
The best part of homeschooling is the flexibility. You set your own hours. When I saw my friends struggling to juggle their kids’ virtual education schedules this past spring, I was relieved we were already homeschooling. One South Carolina school district is offering a free virtual charter school which will require students to be at their computers for five or six hours straight. Can you imagine? That’s torture for any kid, but especially elementary aged kids.
Our homeschool day works around a busy (and sometimes napping) toddler and includes breaks for play and to move our bodies. We’re also flexible in that we do not have to follow any particular calendar. Homeschoolers must track and do school for 180 days to complete their school year but if you want to take off a full week for Thanksgiving or even do some school on Saturdays, you can! If you want to take your schoolwork to a nearby park, you can!
You’re not glued to a computer all day every day. If your child takes a sudden interest in the human body, you can take extra time to study it further. You create the lesson plans and can tweak as you go. You also get to choose your own curriculum.
Shorter School Days
There is a lot of wasted time in the classroom because a teacher is managing 20+ kids. This means you can teach a math lesson in a fraction of the time when you homeschool. And, once you know your child has mastered the lesson, you can just move on to the next thing.
I was amazed when I got started that we could complete a day of kindergarten in an hour. Because of our relatively short school days, we have the chance to meet up with friends for a picnic lunch at the park or for bike rides around the neighborhood. (You can still socialize your kids, even if they’re homeschooled!)
This is my favorite part of homeschooling: you get a front row seat to those “aha!” moments. Being there when your child finally puts the letter sounds together and starts reading or watching as multiplication clicks in your child’s mind is very rewarding.
The Internet Is Your Friend
Homeschooling can cost a lot but it doesn’t have to. You can easily drop a few hundred dollars on an all inclusive curriculum that gives you everything you need for the grade level you’re teaching. But you don’t have to. You can also pick up some $10 workbooks at Barnes and Noble, request a bunch of books from the library, and find several free or inexpensive unit studies and activities online. Pinterest, Teachers Pay Teachers and other resources exist to help supplement your homeschooling curriculum.
Logistically, I lesson plan every other Sunday, for two weeks at a time. That gives me space and flexibility to adjust where necessary. We do have a start time and a morning routine for our homeschool days, so that my children know what to expect. I’m also pretty strict about doing school, regardless of attitudes and moods. If they’re not in the mood to do school, too bad. They’re still doing it.
Homeschooling isn’t for everyone. It may be way too hard for some families to homeschool if both parents are also working full-time out of the home. But this year when everything is fluid and constantly changing, it may be a solid option for you. I have been so relieved to know we have a plan in place that won’t be impacted by Coronavirus.