How to Homeschool Your Child During the Pandemic
According to J. Allen Weston, the executive director of the National Home School Association (NHSA), parents’ interest in homeschooling has skyrocketed in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. In an interview with The Sacramento Bee, he explained that the NHSA used to receive 40–50 emails a day. Now, it is receiving thousands. More parents are exploring this option for the first time as they confront the uncertainties surrounding the 2020–2021 school year.
Since 1999, the number of families homeschooling their children has doubled to upwards of two million, and given the current trends, that number is set to increase. As cases of coronavirus spike across the country, some parents are trying to find education options that will allow their children to learn from home.
What Is Homeschooling?
Homeschooling is an education format in which parents are responsible for all of the instructional and administrative duties associated with schooling. Parents who homeschool their children choose the curriculum, teach that curriculum, and keep records in accordance with their respective state’s laws.
The modern homeschool movement, which was spearheaded by an educational theorist named John Holt, began in the 1970s. He believed that the public schools approach to learning was too regimented and uniform, which did not account for students’ individual needs.
There are a number of different reasons that parents might choose this option, ranging from having greater control over what their child is learning to avoiding issues that may be present in a public school setting.
All of the academic learning takes place at home, but students who choose this option can still participate in extracurricular activities in order to socialize with their peers. Depending on the school district, students may be able to participate in sports, band, and other activities that take place outside of school hours.
Research shows that homeschooling can be very effective, especially for students who thrive in one-to-one learning environments. Homeschooled students often learn to be self-motivated, which helps them excel academically later in life.
Steps Required to Homeschool
Do your research.
The first step to determining whether or not parent-directed homeschooling is a good option for your child is to research the homeschooling laws in your state. Homeschooling is legal in all 50 states, but the laws surrounding homeschooling differ depending on the state. This database can help you discover how restrictive your state’s laws are. For example, some states with less restrictive laws do not even require you to notify your local government or school officials that you are switching to homeschooling.
Conduct placement tests and collect teaching materials.
Regardless of how restrictive or flexible the laws are, in a homeschooling environment, parents are responsible for collecting materials and teaching all of the school subjects required by their respective states’ laws.
In a traditional school setting, students are grouped by age rather than by skill level. While students can often choose to take honors or developmental classes to suit their abilities, they usually cannot do the coursework required for a different grade level.
Rather than immediately giving your child the curriculum for the grade level they are currently in, it is a good idea to assess their current skills using a variety of placement tools. Doing so will ensure that your child is well-equipped to tackle the curriculum that you provide for them.
Once you have assessed your child’s skill levels in all of the disciplines you are required to teach, you can begin to select teaching materials. If you were to do an online search of homeschool curriculum, you might be overwhelmed by the number of results. A good place to start is with Cathy Duffy’s curriculum reviews, which is a well-known resource for homeschoolers. Duffy has been reviewing homeschool curriculum since 1984 and has written several books and articles on the topic. Once you have reviewed the curricular options, you can create an individual learning plan for your child.
If you are looking to homeschool on a budget, you can consult this list of free teaching materials and resources. And you can purchase individual classes as needed. You can also join the homeschooling communities on social media to get ideas and share your experiences with other families.
Create a dedicated learning space at home.
After you have decided on an education plan, you can cultivate a learning space in your home to put that plan into action. This means creating a physical space as well as developing a schedule. Allow your child to have a part in this process by picking out decorations together and discussing when your child would like to work on particular subjects. Homeschooling allows for more flexibility with regard to timing, but it is important to develop routines throughout the day.
Begin homeschooling and recordkeeping.
Now that you have done all of the preparations, you can actually begin homeschooling your child. In addition to teaching the material you have collected and prepared, you will also need to take on teachers’ other responsibilities, including assessing work and taking attendance. Creating a homeschool portfolio is a great way to track progress and keep any necessary legal documents organized. Depending on the state you live in, your child may need to take certain standardized tests to document their learning achievements.
Alternatives to Homeschooling
While there are a number of benefits to homeschooling, it may not be the best option for your family. If your schedule does not allow you to teach the curriculum on your own, or you don’t feel comfortable serving as your child’s teacher, you may want to consider other alternatives that still allow you to keep your child at home for school.
Enrolling your child in a K12-powered online school will provide your student with quality hands-on and online curriculum taught by licensed teachers. And K12-powered teachers are state-certified and thoroughly trained in online instruction methods. There are both public and private school options. Like homeschooling, online schools have become more popular in recent years because of their ability to cater to individual students’ unique needs and circumstances.
If you think your child might benefit from attending an online school, visit K12.com to learn more. And don’t delay, many schools have a limited number of seats available.
AnnElise Hatjakes is a contributing writer for Learning Liftoff. Her career in education began in 2010 when she worked as a teaching assistant while earning her master’s degree in writing. She has taught in a wide range of educational settings, including a public school, a school for gifted students, a university, and a county jail. She’s interested in issues of equity in education, which she strives to address through her own teaching practices and writing. AnnElise is the recipient of the University of Chicago’s Outstanding Educator Award, and her fiction has appeared in literary journals. As a third generation Nevadan, she loves all things Western, from wide open spaces to wild horses.