Many families got their first, and perhaps unwanted, taste of homeschooling during the COVID-19 Pandemic. While schools provided the curriculum for the students and parents, families were often on their own to make it successful. My sister’s teenagers were told by their high school they were going to honor the students’ 3rd quarter grades. Stating, there would still be online learning and stressed this was necessary to be ready for next year’s classes. And if students wanted to improve their 4th quarter grades with these lessons, they could; however, their grades would not be lowered. Her two kids had very different views on this new homeschool learning opportunity. Julian said, “Oh good, I really hope I can improve my Honors English grade.” While his sister Hannah replied, “So, we don’t actually have to do the lessons?”
As an educator of gifted students, I had the unique pleasure of getting to work with several homeschooled students. Working with these students gave me a glimpse into the homeschooling process. Like most concepts, there are pros and cons to the idea.
CUSTOMIZATION: The strongest pro I have found is that students can work at their own pace and, therefore, are free to spend more time on topics they are passionate about.
FLEXIBILITY: Parents can design the schedule to fit their child’s and family’s emotional and personal needs. The parent may speed up or slow down the pace based on how their child is responding to a subject.
ATTENTION: There is more one-on-one time for the child. We know smaller student-to-teacher ratios are a desired goal for school districts, although not economically feasible.
LACK OF SOCIALIZATION: This used to be more of a concern, but we now know most children have many social activities outside of school.
LACK OF STRUCTURE: This can be a problem for parents who tend to be unorganized or due to other younger children in the house.
LACK OF SKILLS: Parents may lack the time to stay up-to-date on current knowledge, although resources are available online and much of the curriculum is scripted. Or, they may lack the patience to homeschool. Too much togetherness can put a strain on the parent/child relationship.
Now that the school year is wrapping up, I interviewed a few public-school students to get their opinions on what they thought of learning from home for the first time.
Jack, age 13, stated, “I am not a fan of homeschooling, there is not enough stimulation of seeing others through the day. All I get is the bad part, homework, without the fun.”
Julian, age 17, who initially was happy to have a chance to improve his grades said, “While homeschooling is certainly more flexible for students, nothing really matches being able to physically be at school. When you do homeschooling, you lose the environment of a classroom, with friends and teachers to help you. There’s a sort of deeper understanding that you gain from physically being there, as opposed to watching a video or reading an article from a textbook.”
For homeschooling to be successful, be sure to get into a routine and provide structure by creating a schedule. However, it’s important to not over-structure. Set priorities of what must be done each day and each week and involve your children in the discussion. Be sure to break the day into small segments so that you can offer enough breaks.
When this pandemic is over, I assume most parents will gladly, maybe even giddily, hand their children back over to the schools. However, there may be some parents and students who, based on a positive experience, decide to continue with the concept of homeschooling. Once again, we will have choices.