Every year, as part of our Schooling in America survey, we ask American parents where they would educate their children if money and logistics were no obstacle. In 2019, the results looked like this:
The red segment of the top bar shows that around 13% of American parents would like to homeschool their children if they could. If you look at the red segment in the bottom bar, however, you can see that in reality only about 3 percent actually homeschool.
I usually use this discrepancy to make a point about widening options for parents and trying to create space for people who would like to homeschool but can’t for financial or logistical reasons.
With the onset of the coronavirus, and the mass closure of schools across the country, that 10 percent of folks are getting their wish—and a whole heckuva lot more folks who do not want to homeschool are going to be doing it, too.
I am not a homeschooler myself, but I do research on homeschooling (particularly the hybrid variety) and have as a result been able to talk to really awesome folks over the years who are involved in this endeavor.
I’d like to try and adapt a few things that I have learned over the years for those of y’all who might be jumping off into the deep end of homeschooling this week.
Tip #1: Don’t reinvent the wheel
Your child is sent home from school with vague instructions about how to access school materials, or your school district is choosing not to offer home programming because of disability or equity concerns, and you’re all on your own. Where do you begin?
Well, just like when you’re trying to put up a fence, let’s pour a couple of post holes and put up a frame. The frame is the curriculum.
If you are going to be able to spend time working with your child, the Core Knowledge Foundation has put their entire high quality curriculum on their website for free. It has everything. A teachers’ guide. Supplementary material. Lesson plans. The whole nine yards.
If you need to lean a bit more on technology, the Khan Academy has created a resource section on its website with step-by-step instructions to get children up on their learning platform, also for free. They are providing free webinars and streaming videos to help parents and students, but most folks should be able to get this up and running and their kids working away pretty quickly.
Tip #2: Fill in with Fun
Both of the resources I highlighted above could keep kids busy and learning for a while, but chances are, kids who are used to learning in more traditional classroom settings might be a bit tougher to keep engaged.
I have always loved Brain Pop, and it looks like they are offering free access to their platform through the end of the year. Tons of fun, engaging quizzes and videos and interactive activities that students can do. Find content aligned to what you’re trying to cover, and let your kids loose.
The Cincinnati Zoo is also offering a Facebook Live safari every day at 3PM Eastern that kids can watch and follow along with. You can also tour some of the world’s most famous art and cultural museums online, thanks to a partnership with Google.
It looks like more and more organizations will be offering similar online experiences, so it’s definitely worth searching for free online field trips or checking in with your local zoo or museum. If they haven’t created something yet, they probably will soon.
Tip #3: Don’t Worry
In a post over on our Medium channel, a longtime homeschooling mom’s best advice for reluctant homeschoolers is: don’t do it. Rather than trying to bear the burdens of everything related to the coronavirus and educating your kids at the same time, why not take this opportunity to try and deepen your relationship with them, to enjoy their company, to bond as a family, and to learn the big, serious life lessons that trying times teach us.
Her advice doesn’t surprise me. In my experience with homeschoolers, maximizing the academic performance of their children is rarely their primary motivation. Rather, most homeschooling families love spending time with their children, and want to keep their family together in a world they often believe is trying to tear it apart. Academics are important, sure, but forming their children into good, moral adults who care about other people and will do the right thing when the times require it is usually vastly more important to them.
There is a lesson here. The time that you spend explaining why you are practicing social distancing, for example, can have long-term lessons for your children as growing moral beings. They are going to remember this situation, so how you model ethical behavior, how you help them understand the world around, and how you show them how much you love and want to protect them will stick with them.
These next few weeks and months are going to be disruptive for our lives. Adding the pressure of becoming a teacher overnight while keeping up other obligations is a lot. Take it easy on yourself, do the best that you can, and we’ll all see each other on the other side of this.