We present four profiles of potential hybrid home-schoolers.
In Geoffrey Moore’s Crossing the Chasm, he recommends that purveyors of new technologies create libraries of “customer characterizations,” profiles of potential users of their technology. Who might use our product? How might they use it? What problems do they need to have solved?
Moore recommends that these profiles get specific and concrete to help developers and marketers get a real sense of who their audience is and should be.
It’s an interesting thought experiment to create profiles for potential children and families who could be drawn to hybrid home schooling. Based on my interviews with hybrid home-schoolers, I can posit a few. Schools would be wise to recognize the opportunity here and try to meet these folks’ needs.
1. The Underestimated Child of Color
Many parents of Black, Hispanic, and Asian children believe that schools do not recognize or respect their child’s potential. They are not crazy to think this. They also want to pass down their culture and traditions, and traditional public schools (and even many private schools) are not always interested in helping. These reasons, and more, have been driving more and more minority families to home-school.
Unfortunately, many families are unable to home-school, either because parents are not confident in their ability to teach their children the academic content they need to learn or because they are not able to devote themselves full-time to home schooling.
Hybrid home schooling presents a solution to a very clear pain point for these families. It is parent-directed, so they can make sure that their child feels affirmed and can pass down the values, culture, and tradition that they want to. But it is not entirely on their shoulders. For a relatively low-cost (or free, if the option is public) they can collaborate with educators to fill the gaps in their skills or confidence. Their child can have both an affirming and academically rigorous education.
2. The Urban Christian
American culture is secularizing. Schools sit downstream from this cultural phenomenon and are increasingly promoting ideas about gender, sexuality, and right and wrong that are at odds with orthodox Christian teachings. These forces are most at play in America’s cities, which tend to be ahead of the curve in promoting progressive values.
At the same time, opportunity is clustering in cities. This puts many young, educated Christians in a bind. In order to have good economic opportunities, they need to live in places that can be hostile to their values. Every day, unless they can afford private school or are able to home-school full time, they have to send their children to schools that are teaching things opposed to what they believe.
Many of these families will be looking for a refuge, schools that still allow them to transmit their values, but at a reasonable cost, and where they live.
Hybrid home schools would seem to be a great option for them. A full-time religious private school might be out of their reach, but the lower tuition rate of a hybrid school could be within their budget. Full time home schooling might be daunting as well, so a hybrid model can split the difference. They could also be part of a like-minded community, organized not only around the religious character of the school, but also the shared experience of hybrid home schooling.
3. The Kid Who Needs a Break
Diagnoses of anxiety and depression in children are on the rise. The exact causes are unclear, but many parents believe that the culture and rhythms of schooling are part of the explanation. Schools do not match the circadian rhythms of growing children. School schedules plus extracurricular activities and homework leaves little quality time with parents. Schools can be breeding grounds for bullying (both in person and online) and a host of other negative social experiences that schools are often powerless to stop.
Many students also have special needs that overwhelm them in a traditional schooling environment. Students with sensory processing disorders can get thrown out of whack by seemingly innocuous interactions or classroom stimuli.
I will never forget a conversation that I had with a mother of a child with special needs who had sent him to a hybrid home school. The great strength that she saw in the model was “you don’t have to go back tomorrow.”
Sometime kids have bad days at school. Forcing them to go back the next day can put them on a destructive cycle that turns that bad day into a bad week and into a bad month. Having a schedule that allows students a day off in between on-campus days allows them to reset and puts them on much better footing when they have to return to school.
Hybrid home schooling changes the rhythm of schooling and the environment that children learn in. Their parents can provide them with more support and can better control their interaction with their outside environment (by the way, this could also help parents who want to let their children take more risks than a traditional school allows them to). They can get the benefits of a traditional school environment and the socialization that comes with it without being overwhelmed by it.
4. The Middle-Income Pedagogues
Many families are drawn to particular pedagogical philosophies. Waldorf education, based on the teachings of the Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner, appeals to families of a more progressive inclination, placing the student at the center of education in a journey of discovery and exploration. Project-based learning appeals to other families that want their children doing practical work all day and learning via real-world tasks. Classical education appeals to parents who want their children to read the great books and tap into wells of knowledge dug by humanity’s greatest thinkers.
The problem is that most schools that have such pedagogical orientations are private and expensive. This is where hybrid home schooling can come in. There are numerous hybrid home schools with a particular pedagogical philosophy that are either free or a fraction of the cost of private schools with the same philosophy. If you talk to the folks who started the school or the parents who send their children there, they are explicit, we started this school as lower cost way to get this kind of education for our kids.
As more families find out about alternative education models, more will be looking for ways to meet their pedagogical desires that they can afford. Hybrid home schooling can help meet that need.
This was a fun exercise in thinking through the potential people who might benefit from hybrid home schooling. Individual schools will have to analyze the market to see if there are enough people to support a new school. They should cast a wide net though, and perhaps think outside the box on who might benefit from a hybrid home-school education.
The next and final post in this series: Hybrid Home Schooling’s “Whole Product” Problem
The first in this series in case you missed it: Can Hybrid Home Schooling “Cross the Chasm?”