The year 2020 has wrecked havoc on the whole society, but none more so than public school kids and their parents. In the spring they found themselves thrust into doing school at home, away from everything they knew. This also gave parents who were considering homeschooling a test drive without the legalities of actually withdrawing their children.
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Now, it's the start of a new school year. Some public schools are going back in a mish-mash of at-school / virtual learning / hybrid concoctions that confuse even homeschoolers who don't have a child in the school. As someone who's in a couple of homeschooling groups for her state, I've seen the number of people in the group jump over the last six months as people who have kids in virtual public school think they're "homeschooling."
No. Virtual public school is not homeschooling. There are many differences between homeschool and virtual public school (done at home) -- and they are not alike.
Parents do not choose the curriculum for their kids in virtual public school. It's what is assigned by a teacher. With parents now aware of what is being taught in public schools, or told to not listen in, or buy their children earbuds so only they can hear what's being taught -- more and more parents are calling foul.
With true homeschool, parents choose what their children learn. Many parents, especially with middle and high school kids, talk with their children on subjects they want to learn. I asked my fifth grade daughter what she wanted to learn about in science this year, and she chose astronomy. She would not have had that choice in public school.
Public schools' curriculum is dictated by a standard course of study by each state's Department of Education. This curriculum is often heavily influenced by politics, social justice, and causes that are not necessarily good things. Often, these curricula have a great deal to do with sex education and come with the inability for parents to opt-out their children, if the curriculum goes against the parents' worldview.
In homeschool, parents set the standards of what their children learn. They choose the curriculum, based on their worldviews and what they want to teach their kids. Often, in homeschool, kids are exposed to a wide range of philosophies that they can compare and contrast. Many public school systems, especially in more liberal states, have teachers and curriculums that are taught to the kids that emphasize one philosophy or religion over another and downplays the largest religion in the world. For example, some school systems encourage kids to learn about Islam but not Christianity, eliminating teaching whole thought.
While browsing in a homeschooling group I'm in for my state, I saw a post by someone who made the comment they're homeschooling now until schools reopen like they were in the past, so their kids can go to normal school. While I get what this person was saying, it sound awfully disparaging. My daughter has learned more in the last three and a half years of homeschool than she did in the two and a half years she spent in public school, simply because the curriculum was taught in ways that she learns best. Our homeschool is best for her, but it is not inferior to an education she would receive if she were in public school. In fact, based on what she learns -- cursive writing, grammar, how to write paragraphs, Bible, math that makes sense -- her education, I believe, is superior to that of kids her own age and grade level.
For my daughter, getting up at seven o'clock and rushing to eat breakfast, get dressed, drive to school, then do all the school things was incredibly stressful. All that, plus the anxiety that came with being bullied due to having dyslexia, was just too much for her. She has chronic migraines, diagnosed at four years old, and she would have upwards of 15 migraines a month while she was in a public school setting.
Since she's been in homeschool, she gets up between eight and nine in the morning, has breakfast and takes her meds, then eases into the school day with Morning Basket time. During Morning Basket, we cuddle on the couch and I read pages from two books: Bible Stories for Courageous Girls and The Story of the World: History for the Classical Child. Easing into the day by reading these books that encourage her in her faith and tell a story about the period of history she's studying reinforces key concepts and starts the day off on the right foot.
Since we've been homeschooling and incorporating relaxed themes, she has had maybe five migraines in three years. Eliminating stressors have helped her anxiety a great deal.
Homeschooling on our schedule enables us to incorporate learning into family trips. My husband plays wheelchair basketball, and last year we had the opportunity to travel to Wichita, Kansas for the championship games. Along the way, we incorporated homeschool into the trip by spending time at the Laura Ingalls Wilder Homestead in Mansfield, Missouri; the Ulysses S. Grant Home and the Arch in St. Louis, Missouri; and walking along the Mississippi River. We listened to Little House series on audio books all the way there, and all the way back. Visiting the Wilder homestead and museum after listening to her books really made the artifacts in the museum come alive. We would not have had this amazing experience if we did not homeschool.
Kids in virtual public school spend about six to seven hours in front of the computer with instructional time. In the in-person school setting, they don't get that much instructional time on a good day. No wonder kids are fidgeting and their attention span is out the window! That much screen time isn't good for anyone.
For Laura, my daughter, 5th grade homeschool lasts about 3-4 hours at most. She does her book work, practices the ukulele, and we call it a day. A regular day in public school is filled with crowd control, walking to the library, art, cafeteria, recess, etc. There's so much time that's wasted on behavior modification that the teachers cannot possibly teach in the way that her students learn. When you homeschool, you can customize lessons for each child in the way he or she learns. You get the work done, learn it, and move on.
In the days before schools shut down, most students would only go on 3-4 field trips a year. We purposely plan our homeschool weeks to do academics Monday through Thursday, and leave Friday open for field trips. These field trips may entail going to a museum: I've planned such field trips to coincide on the curriculum. We visit exhibits that are curated to dovetail what Laura is learning in school.
These field trips may entail a trip to the library, or a park. They may be a visit to a national or state park that has some relevance to what we're studying. The point is, nearly every Friday we go on a field trip that supplements what she's learning in school. She could not possibly get that level of supplemental learning experiences in public school.
Don't Give Up
If you have chosen to homeschool instead of doing virtual public school, don't decide to send your kids into the same environment you removed them, just because it's hard. Homeschool is hard -- most things that are the most rewarding are difficult. Give it a couple years, make it your own, and watch your kids flourish. Homeschoolers can graduate high school, walk in graduation ceremonies, and go on to college -- and thrive doing so, often stand out with their abilities to reason and write. Don't give up! Don't say you're going to try this for six months and then put your kids back in public school, hoping "they won't be too far behind." Homeschool, done right, will put your kids further ahead than you could possibly dream -- if you, as the parents, are willing to do the work with your kids and stick to it.
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(C) 2020 Terrie Bentley McKee ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Terrie Bentley McKee is an author and speaker who homeschools her youngest daughter. Married to her husband Greg, they have four children, all of whom have special needs of varying degrees. Terrie is a follower of Jesus Christ and tries to glorify God in all she does. To read more about her testimony, click here.
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