We’re Glad We Switched to Homeschooling Before the Pandemic
“Well, you picked a good time to homeschool!” I cannot count the number of times I heard that comment from friends and family over the past year and a half. In September of 2019, just prior to the pandemic, I decided to homeschool my daughter, who had been in traditional school from preschool through the fifth grade, when a job change allowed me the opportunity to do so. I took the leap and joined the millions of families taking control of their child’s education. With all of the health concerns of COVID-19 and the challenges related to social distancing and shifting mask mandates, my decision was life-changing!
As an educator, trainer, mother of a son in a traditional high school, and now a homeschool mother of a middle schooler, I had a unique perspective. I witnessed firsthand how my son’s high school handled the transition to remote learning with great care and effectiveness, holding students to the exact expectations as if they were physically in school. However, through friends and family, I learned how other schools struggled with change and how students were falling further behind. As an educator, I felt for my colleagues who were hurled into challenging situations. I felt for the students and their parents who were victims of COVID-19’s educational side effects. As a homeschooler, I was confident that I had made the right decision!
A Perspective on Academics
Academically, my daughter in middle school was not skipping a beat. Each day, we completed at least five hours of instruction required by the state of New York, and my daughter was fully engaged with in-person learning with me. Since we were using Time4Learning for the core courses, I was confident the content was robust. We supplemented Time4Learning with YouTube videos, hands-on projects, and other activities. Unlike many students across the country who became exempt, my daughter took the required standardized testing at the end of the school year, so I knew she had accomplished an entire year’s worth of sixth-grade material.
Even as we worked through seventh-grade material the same way, we witnessed friends and family members going back and forth between remote and in-person learning. They were struggling to keep their children on track with what schools were doing. My daughter just kept plugging along, confirming with projects and testing, that she was mastering a complete seventh-grade curriculum as well.
A Perspective on Socialization
As you probably know, naysayers of homeschooling focus on the need for children to socialize and claim that homeschooled children do not do so enough. If you are a homeschooler or know a homeschooling family, you know that isn’t true.
Before the pandemic, my daughter attended homeschool gym classes, sports and exercise classes, and after-school activities at the local YMCA. She participated in homeschool field trips at various museums and the zoo, interacted with others at 4H events and horseback riding lessons, and “did school” at parks and bookstores. Just like any other kid, she saw family and friends mainly after school and on weekends.
Once the pandemic began, organized activities were shut down due to health concerns. Still, my daughter continued to interact with all of us at the house, and she began having regular Zoom meetings with friends and family. She got a phone to call and text her friends and family since she could not see them safely in person. So during the pandemic (as well as before), she was no worse off than any other child. The only drawback was that she was experiencing homeschooling with limited socialization, an aspect that was—until then—only a myth.
A Perspective on Homeschooling
Homeschooling during the pandemic also highlighted, for me, the benefits of this approach to learning. Parents of remote learners were forced into teaching and monitoring responsibilities during school hours, sometimes while juggling their work responsibilities. On the other hand, we had the flexibility, as all homeschoolers do, to learn on evenings, weekends, and school breaks and make any changes to our schedule on the fly. We continued to enjoy the ability to individualize instruction, something that fell apart in some classrooms as teachers frantically posted materials targeting the majority of students at the school. My daughter’s confidence also continued to grow as she was no longer compared to peers and felt empowered to learn in the best way for her.
Most important, however, were the incredible bonds that we were able to strengthen as a result of homeschooling. My daughter and I experienced the content through lively discussions that often continued through dinner with the family. The division between school and home often blurred as simple household tasks and discussions became learning opportunities, and we developed compensating strategies as we worked through challenging material together. Since my son was learning remotely, and we had a flexible schedule, we could all eat lunch together. At the end of this school year, my daughter requested that she not return to middle school for the eighth grade so that we will be happily homeschooling for another year—and maybe, if she chooses, through high school.
Homeschooling is not for every parent, and it is not for every child. For many families, homeschooling may be a temporary solution while the tremors of the pandemic are still active. Using a homeschool curriculum like Time4Learning may also be a powerful supplement for those who cannot homeschool but are concerned about their child’s academic progress under pandemic conditions. The pandemic changed many things, both for good and bad, but homeschooling may have been one of the least affected. Its consistency through the pandemic undoubtedly brought comfort and reassurance to many families, and I—for one—am thankful that the opportunity was there for ours.