To begin with there is homeschooling, the once fringe movement that suddenly has a spotlight shining on it. Homeschooling is a legal option in all fifty states. I’m a former public school teacher and a homeschool mom of two children ages 9 and 12, one of whom has special needs since 2013 in New Jersey. I was also a teacher at the school closest to the twin towers on 9/11 (there’s a blog post all about it) and I’ve learned that the most important factor for a child’s future is you. For a child to learn they need to feel secure. They need us more than anything else and they will get through this challenging time and you can help your child to see that they can persevere through difficult times and still be ok. I hope to provide you with a clearer picture of virtual, virtual-hybrid and homeschool education.
Homeschooling options are as varied as there are families. Some families choose to take classes in museums and farms and arrange coops for everything from competitive math teams and science fairs to civics clubs and beach and hiking groups. Homeschool families are often not home because they’re out in the world engaging with it and learning. Homeschool families come from every socioeconomic background and many families have two working parents or single parent families and make arrangements with other families to help each other. Laws vary according to state but in my home state of New Jersey caregivers/parents are free to choose how and when to educate their child and may decide to teach math with a meal or after work. You may choose a variety of educational options from traditional curriculums, to online classes and programs to coops and classes at local forests (even in urban areas) to someone’s house or backyard to a science center or nature reserve.
Tips for making this work: 1. Be brave. You got this. 2.You know your child and you are an experienced teacher working and educating your children every day of their lives. 3. Don’t try to recreate school at home. A daily rhythm can be created around your child’s needs as well as around your work schedule and home life. Math may happen after dinner. 4. Reignite a passion you long stopped doing, stock up on your favorite beach reads and model a love for learning and a love for reading. Nothing teaches a child to read like seeing a parent or loved adult cuddled up with a good book. 5. Set up reading nooks and places for art and building. Small house? Apartment? No problem. I have a three bedroom house with one bathroom and an unfinished basement about 20 minutes from midtown Manhattan so I’m always looking for space. My kitchen table doubles as a work table with writing supplies, art tools and math manipulative kept in rolling carts under the table and learning happens throughout the house and throughout the day. 6. Let your children work alongside you as you’re working if possible or doing other activities at home. 7 Join a few local and state on-line homeschooling organizations and familiarize yourself with all of the local in-person and online activities in your community. Many homeschool groups will share curriculum reviews and allow others to look through programs before you decide to commit to anything. 8. Remember that you have the gift of time to work with your children where they are. Right now.
Virtual Education and virtual hybrid programs are created and provided by your child’s school. Students continue with IEP and 504 accommodations/ mandated services. Children are expected to complete their work online and have a regular school year schedule. A hybrid program allows time for students to be online at home working virtually with their school’s lesson as well to physically attend school part of the time.
Tips for making this work: 1. Give your child a sense of control by letting them independently set up and decorate their workspace or do it together. Let them own this space. 2. Spend a few minutes each morning reviewing your child’s daily schedule with them to provide a sense of predictability, consistency and most importantly guidance and a moment of connection. This can also be done the night before as well. 3. Provide lots of space (both time and physical) for movement and free play breaks. Children need to move. A lot. Even six feet tall children. In between classes send children outside, even if for only ten minutes to take a walk while talking to a friend on the phone (arrange breaks with friends) or perhaps a few kids can arrange to meet a couple of days a week between classes as well as free play outside. 4. Consider using a ball or standing for parts of virtual instruction. Frequent movement breaks should be worked into time on-line. 5. Everyone is in the same position so find another child locally or from the school to meet with outside of class when possible. 6. If something isn’t working reach out to the school. Teachers want to help and they need your feedback to provide the best possible learning environment for your child. 7. For children with executive functioning difficulties creating an online LMS (learning management system) in digital portals like Google Classroom and Moodle can help students with organization and planning.
Every family is different therefore what will work best for your family may not be someone else’s first choice. Embrace being flexible. You will get through this and have the opportunity to model empathy, perseverance, patience and flexible thinking for your children.