Friday, March 13, 2020

Coronavirus has parents looking at homeschooling

By Mike Smith  | The Washington Examiner

With the COVID-19 virus closing schools in China, South Korea, Italy, and the United States, parents are having to make a sudden and unexpected change in their children’s education. Most often, it means shifting education into the home.

This learning at home looks different in different places. In Hong Kong, the government ordered 800,000 students to take what the Wall Street Journal calls “a crash course in digital learning.”

In New York City, parents are already seeking out home schooling resources that fit their children and their families in preparation for any school closings.

The freedom of parents to choose the kind of education that’s best for each child is something we’ve been advocating for more than 35 years.

Whether a child is facing bullying, a challenging medical condition, or a unique family situation (such as frequent military reassignments), learning at home can provide an immediate and customized solution. And home schooling doesn’t have to be a stop-gap measure. In fact, millions of students have discovered how home education empowers them to thrive.

What began as an experiment has become an adventure for these children and their families. Their classroom has become the world, and their learning has become relevant, engaging, and personalized.

Home school grads go to college, join the military, launch their own businesses, and start families. They serve in soup kitchens, run for office, fight fires, and give back to their communities in many other ways.

In fact, more than 1.7 million students are home-schooling in the U.S., according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Some of the most common questions parents ask us involve whether home schooling can work for a family’s unique circumstances. In most cases, it can, and we can help walk parents through what that might look like and what options are available.

For example, if a child has special needs or medical issues, you can feel very reassured to discover that there are many resources available to support home schooling — from diagnostic testing and specialized curricula to supportive and therapeutic services, along with friendly communities of parents home-educating children with learning challenges.

If both parents are working, it is still possible to make home schooling work through options such as alternating work schedules or one parent working from home. It takes creativity, commitment, and even saying, “No,” to some opportunities. But without the restriction of a traditional school-day schedule, families are able to carve out time together and even flex their home school schedule along with variable work schedules (such as healthcare providers or cross-country transport).

Another unique situation could be a single-parent household. Some of the most courageous, successful home schooling parents we know are single parents — and there are many! Taking on home schooling will probably take some outside-the-box thinking and support — you may find members of your extended family, friends, the local home schooling community, or your faith community are glad to help. There are many warm and welcoming support groups and social media groups, some of which are specifically for home schooling single parents. Home schooling parents often help each other out with rides to and from sports activities and enrichment classes. Some single home-schooling parents trade off child care or home schooling supervision to give parents time for work or running errands.

If budget is a big consideration in home schooling, don't worry. With a little creativity and research, you can still provide your child with an engaging education customized to his or her learning style and needs. Your local public library, community college library, and home school group may have a ton of resources you can simply borrow. There’s a growing list of inexpensive or even free curriculum options online. And if you’re going through a really tough time financially, you can apply for a curriculum grant.

If parents need to home-school due to other circumstances, it can be for a year or two, just until high school, or just for a teenager’s senior year. Some families choose home schooling for the long haul — and some home-school for specific portions of their child’s education. Home schooling allows you to accommodate the needs of each child.

Could an experiment in home schooling turn into an adventure for your child? We invite you to consider it. Most of all, enjoy learning and discovering with your child each day! When you bring curiosity, flexibility, and a growth mindset, it helps your child develop a positive, creative approach to making things work.

Mike Smith helped found the Home School Legal Defense Association in 1983 and serves as its president. The Home School Legal Defense Association offers a free guide on Facebook.