When the COVID19 pandemic hit in 2020 many school districts scrambled trying to figure out how to transition the classroom from school to home. What popped up was “remote learning”, “distance learning”, “zoom classes”, etc.
The school districts were focused on how to bring the classroom home and millions of kids suffered. Many children were expected to do school work for the typical 7-8 hours a day. They were sat in front of a computer and expected to pay attention for hours at a time.
As school districts realized too many children were falling behind they started implementing new rules… no wearing pajamas during “school hours”, no eating during class, no sitting on the bed during class, no pets on screen, etc.
These rules made remote learning even harder for many kids. Especially kids with IEPs, those with ADHD, kids on the spectrum, and kids with siblings in school too. Homes with multiple children found distance learning even more difficult due to simultaneous class times resulting in limited space, limited internet bandwidth, distractions from siblings, etc.
Through all of this the school districts seemed to forget…the parents still had to work!
If school districts had approached remote learning more like homeschooling they would have seen more success.
Homeschooling Gets a Bad Rap
Homeschooling gets a bad rap from those used to traditional schooling! I know, I was there. Before 2020, when I heard someone talk about homeschooling, my mind immediately flashed to the Duggar family or to Joe Dirt.
I thought “homeschooling” was just an excuse to not go to school. I felt sorry for homeschool children. I believed they were being sheltered, indoctrinated into extreme Christianity, and missing out on important childhood experiences.
But, the more I looked into homeschooling the more I realized the opposite was true.
Homeschool Can Produce a Better Education Than Traditional Schools
Homeschoolers work at their own pace so they can advance quicker than being in a classroom with 20 other children. When kids are homeschooling, they don’t experience the distractions found at traditional school.
Think about it, a typical teacher has 20+ students to teach….some students are ahead, some students need extra help, some students are disruptive, some students know if they’re good they’ll squeak by (this was my kid), etc. It’s inevitable that teaching one concept to a classroom of 20+ children is going to take more time, more energy, and some students are going to slip through the cracks.
Homeschoolers don’t experience these distractions and disruptions. A concept that a teacher may spend 40 minutes on, a homeschooler can learn and grasp that same concept in 15 minutes. There are so many high quality resources available for homeschoolers to get a well rounded full education.
There’s a misconception that homeschool parents are the sole teachers for their children. I like to look at it more like…homeschool parents are the Educational Manager for their kids. I don’t teach my kids everything…I couldn’t…many concepts they’re learning are things I’ve forgotten. I use the resources available to me to choose curriculums and activities that fit best with the way my children learn.
For example, I don’t teach math at all! I found a great math program called Teaching Textbooks which has videos and lessons teaching my kids each math concept. It tests them, grades them, and sends me daily updates on their progress. This allows me to intervene when I see comprehension issues arising but keeps the bulk of the teaching off my shoulders.
I also no longer teach my son grammar or creative writing. This is a subject he struggles with and it would cause tons of tension in our homeschool journey. When I was his teacher, we would fight about writing a simple paragraph. So, I found a woman who teaches homeschool writing and grammar classes online. Now my son is responsible for attending a 30 minute zoom class every week with 5 other kids his age. They cover grammar, focus on different writing techniques, and now he’s turning in multi-page papers to her and he loves it! This class also gives him the opportunity to connect with peers at his level.
The Myth of Homeschool Socialization
The most common myth about homeschooling is that homeschool kids are weird and unsocialized!
First of all, every kid I’ve ever met is a little weird on some level…right?! I mean, what constitutes a “normal” kid anyway?!
In traditional school, kids do get to see other kids their age for most of the day every day of the week. But, let’s think about those interactions…think about the time you spent in traditional school. Sure, there was lunch and recess to socialize with your friends. But, a majority of the time my teachers were telling me “you’re here to learn, not socialize”. Most of my friends at school were just “school friends”, we didn’t socialize outside of school unless we lived in the same neighborhood. In fact, I can only name one “school friend” whom I’m still friends with today.
Before we started homeschooling, I had no idea there were so many socialization opportunities!
My kids socialize more now than they ever did in traditional school. When they were in traditional school they had “school friends” but they didn’t spend much time outside of school with those friends unless they lived in our neighborhood. I tried a to connect with the parents of those “school friends” but there were always conflicts. Either the other parent and I didn’t have much in common, or their schedules differed from our schedule, or we just weren’t able to connect for one reason or another. So my kids had “school friends” but most of those relationships were superficial like the ones I grew up with in traditional school.
Now, with homeschooling, we’re running into the same families over and over again at events. When I connect with other parents their schedules are more flexible like ours, even if we have nothing in common we at least have homeschool in common so there’s always something to talk about. Parents of homeschoolers are hyper aware of the socialization myth so they’re more eager to meet for playdates and such.
The best thing is when you find a small group of like-minded homeschoolers and create an intimate co-op. A few months after we started our homeschooling journey, I met a mom with three kids around the same age as my two. Her oldest was a couple of years older than my oldest and her youngest just a year younger than my youngest. We started hanging out weekly and our children all clicked really well. From there we met two other moms with kids close in age and we formed our own little group. Every week we meet for Field Trip Fridays. We also meet up for random playdates during the week and have even scheduled our kids in some of the same classes.
Even though the kids are all different ages, they’ve connected on a much deeper level than they did with their “school friends”. Since they’re not stuck in a strict school setting, they’re able to have deeper conversations, they see each other regularly, our families socialize together even when not doing homeschool. The key is finding like-minded homeschoolers…do they have similar values to you, do they have similar schooling philosophies, etc.
Where to Find Non-Religious Homeschoolers
Finding non-religious aka secular homeschoolers can be a challenge in some places. They are out there…they’re just lying low. In fact, secular homeschooling has grown significantly since the pandemic began.
Start off by searching Facebook for Secular Homeschool Groups near you (Liberal Christian Homeschool Groups are popping up too…these groups are far more accepting than the Christian evangelical and Baptist groups). Don’t get discouraged if you don’t find one right away…you may have to create one.
Next, check out what homeschool classes/groups your local library offers…if they don’t currently offer one…ask them to create one. Libraries are always looking for ways to support the community. Go to all of the homeschool library events that you can…remember, non-religious/secular homeschoolers are laying low…get to know the other parents and when you find one make sure you grab their number!
Another good resource is checking out your local Parks and Rec department for events and activities geared toward homeschoolers. Again, if they don’t have any…suggest they create something. The key is to connect with as many homeschool families as possible so you find the ones that align with you.
Local businesses typically offer amazing homeschool programs during the school day at a discounted rate. (If you don’t find anything in your area, reach out and ask…sometimes these classes are so full they don’t need to advertise.) For example, my daughter’s dance class offers a homeschool dance class for half the price during the day! I never would have known if I didn’t ask the owner if they offer any homeschool classes.
Finally, don’t be afraid of the Christian Homeschoolers. Yes, you’ll come across a few die-hard extremists but those are not the majority. In fact, the majority lies somewhere in the middle…they’re just lying low too. Don’t waste your time on the extremists but connect with those in the middle….you don’t have to be perfectly aligned to benefit from each other.
What Remote Learning Should Have Looked Like
The school boards should have taken a look at how homeschoolers succeed to figure out distance learning during the pandemic. Studies show that homeschoolers are far ahead of their peers by the time they reach college because of how homeschoolers approach schooling.
Instead of having the kids memorize concepts and work to “pass” a standardized test, homeschoolers focus on learning concepts and applying those concepts in the real world. Most students don’t have the attention span to sit in front of a computer for hours at a time.
As a homeschool mom, I set an expectation that my kids complete one math lesson a day, complete one grammar lesson a day, and read for at least 30 minutes every day. These are the non-negotiables. The math lesson and grammar lesson are done online at their leisure. As long as they score an 85 or higher, they are done with those subjects for the day. The rest of the “school” time is spent reading educational magazines, watching documentaries, playing board games, researching a topic of interest, or creating art. There are many programs that can facilitate these explorations for kids to dive a little deeper into a subject that excites them.
This also allows children who have already mastered a concept or easily understand a concept to focus on other things without getting bored or burnt out. Additionally, it helps identify those areas where more time is needed to fully understand a concept.
Children are naturally drawn to learning whether they realize it or not. Our school systems should understand this and not feel the need to micromanage every second of every school day. Children want to know the answers to how things work…think about how many times your child asked “why” as a toddler. Our job as homeschool parents is to teach them all of the ways to find answers to those questions.