by Jackie Badger, MA Ed

Are you finding yourself stressed and frazzled, trying to figure out the best learning scenario for your family?  You’re not alone!  So many families who are not satisfied with the “distance learning” or hybrid models offered through public school districts are seeking out alternative scenarios for their children.  

Now more than ever, the hot topic being discussed is educational options and alternatives for families.  Once reserved for the homeschool community, families are now considering learning environments outside of traditional school settings for a variety of reasons. The current situation with Covid 19 has families looking for safe and healthy opportunities for children to learn, that opt out of the “distance learning” typically offered through school districts.  

Whatever the reason you have for seeking something outside the normal box of public or private school, congratulate yourself for wanting the best possible situation for your family!   You can do this!  Let’s consider the following alternatives for providing education for your family.  Public School, Distance Learning, and Homeschooling.  

Public School

Tried and true, it’s what most of us grew up with:  getting on the big yellow bus and going to school.  Pros are it’s easy, it’s free, and it’s reliable.  The curriculum has been chosen for your children, and the teachers and staff hired.  If any of your children have special needs, your school district will provide services for them.  Nobody is going to say to you, “What about socialization?”

With Covid 19, parents are concerned with the transmission of the virus and the effects of masking, social distancing, and isolation on students.  Other common concerns regarding public school include large class sizes, behavior both in and out of the classroom (bullying), lack of control of curriculum, and amount of time spent in school versus the amount of actual instruction time.  

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Distance Learning

You may want to consider enrolling in the distance learning program provided through your local school district or other online classes.  Distance Learning provided through your school district is tuition free, as are other online schools (ie Connections Academy or K12.com) which operate under public school “umbrellas” and receive state and federal funding.  These virtual schools operate much like public school, following a typical 6 hour/day schedule, employing teachers to teach curriculum, report to, take attendance, and issue report cards. 

Some drawbacks to Distance Learning are the lack of flexibility in scheduling and curriculum.  Students are required to attend during school hours, and are required to complete the curriculum and assignments chosen by the Distance Learning program.

There are virtual schools that operate independently of public school.  Some are tuition free and some charge a fee.  Think of these courses as “cafeteria style” classes to pick and choose from, and create your student’s individualized education plan.

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Homeschooling

Homeschooling is no longer the stereotypical isolated family; it is gaining huge momentum and popularity with mainstream, regular people.  There are plenty of options to meet your children’s schooling needs, whether it’s for a year….or for the duration.  Homeschooling enables families to “jigsaw” the perfect educational program for their child/children and families, and allows them incredible flexibility in terms of freedom and time.

There are many approaches to homeschooling; from creating a schedule similar to traditional schools, facilitating unit studies or project based learning, or abandoning “managed” education for a student led unschooling approach.  

Homeschooling can absorb a substantial amount of parent’s time, planning and implementing curriculum and activities.  It can create financial implications for families in that one parent may have to give up their job in order to oversee homeschooling.  Some homeschool curriculum, also, can be costly (although it doesn’t have to be).

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Options to Make Your Choice Work for Your Family

Take time to consider what your family values, and what aspects of your family life need attention.  Perhaps this is the year to focus on time with family and nurturing sibling or extended family relationships.   Is this year an opportunity to focus on academic skills?  Do you have a family business that your children could potentially help with?  

It’s important to surround yourself with a support network of like minded friends and family.  If enrolling in some form of public school is the right fit for your family, it’s important for students to continue to see friends and participate in activities.  If you have a student who gravitates towards athletics that are not offered this year, encourage them to consider other activities, clubs, or lessons your school or community offers.

There are plenty of opportunities to connect with other homeschool families.  Homeschool co-ops offer incredible support for families.  Some offer classes, recreational activities, sponsor field trips, or sponsor social activities (ie board game day, seasonal parties).  Search your local social media pages to find groups that align with your family’s needs.

The current situation with Covid 19 is certainly challenging and merits thought and planning.  However, there is no need to agonize and overthink what is best for your family.  It’s easy to get caught up in “analysis paralysis” as each situation has pros and cons.  Make a decision based on the best knowledge of your unique family and children.  No decision is permanent and if you make a choice that isn’t working, rest assured that you can always change your plan.  

This pandemic has a silver lining in that it has given families an incredible opportunity to slow down and do life at a less frantic pace.  Whether you chose public school, distance learning, or homeschooling…..you have the gift of time to do life with your family the way you want to.  Slow down and take time to read the books, take the nature walks, and essentially “smell the roses” with your family.

****Jackie Badger is a former public school teacher and longtime homeschool mom.  Having worn many teaching “hats” through the years, she is currently employed by her school district’s Community Education program.  Jackie resides in Minnesota with her family.   You can learn more about Jackie at her website, jackiebadger.com.

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