Homeschooling Has Lessons For Families And Educators

Since compulsory schooling was introduced in most developed countries roughly a century ago, sending children to school has become customary. This major innovation has boosted literacy and allowed women to join the workforce. However, since the pandemic hit, schools have struggled to adapt to online education. Numerous technical challenges aside, it has proven overwhelming for teachers to manage large classes over Zoom while providing individual attention to students (especially the younger ones). 

Remote education has also become a significant stress for most parents. Some of them, particularly essential workers and single parents, have to find help overseeing their children at home during the workday. Those fortunate enough to work from home still need to monitor their children during online classes, straining the delicate work-life balance. And with the recent spike in Covid-19 cases against the grim public health forecasts for the upcoming months, the reopening of most schools in the second half of the current school year appears highly unlikely.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, homeschooling families who chose to transition children out of schools long before the pandemic to provide academic enrichment and personalized instruction have turned out most prepared for the challenge. Academic homeschooling, primarily motivated by the desire to dive deeper into academic subjects, has been growing steadily over the past few decades and has gained respect from mainstream educators. Having no mandatory curricula, academic homeschooling is an educational lab that promotes the exploration of diverse and innovative ways of teaching, allowing parents to customize educational strategies to the unique needs and learning styles of their children in a supportive environment.

Academic homeschooling offers numerous benefits. It is an entrepreneurial activity for the whole family, teaching children responsibility for their personal growth and making them comfortable with taking intellectual risks. It facilitates family bonding and allows parents to discover and follow their children’s interests, both academic and non-academic. It leaves children with more time for exploration and personal development. Lacking artificial timelines allotted for covering specific concepts, they learn without frustration and anguish. Children feel empowered to ask questions and delve into subjects deeply, finding interconnections between various disciplines and understanding learning in a much more profound way than the memorization of facts and striving for good grades allows. For example, a child may spend months absorbed in studying an obscure scientific concept that may later become a cornerstone of her scientific career.

There is no shortage of academic homeschooling curricula and materials, which can be found from the sources such as Homeschool Life magazine. Plenty of support groups have also been formed at both local and national levels to provide guidance to new families who are turning to homeschooling. Scientist and homeschooling parent Blair Lee has founded an online community of secular academic homeschoolers, SEA Homeschoolers, to empower educational innovation. At 100,000 strong, it focuses on providing information for parents to help their children at all stages of their journey, from elementary school to pre-college, regardless of the chosen educational philosophy. 

Since the start of the pandemic, many families have decided to homeschool their children through the current school year. What will happen after the pandemic is over? Some of the families who have the opportunity to continue with homeschooling may choose to do so. However, the children who end up returning to school may not have to go back to the “old normal.” Having explored the innovative world of academic homeschooling, navigated rapidly expanding online educational ecosystems, and participated in academic support networks, parents could become better advocates for their children’s needs and offer tangible instructional alternatives to their educators.

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