Educators are working hard to keep our kids safe, but are sometimes trapped in a belief that the best way to educate any child is under the supervision of a certified staff member. Decades of past practice, union rules and state regulation reinforce this view.
This approach is built upon accountability – a key component for public education. But these tumultuous times require courage to accept that parents can be accountable, too. Some kids can be effectively educated outside the physical classroom.
Pretty much every town has a remote learning plan. Remote learning typically adheres to the schools’ classroom schedule; a schedule that is built around the needs of adult staff. If at 10:30 there is a math lesson in school, at 10:30 the remote learner will also be taking the same math lesson. While this allows the school to be accountable for providing instruction, it is often is out of sync with the family rhythm.
Alternatively, home schooling happens during all waking hours. If at 10:30 a.m. the baby is being fed, the kindergarten age home-schooler may be quietly learning to read to the parent or doing a floor puzzle. Later during food prep, measuring ingredients or cutting apples becomes a lesson in fractions. And after school regular hours, reading to the child is part of the home schoolers’ studies.
Remote learning is a valuable option during the pandemic, and so is home schooling.
In most public-school districts, a child is either in the system or out of the system. Home schoolers are out and usually get no support. We understand why. The system is about accountability. Since home schoolers are not supervised by certified staff, the system cannot be responsible for their education.
Offering basic supports to families that home school may encourage more families to have their kids educated at home. This will reduce the cost to taxpayers and reduce the number of kids in the physical school. These supports don’t have to be extensive. Help with curriculum, texts, guidance and evaluations can help parents home school their kids. When there is herd immunity to COVID, that next stage of learning is probably back in a physical school building.
Such a commonsense approach will save money, support families, and decrease the risk of spreading COVID. Lower school density will make the remaining students, teachers, administrators and staff all safer.
In my experience, home schooled kids do just as well in college and life as their in-school peers. Let’s support home schooling with some public support to add another option when addressing the risks of the pandemic.
James Stirling of Bethany is a former member of the Bethany and Region 5 boards of education. He is also the parent of four children, two of whom home schooled for a several years.