The COVID-19 pandemic presents great challenges when it comes to educational choices. If you are a parent, chances are you have spent a lot of time wondering whether you should send your child back to school, opt for your school’s emergency remote learning program, homeschool your child, or enroll your child in a full-time online school. Here are some considerations to help you weigh the available home-based options and choose the best one for your family’s needs.
At first glance, homeschooling and distance learning might seem similar, but there are some important distinctions between the two. The primary difference is who is delivering and managing the educational content. With homeschooling, the parent or caregiver is the person who teaches and delivers the content. Distance learning classes are taught by a teacher other than the parent or caregiver.
Here are some of the benefits of homeschooling:
- Control of Content: Parents have control of the lessons and the information their children receive. If you decide to homeschool, the entire curriculum would be decided by you. You can provide faith-based or value-based education to your child and study any subjects you want, although some states have requirements for what subjects are taught.
- Flexibility: Because you can choose your schedule, you have incredible flexibility. For example, you can control when your kids learn, so they’re not stressed about completing work while on vacation. This flexibility makes homeschooling a great choice for families that like to take vacations during the traditional school year or for families who celebrate holidays that most schools don’t recognize.
- Individualized Instruction: Homeschooling allows parents to tailor their instruction to the way their child learns best. This helps the school day be completed more efficiently, thus taking up less time.
- Interest-driven: Students and parents can work together to cover topics and create elective courses tailored to their interests.
Pod Learning / Micro-schooling
This is essentially homeschooling in a small group. There may slightly less control and choice as there will be multiple students/families involved, but the concept is the same. Socialization is included as there are multiple students in the small group. Teaching can be provided either by assorted parents sharing the tasks or by a hired teacher.
- All of the above
- Built-in Socialization: As the students are in a small group, there is built-in socialization and group learning.
- Shared costs: Parents can divide the costs in time and money for the curriculum, teachers, and more.
- Community: Families can support each other and have shared discussions about learning.
Students can remain enrolled in their local school of choice in a remote or virtual learning setting while learning from home via computer. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, schools were forced to put together a remote learning system at the last minute. Some schools and districts use platforms like Zoom to administer this learning, while others have contracted with online learning providers. The quality of these remote or virtual learning systems varies from school to school and district to district.
Remote learning is often criticized for its shortcomings. For instance, there aren’t many opportunities for face-to-face social interaction. Students can easily go to their whole school day without seeing another human in real life. Parents are also worried about the effects of increased screen time. Nevertheless, remote learning offers a safe alternative to traditional schools in this pandemic and has some advantages. Some of these include:
- Free: If a public school provides remote learning, tuition remains free.
- Licensed Teacher: We all know homeschooling parents go above and beyond to teach their kids. But some parents might feel more at ease knowing that a licensed teacher is teaching their children.
- Less Time-Consuming for Parents: While your children come first, you do have other responsibilities. Parents find they have more time on their hands when their children enroll in remote classes.
- Independence: Remote learning offers greater independence to students, as parents aren’t involved in every aspect of their schooling. Independence is an important aspect of child development that can be easily fostered through distance learning.
There’s a world of difference between emergency remote or virtual learning and full-time, tuition-free accredited online schooling. For families who are unhappy with their school’s emergency remote or virtual learning systems, enrolling your child in a full-time, online public or private school might be a good fit.
Many of these schools are created by states or school districts, although they can also be established as public charter schools. They existed long before COVID-19. Online schools almost always provide students with free equipment, such as computers. Many also provide families with free Internet access. Some benefits of these schools include:
- Low Cost: An online private school’s cost tends to be much cheaper than brick and mortar private schools, and online public schools are free. Tuition-free online public schools educate 300,000 students every year on a full-time basis across 33 states and Columbia.
- Qualified Teachers: Students enrolled in full-time online schooling will find qualified teachers who are specifically trained to deliver instruction using new technology. These schools also offer Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) for children with exceptional learning needs.
- Regulated Curriculum: Curriculum and lessons align to state education standards, and full-time, online public schools must meet all state education laws.
If you are a parent, chances are you have spent a lot of time wondering how, where, and when your child will be educated for the upcoming school year. Be sure to analyze all the options and learn about your state, county, and school district requirements. And remember, in the end, the best decision is the one that best suits your family’s needs.