Homeschooling through a pandemic
It was business as usual when 2020 began. Children around the world were either in school, about to start school, or finishing up their school year. Then COVID-19 struck hard. Some countries shut down nearly entirely, and most moved quickly to an online school system to wait it out for what was hoped would be only a short time.
Things don’t look promising in many areas, though, as COVID-19 numbers continue to rise. Schools—Adventist schools included—are working quickly to find safe ways to operate, including wearing masks, distancing desks, using plastic shields, staggering schedules, teaching online lessons, providing no recess, allowing no physical contact, etc. No matter what your opinions and approach to this virus are, if you have school-age children, your family will be affected. Adventist educators are dedicated to their mission and will continue to operate their schools if at all possible, but many families are questioning whether home education would be a viable option, even if only temporarily.
Lisa decided that the virtual school of last semester was not for her granddaughter, Ellie: “When they were teaching on Zoom, it was too confusing for her,” Lisa says. “Communication through e-mail and not knowing exactly what was expected was so frustrating.” Lisa has decided to jump into homeschooling, and 11-year-old Ellie says, “I’ll miss our PE teacher, having lunch with friends every day, and recess.” But she added, “We’re going to try to do homeschool with others. Every Tuesday we’re going to do hikes with a group. I started taekwondo and already made a friend. I hope I can catch up and get good grades too.”
The thought of home education can be really scary if you’ve never considered it before. Can I do this? Can I teach my kids? Am I smart enough? First of all, remember that you will not be alone. Homeschooling is a worldwide phenomenon. Countries where home education is the most popular include Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States, with the U.S. having the highest population of homeschoolers. If you decide to homeschool this year, or for years to come, you will be joining nearly 2.5 million others in North America, as well as about 350,000 in the rest of the world. There’s a long history of homeschooling within Adventism too. One Facebook group alone, SDA Homeschool Families, created by former homeschooler Leigh Pritchett of Georgia, United States, has more than 9,000 members from around the world.*
The six current administrators and moderators of that group have homeschooled 14 kids between them, some withdrawing children from school to educate at home, and others homeschooling from the start. Their children span elementary to college, trades and skills, and higher education. These Adventist educators—yes, if you are an Adventist and homeschooling, you, too, are part of Adventist education—share some practical and philosophical tips to ease the transition of new homeschoolers:
- What a great opportunity! Trust yourself. You taught them many things before now, and you can do this too.
- Trust God. If He led you to this path, He will lead you as you embark on it.
- Don’t allow anyone else to cause you to question your family’s decision-making or qualifications. If you went to school for the grades you’re teaching, or if you have a GED (high school equivalency), or if you are willing to learn with your children, then you are qualified to teach them.
- It’s OK not to already know everything you’re teaching. You just have to be willing to study the material and read it ahead of time so you can explain it.
- The Internet is your friend. Find those amazing websites that can help you and your child master skills. Use Google. Search Facebook for local homeschooling groups or groups that homeschool in a way that sounds interesting to you.
- Unless you are locked into your school system’s online school or feel you must cover exactly what would have been covered in the school building, think about what your child needs. There are many different styles of homeschooling: classical, Moore, boxed curriculum, unschooling, Montessori, unit studies, relaxed/eclectic, and more. Your child and your family may be better suited to one type than another.
- “Get yourself a super cool cat!” Seriously, though, some families include animals in a wonderful way with their homeschool program, such as raising service animals, fostering kittens, learning animal husbandry, etc. They do that because it’s part of their child’s special interests, and children who are allowed to pursue their interests—be they horses, cats, robots, or race cars—are going to learn things they couldn’t get from a textbook.
- Don’t make it all about academics. School is time in the garden or kitchen. Chores, playing, and reading stories together are all school. School is all day, every day; the academics are just one piece.
- Definitely check your state or national laws and regulations. Know what you have to do, whether you have to report to someone, if testing is required, and whether there are other legalities before you start. If you live in the United States, you can find most of the information on your state’s education superintendent website, but an even better source is the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), which is also active internationally.
- Your kids are going to be OK. You’re not going to mess them up by homeschooling. As long as you’re trying, showing love and care, and are involved, the kids will benefit.
The last point is very important to remember as you start your new adventure, especially if homeschooling will be temporary. Don’t be afraid. Look at this as a wonderful year to bond and learn together.
In the words of Melynda Harrison, homeschooler and blogger at travelingmel.com, “If you are just homeschooling for a year, my recommendation is that you don’t worry about it too much. Have fun with your kids. Sleep in, cook together, read books, watch movies, get outside every chance you get. Your kids will be fine. The whole world is upside down right now; it won’t matter at all that your kids missed third grade or even tenth grade. This could be a great opportunity to let them follow their interests, try new things, and see where it leads.”
* See online https://www.facebook.com/groups/sdahomeschoolfamilies/.