In the past few days, there have been hundreds of colleges and schools shuttering their doors to help contain the spread of the Coronavirus. Hundreds of thousands of families are homeschooling by mandate. I want to take a moment to WELCOME you into our community!
If you’re homeschooling during a temporary school closing, we want to help you keep your education on track. Once the newness and excitement wear off, having a plan for the next few months assures your teen will stay on track and returns to school ahead of the game.
First Things First
In all 50 states, there are categories of school types for K-12, and it’s more important than ever to be sure what category (and laws) apply to your family. During temporary homeschooling, your family’s legal category will stay the same – even when the location where they do school changes. Here are the basics:
Public school: your teen is enrolled in a public school using public school curriculum and accountable to teachers of that school. The teacher grades their homework, issues a grade for their work, a transcript is created reflecting those grades, and the student’s high school diploma is awarded by the school. Parents rely on the school system to meet standards of accreditation and quality of education.
Homeschool: your teen is registered per the state’s homeschool policy. The parent chooses the subjects, the curriculum, and awards a grade. The parent creates a transcript reflecting the grades, and the high school diploma is awarded by the parent. All 50 states have guidelines that must be followed- some states require paperwork and testing, while others may not. It is the burden of every homeschool parent to make sure they know and are complying with their state laws and standards.
The reason it’s important to consider the differences between public and home school is that you’re likely going to become flooded with information in the coming weeks, and the answers to most of your questions will be based on your legal classification of school type.
Asking a homeschooler for guidance when you’re a public school student is not unlike asking public schools for guidance about how to homeschool! They are totally different things and make it harder (not easier) for both parties to do a good job.
I’d like to welcome a new category of homeschoolers: Temporary Homeschoolers
Temporary homeschoolers: your teen is legally enrolled in a school system, but are doing school at home during an extenuating circumstance (like the coronavirus!) Families in this category fully expect to integrate back into their regular school community after a short time.
Five things to do before Monday
1. Prepare emotionally
Some schools are closed for 14-days, while others are uncertain. The truth is that no one knows how long they’ll be temporarily homeschooling. While it’s novel and fun to have school at home for a little while, but if you treat this like a vacation, you’ll lose valuable learning days. Prepare emotionally for the possibility of finishing out this semester at home – through June. Stay up to date with your school so you can continue planning. While flexibility feels really freeing initially, the change in routine and expectations can ultimately lead to stress and anxiety.
2. Step up, not back
It’s natural to defer to the experts at school, but the truth is that your teen’s school is not an expert when it comes to these kinds of unplanned disruptions. Teachers are moving content online, but this is new for everyone – not just the learner. Expect a lot of bumps and inconsistencies. Expect technical glitches and grading delays. Expect broken learning systems. Despite those expected frustrations, this is an excellent opportunity for parents to step up and be pro-active with your teen. You can encourage them to learn independently! Taking ownership of their education is an opportunity for them to grow and mature toward independence, much like what they’ll experience in college.
3. Establish school rules
It might be ok to cram on weekends or type a report up at the last minute, but doing
school at home for an extended period of time takes a level of seriousness that your teen isn’t used to. Be aware that learning independently can take as little as half the time – so while you might be used to your student attending school from 7-2 every day, it’s typical for a homeschooled student to finish their school day in a couple hours. This isn’t because they are doing less work, it’s because there aren’t any distractions or transitions. Set clear expectations for your teens. You can choose to let the book be your guide (however long it takes to complete 1 lesson) or you can let the clock be your guide (read for 1 hour). Either way, be sure everyone is on the same page.
4. Dedicate a learning space
Imagine if you started a new business working from home. You might even set up a home office. This is true for students being homeschooled too. Establishing a dedicated learning space establishes a level of seriousness to the task. While your teen might be used to doing homework on the sofa or in front of the tv, remember that the bulk of their learning happened during dedicated learning times in a classroom at a desk. You don’t have to try and simulate the school system at home, instead, think of it more like working from home. Ideally, your teen’s “office” should have:
- A door that closes
- A flat desk or table where books and work can be left out
- A comfortable chair
- Good lighting
- Power for their computer or device
- Access to the internet
If your teen is used to using a public space like a local cafe or library, be aware that those facilities may also be closed during this time. If it’s impossible to provide space at home and you don’t have access to a public workspace, work with a neighbor or friend to create a shared space where two or three students can work together. Keeping your study group small and being vigilant about handwashing can keep your small group safe.
In the coming days, you’ll face uncertainty and have tons of questions. As things start to “get real” for your family, we hope you’ll feel welcome here and supported by our homeschooling community.