What Homeschooling is NOT
Pandemic schooling was not homeschooling. Let’s bust some myths…
When the Covid-19 pandemic struck and brick & mortar schools across the nation were shuttered, millions of children were tossed out of their classrooms and compelled to do school at home. Parents who were used to the school system handling their children’s education were suddenly thrust into an active educational role. They became teacher, principal, and tech troubleshooter all at once. They struggled to transition their kids to makeshift online classes while simultaneously managing their own careers and navigating the pandemic.
I don’t think I am exaggerating when I say it was a horrible experience for most everyone involved. Despite the heroic attempts of students, parents, and teachers to continue education through the crisis, research has revealed that the pandemic was disastrous for education. It left substantial education gaps that children are still struggling to overcome (source).
The experience also left many parents with a very negative view of homeschooling. Confused and stressed by the anxiety of it all, many parents said, “If this is homeschooling, I want no part of it!” People who may have been open or sympathetic to homeschooling before hardened to it by being forced to deal with pandemic schooling for a semester.
We veteran homeschoolers understand that homeschooling is not the same as pandemic schooling. In this article, I’d like to offer some observations on what homeschooling is not in order to contrast it with the experiences of many parents in 2020-2021.
Homeschooling is Not: Being Forced to Cope With No Prep or Planning
When the pandemic hit and schools were closed, parents were forced to deal with continuing their children’s education at home. There was no time to prepare and no planning. Many districts were literally making plans up as they went, altering directions and expectations every week as the situation unfolded. Few things are as stressful as being forced into a new situation with no sense of where you are going.
Fortunately, that’s not the way homeschooling works. While there certainly are homeschoolers who like to fly by the seat of their pants, they still have a set of resources and an overall plan to guide them. However, the majority of us are meticulous planners, plotting out our next academic year months in advance. Homeschoolers devote a lot of thought to planning.
There resources aplenty available to help parents in this endeavor. You can purchase lesson plans, sign up for established online courses, work with a homeschool coach, etc. On the Homeschool Connections blog, we have an entire subset of articles dedicated solely to planning and we offer free planning forms to help you.
When you homeschool, you never have to feel like you are flying blind.
Homeschooling is Not: Being Locked into a Rigid Schedule
Many public schools that transitioned to online schooling during the pandemic compelled students to keep the same schedule they had in school. Public school classes began at 7:50 AM, so students were expected to be logged into Zoom at 7:50 AM. Public schools mandates attendance for so many hours per day, therefore students were expected to be on Zoom for an equal amount of time each day.
The problem here is two-fold. Schools were thrown into online education with no experience. The found themselves fumbling through it. Then there are state laws that mandate class hours. Many schools found themselves unsure how those mandated hours fit into an online environment. It was a perfect storm. All of this created high stress levels for pandemic schooling parents. Add in conflict with parents’ work schedules or other daily obligations and you can see why pandemic schooling was a failure
This all is antithetical to homeschooling. The reason we homeschool is ultimately about flexibility—flexibility to teach what, when, and how we choose based on our child’s needs. Homeschoolers do not treat their homeschools as replicas of public schools. See “Homeschoolers Don’t Need to Mimic Public School” for more details.
As a homeschooler, you begin your day when it suits your family and your schedule. One of the foundational principles of homeschooling is that you craft a schedule that you find manageable. You don’t lock yourself into an inflexible itinerary determined by someone else. PLUS, one-on-one instruction takes far less time than site-based schooling. This leaves time for extracurricular and family activities.
Homeschooling is Not: Making Your Child Sit in Front of a Screen All Day
Those who had to endure pandemic schooling no doubt remember dragging their kids out of bed at the crack of dawn and making them sit in front of Zoom presentations for a good portion of the day. This can get tedious for anyone, but it was especially hard on students with ADHD or hyper-activity. Kids zoned out, fidgeted, or missed classes, to the chagrin or teachers and endless frustration of parents.
This led some parents to wrongly conclude that homeschooling is just “sitting your kids in front of a screen all day.” Of course, many homeschoolers do utilize some kind of online component but it is implemented in a much more child-friendly way.
Homeschool Connections is an online curriculum provider and I am an online educator. I can tell you firsthand that it would be incorrect to infer that homeschooling was nothing but abdicating education to a screen. For example, the typical Homeschool Connections course has students working online only one to two hours per week.
Additionally, homeschoolers often use an eclectic approach education. They make use of a variety of instructional methods. Online classes can play a role, but so does in-person tutoring, self-directed study with a textbook, participating in co-ops, and working with parents. Again, homeschooling is characterized by its flexibility. We make use of what modes of education suit us best.
Food for Thought
I realize the pandemic was a few years ago, but attitudes die slowly. There is still a lot of misunderstanding about what homeschooling entails. If you are a homeschooler, this is food for thought to keep tucked away in your brain. When a well-meaning but uneducated friend starts comparing homeschooling to pandemic schooling, you’ll have the answers. If you are considering homeschooling but getting cold feet because of pandemic experiences, realize that the average homeschool does not operate anything like what millions of families went through during the pandemic.
If you’d like to continue this discussion, I invite you to join me and other homeschooling parents at Homeschool Connections’ Catholic homeschool community.