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The season back to school is almost upon us, and districts in many states have begun revealing plans to try safelythis fall in the middle of coronavirus spikes. While some studies suggest that younger children are less susceptible to COVID-19, it is still possible that they may infect teachers or relatives. This fear leads many parents to explore home school for the first time.
About 3% of American students were homeschooled during the 2011-12 school year, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. However, a survey conducted in May with more than 2,100 parents found that 40% said they were more likely to homeschool or virtual school after lockdowns. And states are also reporting increases. Homeschooling enrollments with the Nebraska Department of Education have increased by 21% compared to this time last year. So many parents in North Carolina visited the state portal to register new home schools on the first day it was open this month that it crashed.
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The association’s legal defense association for home schools has seen requests for home school increase by at least 20% during the same period last year, says spokeswoman Sandra Kim.
“The states are now releasing what they will do for the fall, and I think many parents have decided that they are not happy with what is being offered,” Kim said.
Homeschooling is not the same thing as the public school moving online, as many did in March due to the pandemic. Homeschooling means that you have submitted a notice of intent to your child’s school district, in which you state that you are no longer part of the public school system and take responsibility for your child’s education on your own.
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Even full-time parents can find ways to homeschool, says Brian D. Ray, president of the National Institute of Research. This may mean joining local support groups and cooperatives, or getting a relative involved to help.
Whether you have already decided to homeschool your child this school year or you are still exploring your options, here are the six tips for getting started in homeschooling.
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Find out your state homeschooling requirements
Homeschooling is legal in all 50 states. But each state has different laws and requirements for homeschooling that you can find on your state education department’s website. You can also find a list of laws by state on the A2Z Homeschooling website. These can include hours, topics and tests.
2. Search for homeschooling groups
You can find both national and local groups on Facebook – just search for “home school” and your city or county. If you already know someone in your area as a homeschooler, ask them for help as well. Many areas have homeschooling or co-ops where you can pair up with other families for lessons. This may look different due to COVID-19, but may still exist in some form – perhaps outdoors, socially distant classes.
Finding a homeschooling environment in your area can help you with almost anything – navigate through curriculum options, set a schedule, and just find out what you’re doing. It also gives you the opportunity to share the teaching burden with others and give your children some social time.
3. Select a school space and a schedule
Decide where your home school room will be – preferably somewhere where everyone can sit comfortably and concentrate. This could mean using the kitchen table or putting a desk in the basement, Kim said.
One of the benefits of home schooling is that your schedule can be much more flexible than in a traditional school. If your kids are early risers, start the day earlier. Depending on their learning style, you may also be able to go faster through certain lessons and free up time for afternoon activities, such as visiting a park.
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4. Look for curriculum options
Searching for online lessons can be overwhelming – there are hundreds of options available. You can find boxes that contain books and curriculum materials for an entire year of a particular topic, or entirely online programs. What you choose should depend on your child’s learning style and what you feel comfortable with as a parent.
Many take a hybrid strategy, Kim said: A parent can learn to read and write and get their child to take a math class online, along with “optional” like coding or a language.
No matter which mix you choose, you do not have to spend a lot of money on the curriculum. On average, parents spend about $ 600 per year per child on materials. But there is a very broad spectrum: Some spend under $ 100 and others spend thousands, Ray said. You can definitely come by for relatively low costs: Many homeschooling groups sell or buy used curriculum boxes, so you can get something that originally cost a few thousand dollars for just a few hundred.
You can find free or low cost courses online at sites like Khan Academy, Varsity Tutors and Outschool.
5. Be flexible when it comes to school at home
Homeschooling offers you a great opportunity to take advantage of the world around you, Ray said. Say you notice a bird’s nest built in your garden – you can throw out the science lesson you planned for that day and instead pull out the field guide to North American birds and swing to learn about it together.
This may seem strange at first, but remember, “you do not have to recreate an institutional school in your home,” Ray said. “If you do, you will miss out on many of the benefits of home-based education.”
6. Realize that it will not be perfect
Keep your expectations in check, Kim said: Your child will probably not master a new language or move up two levels in math during his first year of school. Reading, writing and math are still the most important areas to focus on, she added. In addition, there will be a learning curve for both parents to become comfortable as teachers and the children get used to their parents as teachers.
“Next year will be very strange for everyone, whatever you choose to do,” Kim said.
For more information on coronavirus and education, check out these free or inexpensive K-12 online classes and activities, classes to learn how to code, and how to help parents and students navigate COVID-19 education.