Over the past week, millions of families across the country found themselves unexpectedly remote learning and working due to the Coronavirus. While we may refer to this time as “homeschooling,” it isn’t in critical ways.
Many NH public and private schools are holding online classes, sending homework to students, and generally trying to recreate “school at home” during this uncertain time. At Governor Sununu’s press conference on March 23rd, Commissioner Frank Edelblut stated that he has instructed public school leaders to be prepared to continue remote learning through April 3rd at which time they will reevaluate the situation.
However, true homeschooling is initiated by the families, not by a school or district. This choice is a huge distinction. Not only does that mean it is what the family wants for their children, but also underscores that homeschooling – the goals, materials, and schedules – are all at the direction of the family. This flexibility and autonomy are fundamental to homeschooling that traditional-school families are not experiencing during this remote learning time.
Experienced homeschoolers are concerned that “school at home” families may mistakenly think that they stay at home all day, all the time, but that is far from the truth. Homeschooling often incorporates a variety of learning opportunities such as co-ops, field trips, outside educational opportunities, and so much more than just studying online or within the walls of their family home. Just like their traditional-schooled peers, homeschoolers are missing their friends and many efforts they worked hard for all year, such as theatrical and musical performances, sports, proms, field trips, and more.
Additionally, many homeschooling families are concerned that the mandated “school at home” practices will generate regulation efforts. While many traditional-school families are doubtless finding it difficult to juggle remote learning for their kids along with their own work responsibilities and relying heavily on school-issued structure and support, homeschoolers are fearful that people won’t understand that home educating families are capable of and comfortable managing their children’s education without school officials. Also, many traditional-schooling families may not know that homeschoolers have reporting and year-end assessment requirements that have been in place for years.
What matters is that families have options for what works best for them and their children. It makes sense that for some families homeschooling is the best fit while for others a traditional school setting, whether it is a charter or district or private school, will be best.
Even if we reach different conclusions for our own families, GSHE families want to help our neighbors during this difficult time. Juggling remote working and learning without advanced preparation is exceptionally difficult, and GSHE recognizes the great challenge this presents for families, teachers, schools, and employers.
We created a mentorship program that connects veteran homeschooling parents with families that are either temporarily remote learning or seeking to begin a homeschool program.
We also created a Facebook group, GSHE Unexpectedly Homeschooling, for families who are in this “school at home” situation.
While the choices we make for our families may be different, we can support each other through these challenging times and appreciate each other’s efforts for our children’s learning wherever it occurs.
By Michelle Levell, GSHE co-founder