I recently spoke at an event where the panel topic was “what might education look like if every school was destroyed in an alien invasion.”
On the surface, that hypothetical scenario seems far-fetched, but it gets to the point about how we as a society and families might provide an education for our children during great uncertainty and disruption. Now this is a very relevant topic.
In tangible ways, the world shifted in March 2020. Covid closed nearly everything for a few months and only “essential” businesses and their employees kept working. Businesses had to adapt to remote working and delivery of their products and services, reinventing their model of operation. Some businesses closed, leading to terrible financial hardships for the owners and employees. Others were created or expanded business models; just think of how grocery stores now offer services to have someone shop and deliver your food selections right to your door.
In the early days of the pandemic, every education provider struggled to adapt to the uncertainty of how to provide learning opportunities to their students.
Many schools closed for a couple weeks while staff frantically created remote options. Some initially implemented a variation of the “snow bag” pick-up concept with school buses dropping off assignments and materials to resident families. Some expanded spring break to buy time to figure things out and others ended the school year early.
Summer of 2020 still had great uncertainty heading into the next school year. Many of NH’s public schools made plans and investments in remote learning. Many of our private schools reopened with provisions to shift to remote on short-notice if particular conditions were met. It was an unsettling time for everyone to be sure.
As the 2020-21 school year progressed, it was a constant back-and-forth of remote and staggered in-person learning for thousands of children. There were frequent last-minute changes that families had to navigate.
Amid this uncertainty, home education emerged as a safe harbor for many families who would never have considered this option previously.
Homeschooling has always empowered families with the ability to create a learning plan and environment that suits their children’s unique needs and goals. During the pandemic, this stability and flexibility were more valued than ever.
No, homeschoolers were not immune from Covid disruptions, especially in spring 2020 when they, like their traditional-school peers, had sports events, recitals, music productions, and graduation celebrations canceled. However, homeschooling families can pivot how and when they decide is appropriate. Home education can adapt in any way the family needs.
So, getting back to the original panel question of an alien invasion…
Didn’t we all just go through some kind of near catastrophic worldwide event? Haven’t we all lived through two years of adaptation and change?
Over the past two years, I’ve seen tremendous growth and innovation in education. Homeschooling doubled and NH has new pathways – Prenda and Education Freedom Accounts.
Unlike many other states, NH home education law enables families to self-form learning groups for educational pursuits without additional constraints or requirements. There are more small-group learning communities across NH than I’ve seen in 15 years. Some are based on geographic areas, some on ages and interests, while others are learning objectives and purposes.
Families may also utilize the expertise and knowledge from other people they know to enrich their children’s learning. I know families have traded sewing instruction and art for their children. There are so many possibilities.
More in-person and online educational options are available than ever before, and this is not limited to online private schools. Small businesses are opening their doors to homeschoolers with new co-ops and learning communities popping up. Also, favorite museums, science centers, nature conservatories, and other attractions now offer virtual events and classes, making places all over the world accessible to thousands of more people.
As educators are leaving the profession, some are building their own businesses to offer classes and tutoring, both in-person and remote, to homeschoolers. Families can contract with them for specific learning objectives such as core subject areas, world languages, music instruction, or to lead small learning groups.
The silver lining of the pandemic is home education. We have emerged as a larger, stronger, and more empowered community and the future for our children is bright. Homeschoolers have always adapted to address our children’s learning needs, and we can thrive if aliens invade.
By Michelle Levell