March 20, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – The coronavirus lockdown has forced parents across the United States to turn to homeschooling as the only way to educate their kids.
On the evening of March 19, almost all states decided to close all schools.
“Combined with district closures in other states, at least 104,000 U.S. public and private schools are closed, are scheduled to close, or were closed and later reopened, affecting at least 47.9 million school students,” according to Education Week.
At the same time, the number of “online resources for families and teachers is growing as social distancing becomes the necessary, new normal,” wrote Lindsey M. Burke of The Heritage Foundation. “But policy actions by officials in school districts and state governments, as well as at the federal level, can maximize health and safety and provide learning opportunities for students,” she is convinced.
LifeSiteNews reached out to the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), an organization that for almost four decades has been fighting for the rights of parents to educate their children in the home.
“Yes, we have had inquiries and requests ranging from how to keep kids learning at home for two to three weeks and how do I juggle working from home with my kids learning from home … to how do I actually jump into full-time homeschooling on short notice,” said Sandra Kim, HSLDA’s media relations manager.
Seton Home Study School, a large provider of resources for Catholic homeschooling families, is experiencing a similar situation.
“Seton has been receiving a significant number of inquiries about the possibility of parents transferring to our accredited home study school for the remainder of the year. We have even changed one of our policies to make that easier to do in high school,” Draper Warren, Seton’s director of admissions, told LifeSiteNews.
High school credits at Seton are now available for just a quarter of the school work, where before, the school online issued full or half credits.
Even though it is the middle of the school year, homeschooling is still an option.
“It is absolutely possible to start homeschooling in the middle of the year or at any time,” Warren emphasized. “Seton Home Study School is the largest Catholic homeschool provider, and our accredited school allows parents to move at their own pace and adopt whatever schedule works best for them. This means that they can enroll and start school at any time.”
Kim explained, “Many families must start homeschooling for a variety of reasons from bullying to health issues. It’s just a matter of deciding what material to use and beginning from there.” In other words, having families start homeschooling in the middle of the year is nothing uncommon.
While homeschooling is legal in all 50 states, “each state has its own laws and specific requirements.” Thus, Kim said, “it’s important for parents to know and follow their state’s homeschool law.”
HSLDA was founded with the specific purpose of giving legal advice to homeschoolers.
Many parents have no alternative to homeschooling their children, given that most schools in the country closed down to stop the coronavirus epidemic. The avoidance of a disease, however, is not the only, and certainly not the best, argument to educate children in the home.
Warren pointed out three main reasons.
“The first one tends to be a little shocking,” he warned, “but many families actually homeschool because of socialization, not in spite of it. School environments can sometimes foster the notion that you are only supposed to be friends with others of your own age, and it can foster really severe generational gaps and a difficulty communicating with those of different ages.”
“At Seton, we have actually created a huge online community for our students 13 and up to discuss the issues of the day and make like-minded Catholic friends. Homeschoolers are also freed up to participate in more extra-curricular activities,” Warren added.
The second for homeschooling is the academic performance of the students. Schools have to move along all students at the same pace, whereas in a homeschooling environment, “some can grasp concepts quickly while others can thrive with more review.”
In this context, Kim said, “If a child is more interested in say, animals or space exploration, then it’s possible to explore that fully as well by wrapping other subjects like reading, writing, and math around those topics.”
Similarly, “If math is difficult or not their favorite, then there are a thousand and one ways to make math more relevant, accessible, and engaging to them: whether sneaking math into solving real-life problems like cooking, grocery shopping, or building a project, or using creative manipulatives and movement games in the younger years.”
Finally, Warren, who was homeschooled himself, mentioned “religious and moral” reasons. “Homeschooling allows parents to make religion a truly robust subject and guiding principle. It also allows parents to avoid some of the more harmful philosophies being pushed onto our children in public schools.”
What is going to happen once the coronavirus epidemic is over and schools reopen?
“I think it will be interesting to see what conclusions parents will make after getting a chance to experiment with what learning from home could look like for their family,” Kim said.
Warren is already optimistic. “I expect this experience will have long-term repercussions for the entire field of education,” he said.
“This is true not just for K-12 students, but for college students as well. I think a certain portion of families are going to have great experiences during this trial period of homeschooling, and absolutely want to continue.”