The COVID-19 pandemic has led to school closures in many countries around the world. Schools in the United States were closed for more than a year. While homeschooling is not a new concept, public education in the US was not designed to accommodate the widespread distance learning that this event required. School districts and families had to adapt and implement homeschooling plans very quickly.
The results have been uneven and while most students have returned to their classrooms in early 2022, some changes have held up and may survive the pandemic.
Technology is the cornerstone of homeschooling. Many schools allow teachers to teach students through Zoom, Google Classroom, and similar programs.
Essentially, teachers prepare teaching materials and assignments to be sent electronically. Students complete assignments at home and listen to lectures and discussions on laptops, computers, tablets or other devices. Most school districts set up portals and online dashboards that allow parents and guardians to track student progress and receive updates and schedules.
Reliance on Internet access and electronic devices was a problem for students who lacked these resources. At the start of the 2020 school year, approximately 14% of children aged 3 to 18 had no internet access. Almost 17% had no computer.
Many school districts partnered with local governments, community organizations, and businesses to provide laptops or computers to students who needed them. Some also distributed hotspots or paid for families’ Internet service to give students online access.
Computers and Internet services are important to students, whether they are learning at school or at home. In addition to online research, students also use a wide variety of software and educational apps and programs to complete assignments and explore interests.
Even with the return to classrooms, students who were given computers during the lockdown can still benefit. Homeschooling during the pandemic also saw a significant increase in accessible online resources for children and families.
Countless children have experienced stress, anxiety, sadness, depression and other challenging emotions during the COVID pandemic. In many places, awareness of potential stressors during the lockdown has raised concerns about students’ overall mental health.
Physical isolation made it difficult to personally monitor students’ well-being, so educators and mental health professionals developed new strategies. School psychologists and counselors used online referrals and teletherapy to connect with children and their families. This increased focus on mental health could make it easier for students to find appropriate services and support, even after the pandemic is eradicated.
Homeschooling during the pandemic was very different from traditional homeschooling. Families who choose to homeschool are responsible for adherence to state rules and an appropriate curriculum.
Students learning at home during the lockdown were still enrolled in school and participating in virtual learning programs and academic curriculum offered by their school districts. Parents were still responsible for a child’s presence, even if it was virtual participation rather than a physical location.
The pandemic has sparked renewed interest in homeschooling as an alternative to virtual learning through public or private schools. Families that homeschooled before the pandemic may have continued their routine or made minor changes, but most families experienced massive changes when public schools closed.
As of March 2022, schools in the US will reopen, but some families have chosen to explore homeschooling and organize virtual learning rather than sending children back to school campuses.
Pandemic pods are small, closed groups of children who learn together. Families organize pods based on their needs and coordinate with like-minded people in local communities. Many pods use Facebook to share advice, schedule classes, or recruit teachers and tutors.
Some pods follow the virtual learning programs in their school district or enroll children in virtual private school or charter school programs.
Families have also organized microschools using blended learning models. A microschool can be set up as a one-room school in a house or rented space. Parents create the curriculum using a wide variety of resources.
Online providers offer academic programs ranging from a full scholastic curriculum to smaller programs that focus on specific subjects such as math, physics, and foreign languages. Microschools give families control over closed-group instructional methods, while giving children more opportunities to socialize and collaborate than they would with homeschooling.
Beyond the pandemic
Many families have adapted to homeschooling and plan to continue indefinitely. They have learned to find online resources and learning resources. Collaboration and communication within geographic and virtual communities reduces the risk of isolation that affects some homeschooled children.
Parents choose homeschooling for many reasons, such as flexibility over rigid school schedules and freedom to choose educational topics and materials. Some students do not want to return to school campuses because of bullying, non-traditional learning styles that were not adapted, or other special circumstances that make physical attendance difficult.
Children are individuals with a wide range of interests, strengths, and challenges. They learn at different rates and have different responses to teaching methods. Schools try to accommodate the needs of every child, but there is a limit to the personalization that is possible in a typical classroom setting.
Families, on the other hand, can adapt home learning and instructional styles to allow children to work at their own pace. Parents can also add material and focus on topics that are not a priority for public school districts. Some children are more motivated to learn when they can make decisions and have some control over the curriculum.