In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, many parents are wondering if homeschooling would be appropriate for their children. However, there are a number of families within the Monadnock region who have already been successfully been educating their children outside of the confines of the public school system.
For Kathryn Chase of Chesterfield, homeschooling was a natural progression for her young family.
“I was homeschooled as a child from first grade through sixth grade and I really enjoyed the freedom that I got over my friends who were in school all day,” she said. “I already had a positive experience with it, so I was very open to the idea when I had children. There are many reasons why I decided to home school but a lot of it had to do with my oldest being very advanced from a very young age. She actually learned to read before 4 years old. She loved to learn so I had to come up with all kinds of things to keep her mind busy, so it was pretty organic to start homeschooling.”
For other families in the region, homeschooling was in response to their children’s needs. Sheri Hudson of Spofford has been homeschooling her son for over two years now.
“It had been on my mind for several years, but when I was laid off from work, it was the perfect time to begin,” she said.
Previously, her son had suffered from anxiety and felt as though he was being bullied due to his tics. Hudson has found that the flexibility to learn at his own pace has been beneficial and confidence boosting for her son.
“We enjoy homeschooling because it allows us to build a curriculum which interests my son,” he said. “I especially like that we are able to spend more time focusing on our morals and beliefs.”
In fact, many homeschooling families find the ability to create their own curriculum or purchase a pre-made plan helps their children to become more engaged and excited about the materials. Although there is still a number of required subjects and state-mandated standards that must be achieved, there is a considerable amount of leeway as to how and when the material will be presented.
“I love that our schedule is our own,” Chase said. “If we had a rough night or morning, we can choose to do schoolwork later in the day, or if we are really on task, we are done with schoolwork mid-day and have the rest of the day to learn through life.”
One of the fun parts about homeschooling is that, well, it doesn’t need to be done at home at all! “I love that when we want to go away, we can take our learning on the road and not miss a beat,” Chase said.
Because the children are not confined to the classroom, lessons can be taught in their real-world applications. Common examples include learning fractions while cooking, discussing scientific principles while hiking and enjoying the great outdoors, or organically working on spelling when creating the family grocery list. Homeschooling allows the family to turn traditional education upside down and explore topics in new and innovative ways.
However, it is not always up to the parents to come up with these imaginative ideas on their own. The home school community, both online and within the Monadnock region, has a tendency to share ideas and discuss what has (and sometimes hasn’t) worked in their experience. Additionally, there are a large number of time-tested programs and curriculums available to guardians, often in a paid capacity, to provide the home school educators with the tools they need to successfully teach their children and provide a positive learning experience.
While there are many benefits of homeschooling, there is also a considerable amount of work that must be done to prove educational competence. Parent/guardian educators are required to keep reading logs and portfolios, while also having their child evaluated by the agency responsible for their education (typically the local school system or the Department of Education). Types of educational evaluation can include the statewide standardized testing, private progress evaluations by a certified teacher, or a portfolio of work samples that demonstrates academic progression.
In addition to learning academic material, homeschooling educators are tasked with teaching proper social interactions. Chase noted, “One of the most frequently asked questions about homeschooling is ‘How do you manage the social needs of your kids?’ This question gets asked way too much from those outside of the home school community.”
Her daughters are involved in numerous after-school activities and they have friends they play with within the community (in-person prior to the pandemic). With faith and religion being at the core of the family’s parenting philosophy, Hudson makes church a consistent piece of their weekly routine; her son is an active member of the young group so he can connect with like-minded families.
“The thing is, my children go everywhere with me — to the store, to meetings, to visiting with friends — and they learn how to socialize with people of all ages instead of just their own peers,” Chase said. “They learn to say hello and make eye contact with adults and to be strong people in their community. In my opinion, I think that homeschooled [kids] have the opportunity to become more socially well-rounded by being in the community instead of always in a classroom.”
For the families that choose to home school, it can be a life-changing experience. By creating a customized educational program and focusing on the individual needs of their children, parents, guardians and homeschooling educator can help them take an active role in their learning process.
“I love that I can be there for my children to help them through tough moments and life lessons,” Chase said. “My children are thriving academically, emotionally and socially.”