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Some parents find home schooling is working well for their kids

The flexibility and lack of social stressors are proving a positive and even has some families pondering a post-coronavirus home-school future.

Seattle-area families have been in uncharted territory since March, when Gov. Jay Inslee called off school — at first for two weeks, gradually extending that until summer break.

Parents who haven’t seen math since they learned to carry the 1 bemoaned their fates on Facebook and Twitter during the uncertainty that ensued about how to keep school-age kids busy, often while working from home, and awaited word from schools that remote learning was ready to go so parents could abandon the need to adopt those overly ambitious candy-colored activity charts.

But I was curious. With all the complaints on social media of the sudden need for “home schooling” from Puget Sound parents, would any of them take to it? Would they all be day-drinking wine and suspending their “students,” as so many Facebook memes have joked? Or could this turn people on to an alternative model for schooling that might just work better for both the kid and the family?

A recent request this writer put out to members of a private Seattle-area Facebook group for parents looking for creative solutions to home learning drew some interesting responses:

“Oh heckkkk nope!!!!! I’m not made out for this!”

“Same. It’s my nightmare.”

[ More: In their own words: How Seattle-area parents are reacting to the shutdown of schools || When every day is Take Your Child to Work Day: How parents are coping || Why I ordered one of those “Proud Family of a Graduate” yard signs ]

But there was more than a handful of parents who saw that learning at home has been working out better for their children — and them — these past few weeks — and they are considering doing full-on home schooling once the quarantine period is over and traditional schools have reopened.

The parents were familiar with the concept of true home schooling (not just the strange quarantine version), including the many social connections and learning groups home-schoolers pursue outside the home. They realize that relaying a teacher’s assignments to children is not at all the same thing as what home-schoolers do.

What seems to have resonated with these parents and their children is the refreshing lack of social-environment stress, and especially the highly individualized attention a kid can receive in a very small, focused learning environment.

There were practical considerations at play, too. One DuPont parent’s teenage daughter is set on attending an arts-centered high school next year, and, while waiting to find out if that would happen, the mom, who is a teacher, realized that another option would be designing a learn-at-home curriculum with the help of a tutor and co-op groups.

Christi Glenn recounts thinking, “I don’t want your education to be that you’re resigned to go to a school that you are not going to be happy at — that’s not what you know what I want for you, for your future.” She intends to explore local co-op options further, as well as connecting with other parents of ballet kids who have taken alternative routes to high school education.

Good news came through, though: Her daughter got into the arts school.

Meg Hamner, a North Seattle mom of two boys, has seen her 8-year-old’s enthusiasm for school subjects expand and grow while being home the past few weeks, and sees this as a unique opportunity to tailor a curriculum also for her 5-year-old, who had been attending a special-education preschool program.

“I think honestly my older son has been thriving in a lot of ways, you know, more emotionally resilient,” said Hamner. “Less triggered.”

 She says she had already considered home-schooling before this, and she has been thankful to get curriculum help from her mother-in-law, who is an experienced preschool teacher. For both kids, she has been enjoying covering routine elementary topics, like starting the day with a calendar and days of the week, and incorporating fun, active elements like yoga and even riding scooters. She really relishes the chance to focus in more on her younger son’s pre-reading development, as well as creating a garden and using cooking to teach kitchen skills as well as fractions.

“If we did home-school next year and things were resolving with the pandemic,” said Hamner, “I would want to try to get into some home-school groups.”

Serena, a mom with students in the Snoqualmie Valley School District, says she home-schooled her eldest child seven years ago for a year, and now feels it would be the right choice for a younger child on the autism spectrum, as well as his sibling, with whom she says he’s quite close.

She’s also considering pursuing partial enrollment, in which her kids would be home-schooled for some subjects for part of the day. She has found that self-led science and writing have been working particularly well for her 15-year-old, who needs “classes that are small enough to help him to not check out, and work on topics that seem relevant to him.”

“That’s what I’m talking about — stress reduction and being able to function because of a low-stress environment and leveraging his interest to get him engaged in the work.”

Introductory information on home schooling can be found at washhomeschool.org

More learning resources:

Online activities from your favorite places and characters

The Playlist: All about home learning

Teacher-approved learning sites and home education ideas

About the Author

Jillian O'Connor

Jillian O’Connor is a longtime newspaper and magazine journalist. She lives in Seattle with her husband, two sons and a dog named after the Loch Ness Monster.