April 8, 2020
Parents who were not expecting to homeschool this year are experiencing an impromptu version during the coronavirus pandemic school closure.
“School at home” (for those who prefer a distinction from actual homeschooling) due to school closures has had a range of impacts on Utah families.
It’s difficult to compare experiences because everyone’s circumstances are so different: the number and personalities of children, employment and financial status, familiarity with homeschooling, and a host of other issues.
To get a closer look at how Utah parents are navigating this unique time, we conducted an informal 10-question survey of parents who are now schooling at home, for which we received nearly 30 responses. While the survey sample was not randomly drawn, the value of the survey was in gaining basic insights about schooling at home and finding what resources families can share.
Here are some key takeaways.
Describe how school at home is going for you.
Responses include, “Stressful and contentious!” “Crazy and fun!” “Lots of tears and frustration.” “Very strict routine is helping us!” “I mostly just supervise.” “It’s an amazing opportunity!” “Sitting and working on the laptop.” And “Surprisingly beneficial.”
What are the most common challenges?
Unexpected change – like doing school at home – comes with challenges (unsurprisingly). The top three common challenges with school at home are: students missing their friends, students and parents feeling out of touch with their teachers and school network, and trying to maintain the household structure – especially if both parents work or younger children need childcare.
What are some of the benefits?
Among the positive impacts attributed to the change, the most common was parents getting to spend more time with their children. Other benefits include letting students work at their own pace (typically the work being completed more quickly than at school), and teaching students responsibility for their own learning. One family mentioned that this was a test run for homeschooling since they’d thought about it in the past.
What resources are most helpful to you?
Parents have been using a number of resources to help them with school. These include Zoom.com for connecting with coworkers, Kahn Academy for concept explanations on a range of topics, Audible for audio books, youcubed.org and Zearn for math studies, Utah Compose for web-based writing help, Lexia for online reading tools, Google classroom for managing paperless assignments, iReady for assessments, and Brainpop for animated educational videos on a variety of subjects.
Additional resources to consider
Other resources brought to our attention outside of the survey include Headsprout, an online reading program for students in grades K-5; Code to Success, which is a free online coding class; and Hillsdale Online Courses for history content that can be used for students ready for secondary and college content.
Parents will continue to adapt and hopefully find solutions with time. For now, if you’re struggling, take heart. Many families just like yours are finding some great resources through this experience. If you can find the beneficial side-effects of schooling at home – even if you do not want to continue it when schools reopen – you may find in hindsight that the struggle of schooling at home created lasting benefits for your student’s education.
Caring for children and families in vulnerable situations is an undoubted public priority, and everyone willing to provide good-faith help is needed.
The year 2021 has started fast and furious in the political space. Rioting at the U.S. Capitol and the banning of our president from certain big tech platforms like Facebook and Twitter have continued the national discussion about speech and ideas.
Ensuring that Utah civics education is adequate will take a statewide commitment from more than just the Legislature (and it’s usually better when it comes from more local decisionmakers), and it will demand that we avoid simplistic solutions about teachers or schools simply needing to “do better.”