The COVID-19 pandemic has many parents considering a temporary or permanent switch to alternative schooling (online, homeschool, private, and charter schools) as ever-shifting circumstances present new challenges for parents who are often themselves adapting to new situations, such as teleworking.
Schools may be subject to opening and closing, in response to increases or decreases in virus numbers, putting students of traditional brick-and-mortar schools into a state of uncertainty. All schooling options are likely relying heavily on technology.
Parents are left with figuring out how to supervise their children’s education, whether that is hiring a nanny hiring a tutor, or looking into different schooling options outside of the public school, such as a private or online school.
Parents who consider alternative schooling options have several things to consider in making their choice.
Identify Your Student’s Academic Needs
- Focus on your student’s goals, whether they involve reaching the next grade, graduating, or progressing to higher education. Request information from schools of interest so that you can compare their programs.
- The age and ability of your student may also impact your choice.
- Younger students may require a higher degree of adult supervision and guidance. Advanced students or special needs students require more academic support, so smaller environments may be more attractive.
- Older pupils will be more capable of scheduling their time, which may make larger or less-structured settings, online or home schooling a more viable option. Scheduled lectures can build in more structure to the day.
- Consider potential college needs for high school students. Even as freshmen, it is critical to make sure their future educational goals can be met. Some colleges require certain courses or exams. Ask what programs and faculty members a school has available to assist in the application, essay writing, and standardized test prep processes. Legitimate online degree programs are accredited by agencies recognized by either the Department of Education or the nonprofit Council for Higher Education Accreditation, known as CHEA.
- Counseling staff is important as well. Resources to help keep mental health in check is valuable to overall development. Resources are available through the S. Department of State website and the U.S. Department of education on setting up a homeschool environment.
- Transition back to local school Find out if your online, private, or home school program will provide the tools to help your student transition back to a local school when the time comes.
Think about activities
- Social Interaction: many methods of instruction during this time rely heavily on technologies to deliver learning material. In-person schools will provide more face-to-face interaction with peers, whereas home or online schooling will likely rely on virtual experiences. It is up to you and your student to decide what type of community and environment would help develop their social skills best, while maintaining a comfortable level of safety protocols.
- Collaboration between students learning at home often takes place over video conference and online chat platforms. USA Today published tips to help parents prepare for online learning.
- Electives: Traditionally, homeschooled students often have attended elective classes and field trips in-person, along with programs held through local or regional homeschool groups. Check with home school or youth groups in your area to see if they are conducting any programs or accepting of new attendees.
- Creativity: Balancing your personal and work life with the kids’ learning time can get messy. Many parents are incorporating household tasks (gardening, cleaning, cooking, etc.) with reading, games, and virtual experiences, including karate and ballet classes now held online.
Recognize Your Own Needs as a Parent
- Time: Parents are often now expected to step up their involvement in the learning experience. Consider how much time you can commit outside of your own work and mental health routine. Finding the balance is key to providing your child a quality education.
- School support: If you need it, look for schools that have a parents’ network that will provide general support and advice.
- Outside support: Some parents have been exploring options such as hiring nannies, working part-time, or taking on help from tutors to help alleviate the workload and stress.
Consider Your Wallet
The ultimate headache: budgeting. It’s important to keep the amount of money that you are willing to spend in your sights, especially given the widespread financial hardship caused by coronavirus.
Public and charter schools are often tuition-free and offer reduced price or free lunches for those who qualify. Some schools that are online-only, for the time being, are still providing lunches for students; check with your local school district.
Online public instruction costs can vary, but many of them are free aside from enrollment and technology fees. Factoring in sacrifices to work scheduling may impact your budget capacity.
Homeschooling costs can vary. You are typically responsible for finding your own books and materials, including paying for courses. The Home School Legal Defense Association released an article that provides some tips on attaining a budget home school curriculum.
Private schools may be the most expensive of your options, though some schools partner with states and districts in order to assist families in covering tuition and associated costs.
BBB released school supply purchasing tips in response to changes in methods of instruction. More families are now feeling the need to invest in personal devices so that their children can work independently. Many virtual programs will provide high speed internet, computers, and printers as needed. Be sure to not only check what each program you consider includes, and also inquire about tech support provisions.
How Do I Find One of These Programs?
BBB provides BBB Accreditation for several categories of businesses that help assure you that you will be doing business with an ethical and trustworthy company. Find Online Education, Private School, and Home Schooling Materials.
Public and charter schools (both online and in-person) can be found by looking up your local school district. Especially if you are looking into online, charter, or private schooling, ask about teacher qualifications, as certification is not technically required. This will help filter for quality schools.
Online reviews may also be of some help in getting a better idea of what previous families have experienced. Further, National Standards for Quality Online Learning tracks online schools’ satisfaction surveys, report cards, financial reports, and retention rates.
Do Your Research and Choose Your School Wisely
After accounting for the needs of you, your student, and your budget during the pandemic, make sure to keep these following questions in mind:
- What types of degrees, training, and certification do the educators hold?
- What kind of academic support is offered? Does this include counseling, mentoring, tutoring, technical assistance, etc.?
- What technologies are used?
- How does teacher/student interaction occur?
- How is online and offline instruction divided?
- What types of social activities are going to be held? How often? How will online clubs and events work?
- How does the school develop its curriculum?
- How are courses evaluated?
- Are AP courses available? Honors? Other college preparatory classes?
- Is college advisement and counseling available?
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