Homeschooling, Learning Pods & COVID-19

by Andy Akhigbe

Introduction
In the year the Coronavirus virus struck, many parents were faced with a major decision aside from being infected by the virus – how their children can continue taking classes after schools have been shut down? In the last one year, census reports about homeschooling show a doubling of homeschooling activities across the globe.

Initially, the transition to online classes was abrupt and ad-hoc. Many schools and teachers were unprepared and as such there was so much confusion as to what works best for each school. Many schools were being thrust into the fray of online and distance learning for the first time and as such many of the things that they took for granted before now had to be looked at with fresh eyes and new thinking.

Education which has relatively been a stable enterprise and hasn’t witnessed any major disruption for over 100 years had to be so jolted that schools had to be shuttered for over 6 months in the minimal of cases and for over 1 year in the most extreme of cases presenting new challenges never before imagined rather than experienced by parents and educational practitioners and governments across the world.

What’s Homeschooling and Learning Pods
Under Homeschooling, parents elect to take the education of their children into their hands and away from private or government schools. Homeschooling is different from remote learning where teachers deliver the school curriculum to students at home as was experienced during the last pandemic.

Learning Pods, an offshoot of the homeschooling system, is an innovative parent-led homeschooling initiative where families gather together and pool their resources to create a homeschooling experience for their children with the goal of hiring a teacher or teachers in diverse subjects to take over the role of teaching their children.

Parents share the total cost per family and it is cost effective. According to the Foundation For Economic Education, homeschool Learning Pods have arisen as a response to a massive change that has been fostered by the pandemic and learning pods are the “ideal example of spontaneous, decentralized, free-market education solutions that meet current demand.” With Learning Pods, people identify a need and essentially agree to come together in a process that involves voluntary association to exchange ideas so as to provide value that benefits everyone involved in the arrangement.

The other unintended consequence of the pandemic is that many public and private school teachers are being encouraged to join Learning Pods. The pay is better and parents pool their resources together to pay teachers with additional perks to make the teaching experience better than what teachers experience in private and public school settings.

Why Homeschool?
Some Parent Homeschool for Social or Religious Reasons
Some religions encourage the homeschooling of their children with parents working hard to ensure that their children imbibe their strong religious beliefs.

Social factors like racism, bullying and special education needs that are not matched by the traditional school support systems can also force parents to homeschool their children. In both religious and social circumstances, the need to homeschool children stem from having control over the education of children that may not be completely possible with traditional schools.

Homeschools provide a unique opportunity to do stuff that aren’t possible in a large class gatherings. Take for instance the new trend of having children learn outside. Most homeschools can provide children a learning environment that enables the child to interact with nature and also engage in activities like farming and animal husbandry if well incorporated by the family.

Are there Prerequisites for Homeschooling?
Planning
To succeed with homeschooling, parents need to plan and provide the resources and environment to facilitate learning for their children.
Planning will involve providing the academic space to learn and to create a typical classroom with supplies. There would be a strict regime involving lesson plans and recess and the ambience that enables the child to learn maximally.

Are there Homeschooling Regulations?
Parents should ensure that they abide by all homeschooling laws by the local government and the States in which they operate.

After Homeschooling, What’s Next?
You’re Not Alone
There are many people thinking of homeschooling their children who aren’t sure about how to go about it. Never work alone. Seek out other parents homeschooling, or who have taken that step before you and share in their experience. Keep learning. Homeschooling can be difficult and challenging to pull through.

Be Conscious of Impact on Mental Health
Homeschooling can also impact the mental health of parents. Most homeschools are led by mothers. With the challenge of raising kids being added to teaching them can challenge mothers and worsen mental health issues. Many mothers have had to leave their jobs during the pandemic to also homeschool their children. With the added pressure of not making money as they used to, mental health issue can creep in with the pressure of teaching and raising their children.

Dealing with the challenge of Limited Resources
Homeschooling presents its own unique challenge of limited resources because many parents cannot provide every single resource needed to achieve the best school experience at home. For instance, most parents can’t provide STEM education at home. They would lack the resources or even the expertise to teach STEM subjects because of the special skills and resources required.

Finally, according to the World Economic Forum, Covid-19 has highlighted the existing inequalities relating to race and household income for those being homeschooled.

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