I used the COVID-19 situation to investigate homeschooling options. To be honest, I was afraid. I was unsure if we could do this, and it was a giant step in an unknown direction. While various members of my family had also jumped into homeschooling 15 years ago or more, times had changed and the thought of trying it now was very uncertain.
Luckily I persisted, and the results were amazing. Before getting into the hurdles, I’d like to talk about the results. Within 2 months (during summer break, where I tried out a homeschool system with my 8 year old son), my son went from ending 2nd grade, to completing 3rd grade math and language arts with an A average. Less than 2 months! He’s now taking 4th grade math and language, and at his current rate will excel beyond that within a few more months.
These results are fantastic and it’s not because I’m some task master. I’m not. All I require from my son is 4 hours a day of school work, 5 days a week. He gets his own free time, he gets to enjoy is day, but for 4 hours he has to learn.
Hurdles and Fears
There are many hurdles and fears to homeschooling:
- “What if I don’t know the curriculum, how can I teach my kid?”
- “What if my child won’t listen to me?”
- “What will he lose in terms of social interaction?”
What if I can’t teach the subject…
Consider that your child’s teacher has the same problem! I remember my own childhood public school, when my history class was taught by the school gym teacher.
What matters is the curriculum, and you, the parent can learn WITH your child. Curriculum is key.
What if my child won’t listen to me…
You have to be tough, enforce learning and rules, but you also have to be a positive influence, keeping your kids inspired. It’s a delicate balance. For some families a child won’t listen to the parents, and if that’s the case you may struggle with homeschooling.
In my case, I had an honest conversation with my son. He knew about COVID-19 and I asked him if he felt comfortable going back to school. He said he wasn’t comfortable to go back. Maybe he wanted to do school from home, and bypass public school, or maybe he honest was concerned. Either way, I laid down the rules. If he wanted to be homeschooled, he had to know what was in store. This wasn’t going to be easier than public school. In fact we would have to do more than public school, because people will expect us to fail. He would have to be self-motivated and not give up at the first sign of a hurdle. We then spent the summer of 2020 (from mid June to now) trying out homeschool.
Knowing the stakes, he complied. He became the model student. There are tough days where he struggles with school, but for the most part he really puts in his all and gets it done. Be honest with kids. If homeschool fails, they go back to public school. For my son, that’s enough motivation to do well.
This is an honest problem. Your kid will lose some social interaction. Even if you are invested in a religious organization, or social organization to fill in the gap, your kid won’t learn the same lessons they will on a playground. Usually social organizations have people on their best behavior. Children learn a lot of complex social interaction at school. They learn about other kids who manipulate, or are toxic.
There is a certain naiveté that can result from isolating outside of a school setting. One family member of mine was homeschooled until he went to college. His parents were very closed minded and forbid him from learning about other religions or cultures. As a result, he had a complete shock when he saw Buddhist monks for the first time, “why are these men wearing long dresses?” He was in his mid twenties when he asked me that. I was shocked. How did he not know what a Buddhist monk was? Not only that, he seemed very naive about the motivations of others.
While your kids will lose the physical playground experience, they go through a similar experience with online playgrounds. Granted these can be very hazardous, and requires parent oversight. When a kid plays games like Roblox, Fortnite and others, they interact with other kids. Some of these kids are bullies, some are angry, some are nice. They learn some of the same lessons they would get on a physical playground.
As a parent you can also teach your kids to not be naive. To understand that many people will attempt to manipulate them, and how they can handle such situations.
Success will come with a good curriculum. I was surprised how hard it was to find online curriculum for grade school. Khan Academy is a great resource, but their grade specific content ends with Math. Science, Social Science, none of that is grade specific. While Khan can be used for specific coursework (like math), you’ll have to find something else to fill in the gaps with language, science, social science, etc.
I tried all the big names online schools. The vast majority, although they advertised that they are a replacement for public school, had no actual curriculum! They were simply worksheets! When I asked the IXL staff, where their training was, they honestly explained they had none. This was “supplemental.” In other words, the child is expected to learn from a tutor, a school or some other program and use IXL for practice.
I found two online curriculums that actually teach kids. The first is MiAcademy.co. They are a great site/service that offers full teaching/training through video lectures. Kids then practice what they learned through an automated system of questions/answers and they can take tests afterwards.
What I like
MiAcademy has a great practice system. As a child practices a section (i.e. “The use of commas”), they have to get a specific amount right to move up in the practice levels (which range from nothing to diamond). After they complete diamond, they are done. Any failures in a level, pushes them back. They keep repeating problems until they get it.
You can schedule curriculum for certain days: Division 1 on Monday, Division 2 on Wednesday, Comma I on Tuesday, and Comma II on Thursday.
Their reporting system is great. You get a view of the scores of your kids work in a nice, neat report.
The cost is reasonable.
What I don’t like
Their system is multiple choice. Kids can guess at the answer. This is fine for social science or language, where they may memorize the result, but for a math problem, like Division, they need to know the process. That’s why I love Aleks for Math, and MiAcademy for everything else.
Aleks is a Math specific online curriculum. There are no videos here, and it’s heavy to reading about math, but it works amazingly well. Unlike other systems, they don’t use multiple choice. The Aleks system is smart enough to understand inputed values, even fractions. A child has to know the right answer, and input it. Aleks verifies that inputed answer.
Some Aleks questions even teach the process. Distributive multiplication can have multiple step answers. They have a first step, you fill in the spots for the first step, then the second step and finally calculate the answer. All is validated.
Aleks also has a great explanation system. It can explain every problem they give a student, step by step.
Aleks, however, is math only. Keep that in mind. It costs $50 per quarter (3 months).
Homeschooling affords a parent the ability to insert other special training. It can be coding, another language, building electronics, etc.
My son shows an interest in Japanese, so I started having him learn about Japanese culture. For that I hand picked some videos online, and some sections of books. I also found a curriculum for studying the language.
Managing Your Kid’s Time
My son is very tech savvy. Even though he’s only 8 years old, he can navigate websites easily. As such, I manage him using an online team management tool called ClickUp.com
ClickUp is like Monday or Asana. They only difference is that ClickUp is free for personal use. With ClickUp, I add tasks into a bucket. Then when I want to assign it to my son, I add it to his “current task” bucket. He sees the tasks due for that day, and works on them. When complete, he lets me know and I move the task to the “completed” bucket.
I’m a big fan of Evernnote.com. I’ve got my son using that on his Chromebook, my wife using it for college and I’m using it for my own learning projects.
Every note a person types is stored in the Evernote Cloud. These notes can be image, websites, text typed or text written. Evernote AI can pull text out of user submitted images, or even hand written notes.
Notes can be tagged, shared or embedded easily.