Who would have guessed that when schools shut down this past March, they would be shut for the remainder of the school year? Fast forward several months, and most are not re-opening in-person this fall. Administrators and teachers are doing their best to provide a safe and nurturing environment for the children amidst a pandemic which will keep most students learning remotely. But what about parents? Other than maintaining a sense of humor, what are some of the considerations as the new school year begins?
For most families, this means schooling at home. The children remain enrolled at their current school. Parents are receiving guidance from their county district, school, and teachers. Students receive materials and take lessons online with their teachers.
Are you homeschooling? Technically, no. Your child’s school or district is responsible for providing the curricula, teaching, and record keeping. Most Maryland school districts are still providing meals for eligible students, and devices for children who need them.
One of the most challenging aspects for many families is space for each child to attend class and complete assignments. It is helpful for each child to have a designated “school space.” It does not need to be set up like a classroom, and it might have to be transitioned into the meal room in the evening, but having a special space, equipped with necessary supplies, will help your child maintain focus and a sense of normalcy. A private area might be unachievable, but a simple partition made of three taped file folders could create a similar feel. There are many other tips on time and family management as well as emotional wellbeing in my earlier article.
However, one of the greatest needs right now is grace – for yourself, for your children, and for your children’s teachers and school. COVID has added unanticipated challenges requiring adaptation from all.
What is homeschooling then and how is it different? Homeschooling means the child has been unenrolled from school. Many parents are making the choice to homeschool their children, but there are many important factors to consider:
- Notification – Families must notify their child’s school at least 15 days before switching to homeschooling.
- Responsibility – According to Maryland law, parents must “provide regular, thorough instruction in the studies usually taught in the public schools to children of the same age.” This does not mean you need to use the same materials. There are myriad curricula options for purchase.
- Finances – Switching to homeschooling means the family becomes responsible for all costs, including books and materials, software, and more. Usually, children can no longer participate in school activities or receive school related services such as lunch services.
- Organization – Families must maintain a portfolio of their child’s work, submit to an annual review by either the school system or an approved homeschool umbrella program, record grades, and issue graduation diplomas.
What steps should families take who are considering the option of homeschooling?
- First is to read the code of Maryland as it pertains to homeschooling. It is not long, and it describes the state’s and the parent’s responsibilities.
- Second is to research the pros and cons. A helpful resource is the Maryland Homeschool Association (MDHSA).
- Finally, connect with experienced families. They can answer questions about curriculum, socialization, and much more. MDHSA provides a listing of local groups and resources.