Homeschooling or Doing School from Home: What’s the Difference?

This past year has been unlike any other. The ways we work, play, and learn have been profoundly impacted. There will be lasting changes in how we view all aspects of life, not the least of which is how we think about education.

What is Homeschooling? What most kids have been doing this year is school from home which is different from homeschooling

There has been much debate about if, when, and how to return to school. Pundits on talk shows bemoan the negative impacts of “homeschooling” and parents on social media are discussing how to balance work and “homeschooling.” But really what most kids have been doing this year is school from home which is different from homeschooling. So, what’s the difference?

What is Homeschooling?

Homeschooling is a development that began in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. People with various ideologies founded the movement and after years of legal battles throughout the 1980’s and 1990’s, educating your school aged child (5 years to 17 years) at home was legalized in the United States. Homeschooling became much easier as technology advanced and as of 2019, there were an estimated 2.5 million homeschooled students.

Traditional homeschool families use a variety of methods to educate their children. Families can use curricula that are much like what students would learn in a traditional school setting where there is time for math, science, reading, social studies, and so on. Some families prefer to do unit studies where students learn the typical subjects such as reading or math by delving into a larger topic like robotics or Greek mythology. Others take a “learn by doing” approach sometimes called child centered learning. Families using this method learn about what is interesting to the child in a less structured way. Different states vary in their approach to tracking progress, however there is accountability to ensure the children are progressing and learning.

School at Home

Last spring schools were shuttered and traditional or “brick and mortar” schools had to find ways to deliver learning to their students remotely. This was a truly unprecedented situation. It would be like asking an online school to develop cafeteria menus and bus schedules but have only two weeks to do it. There were a lot of bumps in the road.

So, teachers who had perhaps never had any experience with online learning were forced to adapt. Their results have been mixed. Some families like having more influence over what is happening with their kids’ education, where others struggle. Online learning at home is not for every child just like attending a brick and mortar school is not for every child.

What is Homeschooling? THe past year has been a mix of online and in person learning.

However, it’s important to understand that what our kids have been doing the past year is not homeschooling. It has been a mix of online and in-person learning where brick-and-mortar schools and parents are trying to figure it out as we go along. It’s not always possible to deliver the same type of education in an online setting as what students would receive in a typical classroom. Yet brick and mortar schools are still trying to adhere to their set curricula —  just with different delivery methods. While a child might willingly do a worksheet of math problems in a classroom because the other 20 students are working on the same page, doing that same worksheet might be nearly impossible to do at home especially if you have other children working on different types of assignments.

Most homeschooling families make the decision to homeschool as a family and adjust parents’ work schedules and resources accordingly. With the pandemic, however, parents have been expected to take on the role of teacher whether they wanted to or not. Understandably, this has led to a lot of frustration.

Why Would Parents Homeschool?

It seems hard to believe to some struggling parents that there are families that would choose to do this. The answers to why families homeschool are as varied as the families you would ask. Some like the freedom and flexibility of not being tied to a school schedule daily and yearly. They like to be able to do school in their time frame which means they can go to the museum on a Tuesday afternoon or go on a beach vacation in September. Some like the time they spend with their kids. If you’re a parent, you know that kids grow up very fast and many parents cherish the time to be with their kids as they learn. Some have religious reasons. While there are many secular homeschoolers, there are also many homeschool families who are religious and want to have more influence over what their kids are learning. Some families see that brick and mortar schools don’t offer a place where their child can be successful. Not every child is cut out to sit still in a classroom for several hours a day five days a week. Some kids are student athletes or performers who need the flexibility. They may have try-outs, games, auditions, or performances that interfere with a traditional school day. These students want to pursue opportunities in areas where their talents lie. Some students have health issues and are not able to be in a classroom setting all day. Some families choose a mix of educational styles depending on the needs of each of their children.

What is Homeschooling? Sometimes One Size does not fit all when it comes to homeschooling.

One Size Does Not Fit All

What has happened this year is indeed unprecedented. Everyone is doing the best they can, but the online learning style isn’t for everyone. This of course demonstrates the flaw that homeschooling advocates point out in the traditional school system – there is no “one size fits all” for learning. While some children thrive in a classroom setting with 25 other kids for six or seven hours a day, other children find that environment distracting or overwhelming. While some kids like being around other kids and teachers, other kids need some downtime from all the interaction. Some kids like the topics covered in school, whereas other kids would rather learn to read by looking at comic books or learn math skills by budgeting for a lemonade stand.

There are also some important things to learn that are often left out of education. At HAPPÉ Life, we offer programs that teach concepts that aren’t typically covered in either homeschool curricula or brick-and-mortar settings. We are interested in helping kids and families develop tools that will help them succeed in all areas of life. Skills like developing self-awareness and forming healthy relationships are essential to being a happy, successful person. The Mission I’m Possible series is an opportunity for your family to go out into the world and learn how to do these things. If you’re interested, you can sign up for free here.

We all want what’s best for our kids especially when it comes to education. Different kids learn in different ways and hopefully as the pandemic subsides, our kids and families will have more opportunities to do what works best for them. That could be a return to their alma mater full time or being educated in a less traditional way. We should commend parents, teachers, and advocates of all kinds for the great job they’ve done this year navigating an ever-changing educational landscape. 

At H-A-P-P-Ē.Life we have created programs to support the continuous development of your psychological health and well-being.  We are dedicated to helping you navigate life more fully and successfully through fun programs aimed at you and your child’s social, emotional, and mental health. The Mission I’m Possible series contains short videos designed to teach kids lessons about self-awareness and relationship development. They are enjoyable activities you can do together as a family that impart valuable skills. To sign up for the Mission I’m Possible series at no charge, click here: https://happe.life/mission-im-possible/