Homeschooling the New Normal in Loudoun?

by Elise Daniel

By trying to please everyone with their COVID-19 response plan, Loudoun County Public Schools are angering most parents.

When the LCPS school board voted last week to move forward with a hybrid model for schooling in the fall, it disappointed the majority of parents who voted to keep their children in school full-time. Frustrated parents are concerned their students will fall behind academically, miss out on the joy of sports and extracurriculars, and may be forced to wear face masks. They’re also stressed about juggling their full- time jobs while supervising their children’s Zoom sessions on distance learning days.

With so much uncertainty around how the school system will implement the CDC’s guidelines for schools, homeschooling suddenly seems like the best option for many Loudoun families. Home-based education offers the flexibility that families need during this time to fit their work schedules and unique health and educational needs.

Dissatisfied parents all across the U.S. are turning to homeschooling. Government websites are currently overwhelmed with the number of submissions of notices of intent to establish a home school. Senior Counsel for the Home School Legal Defense based in Purcellville, Michael P. Donnelly predicts 8.5 millions students will switch from traditional schooling to homeschooling in the fall. That means for every one child who is currently homeschooled, there will soon be five new homeschooled children. This could very well be the largest shift towards homeschooling our nation has seen in centuries.

Loudoun County is no exception to the national trend. Much of the homeschooling switchover conversation is taking place on private Facebook groups where parents are asking about local co-ops, curricula, and support from other parents who are also unexpectedly taking the homeschooling leap. Local homeschooling Facebook groups are rumored to have an exponential increase in requests to join. With so many parents now considering homeschooling, LCPS and public school systems across the nation should expect an exodus of students from their schools in the fall.

It shouldn’t be a surprise to the school board that interest in homeschooling is on the rise. Many of the learning and socialization benefits that take place in a traditional classroom setting are expected to simply disappear in the fall. For education, evidence shows online learning is not as effective as in-person and hands-on learning. Kids thrive in a homeschooling environment that gives them the opportunity to spend more time outside and learn in their own way, at their own speed. On the socialization front, students would not be permitted to sit near their friends on the bus, work at the same table for class projects, congregate closer than six feet in the halls during breaks, play sports, or dress up for the homecoming dance under the CDC’s guidelines.

But through homeschooling groups and voluntary co-ops, parents would be free to come together and make their own rules. If a group of families are comfortable getting together regularly for class, sports, and extracurriculars, they may have an opportunity to provide their children with a richer educational and social experience through homeschooling than the public school system this fall. And of course, families who prefer to self-isolate or only gather with others outside six feet apart for learning activities have that option as well. Parents value the customization and control of home-based education now more than ever.

Of course, homeschooling will not be an option for all families, especially those with both parents required to work outside the home. But even families with two working parents may find it easier to homeschool around their work schedule rather than the school’s distance learning schedule.

The good news for parents turning to homeschooling is that it will only get easier as popularity rises. Many states have already loosened their homeschooling requirements to accommodate the current COVID-19 situation. And with a surge in interest will come a surge in options: more co-ops, more and better curriculum, and more support from neighbors and friends who are all in it together.

Homeschooling has long been viewed as a privilege at best and a sure way to turn your kids into social outcasts at worst. But perhaps we should embrace the homeschooling revival of 2020. Home-based education has, after all, been the norm for nearly all of human history. And today, in a COVID-19 America, homeschooling offers families the flexibility that public schools do not.

For a “new normal,” maybe homeschooling isn’t so bad after all.

Elise Daniel is the Content Director at Bellwether Communications and mom of two boys in Purcellville.

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27 responses to “Homeschooling the New Normal in Loudoun?

  1. Good article and thank you and please consider doing more!

    What is the relationship between home schooling and remote education.

    The impression I get is that homeschooling actually uses remote education to get content that the parent may now fully have or know.

    Also – is there such a thing as homeschooling networks where kids can go to other parents in the network for tutoring?

  2. “By trying to please everyone with their COVID-19 response plan, Loudoun County Public Schools are angering most parents.”

    That’s because BigEd doesn’t care about parents … or students for that matter.

  3. My two sons were homeschooled through 12th grade. However, there were no online homeschool curricula back then. My wife and I were the teachers (except for Japanese lessons) – my wife was a high school English Teacher and I have multiple degrees. The biggest benefit was that our sons could move through the curriculum at their own pace (which was much faster than the regular school environment permitted).

    The results were gratifying. Both sons were admitted to William & Mary as James Monroe Scholars. The oldest has a PhD in Economics from UVA and the youngest has multiple Masters degrees. Home schooling done right takes quite a commitment from the parents, but is not inferior to a more traditional classroom environment.

    • sbostian – some questions:

      did both you and your wife work while you homeschooled?

      also – did your kids lack social interaction with other kids as is now being
      given as one of the reasons why we need schools to reopen?

      How about sports, music, and other extracurricular activities?

      How did they learn stuff you and your wife could not teach them?

      thanks!

  4. James Wyatt Whitehead V

    Good luck to you Ms. Elise Daniel! It takes a lot of guts to make the leap you are taking. Make reading comprehension a major focus of your home schooling adventure. It will unlock the doors to many other subject areas.

  5. I worked, sometimes 80 hours a week and heavy travel. Wife left her career to raise our sons. Social interaction took quite a bit of work on our part. We sought out other homeschool families, used church social activities and independent sports leagues for social interaction. Also, our sons had a much higher level of social interaction with adults (outside our families) than is the case for traditional school environments and it has served them well over the years.

    Fortunately, my wife and I were pretty well educated, with quite a bit of emphasis on 19th century traditional liberal arts and I had advanced degrees in scientific disciplines. Japanese was literally the only course we were unable to teach. For that we hired a Japanese tutor. Remember this was before online curricula like K12 and others.

  6. We had 64K modem access to the internet, so online education wasn’t feasible. We taught our sons to search the available content on the internet and I taught them some computer programming (Fortran & Basic). Otherwise everything was textbook based. I think homeschool is immensely easier now. In fact I am informally advising several young families about how to set up their own homeschooling environments.

    • seems like if hybrid is the option that many will be encouraged to figure out some sort of homeschooling for the days the kids are not at school.

      and homeschooling sounds a lot like mom/dad staying home now with the kid getting “remote” education. Mom/Dad can choose to be as involved as they want – or not.

      • Today, homeschool is mostly hybrid for most parents. There are so many robust online platforms like K12 and Connections Academy which are often free to Virginia families as well as other specialty platforms which cost up to $2500 per year that parents have a lot of flexibility about how to structure homeschool. Also, families no longer need to be limited by the parents’ educational background. However, for younger children, someone still needs to be home. I’m not sure if it is legal in Virginia, but in some states, groups of families share a lot of the supervisory responsibilities. However, parental engagement is a big part of what makes homeschooling work. In some school districts using emergency online education as many as 1/3 of students don’t log in on any given day.

        • Good answers. thank you.

          Would you care to give an opinion about what demographic is strongly encouraging the schools to open back up?

          It’s not the homeschoolers…
          and it does not sound like the economically disadvantaged.

          it does sound like the higher income/middle income folks, no?

  7. Larry,
    I’m not sure who is insistent on opening schools back up. My guess is that the pressure is from families who believe that their kids will receive better educations in a physical classroom setting. The reasons could be highly variable. I’m sure that some parents feel inadequate to oversee their child’s education – although I would dispute that proposition with 90% of parents. In some cases the parents might be unwilling to have their children educated at home (dual income families) and like the custodial aspect of public schools (glorified babysitting). Single parent families are at a great disadvantage for online eduction if the parent must work.

    Sorry about rambling, but I think the motives and family circumstances that create pressure to reopen the schools vary quite a bit. I suspect that many families either need or want the public schools to provide high end daycare services freeing parents for careers or other pursuits. My bias is that the pressure should come from parents whose children are educationally disadvantaged, regardless of the reason.

  8. This post is too pollyannaish. Homeschooling is not for the faint-hearted. My daughter has home-schooled her children since they were old enough to be in school (the oldest will be 17 in the fall. See my description of what is required in my comments to this post: https://www.baconsrebellion.com/wp/the-post-covid-world-more-home-schooling/

    It is one thing to start off home-schooling a four or six-year old. It is quite another to jump into homeschooling middle school or high school kids who have been used to regular school. It is one thing to begin home-school after you have had several months, at least, to think about it and prepare. It is quite another to say, in the first part of July, I think we will home school next year! And all those high middle class families in Loudoun who have both parents working, it is going to be quite a shock for one parent to stay home to school the kids.

    I am a firm supporter of homeschooling. My grandkids have thrived on it. But this post seems to say that it is easy and anyone can do it. If people think that, they are in for an unpleasant surprise.

  9. The two major detractions to homeschool that I see is the lack of a broad socialization and perpetuation of family bias. Yes, homeschool curriculum may include concepts and philosophies that are counter to those of the schooling parent, but it takes a lot of discipline to present it as a truly competing idea.

    It’s amazing how many people believe the ‘true god’ and religion is the same one their parents believed to be such.

    • Is your objection that the “John Dewey” educational philosophy is not reflected in most home schooling situations? That is certainly true. However, when you consider homeschooling in its historical context, figures such as Albert Einstein, Abraham Lincoln, Pearl S. Buck, Joseph Priestly, Booker T. Washington, and Andrew Carnegie were at least partly homeschooled. The lack of a strong Dewey educational philosophy did not seem to hold them back. Also, available research (at least research that I have been able to read) fails to support a conclusion that homeschool students are socially or intellectually impaired. I am open to modify my impressions if credible studies provide strong evidence of ill social or intellectual impact of homeschooling.

  10. Some totally homeschooled, others partially. Not my field of research and I will defer to others who can specify the percentage of education for each represented by homeschooling. If you count self-education, Lincoln was approximately 10%% and Einstein nearly 100% prior to the university. Andrew Carnegie entirely home and self educated. The others I am not sure of.

  11. We often hear about the “socialization” advantages of educating kids in schools. However, I frequently hear that home school students interact more with adults and less with their peers — and that might be a good thing. The traditional school system (whether public or private) creates an adolescent sub-culture in which peer pressure is incredibly powerful and often destructive. I have three kids. All three were, to varying degrees, made miserable in middle/high school by peer pressure. If we compared populations — home schoolers versus students in traditional schools — I wonder what the rates of anxiety, depression, substance abuse and suicide would be.

    • James Wyatt Whitehead V

      Mr. Bacon I can remember in my career a number of students who were homeschooled K to the 8th grade. They tended to be exceptional high school students. Those kids did have awkward social interactions with peers. But over the course of 4 years in high school they were able to overcome this by involvement in sports, marching band, drama, a job, and community service. Very well rounded, well mannered, focused, and highly successful in college.

    • I have only the one sample point, and she was admittedly in the TAG program 2 to 8, and AP from there, so… a biased sample at that.

      Her cohort was twice the size of mine in HS. While I had maybe 7 in the cohort, hers numbered closer to 16. Mine were strictly WASP and lower middle class, entirely male with only the odd girlfriend coming in and out. Product of the times.

      OTOH, her cohort consisted of 50-50 male/female, 1 Jew, 1 Mormon, 1 Hispanic 1st gen Mexican-American Catholic, 1 Evangelical, two black, one amazing gay, two white males. They have all remained in touch after 6 years. Product of.their time — Facebook.

      But to be fair to my generation, post segregation, pre-busing, I don’t think my school could have managed such a diverse group, and I suspect damned few homeschooled today ever will. A part of the homeschool motive is to avoid that level of diversity.

      Did she have peer problems? Yes. And she dealt with it. Did she develop biases and prejudices? Yes, but nothing like the baggage I, and I suspect most here, carried.

  12. James Wyatt Whitehead V

    A few weeks ago I suggested to the President of Randolph Macon Academy in Front Royal, VA that he ought to write to the Larry O’Connor Show on WMAL for a live interview on what private schools plan to do with opening schools in August. General David Wesley did appear yesterday on WMAL broadcast. I thought he gave some great insights and answered some tough questions. Below is the link. It is the 5th interview down on the list. About 6 minutes long.
    https://www.wmal.com/2020/07/08/national-security-adviser-robert-obrien-roger-stone-hugo-gurdon-horace-cooper-amber-smith-brigadier-general-david-wesley-usaf-retired-on-the-larry-oconnor-show-07-08-2020/

  13. In terms of socialization – especially peer-level socialization – that’s an important thing as kids grow into adults and then get a job and need to build and maintain relationships with peers – as well as older and younger.

    But again – going back to my original question – if folks agree that homeschooling is a valid or even a superior educational experience – then what is this narrative about kids having to be “back in school” and ” distance learning sucks”?

    I’d say that homeschoolers are “distance learning” whether it be paper books or educational software or online? As Sbositan relates, you do not need internet to be successful at remote learning.

    I’d ask if homeschooling can be so successful then what is all this uproar about with the proposed hybrid schooling models?

    Is it REALLY about kids and education or something else?

    again – the claim that “distance learning” has failed is just plain bogus – people have been doing this – successfully for quite a while. It may not be for everyone but it’s not – “not” feasible.

    • Having been a “full cycle” homeschool parent, I can say that it is not for every family even if the results are better than acceptable. Parental commitment is essential and it is hared to pull of without at least one parent in the home during the “school day”. There are probably many families for which it will not work.

  14. But you said something that intrigued me and that was a network of parents who homeschooled.

    And that may well include some generational families such that parents can share duties instead of one parent tied down 100% 24/7.

    That might even be made even better by some retired teachers or teachers who don’t want to be at the public or private schools yet.

    My point is that there are options already available other than the “open up schools 5-days a week right now or else we’re going to raise holy hell”.

    • Sure, that could work. But, for how many? As sbostian has said, a lot of parental commitment is needed. If you are talking about bringing in retired teachers, you are moving to a different model–tutors. If you are talking about a network of parents homeschooling, that borders on a private school. My grandkids attend a long-established home school coop one day a week. A large church allowed its building to be used. Even then, at least one parent from each attending family was expected to do something–teach a class, serve as an assistant teacher, coach a drama group, etc.

      • I’m illustrating a range of possibilities to cover the current hybrid school proposals which is not what is preferred but I might be all that is possible right now.

        Parents can band together and form church-based schooling for the home part of the hybrid approach.

        Yes, some tutors… perhaps some para-educators, perhaps some help in setting up computers… etc…

        Take some responsibility. Don’t expect others to provide all of what you want, especially if it may not be.

        For all the criticism here in BR of public schools, you’d think, this is the opportunity for folks to take a bigger role and responsibility in their kids education…

        I won’t even agree it’s not for everyone. What better than parents taking more responsibility for their kids than now?

        Too many of us are acting like spoiled brats who expect the govt to do everything even as they rail against it’s “failures” like “leftist indoctrination”, social justice, restorative justice, etc, etc.

        Time for folks to step up and do their part and who knows, it might turn out to be what they actually prefer longer term and let public schools deal with those other issues.

        Even the economically disadvantaged and educationally-deficient parents.. many of them do coalesce around neighborhood churches.

        We used to be a “roll-up-our-sleeves” and get it done type people… now we’re become a bunch of whiners and complainers.

        When you decide to have kids – you also are the “responsible party”.

  15. Good points. Parents and their networks of friends and extended family could creatively provide more than acceptable results compared to the public schools.

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