Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Homeschooling, a la carte

Scholastic.com's Administrator magazine ran an article recently called "The Homeschool Twist." Aimed at principals and district leaders, the article encourages them to consider partial homeschooling for gifted students whose needs can't be met fully during the regular school day. The idea is that a child can take some courses at school (language, art, music, PE, electives, or any subject where the regular classwork will suffice) and then others elsewhere. Perhaps this is at home via online courses. Perhaps this is at home via tutors, or the parents, or perhaps it's through a local college.

There are all sorts of ways to structure such a program. My favorite example in the piece is a school district that lets high schoolers enrolled in online AP classes miss the first hour of the school day. You can take the class whenever you want (so 9pm works, too) but you get to sleep in! Not a bad deal.

As the article notes, "With partial homeschooling, gifted students still have access to other children and activities and parents can work or have personal time without paying for child care. Students can take advantage of master classes in a talent area, and spend time on individualized study or hands-on learning." This is getting at one of the main obstacles to homeschooling -- namely, that many parents need the school day as a form of childcare while they work (though we've written here about homeschooling and working).

Anyway, I'm a big fan of the school day being less set. Some districts -- and some parents -- view the school vs. homeschool issue as black and white. You're either all in or you're all out. If you're all out, there's no participation in anything -- which some parents, who might be homeschooling for philosophical or religious reasons, might be fine with. But if you're homeschooling for more practical reasons, then an a la carte approach to school has a lot going for it.

Frankly, there's no reason to limit this a la carte school choice to gifted students. Perhaps another child might want to take his core classes during the morning and run a business during the afternoon. Someone else might want to do a morning internship and take classes in the afternoon. As school changes, and as methods of content delivery evolve, there's no reason to have school mean what it has in the past. One can envision a system where schools are reimbursed per course, and if students take an online course while in the school building, the school could be partially reimbursed as "rent" for providing the computer, the broadband, and supervising adults.

Have you tried partial homeschooling? Is your district or school for it or against it?

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

It is illegal in my state. Homeschoolers cannot participate in anyway in public school--except standardized testing.

But, it's so very needed. Kids who are asynchronous so much that they simply cannot deal with the academics can still benefit from the school environment. We have inclusion for the disabled, and we need it for our kids on the far end of the spectrum the other way too.

Our solution has been to do some school and some homeschooling--a year here and a year there. Once in school things are friendly, but getting in is full of obstacles and biases against homeschoolers as if we have rejected and insulted the school system.

Last year, we did high school level work in homeschooling. This year, it's middle school work at school. The teachers do their best and advocate for changes, but the system can be rigid when it comes to dotting those core curriculum i's

Jeremy said...

In our district, they offer a hybrid option starting in high school (9th grade) -- if it was available for all ages, all three of our kids would be doing that. Last year, we homeschooled them, this year they're all in school. Because they're gifted, they have IEPs which might give us some leeway to be more creative with their programs, but we haven't been willing to push it...as a result, the oldest one is disengaged and bored. There are parts of school she enjoys, but the constant waiting and unchallenging coursework really wear her down.

Karen from Winter Park said...

My kids are homeschooled (first and second graders) and attend their regular public school once a week. This is the day of the week that their grade level has gifted, so my daughter goes on Thursdays and my son on Fridays. They spend the entire day in the gifted classroom. Here in Florida, we also have Florida Virtual School. During high school, they are even thinking of making it mandatory to take at least one class from the virtual school. Homeschoolers can either take a la carte whichever classes they want to take (starting in middle school) or be entirely enrolled in virtual/regular high school. Any combination works - some classes in the classroom and some online, all online, or just one class online. They can also take some classes during the summer - not just remedial.

Gary Franczyk said...

I think if you title it "The Tim Tebow model", you are likely to get people to understand what you are talking about more quickly, and more likely to get them to buy into it.

Tim Tebow joined the public school students to play football and went onto (arguably) great things. What you are describing is the same thing, except for academic and artistic classes.

juliaann108 said...

We homeschooled last year (first grade) and were allowed to participate in "specials" only. Art, gym, cultures... He's back in public school full-time, but I truly wish we had more options. Our school doesn't have a gifted program, though they do their best with my son, but we would jump at the chance for a hybrid if the opportunity presented itself. Our governor is supportive of more innovative schooling options, but we've yet to see any big changes. Great post.

Nother Barb said...

I don't see how this would work money-wise. You mentioned schools being reimbursed for a course. Who is reimbursing? The parents, who typically pay for anything the school doesn't provide? Why should the school be reimbursed? Should it not be part of a free public education?

I can see issues with control. For example, how to handle parents asking for online classes to keep their child out of an unliked-teacher's class. Or there could be a lack of coordination when schools use an interdisciplinary approach. I can also imagine schools dropping courses within the buildings, telling parents the kids can do it online. It's a great idea, but definitely needs some policies in place. I know we have had students take online courses in the school building, but it is in addition to their other classes, not in place of. And I know of students who homeschool part of the day and also attended school, especially for science and fine arts in high school. I don't know how they worked the school fees. When my son was auditioning for a professional theater, we talked with the school about how his academic schedule might be handled. The response was terrific: they would work it out, do it all the time with high-level athletes and performers, for example. He didn't get the part, but it was good to know the school is supportive. I wish I'd thought of pursuing small online math classes for our younger son and a couple of his classmates when they were in elementary school. He didn't want to do it by himself.

As an aside, this quote at the end of the Scholastic article struck me oddly: 'If they're fully removed from school, "bright students will miss out on knowing what ‘real people' are like. We want our future policymakers to be grounded in real life without having to sacrifice their own high abilities and talents." ' My kids go to school, but their homeschooled friends are just as "grounded in real life" and certainly know plenty of "real people".

Anonymous said...

Nother Barb, I completely agree with you on homeschoolers being very grounded. Homeschoolers interact with more "real people" than students stuck inside a school all day long. What is so real about being in a room all day with the same 20 kids of exactly the same age? My kids interact with librarians, store owners, and all kinds of adults and kids of all ages and walks of life. They experience more "real" life than those who spend 30 hours a week stuck in a single room staring at the same walls for 180 days out of the year.

Anonymous said...

As far as I know, our district is one or the other but not mixed. Thanks for the info. A flexible approach makes sense. We evaluate needs year to year. So far, our family has used parochial, public cyber and public schools.

Joe Prett said...

I wouldn't be able to homeschool our gifted daughter. I would spend most of the day discussing why she cannot watch tv, play computer games, use the Ipad or play with her Ipod. Today I had to inform her she could not practice for the CRCT on her ipod, since the school test will be on computer. God Bless, the gifted teachers, I don't know how they do it with 22 gifted kids every day.