Working Parents: Return to School, Distance Learning, or Homeschooling in Fall 2020?

Distance learning is starting to take a toll on families despite valiant efforts. What might be possible (or necessary) at the start of, say, a global pandemic quickly becomes unsustainable as we enter month four, month five, month six of meeting challenging expectations. This is especially true for working parents who have been, or will soon be, asked to return to work.  

Fortunately, the days of distance learning will soon (or at least for now!) be ending as one of the most turbulent school years our kids have probably ever experienced comes to a close. Still, that rather large sense of relief is mostly accompanied by a new set of questions and concerns:

  • How will we keep our kids occupied this summer now that their camps have been cancelled? 
  • If and when I’m asked to return to work, what kind of childcare arrangements will be available? 
  • How can children possibly return to school this fall and be safe? Should I keep my kids home even if the schoolhouse doors are open? 

In fact, more and more families have been asking us at Torchlight whether homeschooling makes sense for the 2020-2021 school year, and perhaps even this summer as a way to keep children engaged in learning without over-relying on screens. 

Homeschooling, also known as home education, is the education of children inside the home, rather than in a traditional public or private school setting. Relatively uncommon throughout most of the twentieth century, homeschooling has been on the rise in recent decades and because of the COVID-19 pandemic is expected to show significant increases this year. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, about three percent of school-aged children, or about 1.5 million children, in the United States are currently homeschooled.

To support working parents who are seriously contemplating homeschooling even if it’s just for a year, Torchlight has published the Guide, “Homeschooling Your Child.” The Guide enables Torchlight Child users, and now the general public, to learn about the logistics of homeschooling – including how it works, how to identify the legal requirements in your state, and how to explore the potential costs. In addition, the guide covers some of the important concerns you will face as a homeschooling parent like what supports are available when homeschooling a child with a disability.

Shifting to homeschooling our children might help how your employees approach school in September, but what about the Now Normal of wrapping up the school year and contemplating summer activities? Fortunately, there are plenty of lessons that can be learned from the homeschooling community at this time. Torchlight pulled these lessons together in its on-demand webinar, “At-Home Learning: Lessons from the Homeschooling Community” available here. In this webinar, working parents hear from Jennifer Eager, a homeschooling expert and parent of four, about why meaningful learning does not have to take place within the confines of a traditional classroom and what you can do now to engage your child in learning that will last a lifetime. It also covers plenty of ideas about how to experiment with new types of educational activities and discover what really excites your child. The webinar wraps up with a discussion on: 

  • How to use a child’s strengths and interests to engage him or her in the learning process across multiple subject areas
  • Why allowing a child to learn at his or her own pace (as opposed to focusing on a specific grade level) can result in greater confidence and a deeper, longer-lasting knowledge base
  • How to find or design activities that catch a child’s interest and make learning fun – so fun, in fact, that he or she might not realize how much s/he is learning!

For the foreseeable future, working parents will continue to need the support of their employers as we continue moving through the next normal, and the next, and then the next. You can help your employees by continuing to support flexible work habits and giving them access to the information they need to make good decisions for their children and themselves.

Comment below on your thoughts about school in the fall.  What’s going on in your area? What criteria are you using to make decisions about in-person vs at-home schooling? How are you, as an employer, supporting working parents?