Homeschooling can offer children a personalized learning journey
Over the past few months, the parents and guardians of more than 1.1 billion students across the globe have taken over the role of educating their children, as the coronavirus disease pandemic has forced schools and universities to shut down in some 130 countries. With many unprepared for this unexpected burden, it is no wonder a lot of people have reported their struggles about homeschooling, while often also juggling remote working and other responsibilities. There is also a lot of debate over whether it will be safe to send students back to school when the new term begins in the fall. It is, therefore, important to bring to light that what we have been experiencing thus far should not be considered the optimal homeschooling experience. On the contrary, a well-planned homeschooling experience can be transformational for a child’s learning journey, in addition to being a safer choice while the pandemic lingers.
Homeschooling is a progressive education model, in which parents manage their children’s learning at home instead of sending them to a public or private school. Parents opt for this approach for a variety of reasons depending on their unique circumstances, including wanting to schedule days according to their needs and priorities, frequent relocation due to work commitments, dissatisfaction with the education system in their area, or even affordability. A recent article published in Gulf News stated that parents in the UAE can expect to pay $1,000 to $3,000 annually for a home education curriculum, compared to $8,000 to $27,000 for school tuition fees. This option could prove to be especially viable during the economic downturns many countries now face.
It also has many merits that go beyond convenience. Children can better enjoy a learning experience when the curriculum is tailored according to their unique interests, abilities, and learning styles. This fosters independent thinking, curiosity, and a genuine love for learning that is unpressured by rigid assessments or peer pressure. Additionally, families can attune learning to include social skills, life skills, values, and emotional intelligence. Perhaps most importantly, high parental involvement and a nurturing family environment can positively influence educational attainment among children.
The current increased interest in homeschooling has spurred the availability of curricula and resources for parents offered by various accredited educational organizations. For example, Oak Meadow, founded in 1975 in the US, provides a comprehensive, creative and holistic curriculum for homeschooled students from kindergarten to grade 12. The cost of a full course package ranges from $525 for kindergarten students to $725 for eighth graders. A glimpse at the sample kindergarten curriculum offers an explanation of the topics that will be covered each term, 36 weekly lesson plans, a variety of assignments, activities and readings focusing on language, the arts, social studies, math, science, arts and crafts, music and movement, and health. The lesson plans also suggest routines, indicating the time students should spend on learning concepts and completing assignments across the day. Additionally, parents receive assignment checklists, planners, materials lists, and learning assessment trackers to monitor their children’s progress.
Not only is the homeschooling community growing but, luckily, many esteemed organizations are making their content freely available to the public, allowing parents to adopt an interest-led approach to learning. For example, the NASA Kids’ Club is an online portal containing games, information on space missions, and educational videos to support learning in STEM subjects. Smithsonian for Kids offers free online activities, games, and content revolving around art, history, culture, science, and nature. National Geographic Kids has a dedicated website so children can learn about animals, science, history, and geography. Children can also choose to learn up to 35 languages on the Duolingo app.
Children can better enjoy a learning experience when the curriculum is tailored according to them.
Additionally, many museums have begun digitizing their collections and are offering virtual tours, which enable families to enjoy field trips that are catered to the interests of their children from the comfort of their homes. Google Arts and Culture is a fantastic app featuring content from more than 2,000 leading museums. Students can explore art movements, specific collections by artists, periods or themes, engage in creative activities from home, and enjoy virtual tours of famous museums. Other interesting virtual tours include the San Diego Zoo, Buckingham Palace, Seattle Aquarium, Farm Fresh 360 (a tour of Canadian farms), Stellarium Web (an observatory), Walt Disney World, the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, and Access Mars (see the actual surface of Mars through NASA’s Curiosity rover).
In the coming months, homeschooling definitely deserves another chance to prove its biggest merit: A personalized learning journey catered to a child’s specific interests. Sir Ken Robinson, an esteemed author and education expert, believes that the key to educational transformation is “not to standardize education, but to personalize it, to build achievement on discovering the individual talents of each child, to put students in an environment where they want to learn and where they can naturally discover their true passions.”
- Sara Al-Mulla is an Emirati civil servant with an interest in human development policy and children’s literature.