What to expect if you’ve decided on homeschooling for the upcoming school year
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - It’s a stressful time for parents as they try to figure out what’s the safest decision for their children. As the school year approaches, more parents are considering home schooling their children instead of sending them back to school for two days a week. When it comes to learning from home, there are several options to consider when deciding what’s best for the whole family.
If you’re looking to have your child connected to the school they’re already used to, there are in-district programs associated with local school districts. The Anchorage School District has a few options. One of them is its new virtual learning program.
"They'll have a teacher that's connected with each student tied back to their home school, so lot's of familiar faces, lot's of opportunities to continue services and staying connected to that home school," said ASD Chief Information Officer, Mike Fleckenstein.
This option also allows students to still participate in school activities and extra curricular programs, as well as the choice to revert back to traditional in-person schooling. However, ASD wants to make it clear this option is not meant for families to "slide in and out." ASD officials say what's being taught in school will not line up perfectly with virtual learning from home. Because of this, families wishing to revert back to in-person learning will have to do so at the start of the following quarter.
If you’re confident you want your child to learn from home year round, another option is ASD’s PAIDEIA Cooperative School. PAIDEIA follows more of a traditional homeschool model, but with guided instruction from a teacher. It is meant to combine the homeschooling experience with opportunities for students to receive on-site instruction, or in this year’s case, virtual face to face instruction, that is customized to meet the student’s individual needs.
“At the beginning of the semester, we would want to sit down with the parent and the child,” said Anchorage PAIDEIA School Principal, Douglas Gray. “We develop a student learning plan. We kind of outline what it is that the student needs -- what they’re looking for and how we can support that, and can we support that through enhanced virtual classes? Can it be some independent options for students? Could it even be if they wanted to access some face to face school based classes? They could look into doing that as well too.”
For parents wanting to take it even further and commit to the role as primary instructor, there are options for that more traditional homeschooling route as well. The good thing is, the requirements for homeschooling in Alaska are pretty easy to navigate, but taking on the role of teacher is a significant commitment.
"It does require several hours a day, and of course every kid is different," said Daryl Bowers, Director of the IDEA Homeschool Program. "Some kids operate independently better than others, some kids require a high degree of oversight. It just depends on your children and the ages of your kids, and what their needs are."
IDEA is one of the statewide programs offering homeschooling resources and guidance. Bowers says about 10% of Alaska’s students are homeschooled already, but that number is rising as more parents look for options to keep their kids home during the pandemic. He says homeschooling is not much different from traditional schooling when it comes to the basics.
"IDEA is it's own school, so when parents sign up with us-- you know, if they graduate from IDEA, they get a diploma. It's just as valid as a diploma from any other school in Alaska," said Bowers."It's just another form of public school in Alaska."
Parents who decide to homeschool also have the opportunity for an allotment to help with supplies and resources. The allotment can range from $1,900 to $2,400 depending on the services provided by the school, the school district, and the grade level of the student.
For some, taking on the complete role of teacher may seem like a daunting task, but Bowers says there are resources available to help you along the way. IDEA provides contact teachers who oversee and help individualize the education for the student at home. There are also plenty of resources available for a parent who may need help setting up a lesson plan or learning how to set up a classroom at home.
“For anyone that has children or has had children, the parent remains the primary educator their whole life. Certainly up to age 18 and maybe beyond. Parents teach their kids anything and everything from the time that they’re born. They are naturally put in that position as the child’s primary educator,” said Bowers. “The things that are out there now as far as academics go, there’s a lot of support in that, Anybody can do it. All you have to do is commit yourself to it. It is totally doable for anyone.”
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