For Aimee Luna, Homeschooling Is a Way of Life
In Austin's Clemente Course, Free Minds, graduates gathered this fall for a writing course designed for alumni and offered for credit at Austin Community College. Students completed a unit on op-eds, learning effective research methods and using those skills to write about issues that matter to them.
Aimee Luna, a 2017 Free Minds graduate, offers her perspective on distance learning and her belief that the school system should continue to support homeschooling well beyond the restrictions of COVID-19. Read Aimee's thoughtful op-ed below. She continues her work toward a degree in creative writing this spring.
In March, 2020 my five-year-old granddaughter left school on Friday afternoon looking forward to spring break. Eight months later, we still haven’t returned to school. Not much is certain these days. However, one certainty is we’re now a homeschooling family. Our experience has made one thing crystal clear, Texas must expand resources for homeschooling families beyond Covid-19.
I’m fifty-one years old and the primary caretaker for my granddaughter. We’re officially enrolled in public school, receiving school work through the distance-learning program. I’m referred to as her distance-learning coach. I feel honored to have this role in her life as this is her education and will affect her entire future. We take it seriously.
While I wholeheartedly agree there are advantages to educating children in traditional schools, I contend that there are equally important advantages to homeschooling them. In Psychology Today, Dr. Peter Gray states, “Education is the sum of everything a person learns that enables that person to live a full and meaningful life.” Dr. Gray connects to one of the biggest advantages of home-schooling: the opportunity to customize the agenda. Take, for example, civic engagement. While the school teaches civic engagement through discussion and worksheets, due to home-schooling flexibilities we’ve made it more meaningful. After our lesson, we promptly went to the local food bank where we’re now volunteering in the garden every Friday morning. From this experience, my granddaughter learns: responsibility, that she can contribute to making a difference in other people’s lives, the benefit of hard work and sacrifice, inclusivity of people, job skills, and how to fill idle time wisely.
These are all crucial life-skills.
The Nebraska Extension Early Childhood Development website states, “Research suggests adults who engage children in culturally responsive educational experiences help to: 1) build young children’s self-confidence and skills, 2) increase children’s awareness, appreciation and inclusion of diverse beliefs and cultures, and 3) maximize children’s academic achievement and educational success.” For example, our social studies assignment addressed, “Why Diversity Matters.” But the assignment was merely a five minute video accompanied by a worksheet with five questions. I wondered, “Is that really the extent of her studies on diversity for the entire first grade year?” Regardless, it piqued her interest and, again, due to homeschooling flexibility, we capitalized on this moment. We spent the month on books, documentaries, and projects expanding our knowledge of how children live all over the world simultaneously making memories of family time.
"Now is the perfect time for Texas school districts to expand resources for homeschooling families."
Families have many compelling reasons for opting for homeschooling. The National Home Education Research Institute notes, “customizing the curriculum and providing guided and reasoned social interactions with youthful peers and adults” as some of the biggest factors. During this unprecedented time, every family in Texas is faced with the daunting decision of keeping their children home where they’re safer from Covid, or allowing them to return to school, exposing them to an illness we’re just now learning about and which could lead to death.
To be sure, not every family can choose homeschooling. Not all have someone in the house who can dedicate the time to schooling the children. However, consider this data from the Texas Home School Coalition, the most prominent homeschooling interest group in the state - 3,114 families (15% increase) have withdrawn their children from school in July, 2020, up from 201 last year. The reality is the longer families engage in homeschooling, the greater the possibility they’ll decide to continue after Covid. Right now there’s no end to this crisis in the foreseeable future.
Now is the perfect time for Texas school districts to expand resources for homeschooling families. There have been tremendous strides made, and we now know that it’s completely realistic. To go back to the way things were would be ludicrous. “Everything is bigger in Texas,” and this should apply to our homeschooling resources too.