Kelly Sullivan Noah

by Kelly Sullivan Noah

Pop quiz: Where do your children learn?

A) Only at our kitchen table, and only what I teach them.

B) Only alone in nature, and only what nature teaches them.

C) All over the place, taught sometimes by me, sometimes through their own discovery, and sometimes guided by others.

OK, that was a trick question. The first two were misperceptions about homeschooling, and the third applies to every family regardless of whether homeschooling is part of their lives.

A child’s education is not an ‘all me’ or ‘all school’ proposition. Our family’s school calendar runs year-round, with three months of structured learning followed by one month of unstructured learning. Last spring, I heard myself telling my kids, “We start semester break next week. But we still have co-op and gymnastics and abacus class and piano…” at which point I trailed off and changed the subject. My siblings’ kids attend public school, and their lives outside the school building are also filled with learning from parents, coaches, music directors, and other adults.

Many homeschooling parents see their primary role as the facilitator or curator of their child’s education. They also happen to be the teacher of some or most subjects, with the quantity changing from year to year and child to child.

One option not every homeschooling family has considered is proposing to a full-time brick-and-mortar public or private school that their child attend…but only part-time. We’ll call it Hybrid Homeschooling for this conversation. I’m no expert since I haven’t done it myself, but I have talked to families who’ve created some amazingly-flexible arrangements, which some schools call “shared time.” (I’ve also talked to families who couldn’t make it work despite their best efforts.)

What does hybrid homeschooling look like for these families? They vary greatly, often organize around either subject or time, and can be seen as opting in (homeschooled but also attending some school) or opting out (a schooled student who isn’t always there).

When organized by time, opting in would look like attending just a certain time of day (to paraphrase one mom, “Whatever they’re serving the first two hours, you’re eating. I’ll feed you the rest.”) or just the A or B day for a school with A/B schedules. Opting out by time looks like being mostly at school, but you arrange to not attend every day. The school agrees that your child misses a certain day or part of the week to attend an extracurricular or enrichment opportunity and your child is responsible for missed work (which doesn’t take six hours to do.)

When organized by time, opting in would look like attending just a certain time of day (to paraphrase one mom, “Whatever they’re serving the first two hours, you’re eating. I’ll feed you the rest.”) or just the A or B day for a school with A/B schedules. Opting out by time looks like being mostly at school, but you arrange to not attend every day. The school agrees that your child misses a certain day or part of the week to attend an extracurricular or enrichment opportunity and your child is responsible for missed work (which doesn’t take six hours to do.)

When organized by subject, opting in may be for a class or two – depending on complementary schedules – to enhance topics better experienced in a group or taught by a subject matter expert, like music, science, or a second language. This is also where we see parents writing a check to a community college for a younger teen before they’re ready to start the PSEO clock ticking. Opting out can give a student a free period or two when their educational needs are being met elsewhere. This may be a student learning a certain subject far beyond grade level through a different program (like math) or a topic where parents would like closer supervision (like health or social studies).

This is all my informal interpretation of experiences I’ve heard these past years, and I don’t have a guidebook with statutes, procedures, and decision chains for approaching our hard-working educators and administrators. I can tell you I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the variety of structure out there. Regardless of how and where each of your children learn each year, and how much is taught by you personally, know that you may be able to create a beneficial opportunity at a full-time or higher education institution. A school won’t reach out to a current or potential homeschooling family to propose these arrangements that meet their unique needs and desires. But if it appeals to you, create an idea and ask!

 

Kelly Sullivan Noah lives in Maple Grove, where she and her husband homeschool their two boys when they’re not learning ‘out and about’ across the Twin Cities.  She also serves as the current president of the Minnesota Council for the Gifted Talented (MGCT) Homeschool Chapter.  You can contact her or the homeschool chapter at homeschool@mcgt.net.