When Christmas decorations were stowed away and kids returned to school in early 2020, it was business as normal for schools around the United States. Educational stereotypes remained intact: many perceived homeschoolers as hippies, private schoolers as elite and wealthy. Public school teachers faced the normal joys and frustrations, some counting down the days until Spring Break or joking about tequila on the staff white board.

No one dreamed that by the time spring break was over, the education landscape could change forever. Personalized education, where children and parents exercise more control over learning, was about to take the world by storm.

If you had told Janet Leonard, an educator in a public school in the Midwest, that public education would be drastically different in 2020-21, she would have said you were crazy.

Janet had been involved in public education for a decade, first as a volunteer and later an employee. At the same time, she saw some challenges inherent to the one-size-fits-all educational style promoted by government schools.

Over the years, American culture has pushed for education to become very uniform – one size for all students, regardless of their abilities and interests. Standardized learning ensures that all schools teach the same topics, at the same time, in the same way. Common Core learning requires every student in every district be on the same page.

For Janet Leonard, standardized education systems meant daily frustration with teaching math. Rather than having the freedom to teach her students in creative ways that met their needs, she was being forced to toe the line and get in step with the government program and methodology. She watched kids flounder in confusion. Meanwhile, she felt helpless to intervene.

When she stepped in and taught a third-grade student to read, she was reprimanded by her principal. Her method of teaching was not that mandated by the school district. Dictates and regulations, created to protect schools against lawsuits, punished her for teaching a student to read.  Generalizations and dictates ruled the day. Janet saw that in unified school districts, exceptions were not taken into account. In 2020, Janet went home for spring break, assuming that the schools would never change.

Then came COVID. The public-school system—the bedrock of millions of students’ lives– suddenly began to quake. The educational landscape shuddered. Floundering and confused, districts scrambled to pick up the rubble. In Janet’s district, schools could not recover for an entire semester. The district clearly stated that school was optional. Meagre paper packets and once-a-week phone calls from teachers sufficed to educate thousands of children in her area. School as she once knew it had ceased to exist.

Janet watched her fellow educators bubbling with ideas to educate their students during the pandemic. Their creative ideas were not allowed; the district said it needed to present a “unified” response and “consistency” across the district. Janet knew that it was time for her to go a different route.

Fast forward two weeks. Janet has organized a group of personal friends and neighbors into a micro-school. A group of students meet with Janet every day for two hours. In addition to learning basic topics like grammar, math, or writing, each student is pursuing a topic that interests them. With district school being “optional,” students realize that it’s up to them to take their education into their own hands.

One of Janet’s students is gorging himself on history. Reading a World History textbook, he states that what he’s learning is fascinating. He never learned these things in school. Occasionally, he raises his head to share a little-known fact of history.

Another student has finished an entire economics course. He even took the test, knowing it would not count towards any official credit. After the course is over, he declared he had found his passion. He wanted to become an economist. He has maintained that passion for months.

A third student is excited about poetry. She found a stash of poetry books at Janet’s house. Now, she reads them voraciously. Narrating the poems aloud in her beautiful, theatrical voice, she says that she’s always loved poetry—but never had an opportunity to study it like this.

Children were developing a love of learning—a thirst for knowledge that would carry them farther than any standardized test ever could.

Janet’s story is not unique. Around the United States, parents and educators were frustrated with public education’s response to learning post-COVID. They described the Common Core as a “coffin” and online pandemic learning as a “disaster.” This book helps parents find the tools they need to navigate common core math.  There are many ardent fans of the common core as you will find in this article.

Here are a few options that many parents are looking into as they find a new normal post-COVID:

Forest Kindergarten. Based on the Waldorf model of experiential learning, Forest Kindergartens have been common in Europe for over 100 years. It has now spread to America, with over 70 forest preschools in the American Forest Kindergarten Association. Equipped with sturdy clothes, outerwear, a knife, and hiking shoes, students spend their school days in the great outdoors. Children learn in an environment of unstructured play, sunlight, nature, hugs, freedom to explore, play time, laughter, and simplicity. The total opposite of being stuck in front of a computer with online learning, Forest Preschools have grown since the onset of COVID. As strict social-distancing rules restrict indoor learning, many preschools have turned to the great outdoors as a learning environment. Parents opt for forest schools for their children in order to keep their kids moving, learning, and interacting with nature during times of distancing and shut-downs.

Outschool. While public school distance learning options are often dry and unsatisfactory, Outschool provides fresh and exciting classes. Outschool teachers are not required to have teaching degrees, but they are required to be an engaging communicator who is an expert in the topic they teach. Outschool has also experienced phenomenal growth since the pandemic began. “We’ve been dealing with overnight rocketship growth,” says a leader of Outschool in an interview with Forbes. “Last year revenue totaled $6.5 million…. In 2020 it’s on track to hit $100 million.” Kids who want to learn online but have opted out of public education can find a full list of classes on Outschool. Teachers who want more freedom to teach in the way that is best for student can find an ideal, work-from-home option in Outschool.

Traditional Homeschooling. So-called “normal” homeschooling—where parents choose curriculum and educate their children on their own, without the mediation of distance education—is also on the rise. Erin Lovelace provides tips for organizing and structuring an unexpected homeschool situation in her book, Instant Homeschool. Additionally, Erin Huffstutter has written a detailed guide for parents who find themselves with no option but homeschooling. The title of her book is, Crisis Homeschool Handbook. Her “survival guide” includes information on state regulations, details on differing education options to fit your family style, and how to avoid “homeschool burnout.”

“Many children are developing a love of learning during this new normal —a thirst for knowledge that will carry them farther than any standardized test ever could.”

If you decide to home school your child, here are some products and services that could make your life easier:

 

Sl No. What you could do/buy Product link
1 Books and materials for home schooling Amazon Price
2 Stretchy chair band for fidgety kids Amazon Price
3 Pencil grip for good writing habits Amazon Price
4 Stretchy Lycra Body Sock to help your child relax while studying Amazon Price
5 Harkla Hug to help kids stay calm and secure while learning Harkla.co Price
7 Ink Indicator Expo Markers Amazon Price
8 Homeschool Academy homeschoolacademy.com Price
9 Dry erase board Amazon Price
10 Sonlight Literature-based curriculum sonlight.com Price
11 Small folding table Amazon Price
12 Instant Homeschool Amazon Price
13 Crisis Homeschool Handbook Amazon Price

John Lubbock said, “If we succeed in giving the love of learning, the learning itself is sure to follow.” The future of education has changed massively over the last few months – some for the better, and some for the worse. Many of these changes are permanent, and our children will remember this school year for as long as they live. Parents can do their part to make it a positively memorable experience. 

As you spend time with your family, we hope you come to see that COVID is not just a roadblock or an obstacle. Instead, it can be the jumping-off point for a whole new way of being. Your children can learn and grow in new ways, into adults with a bright future.

Let’s continue the conversation here.

1. What are your thoughts about personalized education?
2. How do you think parents can participate in bettering the education their children receive?
3. How do you think public education should be structured in the ‘new normal’?
4. If you like this article, PLEASE SHARE THIS WITH YOUR FRIENDS AND FAMILY. And, come back often to read more about many other aspects of living in the ‘new normal’.

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