By Robyn Bardgett
Anyone with school-aged children would have had a small taste of homeschooling during the pandemic. But what options are available for homeschooling and is it right for every family?
Even before the pandemic, more and more families were choosing homeschooling over traditional schooling for their children. The options for homeschooling vary and include parent-led schooling, private tutored homeschooling, or the unschooling approach – where everyday experiences and the child’s interests and curiosities form part of the learning process.
While some families are deciding to move away from traditional schooling, the best way to decide whether homeschooling is the right direction for your children is to consider what will work best for your family.
“Join the online community (Bermuda Homeschooling Network) on Facebook and invite a mom out for coffee and pick her brain,” says Tiffany Richardson, who is homeschooling her middle school daughter, Riley, while also caring for her two-year-old, Rebekah.
Along with an online Facebook resource, the Bermuda Homeschooling Network is the best place to find out more information about homeschooling in Bermuda. Along with advertising events and classes for the homeschooling community, the Network is a resource for people to ask questions about homeschooling options on the island.
The mission says, “The Bermuda Homeschool Network is a diverse and inclusive network of families who have chosen to educate their children at home. Our members use a wide selection of homeschooling methods, have a variety of philosophical and religious beliefs, and represent different lifestyles. The group celebrates and nurtures the richness of this diversity through healthy relationships between our members as we encourage and support each other on our homeschool journey.”
While Tiffany and her husband, Jarion, were both educated in private and public-school settings, it was attending a Homeschooling Network sponsored sports day when Mrs Richardson was “sold” on homeschooling for her daughter.
There is a misconception that homeschooled children are “weird” and aren’t able to socialize, but the last year has shown just how important socializing is for the home school community – for both the children and parents – and just how much of a community has been built over the years with plenty of options to connect with other homeschooling students.
“This was a very tough year for everyone,” points out Mrs Richardson. “While I had a leg up on how to educate from home, it was not a good example of what homeschooling really is. I missed my tribe. I’m accustomed to play dates, combined learning, co-ops, field trips, BUEI and BAMZ classes. We had none of it.”
She adds: “This year I saw how much the community helps me as a home educator. Many people assumed as a ‘veteran’ the pandemic was easy for we homeschoolers. It was not. If any parents were considering homeschooling as an option but the stay-at-home order put them off – that wasn’t homeschooling. That was survival and we all did the best we could.”
For her daughter, she points to her ability to socialize with children from all different age groups.
“My kids know, if we’re at the park we may not see the same people again, so I encourage them to get in there and have fun and say hello. Socialization is the least of my worries.”
When selecting what method is a best fit for schooling at home, Mrs Richardson says it can be a bit of trial and error.
“I’ve taught many different options,” she says. “I learned my child’s needs and learning style and continue to craft an education that suits her. It’s an individual approach. Some of her classes I am teaching her one-on-one, some are online through self-paced learning, some are accredited courses in a virtual classroom.”
The family’s main goal was to “build character and confidence” in their daughter and “concentrate on the person we were helping to grow; not just test results.” They have also been committed to including a Christian foundation in their children’s education and have “enjoyed exploring our faith as well as studying other religions and practices.”
“There are expectations that we have of her academically, we just don’t expect them in a traditional timeframe,” says Mrs Richardson. “Learning happens at any time, anywhere. Homeschooling, for us, isn’t an option or a method, but rather a lifestyle we’ve chosen.”
The resources within the community have also been incredible for learning opportunities from organizations such as the Bermuda Aquarium Museum and Zoo and Masterworks and farmers like Tom Wadson. “My kids have learned so much from walking around that property [Wadson’s Farm] and having chats with Mr Wadson,” says Mrs Richardson.
With many in the community having homeschooled there’s no better place to start than with people who have gone through educating their children.
“Most families are teaching multiples and veteran moms have seen it all,” Mrs Richardson says. “What worked for the first child doesn’t always work for the second. Those ahead have such a wealth of knowledge and are happy to share their experience, strength, home…and books that their kids have outgrown!”
Mrs Richardson says the best thing is to ask yourself, “Why am I homeschooling? The plan will develop from there. If you are solid on your why, the how will easily follow.”
For more information on homeschooling in Bermuda, visit https:// www.facebook.com/ BermudaHomeschoolNetwork