Hybrid homeschooling has been an amazing alternative for my son and has made all the difference in his educational growth and experience. As we get near the end of our first year of hybrid homeschooling, I wanted to share what we have learned. I’ll share a bit of the struggle that got us to this point and move onto the pros and cons. Hopefully our experience will give you some insight into this schooling option!
Public School Start
Homeschooling started to appeal to me a couple of years ago when my oldest son, Declan, was in second grade at a public school. I saw his natural curiosity and love of learning change into resistance, stress, anger, and tears. He started to fight me everyday before school, and after school he had serious meltdowns. Determined not to create a special ‘snowflake’ mentality in him I chalked it up to normal kid stuff, or maybe even bullying at school. His teacher said he got along well with others and had many friends in class. Declan confirmed that he was not being bullied. So I volunteered in his classroom thinking it would give me better insight, but it didn’t. I was frustrated.
As our daily struggle continued I started to question our path with traditional education. The one-size-fits-all way of teaching may work for some, or many, but it wasn’t working for Declan. School-option posts that crossed my Facebook and Pinterest news feeds now gained my attention. The information in those posts inspired me! They also intimidated me. Homeschooling felt too huge of a responsibility, so I pushed the idea aside.
The Decision to Homeschool
During his third grade year, Declan went from testing ‘well above average’ to ‘below average’ in subjects I knew he excels at. His meltdowns and overall demeanor were getting worse too. When I could almost label him as being depressed I knew something had to change. He had been a generally happy kid and still was during school breaks. Was he getting bored in school because he was advanced? Was he not understanding how they are teaching? Is he just being lazy? Does he have a learning disability? Kids at this age don’t really get depressed, do they? Moody maybe, but depressed? I was searching for answers.
With conversations with his teacher and school staff, my own research, and Declan finally opening up about his struggles at school, it was concluded that he was getting bored in subjects he excelled at and stressed when they moved too quickly through lessons he needed more time on. He was in a perpetual cycle of boredom and stress at school. Depression was a side effect of the stress interfering with sleep quality, eating habits, and his overall outlook on learning and life.
After much debate and hesitation, my husband and I started to research and pursue local homeschool options for the next school year. I was definitely intimidated, I doubted my teaching ability and patience level to homeschool my own child. With my introverted nature I often admired a teacher’s ability to instruct a bunch of kids all day and the continuous effort it takes to keep them on task. Honestly, being an elementary school teacher seems utterly exhausting. But, the fear of my child slipping through public-school cracks and ending up desolate later in life kept flashing before my eyes. A little dramatic? Probably. But, I felt like I had little choice other than to think outside the box with his education experience. We figured we could try homeschooling for a year and see how it goes. If we failed miserably we would put him back in the traditional classroom setting with hopefully little damage done.
We are in Northern Colorado, and our school system has a few options for parents who are looking to customize their child’s learning curriculum. You will have to look and see what your school district, or nearby districts, offer homeschool families. Through my own research I noticed that some state’s school systems are starting to offer more resources and options to homeschool families, while other states seem to keep homeschool completely separate from the public system. Some prefer it that way! I am happy with the integration we have here.
Our school district offers traditional public schools, charter and private schools, co-ops, montessori, waldorf, a hybrid school, and homeschool ‘options’ classes. Homeschoolers can participate in ‘options’ classes, in an on-campus classroom setting, various days of the week. The hybrid school appealed to me the most. This ‘hybrid’ school is a combination of online classes done at home on MWF and on-campus classes TTh. I liked this option because I would have guidance with a curriculum, peer interaction for Declan, parent support from the get-go, and it felt like it would ease us into homeschooling. The hybrid school in our district is still part of the public school system and receives state funding, so there is no tuition and the curriculum is free. The online curriculum is through k12.com which our school district pays for. Disclosure: I am not affiliated with k12.com.
Our First Year Of Hybrid Homeschooling
Before school started, other parents from Declan’s school were already reaching out to us! I was very grateful to have support already in place before school started. This parent support helped ease my fears and gain confidence in my ability to do this new way of schooling. They told me the first couple weeks would be overwhelming but that it gets easier the more we get the hang of k12.com‘s software and scheduling.
They were right! Our first day started good, but by the end of the day it was a disaster. We were both in tears. Even though k12.com‘s website is fairly intuitive and easy to navigate, we just weren’t familiar with it yet. Fear of getting it wrong ruled our first week, but with guidance and after a month of getting comfortable with the online curriculum and on-campus classes, we began to relax a bit. We have learned a lot this year! Here are some of the awesome, and not-so-awesome, things about hybrid homeschooling.
Hybrid Homeschooling Pros and Cons
Growth!- Not only has Declan grown this past year, but so have I. We have both developed confidence by navigating teaching and learning together. He learns best when topics turn into conversations and he can see how the lesson relates to real life. We aren’t perfect, there are still bad days, but when I can peak his curiosity about the subject at hand, it is magic! I love to see his eyes light up when it clicks. Even though I don’t require Declan to be a straight-A student, I am proud to say that he has been for most of this year!
Individual Attention- At home, Declan gets one-on-one help from me but he also receives a lot of individual attention on campus. The 4th and 5th graders are in one classroom with their teacher and an assistant. The are 19 kids total in the classroom. The 4th graders can work with the 5th graders if they reach their level. The 5th graders also help the younger ones when they need extra help. They learn about collaboration and healthy competition.
Curriculum Flexibility– Declan is now able to work at his own pace and it has made a big difference! He works fast through subjects he excels at, and areas he struggles with he spends more time on and I can give the help he needs, most of the time. If I am stumped we look up resources online to help us out.
At the beginning of the year, we went through a lot of the lessons together but now he knows what to expect so he does a lot of his lessons independently. It is common for kids in his class to advance to the next grade level depending on subject and be at various grade levels. Example: Declan may be at his own grade level in math but can advance to the next grade level in reading. There are kids that have advanced more than one grade level in certain subjects. Many of the high school students are graduating with college credits or associates degrees. They can also complete their classes ahead of schedule for an early summer break!
Time Flexibility– We set our homeschool days in block format because he seems to do better with focusing on one subject for longer periods instead of jumping all around. K12.com allows you to set up your own schedule and shows you what pace you need to work at to complete the curriculum by the end of the year. Mondays he works through a week’s worth of History lessons. Wednesdays it’s Literature and Vocabulary. Fridays are Math. On-campus days they do Science, Math, Language Arts, Art, Music, and P.E. Declan is currently on track to complete this year’s curriculum a little early. We have taken advantage of this flexibility and done extra-curricular activities with the kids on some school days. Flexibility also makes it less stressful when one of the kids is sick.
Free Evenings and Weekends– Evenings and weekends are now more about free time instead of homework. Occasionally, when a lesson that takes him longer his other work will be pushed into the evenings or weekends but for the most part all school work is completed during the weekdays.
Socialization and Peer Interaction– Being in the classroom on Tuesdays and Thursdays with other kids offers Declan a setting where he can build friendships and collaborate with others in a group setting. Him and a friend have started to work toward broadcasting a YouTube gaming channel. It is fun to watch their problem solving skills take form throughout the process.
Life skills- We incorporate life skills into Declan’s weekly routine. Mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual health are important for a well-balanced life. We incorporate meditation as a tool to help deal with thoughts, emotions, and foster introspection. I mix in books and shows that will spark conversations about life and the deeper stuff. Getting outside, sports, adventure, and free play are also something we encourage daily. Cooking, cleaning, taking care of the dog and his little brother, for short periods of time, develop a sense of responsibility and contribution. We show him how to earn his wants and budget his money. Our goal is for him to have the tools to create a meaningful life.
Guidance and Support– Being new to homeschooling this year I am very thankful I chose the hybrid option. I think if I tried to do it all on my own I would have failed miserably. The guidance, support, and insight from school staff and other hybrid homeschool parents was necessary for me to gain the confidence I needed to teach my child. Many of the parent’s had also been full-time, independent homeschoolers and gave me insight to that option as well.
Me Time– Tuesdays and Thursdays are for me. My youngest, Cash, goes to preschool on the days Declan is on campus. These are my scheduled work days to blog or build my wood chests. Occasionally, I get the chance to have lunch with a friend or treat myself to a pedicure!
Curriculum Content– I am generally happy with k12.com but, some of the activities within the lessons seem like busy work. It is a common complaint with the parents at our school, but we do have the option to skip some of those activities if the lesson objectives were met. If Declan got the point of the lesson without having to do the activity then we mark it complete. I can decide if the activity is beneficial. At times, I have to look to outside resources to gain his interest with a lesson subject. History lessons in k12 are mostly text and pictures, some video. Pretty dry really. So we get creative and look for videos, story books, and conversation to bring it alive.
Government Standards– I understand, now, that whatever homeschool option you choose you will still have to operate within state regulations. Many of the curriculum options out there have to meet regulatory requirements. Homeschoolers have to log a certain amount of hours per subject, per week. Curriculum objectives have to be met. Attendance and progress has to be kept track of. Our hybrid homeschool program even does state testing. I’m not sure if all homeschoolers are required to do state testing. You will have to check your state regulations.
Little Ones– One of my biggest challenges is keeping my preschooler busy and not bothering Declan while he is working through school lessons. Especially when I am helping with a lesson. Legos, puzzles, books, the iPad have helped temporarily. It remains my biggest struggle.
Focus- Another struggle is keeping Declan focused. Some days he does great! Other days it feels like pulling teeth! A rewards system helps. We incorporate meditation and frequent breaks too.
Energy Drain- I need time by myself to recharge and be my best. It’s just how I am made. With my boys only at school two days a week, finding time to recharge is a luxury. I do my best during their in-school days and also at night after everyone’s in bed. We also hire a babysitter at least once a month!
Special Snowflake Syndrome- Even though we have worked to customize Declan’s learning experience I have tried to make a point not to create the ‘special snowflake syndrome’ in him. Life and people will not cater to him and I will not protect him from challenges. That is reality, and he has to be able to thrive within the larger system and contribute to society. He is required to help around the house.
Labels and Judgement– As a hybrid homeschooler we may not fit into the typical homeschool definition and we don’t fit the public school box. I have heard judgements from all sides. My answer is: We are all just doing our best with what is best for us! This works for us, and I support whatever works for you!
Note: I will be adding to this list occasionally as we come across other great resources!