Back to school during COVID: Will more Utah parents opt to home school this Fall?

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Will homeschooling surge as COVID cases continue to rise in Utah?

LEHI, Utah (ABC4 News) – In the middle of March, at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, schools across Utah and most around the country were forced to shut their doors as students transitioned to online learning. In the months to follow, parents, education faculties and students tried their best to make sure the learning process remained as efficient as possible.

Fast forward to four months later, and positive COVID-19 cases in Utah are on a current uptick. School districts are working to figure out the best and safest way to bring students and staff back into the classrooms, while many parents are optimistic for what the fall may bring, others are leery to send their children back to schools regardless of any proposed safety measures.

ABC4 spoke with creator of the Lehi based home school curriculum The Good and the Beautiful, Jenny Phillips, about what options parents may have if they are considering the home school route for their child(ren). Phillips is a mom of five, who herself began homeschooling her children just over five years in her Utah County home.

Whether it’s the thought of a student wearing a mask for a full day of classes, the increased safety precautions, or wondering how social distancing will actually happen in a school environment, dozens of parents who have started to look into options of home school according to Phillips, right now her home school curriculum sales have significantly increased because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are 392% above sales at last year at this same time. Those numbers are about to explode. From what we are discovering through our research, the large amount of families have been researching and debating home school all summer, and so many of them are about ready to take the plunge. We are seeing most of the families who have thought about possibly homeschooling now starting to make that final decision” said Phillips.

The Saratoga Springs mother and curriculum developer believes in August, more people may decide to home school than ever in the history of the world.

While parents may seek out options for homeschooling, how should they know what to look for in terms of curriculum, price, ages of students? Phillips says the curriculum an individual uses is so important to having or not having a successful home school experience. “My best advice for choosing a curriculum that is not going to stress you out: download a sample of the curriculum and ask yourself, “does this make me feel stressed, and do I feel excited to teach this,” said Jenny Phillips.  

She suggests looking for open-and-go curriculum with no prep time and curriculum that doesn’t require you to read or study ahead of time or to prepare and plan out schedules. You can simply have each child do one math lesson and one language arts lesson a day, and then do history and science family style. 

If families use a curriculum that requires lesson planning and prep time, or if you use a curriculum where every child is doing every subject individually, you will burn out. History and science are so effective to do family-style, allowing for group discussions and games. Language arts and math should be on individual levels. Grades four and above can do most of their work self-directed, freeing up the parents to spend more of their time with the younger children who need more guidance.

Remember to keep it simple! “All you need are the core subjects: language arts and math (on individual levels) and history and science (family style is recommended)” said Phillips.

According to the Good and the Beautiful creator, parents definitely have some major concerns when it comes to homeschooling.

First, they don’t feel qualified. “You have to keep in mind that you might not have a degree in teaching, but you know your children and care about them more than anyone, and if you are intelligent enough to read and follow instructions and choose a great curriculum, your child is going to soar. Your child no longer has to do what every other child his age is doing or stay at the lowest child’s learning level in the class. Individualized homeschooling learning created just for your child’s personality, interests, and levels is unbelievably powerful” said Phillips.

Second, parents don’t feel they have the time, but effective learning happens in a short amount of time during home school. The Good and the Beautiful curriculum is open-and-go, which means no planning or prep time is needed. You can be done homeschooling by noon each day if you want, and you don’t even have to spend one minute planning your next lessons.

Third, parents worry their child will be socially awkward. “You can throw that worry right out the window, along with the incorrect image you have of those few socially awkward home schoolers that do exist but are very much in the minority of homeschool students” Phillips tells ABC4.

Fourth, parents worry their children will not listen to or learn from them. That may very well be the case when families first get started, but this is one of the greatest reasons TO home school. If your kids can’t learn from you, it’s worth the effort to figure out how to change that. It may take some time and work, but you will be amazed how dedication to home school can change your relationship with your child.

An additional concern could be, exactly how easy…or difficult is homeschooling their child? Phillips says while it’s not a walk in the park, it is much easier than people think, “especially if you use open-and-go curriculum that is joyful and engaging and you don’t try to overdo it” says Phillips. Plus, most home schoolers only home school about 2-3 hours a day and typically four days a week.

Contrary to what many individuals think, there are some significant benefits to homeschooling. Jenny Phillps tells ABC4 children who are homeschooled tend to be happier, more confident, closer to their families, and more rooted in their family’s faith and values. “Academically, homeschooled children soar because they no longer have to do what every other child in the country his or her age is doing or stay at the lowest child’s learning level in the class. Individualized homeschooling learning created just for your child’s personality, interests, and levels is unbelievably powerful” said Phillips.

Essentially, the longer children home school the more they tend to become self-motivated to learn and self-direct a lot of their learning.

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Tracy Smith
Curtis Booker, joined the ABC4 family in January of 2019 as a Digital Content Producer. In May of 2019, he transitioned into learning the inner workings of becoming a news producer assisting with various shows. Curtis most recently rejoined the Digital team as a multi-media journalist in February of 2020.

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