What K-12 educators can learn from homeschoolers about post-pandemic resilience
For many learners, the last year and a half, during the COVID-19 pandemic, has been one of shifting from a traditional, in-person education model, to one that is based at home. But the millions of children who were already homeschooled before 2020 have felt the impact of the global pandemic as well.
Many homeschoolers choose to follow a hands-on-based method of schooling such as the Waldorf or Montessori methods, which both focus on learning through play and practical experience rather than through a classroom and textbook. Without the limitation of a classroom and large amounts of students, homeschoolers have the freedom to use the whole world as their classroom.
I was homeschooled from second grade through my high school graduation. For me, biology class involved growing a potato plant from a spud and studying its growth patterns. Math class involved learning metric conversions through baking. Art class included a trip to the art museum.
Not being tied down to a single public or private school meant I got to experience traditional school subjects in context with the wider world. Many homeschooled students also learn through hands-on approaches such as these.
However, with the new post-covid world, much of that has changed. When the world shut down, where did these kids have to go?
The answer to that of course lies in the little worlds we carry around in our pockets. Zoom calls replaced previously enjoyed in-person co-op study groups. Wilderness- and animal-centric YouTube channels replaced trips to the zoo to learn about our ecosystem. Virtual art galleries such as Google Art and Culture swapped places with their in-person equivalents.
Riding the tide of digitization
But even before 2020 homeschooled students were finding themselves learning less through books, and more through the vast array of knowledge available to them on the internet. In other words, homeschoolers were riding the tide of digitization and automation along with the rest of the world.
And just like the rest of the world, COVID found a way to speed up that process even more. I would argue, however, that this is not a bad thing, but rather, an inevitability.
Homeschoolers’ access to technology is not limited to the computer lab and STEM electives their school offers. If a homeschooled student is interested in programming, for instance, they can go online, download a script editor, look up some simple Python scripts, and get started in a matter of minutes. Interest-based education does not only mean art, reading, and other traditional subjects but also robotics, computer engineering, and programming.
Having the time, access, and resources of an individual education means that over the next decade or so employers and educators can expect to see homeschooled students start to excel in the tech space while traditional schools scramble to adjust to the digital age.
Homeschoolers can become leaders and advocates of their own education, a skill that leads to lifelong learning, which is a skill in high demand in this fast-paced digital age. Rather than relying on a teacher to lead an after-school robotics club and assign students projects, homeschoolers go at their own pace and learn how to self-correct without hand-holding.
When a modern homeschooler runs into problems with their robot, they can turn to YouTube to diagnose the problem and learn how to fix it. They can then get any necessary materials using same-day shipping on Amazon and have it up and running the very same day. No need to wait for next week’s robotics club meeting.
I may be biased as a homeschooled student myself, but I believe there is a lot to learn from the adaptability of homeschoolers. If traditional K-12 schools take a more individualized approach to learning and allow kids more opportunities for self-led learning it would lead to happier students and higher levels of interest in high-demand STEM fields.
Trisha Ankaraju, a young adult from Dallas, was homeschooled through high school before graduating top of her class with a B.S. in computer animation. She currently works as the graphic designer for Divergence Academy and the social media manager for Divergence Press. You can reach her on Instagram at @bobobottle.