Distance Learning Frustrations During COVID-19 Pandemic

On top of dealing with the uncertainty of what’s going on in the Santa Cruz Mountains (that have been burning this past week) and juggling life in my mini multigenerational commune we’ve been living in during evacuation, I have been (barely) managing my full time job as a homeschool support teacher and volunteering to answer the HSC Homeschool Hotline. This hotline is set up for us veteran homeschool moms to answer people’s questions as they begin their homeschool journeys.

These past couple weeks, the HSC Hotline has been ringing off the hook with parents seriously wanting to pull their children out of their distance learning schools, and I want to provide an additional resource to help people figure out what to do in these uncertain times. With the Covid pandemic, and mandated distance learning for most students in CA, parents are desperate for something different. I hope this blog post can help.

There are several options if distance learning isn’t working for your child–pod learning, hiring a tutor, toughing it out–but I would like to focus on one particular option:

Remove your child from the public system and homeschool them.

This option sounds daunting. But it’s truly do-able, and has so much potential to enrich your lives and bring your family joy! And who doesn’t need more joy in their lives these days?

In normal times, there are many ways to do this (joining a charter school or a district homeschool program), but now in the 2020-2021 school year, really only 2 options remain:

Creating Your own Private School (filing a PSA)

This is truly an option, and I will put the instructions of how to do this below. The great thing about this is that it’s totally free on so many levels! If you create your own school, you can re-enter your child into their neighborhood public school at any time (K-8).

or

Joining a Private School Satellite Program (PSP)

As someone who runs a PSP, and has been deeply involved in homeschool communities over the past 18 years, I have a bit of a bias towards joining a PSP. And here’s why: You aren’t on your own. You have now joined a homeschool school and can get administrative, educational, and moral support! You still have complete freedom to homeschool how you want, but you have regular access to teachers and homeschool moms, who can help you when you need it. This homeschooling world is probably very new to you, so this support could be invaluable. Plus some PSP’s offer field trips and classes and activities for their students.

Families who join PSP’s do not have to file PSA’s, they simply join an existing private school, and that private school sends an enrollment letter to you to help you disenroll form your school, and a letter to your school to collect your child’s records.

Another benefit is that you don’t have to file any information to the state. (Some people like this). PSPs never give your student’s information out. All information remains between you and them. They take care of your legal requirement to have your child enrolled in a school.

Another benefit is that you are joining an established school, that often has credentialed teachers associated with it, and helps add “legitimacy” to your homeschool pursuit. This might be a nice comfort to you, your spouse, or your worried mother-in-law.

If this interests you here are a couple PSP’s out there:

Pacific Sands Academy(my school): This program offers monthly support to families to help them get started homeschooling. We also offer teens monthly mentoring to earn high school credits using their strengths and passions. Teens can even use this program for credit recovery and return back to their local high school (if they want). Here are links to my 3 programs:   High School Program   7-8 Program     K-6 Program

West River Academy (My sister/umbrella school): This is an accredited umbrella program that you can join. They do not provide the monthly mentoring and handholding that Pacific Sands does. However, Pacific Sands has a relationship with them that they use, and can issue accredited Transcripts and diplomas through them.

Excellence in Education Homeschooling (tell them I sent you!)

Peach Blossom Homeschool (tell them I sent you!)

How to Create Your Own Private School

This sounds a lot more difficult than it is. HSC has detailed instructions here- which I will summarize. Here is another organization’s- CHN’s- explanation of how to do this. Each of these organizations offer Homeschool conferences which I highly recommend if you want to continue your homeschool journey.

Here are the steps.
1. Come up with a name for your school (Using your street name is a good idea): Example Conway Academy

2. Make a file which will include the following:

a. A way to keep attendance records. Write a letter saying that your child is attending your school (name of school) and attending every day.

b. Your course of study. This can be a list of what you plan to do in each subject. It can simply be a list of the common core standards for the grade of your child, or an outline of the curriculum you have chosen (if you are chosing a curriculum).

c. File a Private School Affidavit. Go to this link to file for it. You actually file for this between October 1 and 15, but if your school gives you a hard time, file it now (in August or September) for last school year, and again between October 1-15. You get an affidavit immediately to your email.

3. Make a separate file that includes faculty (your) qualifications, criminal record summaries, and Immunization records for your children. These would require a warrant to be searched by an officer should anything come to that.

4. Now you are the administrator of a private school, so you need to remember to wear two hats to do the two remaining steps:

a. Wearing a parent hat, you contact your school and let them know that you are withdrawing your child from the school. When school asks where they are going you reply: whatever name you have given your school– example: “Conway Academy.”

b. Now you will wear an administrator’s hat. As an administrator of your private school you will create letterhead and submit a letter to your newly enrolled child’s previous school, letting them know your child has been enrolled in your school since (date), and asking for your child’s records to be sent to your school. For example: “Sara Smith has been enrolled in Conway Academy since August 28, 2020. Please send a copy of her records to 123 ABC Drive, Anywhere, CA 91234.” (Use a real address of course).

5. Get to homeschooling! I highly recommend finding your tribe. Join homeschool organizations and park days in your area. (Facebook is good for this).

PSA or PSP

Whether you file a PSA or join a PSP, your educational journey with your child is yours to create and enjoy. There is no testing or reporting necessary. You can follow the common core standards as tighly as you wish or not at all. The curriculum you choose is your choice. Ten Toad is a new organization dedicated to helping families leave schools and begin their homeschooling journey. Check out their conferences.

Please remember that children in school spend a lot of the day in recess, between activities, lining up, waiting while the teacher is getting the rest of the class organized, in other words in “unproductive” hours. Doing school at home or homeschooling doesn’t need to be a full day of worksheets and teaching. You can do as little or as much of this as you find necessary for your child.

Climbing a tree, building with legos, building a fort, imagining worlds, playing games, listening to stories, baking cakes, doing art projects, all of this is productive homeschooling. Most of all find joy with your children.

But seriously, consider leaving this distance learning paradigm even if only until in class instruction returns. Which reminds me of one final section of this blog:

How to get your kid back into public school if you have left.
School districts are required to find a spot for your child when you want to put them in public school. It’s the law. However, getting back into a specialty or charter school would be problematic (which is a whole nother ball of wax). To get back into your neighborhood public school, you simply at the end of this school year (or midway through), create a report card on your schools letterhead indicating that your child completed x (k-8) grade, and is promoted to the next grade. Or your PSP would do this for you.

Or just maybe this whole experience would give you an opportunity to re-imagine your child and family’s educational journey. Whatever choice you choose, I sincerely hope for the most joyous and peaceful and rich family life possible!