A Hybrid Education: My Tidbits from a Decade of Experience

Many COVID-19 closure weary parents, caregivers and educators haven’t recovered from the late 2019-2020 school year crash due to lockdowns across the nation.  As many try to find a summer routine in the abyss of continuous coronavirus restrictions, school districts are having to formulate plans now for this upcoming school year 2020-2021 amid rising pandemic cases.  

The new buzz word is “hybrid” model.  I had no idea that my personal style of home education for our three children these last several years would be considered the new normal for some.

What’s a Hybrid Education and Will My Child Thrive In It? 

Every school district has their own specific models but they generally follow something like this: a couple days in the classroom, a couple days at home, and possibly more virtual learning sessions.  

Breathe in, breath out.  While it’s preferable that all our students can return to their pre-COVID school routine, the reality may be that a hybrid model will work in lieu of that routine even if only temporarily. 

The consensus by most parents (going forward, “parents” also includes caregivers/stewards) trying to facilitate their children’s learning during the last months of the 2019-2020 school year was that online learning doesn’t work.  My heart sank when I heard this over and over again as I understood their frustration and yet was sad for their lack of imagination.  What do I mean by that last part?  

Let me start by acknowledging how difficult it’s been for everyone to adjust to the rapid changes that occurred in all manners of our society.  The last thing many parents have been able to do is “embrace the moment” and try to participate in their children’s excitement for what each day brings.  Many are trying to survive whether because of their jobs or have simply not stopped to actually participate fully in their kids’ learning each day.  It is all-consuming to do so, there’s no way to sugar-coat that fact.

Whether we as parents like it or not, the COVID-19 pandemic has altered most of our regularly scheduled lives and that includes our children’s education routine. This amounts to a nearly total upheaval of what daily life was like for children and parents alike.  This is no small matter.  This is unheard of at least for the last century or so.

For a home-schooling parent like myself, nothing really changed for my own children’s daily schedules except for the fact that suddenly many of their peers now were joining them in this wide open expanse of learning possibilities outside of the “brick and mortar” school institutions. Granted, our extracurriculars were gone like swim team, dance, gymnastics, and Greek school.  Suddenly I wasn’t alone either, many of my mom friends were now on the “front lines” of their children’s educational needs and curiosities—and it is EXHAUSTING.

If your child is going to spend time at home again as part of their education going forward in this school year especially due to COVID-19 pandemic precautions, I want to share with you my experiences in the hope that you’ll be able to navigate this “new normal” in the short term until such time as the regular school program is back or if you may find that your child(ren) thrive in a new educational paradigm.  

The good news is that most of you should be able to use your current school’s distance learning or hybrid school options if your school district is not having students in session physically this fall. Also, as I’ll share later, there are so many educational resources to pull from as supplemental material for your children.

Please understand that this is what has worked for me and my family but it should only be seen as a source of ideas as you formulate what works for yours.  For instance, some families have found fellowship in co-op learning groups.  Although I’m a member of a local homeschool group for support and field trip opportunities, I’m a loner per se when it comes to curriculum instruction.  However, my children are enrolled in a Greek school that takes them (pre-COVID) physically to a school a couple days a week.  Again, this educational adventure is particular to your household needs and capacity.

Typical Bean Kid School Week

It has taken me years to refine the following schedule and every new school year I have to make certain adjustments as deemed necessary by the children’s maturity levels and interests.  This is how a typical school week went for us most recently in 2019-2020:

  • The Costume: As a personal rule, I wear a special suit jacket when it’s time to start our “school time” each day, along with funny glasses and my clogs or short heels to indicate that my school teacher uniform is now “on” and therefore I’m no longer just the children’s mama.
  • Monday – Thursday from 8:30am – 2:30pm.  Friday: Music lessons offsite w/teacher, local library visit, and Greek school.
  • Mon- Thurs, from 8:30am -10am: This time period is like our homeroom time when I start the day routine with the students.  In our particular case it’s the Pledge of Allegiance, prayer, and some songs.  Then we introduce the day/weather/announcements.  Given I have three students of different ages, I will have a topic of the day that I’m able to pivot from for the various grades in our home. For instance, if that month we’re focusing on daily themes that study plants and earth sciences, then we have age appropriate instruction for each student.  This past school year 2019-2020, I had a 6th grader, 3rdgrader, and kindergartener respectively.
  • 10am is Snack, Exercise, and Nature Time:  I have a physical bell I ring as it indicates it’s time for the kids (and the dogs) to go outside in the backyard and take a break from studies.  I take this time to prepare a snack for them in the kitchen if I haven’t already—I also treat myself to a coffee, tea, or even a cookie, etc in order to reward myself for making through the first 90 minutes or so of an intense homeschool day!
  • 10:30 – 11:00am is the time frame that I start calling the children back in.  When COVID-19 restrictions went into place, this was also the time I did a P.E. workout with them typical of elementary and junior high complete with a jog and exercises like jumping jacks and leg lifts.  Again, I adjust to each child’s level even during break.  The younger ones will linger with playing in the dirt and I’m okay with that as it helps their cognitive development.
  • Post-11:00am:  For our family, this is the time frame that I have the older students log into their virtual academy classes through Scholé Academy.  Many states like Florida also have virtual public school offerings.  For those students who aren’t in an online class, then I’m with them helping teach and moderate their basic curriculum work like spelling workbooks or a math exercise.
  • 12 Noon – 1:30pm: this is a rolling lunch sequence, meaning if a child just got done with their online class after break, then it’s a good time for them to have their lunch.  I keep a lunch menu list on our announcement board in the kitchen to show the kids what their choices are and they typically will make their own lunch unless they need help for safety reasons.
  • 2:00 – 3:00pm:  Depending on online class schedules is when our school day typically ends.
  • 3:00pm onward:  Pre-Covid pandemic, we typically would do dinner prep as we got ready to go to afternoon swim team practice or Greek school which is usually around 4pm until 6pm on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.  Each child is given one night as the chef where they have to pick the menu and execute it (with Mama as sous chef of course).
  • Wednesdays is STEAM, STEM, and all things SCIENCE: I typically reserve each Wednesday as our science lab experiment day.  It is a messy and yet necessary affair to conduct these science experiments and exercises with the students so I find it helpful to have a day dedicated to it for set-up and clean-up purposes.
  • Thursdays: Art day.  Thursdays are the days we start out with an art instruction and project/exercise first.  In my case, I was educated heavily in the arts and am an amateur artist in practice.  I believe the visual arts are very important for students and if a parent doesn’t feel capable, there are many art teachers/tutors and art centers around to delegate that instruction if needed.
  • Friday Fun Day: Perhaps it’s a throwback to when I was working in offices all week long, but I like to celebrate the end of the week with the children and so I reserve Fridays as the day for them to see their piano teacher (or FaceTime now in pandemic mode) and hit our local library to research, return, and check out new books.  Also, personally it’s our second day of two days of Greek school where we drive 45 minutes to their classroom with other teachers and students (again, pre-COVID).

Refrain of Love: We as Parents/Caregivers are Our Children’s Security, Even in Education

I have heard from and read about so many who feel inadequate to “teach” their own children.  

I get it.  

There is not a day that I don’t go to bed and wonder with some degree of anxiety as to whether I was able to meet our children’s educational needs during the school year.

In fact, each year in June, I have to meet with a Palm Beach County district school teacher who reviews my children’s school year work and portfolios in order to make sure that they are progressing satisfactorily. If so we are given the green light to close the books on our school year until we start again at the end of the summer.  I’m thankful they’ve “passed” every year up to this point.

That said, for my husband and me, we revisit our education choices for our children every year.  Most asked question of us is “Are you going to homeschool them through high school too?” 

I have no idea.  

I repeat, we analyze the progress of our children every year and if they are thriving then we keep going on the same course with adjustments like new online courses or curriculums. This is probably similar to when parents decide that their child should be transferred from one school to another in their best academic interests.

Curriculum, Materials, and Resources

Like toothpaste offerings in the drugstore, there are so many things out there for educators whether they are working in a public school district or simply a CEO of the Home mama like myself.  

My personal choices for our children are a la carte when it comes to things like mathematics and sciences.  I lean toward classical learning when it comes to children’s literature and grammar. In other words, my overall curriculum is tailored from various sources to each child’s needs during that particular school year cycle.

Yet, that may not work for everyone, there are also box kits from places like Mother Goose Time for preschoolers or others like Charlotte Mason website that give families a one-stop shop when it comes to formulating what curriculum they’ll use.

Below is a short list of resources I’ve personally used in the past and present.  If you know me personally, I also invite you to reach out to me so we can find a time to chat about any more questions or concerns you may have as you figure out what’s going to be the path forward for your children in the short term.

R.V.S.Bean

Catalogs, Materials:

Curricululms and Online:

Note:  For those reading this who don’t know me personally, this is a short background note.  After attending both public and private schools growing up, I began teaching while an undergraduate at University of Florida in the late 1990s as part of the federal program America Reads. I had the honor of teaching a small cohort class of 2nd and 3rd graders in Bannockburn, IL during 2000.  9/11 occurred and my husband and I decided to help serve in our U.S. government in Washington, DC where I logged experience working on legislative priorities for a Florida congressman (including education issues) and time as an appointee at the U.S. Treasury with the George W. Bush administration.  In 2008 I was reborn as a mother in this world when we welcomed our first child.  It’s 2020 now and we have two sons and a daughter, ages 12, 9, and 5 years old respectively.  I began homeschooling nearly a decade ago as we lived with and looked after aging grandparents.  Today I follow a hybrid model with all three while also finishing my MBA degree at UF this December.  The following article is meant to help others by sharing my current experience and some resources to help you on your journey if you are exploring alternative methods of educating your children—especially given the temporary uncertainties ahead with the COVID-19 pandemic situation.

Virtual Schooling: An Alternative to Both Homeschooling and Conventional Public or Private Schooling

Quick Note:  Apologies to my frequent readers, life has been a busy ride with many stops along the way in the past month that has rendered me paralyzed from writing more on this site–however, I hope to remedy that dry spell in the coming weeks–read on!

On Monday, October 18, 2010, our local newspaper The Palm Beach Post ran a front page article by Kevin D. Thompson entitled “In A Class By Themselves” that could be easily missed by most of us harried parents (especially those in stewardship of children 4 years and younger).   Even if you don’t have time to read my blog, please look at the link of this article if you are still mulling over what your options are for the education of your child.  You should be able to pull the link here: http://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/schools/palm-beach-county-students-benefit-from-virtual-classroom-977282.html?cxtype=rss_news or you may also search on their website: www.palmbeachpost.com

I don’t know where I’ve been in the past several years but after reading this article I found out that it’s been a growing phenomenon to have students from pre-kindergarten age through 12th grade attending some type of school online.  The article cites research data from groups like Ambient Insight and the International Association for K-12 Online Learning who “reports that the number of students taking classes online is growing 30 percent annually.”

Evidently in our own Palm Beach County here in South Florida, we have almost 300 students currently enrolled in the 2010-11 school year and I’m truly excited to hear that there are actually three virtual schools available to our students in this county.  The major difference between a student in virtual school or being home-schooled is that with virtual schooling the student  takes classes online and their parents supervise and encourage while there are state-certified teachers who communicate with the student “regularly through e-mail, voice mail, phone conversations, virtual meeting sites and instant messages to complete the course work.”

It is so refreshing to find out that there is another option for parents who are seeking an alternative to sending their kids to the public or private schools in their areas.  We have a couple of generations now following the infamous “generation X” that have graduated from high school with some apathetic senses of being and as we’re raising our own children we fear sending them into educational systems that only remind us of those endless hours of boredom, frustration, harassment and so forth.

There are two major factors that I feel appeal to parents regarding the virtual education choice: one is definitely cost as most programs are free and open to every student (at least in Florida’s case), the second is the fact that the actual mantle of teaching falls on the state-certified instructors who teach at these virtual schools.  The cost factor explains itself, the teacher factor is helpful for those parents who although they look forward to being involved on a daily basis in their child’s education–they may not feel comfortable enough to be the solely responsible adult teaching as in the case with some homeschooling programs.

This article does cite the standard cons of online learning (and perhaps, tongue-in-cheek about home-schooling as well) that include the thought that maybe these students lose out on interaction with other kids their age and don’t get the socialization that they would in a four-walled classroom.  I personally dismiss that idea immediately as there are so many opportunities for our children these days than when we ourselves were kids in the 70s and 80s (no offense please to the older generations).  It’s just that with all the mommy-and-me programs, sports, religious organizations, internet society and other extracurriculars, I think that kids these days are actually overstimulated to the point of apathy or burnouts.

The other side of this discussion is mentioned in this article and it refers to the teachers who are behind the virtual education and the fact that they are able to be more communicative with their students as they’re involved in writing and responding to them instead of just standing in front of a classroom.  I think this is a great career move for teachers out there who have becoming discouraged in their work because they spend so much time focused on disciplining their students instead of actually educating them on the curriculum at hand.

In the end it always comes down to the parents’ decision on what type of education program is best for their children.  It’s just nice to know that you now have more choices that each carry pros/cons.  In my mind, as I ponder my toddler’s future academic career, I am looking at public/private schooling, home-schooling and now Florida’s virtual schools.  Best of luck as you assist your beloved children, just remember you are always their first and most important teacher in life!

RVSB

Wyoming Life

"God bless it and keep it wild"