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Is Hybrid Homeschooling Right for My Family?

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Dr. Michael McShane, Director of National Research at EdChoice
Chris Peterson, Assistant Director of Admissions at MIT
Is hybrid homeschooling the perfect flexible learning option for a pandemic? And if so, how can parents successfully implement hybrid homeschooling for their families? In this episode, we discuss hybrid homeschooling and if this model can uniquely prepare students for college success.
A lot of parents are already doing some version of hybrid homeschooling without calling it that. They're supplementing. They love their school, but they're trying to fill in some gaps.
- Dr. Michael McShane
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What Is Hybrid Homeschooling?

Hybrid homeschooling is a schooling strategy where children attend a traditional brick-and-mortar school for part of the week and are homeschooled for the rest of the week. The exact ratios can vary but, generally speaking, with a hybrid homeschool model, children split time between learning in a traditional school environment and in their home.

Due to COVID, many schools are considering hybrid models to keep their total student volume low each day and to make effective social distancing possible. As a result, this fall semester could potentially show the country what a hybrid homeschool model looks like.

How Flexible Will Our School’s Hybrid Homeschool Offerings Be this Fall?

Let's say your family opts for at-home learning this fall, but you also want to take advantage of your local public school's virtual education option. How much flexibility will you have in how you conduct your hybrid homeschool?

One of the things that Epic Charter Schools, an Oklahoma-based educational institution that started as a self-paced personalized online learning option, found was that for about 10% of their population, online curriculum — even with strong teacher support — wasn’t enough.

Those students needed to actually come into a physical school for some part of the week, Dr. Michael McShane says. Many students may thrive under a teacher's direction; others may find the rhythms of the school day help them concentrate.

The hybrid model could be a really great way to get the best of both worlds: in-person instruction and personalized curriculum. You can match content to each student’s progress, but also have the resources of the school available, Dr. McShane says.

What Are Other Ways to Hybrid Homeschool?

A split school/home model isn't the only way to hybrid homeschool. Your family might choose to create a hybrid from a homeschool co-op, live online courses, or some other approach.

Google "hybrid homeschool + your city" right now, and you'll probably find many different kinds of hybrid homeschool options. There are one-day-a-week programs, three-day-a-week programs, religious schools, Montessori schools, Waldorf schools, classical schools, and progressive learning environments that offer hybrid options.

In other words, there's something for every family and every philosophy.

Is Hybrid Homeschooling the Perfect Gateway Preparation for College?

Hybrid homeschoolers often possess well-developed, non-cognitive attributes that can help them succeed in an independent learning environment, says Chris Peterson, who has worked with homeschooled and non-traditionally educated students in a variety of capacities over the years.

I've seen that homeschooled and non-traditionally educated students are often students with a lot of intellectual autonomy and curiosity, which can help them succeed in a more independent learning environment like college.
- Chris Peterson

Children (and adults) become responsible when they are given the opportunity to develop responsibility, Chris says. In the coming weeks and months of scheduling uncertainty, students — by choice or necessity — will be forced to develop more accountability and reliance when it comes to their education. The hope is that those skills will continue to serve them well into the future, Chris says.

Emergency Homeschool - Episode 6 Transcript

Narrator (00:00):
We've had so many parents reach out to us and say, "We're trying to be prepared for whatever happens this fall. Can you recommend curriculum for other subjects, like what you offer for Math and Language Arts with Beast Academy, AOPS Academy and AOPS online?" To help them out, we surveyed our Art of Problem Solving families to find out exactly what curriculum they use for their curious and motivated students. See their homeschool recommendations for yourself at aops.com/homeschool. That's aops.com/homeschool.

Eric Olsen (00:34):
What are some ways that you've kept learning this summer?

Child (00:38):
Well, I do Beast Academy for math. And I've also been taking Zoom Spanish lessons and voice lessons.

Eric Olsen (00:47):
Would you want to try to keep doing some of these things in the fall?

Child (00:51):
Well, I'll definitely be doing math as part of school. And I also want to keep on doing my music lessons. And, since I'll be starting the year with distance learning, I might have time to keep up Spanish too.

Eric Olsen (01:08):
I'm Eric Olsen with Art of Problem Solving. And this is the very first time we've ever considered homeschool options for our nine year old daughter. She loves her public school. She loves her teachers. She loves her friends, but we just don't know what traditional school is going to look like come fall and want to be prepared either way. So, in this series, I interview some of the best minds in the education and at home learning spaces to figure out our options and learn how to craft an at home learning plan that's right for our family. This is Emergency Homeschool.

Dr. Michael McShane (01:40):
A lot of parents are already doing some version of hybrid homeschooling without calling it that. They're supplementing. They love their school, but they're trying to fill in some gaps.

Eric Olsen (01:50):
This is Dr. Michael McShane, director of national research at EdChoice. What is hybrid homeschooling?

Dr. Michael McShane (01:58):
So, that's a great question. The easiest way to think about hybrid homeschooling is it's a schooling strategy where children attend what we might consider a traditional brick and mortar school for some portion of the week and they are homeschooled for some portion of the week. So, it varies. Some schools, kids go into class for three days a week, and they're homeschooled for two days a week. Some it's the inverse. Some it's four days, some days it's one day, some go half day. But generally, the way of thinking about it is that children are spending some time in what we would think of as a traditional school environment and some time learning from home.

Eric Olsen (02:32):
So, hybrid attendance is one of the models that schools are considering for this fall in order to keep their total student volume low enough each day to make effective social distancing possible, certain grades attending different halves of the week, or splitting up into individual classes for different halves of the week. Could fall potentially give a lot of the country a first taste of what a hybrid homeschool model could be like?

Dr. Michael McShane (02:58):
I definitely think it will be a first taste. I don't know how good that taste will be. So, hybrid homeschools... and hybrid homeschooling has been around for a long time. I mean, depending on where you want to start on the private school side, there was Grace Prep, which started in Arlington, Texas, in, I think, 1992-ish, early 1990s. The same in Colorado and some other places on the public school side, these types of programs were starting at about the same time. And in various places, in Iowa, and in Alaska, and a few other spots they've had sort of hybrid homeschool programs around for a long time.

Dr. Michael McShane (03:30):
But the key thing about those programs is that they are really intentional about the model. The teachers that are in that model are intentional about joining that model, the parents, the children, all of those people decide, oh yeah. Like we all want to be part of hybrid homeschooling for a variety of different reasons. But they actively want to be a part of it.

Dr. Michael McShane (03:49):
So, a bunch of families are about to get sort of thrust into it. So, if you have teachers who don't necessarily like it, it's just, well, we have to do this because of social distancing guidelines or others, or families are saying, look, we're trying to get as much time with our kids in the physical environment as we can so that we can work, it's not really the same thing that's going on in these other schools.

Dr. Michael McShane (04:08):
So, I'm a little bit worried about that, as someone who is generally kind of bullish on hybrid homeschooling. I've been able to spend time interviewing lots of folks that are involved in it and I've found it to be a really positive experience for lots and lots of different people for lots and lots of different reasons. So, I'm a little bit worried that families will have a negative experience with that and it might poison the well for other efforts. But other folks, I think, will experience that and say, hey, actually, really well focused schools that don't waste students' time, and frankly teachers' times and others, can get a lot accomplished in a shorter amount of time. And some of that freedom that students can have on other days can be put to really good use.

Eric Olsen (04:46):
Let's say I opt for at home learning this fall, but I also want to take advantage of whatever online option my public school is going to be providing. What kind of hybrid curriculum flexibility might I have here? For instance, if I have an online math curriculum, like Beast Academy, I'd prefer to swap with, or perhaps a live language arts course through AoPS Academy. What are the odds of my school being okay with any of those curriculum swaps?

Dr. Michael McShane (05:17):
I mean, look, I am hopeful. Well, I should say, I think that that's the right decision. Do I think schools will make the right decision, is another question entirely. But look, I think there's a really interesting school model out of Oklahoma called the Epic Charter Schools. And Epic started as a full time online school. And it was sort of self-paced, personalized learning where students who opted into the school had the choice of a variety of different curricula to choose from and that they worked through at their own pace in this personalized, individualized way through that. And then, they met with teachers every couple of weeks to make sure that they were making the necessary progress. But basically, they had a lot of choice in what they were doing and they were sort of left to their own devices.

Dr. Michael McShane (06:00):
But one of the things that Epic found was, for about 10% of their population, that wasn't enough. Students needed, whether it was for family reasons or for their own sort of educational reasons, they needed to actually come into a physical school for some part of the week. Some kids it's one day. Some kids it's five days. And so, they started what they call these blended learning centers, where essentially kids just come into school and work through these curriculum, the very types of things that you're talking about, but they're in the classroom. They have a teacher that can help them. They serve lunch. They have recess. They have a lot of the rhythms of schooling. Again, they're out of the house so their parents can work. So, they have a lot of those things there. Now, to me, that seems like a really great way to get the best of both worlds, where you have that personalized curriculum, you have that type of stuff that is matched to what kids are doing well, but you have the resources of a school that are available.

Dr. Michael McShane (06:49):
The advice that I've been trying to give to schools, and you'll see how influential I am and just how few of them choose to actually do this, is to say, look, this is an interesting model that you could emulate. Because, not only do I think we need to be thinking about... we have this sort of optimal plan right now is to have students come for some part of the week and then come from home for part of the week. But we're going to have questions of, if you're in a city that has a Coronavirus flare up, if you are in a school where someone tested positive for Coronavirus, what's going to happen? Are we going to have to shut down for seven days, or for two weeks, or whatever?

Dr. Michael McShane (07:25):
So, to me, the smart solution is to say, let's get kids on a platform that they can learn on from home or from school. And, as much as we can get them into school, let's have them work from that platform in school. But, in so far as they need to work for something, whether it's for social distancing or any of these other reasons, to work from home. But that continuity can exist regardless of where it is.

Dr. Michael McShane (07:53):
Now, that's going to require teachers to rethink their jobs. Most of that stuff, most of the work is going to go on to the platform to be actually delivering content and practice. Teachers are going to have to function much more like coaches. They're going to have to just sort of work with kids based on where they are and kids in their classes could be in various places based on what they're working on. Again, it's not necessarily the optimal environment for everyone. I think lots of children would actually thrive in this environment, but there's no environment that every child will thrive in. So, it's very clear that it wouldn't be great for everybody. But, to me, it's a more resilient system. It's a system that can handle the shocks that are inevitably coming. Like we all see this coming down the tracks over the next school year. And it's a way to really, I think, sort of make some good out of this and get a more personalized curriculum and get stuff that actually works well for kids.

Eric Olsen (08:42):
If my school isn't super flexible, when it comes to curriculum, but I'm also not ready to teach my kids homeschool full time, is hybrid homeschool a potential middle ground leveraging a hybrid co-op group or live online courses as a supplement?

Dr. Michael McShane (09:00):
I definitely think so. And, I mean, depending on almost anywhere where anybody lives, if you go on to Google right now and Google your city and hybrid homeschool, there are probably lots of schools around you of a variety of different persuasions. Some of the places where you are, they are actually public versions of this. If you happen to be in the state of Michigan or in Colorado, and some parts of Kentucky, and California, and others, but those are the kinds of big ones, you have lots and lots of oftentimes they're called parent partnership programs or they'll have some conservatory model. Or there's lots of different names that show up for this, but you have lots of options there.

Dr. Michael McShane (09:38):
There's also tons and tons of private versions that actually, because they are this sort of hybrid model, they're actually much lower costs. So, I think there's lots of options available out to folks. And again, there are varying levels of how much time students spend in school. So, for some, they are one day a week programs and for some they are three day a week programs. So, there's lots and lots of different options that are available to families. There are religious schools. There are non religious schools. There are Montessori, Waldorf, more progressive models, and there are sort of classical models, more sort of classical or conservative educational models. So, there's lots and lots of options that are available out there for families. So, I think that's definitely something that they should be looking at.

Dr. Michael McShane (10:16):
And I will say, because there are already hybrid models and they exist, many of these schools, when the Coronavirus hit back in March, were able to transition to full time home learning incredibly easily. Like they were able to turn on a dime because so many of those structures, they had already created them and they were ready for this to happen. Right? They didn't know it was going to happen, but they were ready for it.

Eric Olsen (10:44):

Dr. Michael McShane (10:44):
So, I think that that's even another reason to say, hey, look, there's a lot going to this because look, crazy things happen. Obviously, we're having a sort of once in a century pandemic. But, depending on what part of the country that you're in, hurricanes hit, or I live in Tornado Alley, or there's all sorts of things that happen. Yeah. You have a bad flu season and schools have to shut down for a week or two. So, lots of things happen. And so, we have to think about building schools that are more resilient that can handle these shocks. And hybrid homeschools seem to be one that can really roll with the punches.

Eric Olsen (11:16):
Some have argued that hybrid homeschool is also a great gateway preparation experience for college where a student will need to be more independent and self-motivated in order to succeed there. This is Chris Peterson, assistant director of admissions at MIT.

Chris Peterson (11:33):
So, I think that one of the things that I've often seen, as somebody who has worked with homeschooled and non traditionally educated students in a variety of capacities over the years, is that they're often students with a lot of intellectual autonomy and curiosity, and have some of those really well developed non-cognitive attributes that can help them succeed in a more independent learning environment.

Chris Peterson (11:58):
I think that there are aspects of this crisis, if you want to be optimistic, which I'm usually not, but I'll try to be for the purpose of this podcast. I do believe that people become responsible by being given the opportunity to develop responsibility. And that as students, by necessity or by choice over the coming weeks and months, are forced to develop more of that accountability and individual reliance in their education, hopefully those skills will continue to serve them well in the future.

Eric Olsen (12:33):
Chris, thanks so much for your time today.

Chris Peterson (12:35):
Happy to be here.

Eric Olsen (12:37):
In the next episode of Emergency Homeschool, we'll dig into homeschool group and socialization options and what opportunities for new friendships might exist, even in a pandemic. We hope you'll stay with us. As we interview the experts and navigate our at home learning options together.

Narrator (12:56):
You've been listening to Emergency Homeschool, an Art of Problem Solving podcast. Since 1993, Art of Problem Solving has prepared hundreds of thousands of motivated students for success in prestigious universities and STEM careers through engaging curriculum, expert online instruction, and local academies. To learn more, visit ArtofProblemSolving.com. That's ArtofProblemSolving.com.