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Virtual Learning Vs. Homeschooling: San Diego Parents Choose Between Models Of Learning

Claire Roush Bennett's daughters at their homeschool in Ramona in this undated photo.
Claire Roush Bennett
Claire Roush Bennett's daughters at their homeschool in Ramona in this undated photo.

With in-class learning in brick-and-mortar schools on pause because of COVID-19, school-aged children will be learning at home in the fall. But virtual learning and homeschooling are two very different options for parents to consider.

Ramona resident Claire Roush Bennett taught high school in the public school system and now works as an administrator for JCS Family charter schools. She also homeschools her two children. She says many parents she’s talked to feel their kids don't do well in the virtual learning environment.

Virtual Learning Vs. Homeschooling: San Diego Parents Choose Between Models Of Learning
Listen to this story by Maya Trabulsi.

“The reality is some kids don't do well on computers for a long period of time. Some parents are learning more about homeschooling and seeing that there is a lot more flexibility and different curriculum options,” Roush Bennett said.

She says some parents expressed their desire to get their kids off computers and limit screen time, which would be impossible to do with virtual learning where lessons are led by school teachers via Zoom. What also draws a lot of parents is the looser structure compared to the rigid schedule of virtual learning.

Homeschool vs. Virtual Learning: Parents weigh the differences

“There is still that lack of flexibility. They're following this bell schedule. You're going to come and you're going to do ELA here and then you're going to take a break and come back. In homeschool, you do it when it works in your day or sometimes you do it on the weekends. A lot of homeschoolers say it's more like a way of life.”

Roush Bennett uses everyday life as a teaching tool.

"Black Lives Matter is a great way to get your kids interested in learning about history and inequity and social injustice. So there's just so many things that we can talk about and learn about in the context of our everyday lives. I think that's creativity that is lacking in virtual learning."

Roush Bennett says with kids learning at home, this would be a good opportunity for public schools to reexamine traditional learning.

“Schools need to get better at personalizing learning and just not imagining school as a classroom with four walls. I think that school will change forever. This is going to force the school system to become more creative and more flexible, and I hope it does because it's what we need.”

Roush Bennett says with the new interest in homeschooling, charter schools are seeing an influx with longer than usual waitlists. She says this is in large part due to a new state funding policy that, while it freezes and protects funds in district schools, doesn’t allow those funds to move with students to charter schools.

“So that's forcing parents now into another decision that they may not have wanted, which is to homeschool privately,” Roush Bennett said.

Private instruction without the oversight of a charter school may be more daunting for inexperienced homeschool parents. A petition is currently in circulation asking Gov. Gavin Newsom and the California Legislature to restore per-pupil funding for all schools.