What is school-at-home homeschooling?

What is school-at-home?

During COVID, school-at-home has taken on a new meaning, and that is different to the school-at-home approach we talk about here. Of all the homeschooling philosophies, the school-at-home approach is the least popular and suffers from a bad stigma in many homeschooling circles. It is the one that most mimics traditional schooling and so grates on some home educators because it replicates a system at home that you have just been liberated from.

However, it really does work for some people, especially those who have had children in the school system for a long time, and need the advantages of the discipline and routine a school environment has given them. Not everyone necessarily needs to be liberated from that.

School-at-home is also an option if you choose to do part-time schooling, so as to maintain a consistent learning regime and daily routine.

Key features of school-at-home

There are key features that distinguish a school-at-home philosophy:

A separate room for learning.

Learning is separated from everyday life, just as a traditional school is.

Scheduled timetable.

Use of curriculum/textbooks designed for school use.

Distance education programs often require this kind of set-up.

We round out some of these below.

Setting: A school-at-home approach to homeschooling begins with the setting. It is basically recreating a classroom in the home. This usually involves having a separate room in the house like the formal lounge or dining room that is rarely used, a home office or spare bedroom. All the normal household furniture you had in this room is typically replaced with school desks or tables and chairs, bookshelves, blackboards or white boards, along with other educational paraphernalia and colourful educational posters.

Essentially, you are recreating a one-room-school house within your own home. This sends a clear message that this is the schooling zone of a homeschooling home and also signals that this room is for learning. Having a separate room for “school” allows the rest of the house to be clear of learning materials allowing children to separate school time from home time.

Curriculum: There are curriculums especially created for a school-at-home approach. They come in huge boxes full of textbooks, workbooks and teacher manuals, and can cost hundreds of dollars per child. These are typically called school-in-a-box curriculums. Some of them you may have heard of, for example Abeka or BJU Press. Parents can also choose to use the same textbooks used in our public schools by searching on eBay or at specialist school book suppliers, for grade level and subject.

Singapore maths programs have been written in a way that can work with school-at-home or any homeschooling method. 

Field trips: The most fun part about the school-at-home approach is the field trips. Many homeschoolers who use this approach schedule in more than they would do at a traditional school – the advantage of homeschooling. This gives the children hands-on experience, and is great for breaking the monotony of the school-at-home schedule.

Extra-curricular activities: For outside activities, school-at-home parents look for activities that will mimic the classroom experience to some degree. You can join a co-op or attend community classes, sports groups, etc, which are also accessible for homeschoolers whatever their philosophy of learning.

Partnering with public schools: More and more schools are becoming flexible with options for homeschooling families. Parents who use the school-at-home philosophy aren’t afraid to use these opportunities as the style fits with their approach. They take advantage of the special needs programs and utilise the sports programs which provide all the necessary equipment and teacher specialisation.

Part-time traditional schooling often offers classes to homeschool children such as sports, science classes that provide access to a lab, art or practical skills classes such as woodwork.  These opportunities also provide some social interaction with a bit more control for the parent, thereby also allaying any fears or objections from nay-sayers about “socialisation”.

Benefits of school-at-home

The school-at-home approach to homeschooling does have its benefits. It is perfect for a child who is only going to homeschool for a year or two because it allows the child to easily re-acclimate to a school setting. The school at home approach is easy to quantify and so record keeping is easy.

It is often accredited with keeping the student parallel to the school system and thereby being able to access the year 12 programs, making the university application process easier.

It is a great approach for children and parents who thrive best in a highly structured environment. It also allows you to use tried and true educational resources which could lead to high test scores and similar, if not better, results to that of a public school student.

Negative aspects of school-at-home

School-at-home earns some disdain from the homeschooling community as it appears to be quite rigid and limiting with parents not taking full control of their child’s education. They only have control over their environment and not much room for creativity. It is however the way some families have chosen, and their choice for what they think is best for their children is to be respected. There are some who could not cope with the “overly relaxed” approach of unschooling, for example.

Grading your child’s work can prove more difficult with the school-at-home approach, unless you have a chosen a program that has teacher or school support for this. Teacher manuals are not always user friendly to a non-teacher or homeschool parent.

Some parents find keeping up with the assessment requirements of a distance education school too stringent and demanding, with little room for the parent’s input.

Covid remote learning

Based on more recent events regarding COVID-19 lockdowns, homeschoolers of late tend to go out of their way to make sure the school-at-home approach is clearly defined and is not the same as forced remote learning. It must be remembered that the school-at-home approach is still the parents’ choice, and they are still answerable to the homeschooling authorities in their state. They still have the freedom to teach or homeschool as they wish, and are not restricted by the demands of a school.

Since public schools started doing forced remote schooling, the line between homeschooling and public school has been blurred. The differences between the general types of homeschooling are as follows.

Homeschooling: Parents are completely in charge of homeschooling, choose the curriculum, and have no oversight from the public school system.

School-at-home: The parent is in charge of homeschooling but may opt to use public school resources and pattern their homeschool style after traditional schooling. They mostly have the same freedoms as other homeschoolers, unless they have decided to partner with a school.

Forced (Covid) remote learning: Although many have dubbed this as “homeschooling”, the parent has no control of the child’s education as they are a public school student forced into schooling at home based on the accident of circumstance. The parent has a right to switch to a homeschooling model if they wish but they would lose the oversight of the school. The oversight of the school is what causes the stress associated with this situation, and departing from the school and deciding to homeschool (in the common understanding of this term) would actually provide a much more stress-free situation, with the parent taking over full control of their child’s education and being in command of their time.

Other homeschooling philosophies:

What is a Charlotte Mason Education?

What is Classical homeschooling?

What is unschooling?

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Education Reformation

Singapore maths and homeschool curriculum