With COVID-19 still on the rampage and school starting soon (for AZ, August 6th!), many of us are wondering what our schooling options are. Do we send our kids to a brick-and-mortar? Buy or create a curriculum to homeschool? Enroll in an online school?
What is safe for my children and family? How do I know what is the right decision for my family? If I do decide to go with an online school, which one? In this article we will explore those options and hopefully help you decide what is best for your family.
First, a quick definition: A brick-and-mortar school is any physical school your child might attend.
PUSD is currently planning on starting school on August 6th with two weeks of online school and then potentially moving to face-to-face classes, depending on what the recommendations from the Arizona Department of Education Roadmap. They discuss more of this here: https://www.prescottschools.com/blog/22387/
For some, students and parents, the uncertainty of how school is going to happen this year may be stressful and your family may desire a more predictable school year.
Also, there is the concern of contracting or spreading COVID-19. Schools, unfortunately, with their inevitable close contact, are one of the biggest ways to spread this pandemic, no matter the precautions taken!
If not a brick-and-mortar, then what?
It is important to make decisions based on your children and family unit. There is no one-size fits all when it comes to schooling options. Know your limitations and capabilities because it can make or break how things go.
To start with, ask yourself these three questions:
Is your child self-motivated or do they need someone to hold their hand along the way?
A lot will depend on your children’s ages and personalities.
- How available are you for them, especially if you have younglings?
- Do you have the ability to multi-task well? If not, is this something you can and are willing to learn?
For homeschooling, our experience is that in grades K-4 they needed a lot more hands on assistance from us and less as they’ve gotten older
What style of learning does my child learn best with?
Because we live in a state that doesn’t have specific requirements for homeschooling, you can do whatever you feel is best. You can teach in whatever way you want, leave out or add any subject, and set your own schedule for schooling. You don’t need to check in with anyone to make sure you are “in school”, testing is up to you, and you have many other benefits, though this also means you are largely left unchecked if you are unintentionally leaving out important parts of a curriculum.
If you do use your own curriculum you need to let the county know that you are planning on schooling at home. This is a very simple process and only takes minutes.
You will need to print an Affidavit of Intent to Homeschool (https://www.afhe.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/affidavit_of_intent_to_homeschool_rev2019.pdf). Along with this document you will need a copy of your child’s birth certificate, have the affidavit notarized, and send it into the county. Here is the mailing address and phone number for Yavapai County:
2970 Centerpointe East Drive,
Prescott, AZ 86301
If this is the road you want to explore, I recommend connecting with a local homeschooling group and ask questions; they are an awesome resource!
- Arizona Homeschool Chapter (https://www.facebook.com/groups/311460192366429/)
- Prescott Area Homeschoolers With Passion (https://www.facebook.com/groups/1412464732338850/)
- High School Homeschoolers of Prescott, AZ (https://www.facebook.com/groups/2048892875382071/)
- Prescott-Quad Cities Homeschool Co-op (https://www.facebook.com/groups/2048892875382071/)
How much does homeschooling cost?
Homeschooling can be as expensive or inexpensive as you’d like! There are pre-made curriculum available; some by subject, some by grade, religious preferences, teaching method, field trips, and the list goes on. With that said, you will likely find you want materials to best serve the needs of your children. This can include the basics like pencils and paper and other common office supplies, to materials needed for science experiments or other materials you might not have at home. There are many resources to find lessons that use fairly inexpensive materials.
Another Option: Online Schools
There are variety of free online public schools. There are also virtual private and / or religious schools that vary abundantly in prices.
If you decide to enroll in a public online school, you do not need to file an Affidavit of Intent to Homeschool.
To learn more about a school, you can check out the website and / or call them and ask questions such as these:
- What kind of computer and / or browser works with the school’s system?
- Does the school supply textbooks and other items needed for class (such as science experiments)?
- Is the school accredited, and if so by what organization(s)?
- What is the ratio of students to teachers?
- Are there any hidden fees?
- Lastly, what is the expected role as a parent?
Of course, not all kids are the same. With our kids, now grades 8 and 9, we certainly are supportive and help them when needed, but for the most part they are successful with an online school without much assistance or prodding from us. At the same time, we make ourselves available should they need us.
Below are some free public online school options.
- Arizona Connections Academy https://www.connectionsacademy.com/arizona-online-school#
- Arizona Virtual Academy https://azva.k12.com
- Primavera Online School https://www.primavera-online-high-school.com
- Hope High School Online http://www.hopehighonline.org
- ASU Digital Prep https://www.asuprepdigital.org/students/
- Insight Academy of Arizona https://az.insightschools.net
The links below will give you an idea of what will be taught using an accredited online school. These links will also help familiarize you with the terms used in online schooling and supply answers to more questions and / or concerns you may have:
- Grade School https://www.accreditedschoolsonline.org/k-12/online-elementary-school/
- Middle School https://www.accreditedschoolsonline.org/k-12/online-middle-school/
- High School https://www.accreditedschoolsonline.org/k-12/online-high-school/
Arizona is a state that offers a wide variety of options for schooling; brick-and-mortar, homeschooling, and online schools. Remember, this is doesn’t have to be a rest-of-school-life decision. Just take one year at a time and adjust as needed.
If you have more questions or concerns, I recommend joining Arizona Homeschool Chapter (https://www.facebook.com/groups/311460192366429/), a local homeschooling group. I found the families to be incredibly helpful and supportive with both creating a curriculum and doing online schooling.
Anne & Michael Glasser make a great writing team. Anne likes to write and Michael is a fantastic editor! Bilby, Michael’s pocket bear, is the Editor in Chief! They have two magnificent teens who are constantly teaching them how to make this world a better place, and they are listening.