Through the COVID-19 crisis, schools have overnight transformed themselves into resource centers for families, but not without growing pains. Teachers have learned Zoom and Google Meet, and they are learning to post video lessons. On the other hand, families have struggled with maintaining the normal routine that some schools expect parents to enact. Herein is the rub. Many parents have realized that it is not healthy or reasonable to keep their children in front of a screen during the full school day and have chosen alternative schedules for their children. Yet many parents are at a loss as to how to guide the learning process apart from the guidance of the teachers. Parents need the assistance that schools provide, but they need it offered flexibly to fit the needs of their families.
When schools design alternative educational formats, parents can and should be accessed as academic resources. Parent involvement research* highlights the benefits to student achievement and motivation when parents share what they know, in particular when they share how they are using math at home and at work. Furthermore, fostering a learning community within the home encourages a love of learning. Schools that access parents in this way invoke a parent-teacher-child learning triangle that comes together for the best interest of children.
In a flexible schooling model, the majority of parents will need the school to design the educational program. However, some parents may choose to enact part or all of that program from home, a model I call schooling at home. For example, parents that work second shift may opt for a hybrid model so that they can parent in the mornings. Still others will need a traditional school setting for their children. A few parents have the time and desire to handle a majority of the subjects on their own, the model called homeschooling. These parents may simply need music, math, or sports opportunities offered for their child.
To offer this hybrid and flexible learning model, teachers would provide face-to-face and virtual tutoring hours when parents or children could ask questions. A library of textbooks, lab equipment, math manipulatives, and technology could be provided. The schools could set up testing centers for proctoring and offer assessment services for homework and tests. A mix of strictly online, face-to-face remote, and brick-and-mortar settings could comprise the academic offerings.
Parents on the other hand, would be responsible for the training and discipline of the children, freeing teachers up to focus on providing quality instruction, assessment, and learning interventions. Providing parenting classes for parents inexperienced at managing behaviors of unruly children would strengthen schools academically, given that strong, low-conflict homes produce children with higher student achievement.
As an example of a flagship flexible learning program, Stevens Point Area Public School School District in Stevens Point, Wisconsin has been successfully providing blended and pure online learning opportunities to families through its Online Learning Center for over 9 years. State funding allows for part-time and full-time students, with opportunities for participation in athletic association sports and other extracurricular activities. One student wrote that a benefit of the program was, “that I wasn't in a school which gives me anxiety.” A flexible learning model better serves the broader needs of the community than a one-size-fits all program. For more information see https://www.pointschools.net/olc.
Finally, in an exemplary schooling model, parents could learn alongside their children, sharing what they know but learning together. Student achievement has been linked to parent involvement*. Many schools currently offer math nights and curriculum sessions, and these offerings could be expanded. Parents engaged in a learning community with their children may encourage them to complete the GED test or enroll for college classes. This interconnectedness in learning would ultimately feed back into the academic success of the children, learning culture of schools, and economic strength of communities. Schools becoming resource centers for families would provide a win for all.