Schooled Reporting on education

Homeschooling’s unexpected heyday

Education | School is out because of COVID-19, but learning is still very in
by Laura Edghill
Posted 4/01/20, 05:24 pm

The coronavirus pandemic is giving just about every American family with children a taste of homeschooling. Many of them might like it more than they expected.

Robert Bortins, the CEO of Classical Conversations, said the homeschool resource company has had a sudden uptick in requests for materials. It would not surprise him to see a 10 to 20 percent jump in the number of families deciding to homeschool this fall due to the positive experiences they had during their enforced home-learning stint.

A graduate of home education himself, Bortins and his wife homeschool their children. He noted that the learning environment created by the coronavirus—with its social distancing and stay-at-home orders—is not ideal for home education.

“This is really isolationist homeschooling,” Bortins said. “We’re not used to sitting in homes. … We’re used to being in clubs and at co-ops and communities and playing different sports. We’re feeling the pain, as well.”

Homeschool advocate, author, and filmmaker Sam Sorbo also sees a tremendous opportunity for rookie homeschoolers, as families come together in their homes during the outbreak.

“The overarching message of homeschooling is your children are a gift from God,” she said. “You just got a gift. Open it for yourself. Discover what’s inside.”

Sorbo and her husband, fellow filmmaker and Hollywood actor Kevin Sorbo, decided to homeschool their children after a series of frustrating experiences with their oldest child’s public school and to better accommodate the travel demands of their careers. Sam Sorbo took on the challenge of educating the couple’s three children herself, a choice that blossomed into a full-blown passion for home education. She wants to encourage parents who are grappling with homeschooling for the first time to be grateful for the opportunity and realize they are capable.

“Are you going to be perfect? No! None of us are,” she said. “But we can strive. We can rise to the challenge.”

Sorbo serves as the spokeswoman for the Texas Home School Coalition, which is offering free online lesson plans in response to the pandemic. Both Sorbo and Bortins recommend checking out virtual tours from leading museums around the world, and they encourage families to be creative with what they can do during this unusual time. Many homeschool curriculum providers and associations also offer free resources. Experienced homeschooling mom and WORLD book reviewer Emily Whitten recently offered her suggestions, too.

Bortins suggested that, ultimately, it’s not so much about doing school at home but simply trying to see and understand the world.

“Because that’s what education’s all about,” he said. “Education is all about learning about the world God created for us to live in. And that’s what we should be pointing to in everything that we do.”

Associated Press/Photo by Steven Senne (file) Associated Press/Photo by Steven Senne (file) Lori Loughlin

New evidence

A group of 14 parents embroiled in last year’s college admissions scandal pressed a federal judge last week to dismiss the charges against them. The group, which includes Full House actress Lori Loughlin and her fashion designer husband, Mossimo Giannulli, claims the prosecution committed “extraordinary misconduct,” making the case against them invalid.

The group’s attorneys say federal prosecutors bullied the scam’s mastermind, William “Rick” Singer, pressuring him to lie about his conversations with the accused parents. They cite as evidence notes that Singer kept about the interactions, which lawyers only recently introduced in court. In the notes, Singer describes how he felt federal prosecutors coerced him into saying what he thought they wanted him to say.

“They continue to ask me to tell a fib and not restate what I told my clients as to where their money was going—to the program not the coach and that it was a donation—and they want it to be a payment,” Singer wrote, according to the court filing.

Loughlin and Giannulli stand accused of paying $500,000 to obtain admission for their two daughters at the University of Southern California as rowing recruits, even though neither girl rowed in high school. They, along with the group of parents who have pleaded not guilty, argue they made legitimate donations to the universities, not bribes.

The prosecution stated that regardless of whether the parents called the payments donations or bribes, their nature was still an illegal quid pro quo.

Nearly two dozen other parents pleaded guilty in the scandal last year, incurring sentences that included fines, community service, and, in some cases, jail time.

The 14 parents contesting the charges are set to go to trial in two separate groups before U.S. District Judge Nathaniel Gorton in Boston in October. —L.E.

Associated Press/Photo by Gene J. Puskar (file) Associated Press/Photo by Gene J. Puskar (file) Police escort Jerry Sandusky to a court hearing in 2019.

Penn State fumbles Title IX

The U.S. Department of Education ordered Penn State to overhaul its approach to campus sexual assaults. The department investigated how the school handled accusations against assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky by players who claim he subjected them to sexual grooming and even violent attacks. A jury convicted the 76-year-old Sandusky in 2012, and he is serving a 30- to 60-year sentence for rape and the sexual abuse of boys.

“For too long the students of Penn State have been denied justice,” Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said.

The university must revise its Title IX procedures, which govern how schools that receive federal funding prevent discrimination based on a person’s sex, including sexual violence. Campus Title IX policies and procedures have come under intense scrutiny nationwide in recent years due to the rise of the #MeToo movement, as well as controversy over the federal policy approach to campus assaults.

The Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights will monitor the recommended corrective actions, including revisions to Penn State’s record-keeping and individual remedies for victims whose complaints administrators mishandled over the years. —L.E.

A visit from the principal

Government officials may have canceled classes, but that’s not stopping Page High School Principal Erik Naglee from personally visiting each of the Greensboro, N.C., school’s 420 seniors.

Every day, Naglee knocks on doors, steps back, and chats with members of the class of 2020. He also records videos of the seniors saying their names, any activities or clubs they’re in, and what they have planned after graduation. Naglee tweets the videos daily and plans to compile them into a year-end gift for the students

“That seems to have been really uplifting to them,” he said. “They’re missing out on so many of these memories over the past few weeks and months ahead.”

The visits also have an additional purpose. With nearly two-thirds of the school’s families qualifying for free and reduced lunch, Naglee and his team also check to ensure students have adequate food and their computers and internet connection are working.

“We talk to them about any other family needs that are pressing that we can try and support them with,” he said. —L.E.

Laura Edghill

Laura is a freelance writer, church communications director, and public school board member living in Clinton Township, Mich., with her engineer husband and three sons. She is a graduate of the WORLD Journalism Institute's mid-career course. Follow Laura on Twitter @LTEdghill.

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  •  TInaH's picture
    TInaH
    Posted: Thu, 04/02/2020 12:45 pm

    Potential homeschoolers can see ALL the options available to them in terms of curriculum and resources here: https://www.homeschoolroadmap.org/

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