Two days a week, third-grader Sam Hagood attends Legacy Preparatory Academy in Newnan, with a full day of instruction, 8 a.m.-2:15 p.m. The other days of the school week, Sam and his mother, Elizabeth, start their routine about 9 a.m. in their Peachtree City home. Following a syllabus provided by Legacy Prep, Sam works for three to four hours, covering various subjects, with breaks in between.
Film/television writer and producer Rhonda Baraka says her two teenagers love learning at home. Toni, 17, starts her day at 8:30 a.m. She works straight through with her Georgia Cyber Academy curriculum at their home in Woodstock. With her workload, some days end at 5 p.m. Meanwhile, 15-year-old Koran does his Cyber Academy studies at a coffee shop with Mom while she writes, then comes home to finish up. Sometimes the teens spend the day on a film set with their mom, learning life lessons.
The Haygoods and the Barakas employ innovative methods of teaching. And both families say they’re homeschooling.
Homeschooling once meant a parent provided all academic instruction at home, says Fayetteville mom Charlene Peavy, a board member of the Georgia Home Education Association.
“For the first 10 or 12 years, it really was homeschooling, where the parents were deciding what to teach and getting their own curriculum,” she says. Many homeschooling parents still follow that traditional route.
In 1999, 850,000 children were homeschooled nationwide. In 10 years, that number jumped to 1.5 million students, according to Education Week magazine. Along with the changes in numbers, have come changes in methods. Some homeschooling families who shunned traditional curriculums and classes are now taking part in school activities, and even using schools for academic instruction through hybrid homeschooling.
Hybrid homeschooling partners traditional teaching methods from outside the home with learning at home. The King’s Academy in Woodstock provides a hybrid program. Starting as a program “for homeschoolers by homeschoolers,” the Academy has morphed over the years.
“We call ourselves a hybrid education,” says Sandra Breaden, student affairs administrator at the Academy. “It’s a blend of brick-and-mortar-school and homeschool.” The school allows students to attend a Tuesday/Friday or Monday/Wednesday program on campus, then complete the school week at home. Older students do lab work on Thursdays.
Breaden did traditional homeschooling for her children, but switched to The King’s Academy. “The great thing about this kind of system – they’re home with you,” she says. “But at the same time, (teachers) give you the basic structure of what you’re going to teach each day.”
Cornerstone Preparatory Academy in Acworth subscribes to the university model program, similar to the one used by the Hagoods at Legacy Prep. Students in grades 1-6 are on campus Tuesdays and Thursdays and home for three days. Grades 7-12 attend classes on campus Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and are home for their “satellite days.”
“I think we offer a good blend … we offer a strong academic program comparable to any private school in the area, but at a much lower cost,” Jeanine Marlow, the school’s director of communications, says. Cornerstone considers itself a private school that is friendly to homeschoolers.
Marlow homeschooled her children traditionally before sending them to Cornerstone. “I always knew when we got to high school we wanted an accredited high school, because it’s easier to get into college,” she says.
Another alternative considered a hybrid program by some is the Georgia Cyber Academy. It’s a state public school program with online instructors, and learning is done at home. Baraka started out with traditional homeschooling, but moved to this program when her children got older.
“To me homeschooling is learning at home – it’s doing your schooling in your home environment,” she says. “Simply because I’m not teaching my child everyday all day, it doesn’t mean my child isn’t being homeschooled. They’re still learning in a nontraditional setting.”
Sharon Cochran in Stone Mountain says her children used the Cyber Academy while she homeschooled them. However, she found herself doing more instructing for her children, and it became a stressful experience. Her children now attend Smoke Rise Prep, and have a live teacher using the Cyber Academy curriculum.
Rhonda Baraka’s daughter, Toni, performs in a theatrical production with Curtain Call Youth Players.
Traditional homeschooling offers a parent-led learning environment, while a hybrid program can add an additional component. “I think hybrid schools are for people who want a little bit of both in a way – they want more time with their kids at home, and want them in that classroom structure to experience another authority figure,” Hagood says. The family sends first-grader Jonathan to a private school; they homeschool Sam.
Kids in hybrid programs can get the same real-life experiences as those in a traditional homeschool environment. Baraka loves taking her children on film sets with her. “The nicest thing about it is, they get to participate in my dream. If Mom can do it, I can do it.”
Children can avoid some undesirable social aspects of full-time traditional schooling, while still enjoying positive socialization. “I’ve always made a special effort to make sure my kids are involved in outside activities,” Baraka says. “They’ve learned to accept people for who they are because they’re not influenced by the social morays that exist in the walls of a traditional school.”
Another benefit of hybrid programs is the schools keep academic records for the students, which is especially important at the high school level. “It’s a lot easier on the parent, to keep up with the records and to get the Hope scholarship. If you homeschool [traditionally], it requires more diligent record keeping to get those things and [get into] college,” Marlow says.
Proponents of the traditional method of homeschooling say parental involvement isn’t the same in a hybrid situation. “The hybrid school is nothing more than people deciding they have expertise in a variety of subjects. I don’t like it because it’s not homeschooling anymore,” Peavy says. “Homeschooling is hard, it takes dedication, it’s a different lifestyle.”
Also, because of the classroom setting, students’ needs may not be met. “Private school is just like a public school in the way they teach and their settings. They still can’t take 25 children and meet every child’s needs,” Peavy says. “You’ve got your visual, auditory and kinesthetic learner, and every child can’t learn the same way. If you’ve got other children who don’t learn that way, they’re going to be left behind or lost.”
Hybrid homeschooling also puts a structure in place that makes it more difficult to create your own plan for each day. “You do lose some flexibility. Definitely,” Breaden says. “But everything in life is about choice.”
Is homeschooling or hybrid schooling right for you and your children or would traditional schooling work best?
To help you decide, experts say you should look at the temperament of your child and your own temperament, and consider the amount of time and effort you will make with each of the choices involved. What financial sacrifices can you make? Is a specific program in your budget?
Attend events to view the options available. Public and private schools have open houses and other opportunities to learn about curriculum and meet teachers. The Georgia Homeschool Education Association holds an annual conference, and there’s also the Southeast Homeschool Expo. Georgia Cyber Academy has information sessions available.
Ultimately study what works best for your family.
“As much as I advocate what we’ve done, it was my choice because I don’t subscribe to the one size fits all … it’s not for everybody,” says Baraka. “Try it out. If it works for you, great,” she says. “Courage is in trying it and courage is also in letting it go if it didn’t work.”
- LaKeisha S. Fleming
To learn more about homeschooling and hybrid schooling:
“Blended Learning” is one area that traditional public and private schools and hybrid schooling have in common. The Innosight Institute, a non-profit think tank, says in a 2012 report that blended learning is “anytime a student learns at least in part at a supervised brick and mortar location away from home and at least in part through online delivery with some element of student control over time, place, path and/or pace.” The six blended learning models outlined in Innosight’s report, titled “The Rise of K12 Blended Learning,” include:
Following are Georgia’s basic requirements for homeschooling. Visit doe.k12.ga.us for a more comprehensive list of state laws and regulations.
Sources: gadoe.org/Curriculum-Instruction-and-Assessment/Pages/Home-Schools.aspx; ghea.org/pages/testing/law.php