How will your home classroom work this year? Parents are considering online programs with their school, forming a learning pod with other families, and moving completely to homeschooling. This is what the landscape looks like.

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Virtual Learning

Many public school systems are reopening with remote learning instruction, including Atlanta Public Schools, Cobb County School District, DeKalb County School District, Fulton County Schools, Gwinnett County Schools and more. Locally-approved charter schools follow the decision of their district, and state  charter schools make individual decisions about reopening. Some metro Atlanta school systems are planning on returning to in-person learning and will be offering remote learning for students and families. Some schools are offering hybrid options.

Tara Campbell, the principal at Douglas County School System’s FLEX Academy says remote learning for this school year will be different than it was in the spring.

“Coronavirus forced schools across the nation to shutter suddenly and unexpectedly. By contrast, what is happening with learning this fall is very strategic,” she says. “This year, the Douglas County School System is offering two learning options: School-Based Digital Learning and a FLEX Academy learning option. School-Based Digital Learning is for parents who want to have a temporary option in place due to their child’s zoned school. These educators are providing lessons and the learning content. It will be close to what is happening in a traditional learning context. FLEX will have a virtual learning platform. Teachers in FLEX Academy will support students through virtual learning modules.”

Georgia Cyber Academy and Georgia Connections Academy are both online charter
schools open to students from across the state. Georgia Cyber Academy is for grades K-12, and enrollment closes on August 30. Georgia Connections Academy is for grades 5-12, and first semester enrollment is open, although the cap has been met for grade 11. Sora is a private, virtual high school starting on September 8 with full-time and part-time programs.

Although this school year will be different than any other previously, both school districts and parents can work together to make education this school year exciting for students.

“Be flexible,” says Campbell. “Encourage your child to stay positive and engaged throughout the school year.”

Traditional Homeschooling

Intrigued by homeschooling? You will need to submit an online Declaration of Intent Form to the Georgia Department of Education where you provide a basic academic educational program with the five content areas: Mathematics, English Language Arts, Science, Social Studies and Reading. You must submit a declaration by September 1 or within 30 days after a home study program is established. Parents or guardians must have at least a high school diploma or GED. Visit Georgia
Department of Education for a complete list of rules and other information.

Parents are in charge of the curriculum; however, there are programs and organizations out there for support. Check out these Georgia websites for resources to help you plan your homeschooling curriculum: Georgia Homeschool Education
Association (ghea.org), Georgia Department of Education (gadoe.org) and University System of Georgia (eCore.usg.edu/DualEnrollment).

Homeschooling has evolved over the years and has become a choice that makes sense for many families, depending on their situation, as Laura Kronen, an Atlanta homeschooling mom and author of “Homeschool Happily: Yes, You Can!” has witnessed. “Over the past few decades, homeschooling has changed from a fringe quirky movement to a very recognized and mainstream education alternative that celebrates freedom of choice,” she says.

She enjoys homeschooling and spending time with her children, but she also likes creating content specifically tailored to her children’s interests. “For example, my youngest son has a love of music (he sings and plays guitar). We spent a semester
of his 7th grade year on a Magical Musical Tour identifying figurative language in song lyrics, analyzing the authorial meaning and intent and learning how different musical elements express ideas. Then we tied in art, geography and math as he planned his world tour,” Kronen says.

Helpful resources she recommends are Khan Academy, Study.com, IXL and YouTube. Read our full interview with Kronen here.

Hybrid Schools

Hybrid schooling allows you to get the best of both worlds. With hybrid schooling, students go to a physical location for learning and participate in online schooling on a rotating schedule. Private hybrid schools include St. John Bosco Academy in Cumming, Canton Homeschool Resources in Canton, Regina Caeli Academy in Roswell, Rivers Academy in Alpharetta, School of the Seven Sages in Sandy Springs, Parish Academy in Atlanta, Cornerstone Preparatory Academy in Acworth, The King’s Academy in Woodstock and Veritas Classical Schools with multiple locations. Mount Paran Christian School, a private school in Kennesaw, offers a Homeschool Hybrid program for kindergarten and first grade students.

Learning Pods

To supplement virtual learning at home, some parents have joined together to create learning pods that cater to children from different families and are under the direction of an adult or a teacher. These pods usually include 3-5 children in the same grade or age range. Often, inclusion in these pods starts in Facebook groups or community sites.

Eileen Snow Price, the CEO of In the City Camps, is a mom of four. In the City Camps is offering support for parents who are trying to facilitate in-home learning, and they’re offering pop-up afternoon camps around the city to help children connect with peers in a safe way.

“I found out about learning pods from various articles I’ve seen online and also from some friends who were discussing it as an option for those who didn’t feel comfortable going back to school or whose schools weren’t opening for in-person learning,” Price says. “I realized that people needed help creating pods and finding facilitators and that In the City Camps already has some of the needed infrastructure, staff and community to help people form pods in their area.”

One of the benefits of learning pods is that children will have the opportunity to socialize in person with peers in their grade and age range, rather than just being
on a computer all day. Parents, teachers or tutors can also split the responsibility of supervising the children between them.

“Learning pods can help families manage day-to-day life successfully while we all continue to navigate this new world of virtual school,” Price says. “They also give children social connections to each other, which is so important for their mental health and emotional learning.”

Amy Jaret is a mom and teacher who first found out about this type of learning pod on a Facebook group for moms. Jaret is concerned about equity in learning pods.

“All summer I’ve been involved in community networking around increasing access to virtual learning for students who didn’t have devices, internet or consistent help with schoolwork at home,” she says. “I was drawn to the conversations on social media because of my background as an educator and my family’s commitment to public schools.”

Many times, pods are using public education programs and school systems, but Jaret came across pods that were charging $1,000 a week or were only for gifted children. Families can work together to create a solution that costs less. “Families can team up to support kids in their online learning in shifts based on when people are off work,” she suggests.

“We value the idea that through public education our children will learn with and be in community with peers from all walks of life. Pods that are prohibitively expensive, exclude students who are not learning at a certain level or are comprised only of people from certain subgroups of a community will further entrench
existing race, class and opportunity divides,” Jaret says.

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