With uncertainty about schools opening in the Fall, many parents are considering homeschooling as an option. Teela James is an instructor for CHEC – the Community Homeschool Enrichment Center in Charlottesville. WMRA’s Chris Boros recently spoke with Teela and he asked her to describe what CHEC is all about.
Teela James: CHEC is a cooperative school environment. We offer enrichment classes to homeschoolers in the community. So we run one day a week and you can pick out classes that are of interest to them.
WMRA: So if a child is homeschooled, they sometimes still go to a class?
TJ: I would say probably most homeschooled kids go to one kind of class or another. I think it's a misconception that most homeschooled kids spend all their time in their house a great many are in the community taking classes, they're taking part in clubs where one parent will teach a group of kids. So yeah, there's a lot of community involvement in the community.
WMRA: So what types of classes does CHEC offer?
TJ: We tend to focus on enrichment classes. So you'll see things like art, baking but we also have science classes, gaming classes, book clubs, juggling. We had a great class this last year that was a very popular class about reptiles where someone brought in a snake and the kids loved it.
WMRA: Can I take some of these classes? I want to learn to juggle. (Laughs) With so many uncertainties about the schools opening in the fall, how does somebody get their kids into homeschooling? Is it difficult to do it this quickly if they want to do it for this upcoming academic year?
TJ: I don't think it's difficult to make the switch now and I think that we definitely heard from a lot of people who are making that switch. I think homeschooling has also definitely been affected by Covid. So just like regular schooling, we meet up a lot, we have groups of kids and Covid presents a huge challenge for us as well. But we do have a lot of advantages: we can have small classes. And of course a lot of our core curricular work does happen in the home, which is a safe environment from a Covid perspective.
WMRA: Are there pre-made curriculums that parents can just buy to do homeschooling or do they have to come up with all of their own stuff?
TJ: So there's a huge spectrum here. Some people do everything themselves and some people purchase specific curriculum. Some people hire tutors. It’s exceptionally diverse. There's a lot of ways to do things
WMRA: Homeschooled students still need to pass all of the standardized tests, right?
TJ: So there's a couple options. In Virginia, you are required to provide evidence of progress at the end of the year. Probably the most common option for that is taking a standardized tests and providing results, but there are other mechanisms for doing it. So you could get an evaluation done by a qualified person who is submit a letter talking about the progress your student has made through the year.
WMRA: Is there a general consensus about why most parents choose to homeschool their children?
TJ: No. I think there is a common misconception that that a lot of homeschoolers are completely in it for religious reasons and there certainly is a group that absolutely does homeschooling for that reason, but there are people who homeschool because they think they can provide a better quality of education. There are people who homeschool because they like the increased family time and it works really well with their schedule. There are people who homeschool because their child has an educational need that isn't being met in school system.
WMRA: If there's someone wants more information about either the services at CHEC or maybe just homeschooling in general, where do you think is a good place for them to go?
TJ: Virginia Homeschoolers has a good general information web page. So that's a great place to start. CHEC is working on a new to homeschooling series online because we have had so many requests. And we are offering some online classes in the fall and a very small selection of outdoor classes. If you're looking at taking your child out from school this year but potentially putting them back in next year, you're going to want to look closely at the standards and make sure you're teaching the same material that the schools are teaching and you can purchase curriculum that align with those standards.
WMRA: I was surprised doing a little bit of research as to just how much there was out there. I had no idea. I always thought homeschooled kids just stay home all day long. I had no idea all of this was available.
TJ: There's a lot out there right now. Homeschooling in general, even prior to Covid, has recently expanded in popularity greatly, so they were already an increased number of resources. And I think we're going to see more of that happening.