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Thursday, July 22, 2021
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Students, parents migrate to homeschool classes

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic response in school districts across the state, 22 percent of Alaska’s students have shifted to homeschooling.

These new homeschool families are not the ones using the distance learning offered by their local schools. Instead, they are in some other public correspondence program, such as IDEA, Raven, or even one from out of state, such as Calvert.

The number of Alaska students now enrolled in homeschooling has nearly doubled since last year, from 14,161 to 27,702.

Juneau, for example, has lost 11% of its enrolled students, as parents shopped for programs that fit their children better than the distance learning being offered in their local schools with their local teachers. Some Juneau students are using Homebridge, Juneau’s homeschool program. Last year, the program had 35 students, but this year over 400 are enrolled in the homeschool program, which is different than distant learning with a classroom teacher.

In Anchorage, where enrollment is also down 11%, the homeschool programs run by the district are not only full, there are waiting lists. Frontier Charter School, PAIDEIA, and Family Partnership Charter School are all at what is considered over-capacity and have been since summer.

Students who are enrolled in these homeschool programs are not considered “in the district” for counting purposes, but their curriculums are Anchorage School District compliant.

The preliminary enrollment in Alaska schools is 127,262, down from 132,257 last year, a loss of about 5,000 students in the enrollment that is calculated each October.

This fall, parents had a choice to either enroll their children in local classes, but have them taught by their local teachers online, or leave the district for another program.

After unsatisfying experiences from March through the end of the 2020 school year, many left the distance programs. The question is, will they return to brick-and-mortar in the same numbers when the pandemic eases and teachers unions are willing to return staff to the classrooms?

Parents have learned that their students can get through the basic curriculum in about three hours a day, but that leaves several hours a day of what many experience as boredom and loneliness, something that every student and family has addressed in a different way.

The State Department of Education signed an agreement with Florida virtual to train 50 teachers around Alaska on remote teaching skills, and since last winter has trained nearly 200. There are thousands of Alaska students now using the Florida Virtual curriculum, which was roundly criticized by Democrats in the Legislature and teachers unions and administrators.

“The ‘4th quarter solution’ that is suggested through the purchase of this Florida version of distance delivery is seen as an insult to most, if not all, teachers in the state who have been supporting their students,” Juneau Schools Superintendent Bridget Weiss wrote at the time.

But today, the program is being chosen by many Alaska families as an alternative that works for them with the nearly 200 courses offered by Florida Virtual, which offer advanced placement classes as well as remedial classes. The Alaska contract with Florida Virtual ends in February, 2021.

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Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

Latest comments

  • And some parents may be choosing to home educate independent of any publicly funded program altogether.

    In Alaska, parents can completely leave the public school system and simply put together their own programs of study. There are now myriads of curriculum available to families and also huge support available in just about every community. Alaska is fortunate to have some wonderful choices and these choices grew out of private homeschooling. Many of the school district home education programs are really good and are user friendly but if one has to be in a waiting list, and isn’t happy with the distance education systems many districts are using during Covid, there is the option of simply withdrawing altogether.

    There are many homeschool support systems in Alaska you can tap into for information.

    As a parent or guardian in Alaska, you have complete autonomy to educate your children as you see fit, even independently of any government involvement if you so choose.

  • Let me get this straight. We all have to go to work, mask-up, properly distance, interact with ALL AGES of people (NOT just children) so we can make a living. But these teachers refuse to, and they have the full Teachers Union support , backing and encouragement of not teaching our kids in-person ??? Truly amazing ! All because they might get Covid from a child. *** Which includes a 99.9% survival rate IF you ever do get symptoms to begin with. Sounds pretty pathetic, ridiculous, unnecessary and irrational to me. Our poor kids are getting abandoned, neglected and abused by poor leadership and reckless liberal agendas and incompetence.

    All at the expense of our children in terms of psychological issues and severely reduced interactions with other kids which helps develop mentally & socially. Sounds about right from the reckless incompetence that we have with the State leadership, UN-ELECTED want-a-be Mayor, a joke of an Assembly , our WEAK Governor and the ASD Superintendent.

    • An internal survey of teachers in my school district revealed over half of educators wanted a return to in-person learning ASAP. This was in OCTOBER, and is likely an even higher proportion now.

      Where are you getting your data that “THESE TEACHERS” are refusing to teach kids? It’s quite the opposite. Over half have wanted a return to in-person learning. And many have, in the meantime, been busting their behinds to do anything and everything to connect with kids and keep relevant learning going as strong as possible.

  • ““The ‘4th quarter solution’ that is suggested through the purchase of this Florida version of distance delivery is seen as an insult to most, if not all, teachers in the state who have been supporting their students,” Juneau Schools Superintendent Bridget Weiss wrote at the time.”

    Why is it an insult?

  • This sounds like good news for those homeschooled students that have qualified, educated parents that are capable of implementing a homeschool program. It takes a strong commitment to stick with it. Our child went to public education, and then when he got home, we did our best to see that he understood everything that was taught that day at school and many times we did our own homeschool lesson during the evening . But we were committed and wanted what was best for our child and two degrees later, it has proven to be effective.

    • “Qualified” parents don’t exist – at least according to the NEA. Commitment and work are required to homeschool successfully. My wife doesn’t even have a college degree – she did the bulk of the teaching – and our son got ’em all right on the Alaska HSGQE and scored in the top 1/10 of 1% on the ACT. Strong curriculum is a must. Bigger benefit – not left wing indoctrination and no social experimenting. As for social skills – homeschoolers typically grow into the social skills of their parent-teachers and never learn how to be rotten maladjusted delinquents.

      • Yeah, but they don’t have thick skin to survive in the real world.

        • That is one of the most ignorant posts you’ve done yet Greg – did you even read my last sentence? Our now 35 year old son is doing very well – and his skin is thick enough…

          • Socialization in public schools helps kids prepare for everyday life once they get older. It teaches them tolerance and tact. Quarantining kids in a homeschool environment can do more harm than good socially. I tend not to read in detail leftist babbling but usually just skim over it.

        • No reply button on your latest… Greg, you hope that kids learn tact and “tolerance” – whatever you mean by that leftist buzzword. What kids learn in public school is too often bullying, intolerance of anyone not seen as “cool” or promoted by the school as a special group for entitlement, anger, bitterness, and hatred toward anyone who is being picked on for whatever. Parents are much more effective at teaching tact and tolerance, period. What kids learn in public schools is the lowest common denominator – they learn how to be rotten, and hopefully how not to be rotten after they’ve been corrupted. The socialization argument against homeschooling has been shot down so many thousands of time I’m surprised that you are clinging to it. What you get with homeschools is a reflection of parental values – which the left can’t stand. I support choice in schooling – and anyone who wants help in learning how to homeschool their kids may contact me.

          • You sound like you were bullied as a kid. Is that why you’re still angry?

      • As an educator, I often receive students returning to public schooling from a year or two of home school. Why are they coming back? Because it wasn’t working. Because the family lacked the very commitment or capability referenced above. And said students usually have glaring gaps in basic skills that require intervention and remediation. They are rarely at or above grade level.

        I applaud your ability as a family to provide a quality education for your child. Others do so as well, from home. Just as some students who graduate from my school district score in the 99th percentile on standardized or college entrance tests.

        Can all families afford to home school their children well? Do their jobs afford them the income or time needed to dedicate towards transitioning their students from dependent to independent learners? Public schooling is not a failure worthy of demonization. Nor is homeschooling a perfect solution. Education is a complex and nuanced issue and every child deserves access to (and one that society benefits from).

        • I agree it is nuanced, but I have yet to meet any homeschoolers who were below grade level. Parents who decide to homeschool understand the commitment. My biggest issue with public schools is the left-wing political indoctrination and social policy experimentation – usually at the expense of academic subjects. Thanks for posting.

  • As a homeschooling Mom of seven, I find this paragraph very sad:

    “Parents have learned that their students can get through the basic curriculum in about three hours a day, but that leaves several hours a day of what many experience as boredom and loneliness, something that every student and family has addressed in a different way.“

    What could be the cause of boredom and loneliness in the home? I’m sure there are many, but boredom and loneliness certainly have not been regular occurrences in my home, either for the parents or children.

  • I think Schools will remain close until August 2021. Tough luck.
    So churches, parents, and children are going to have to toughen up and those churches not fearful will have to get those bus ministry teams rolling thru the week for week activities to combat the isolation the children are experiencing who finished with their zoom class to hang out at the church with other bus kids as some churches have on sundays.

    The most encouraging news the democrats HATE the Florida Virtual, so that is telling it must work! Ha ha ha heh heh tsk tsk tsk

  • Good, I say.
    .
    If the parents are on the ball enough to recognize their children are not getting what they need from the virtual classes, they are on the ball enough to ensure their children learn what they need to learn. Maybe some good will come out of this after all.

  • The Covid “pandemic” has shown that we as a Nation, or State, should not be spending an average of $100,000 per teacher ( including their benefit package ) for essentially babysitting services. Also, it is time to reevaluate spending billions of dollars on brick & mortar buildings to house these kids. Like every other industry in the world, technology will soon make millions of teachers irrelevant regardless of the political influence their Unions may wield.

    • You are entirely wrong on this. People aren’t meant to be turned into robots or cloned in a petri dish of raw cold data. Children need public interaction and socialization that comes from contact with their peers. Many parents who are capable biologically but incapable of properly raising a kid will not be able to ensure a proper education and social etiquette from the home. That’s where teachers and a brick and mortar building come into play. Yes oftentimes it is babysitting, but babysitting by itself isn’t a bad thing as long as the babies learn something in the process.

      • Kids don’t need rotten peers to teach them how to be rotten kids – they need caring involved parents to teach them how to restrain themselves appropriately and be responsible adults. 100% of society’s social problems can be traced to the farming out of our children and absentee parents. History prior to the 1960s and my personal experience homeschooling our son bear testimony to this.
        I’m also well aware that not everyone is capable of homeschooling their children and that a public school option should be available – but please lay off the “kids need interaction with other kids to grow up in a healthy manner” fantasy – this is just NEA propaganda, and is merely a way to ensure job security for counselors and psychologists and the penal system. Stop it – kids are not a separate species – they are adult humans in training and require parental guidance, not a village, and definitely NOT leftist indoctrination.

        • What an idiot. Humans are a social species. Come out of your shell.

          • Of course humans are social – they learn that best from their parents. Back in the day… most of our kids social activity was home working on a farm with their parents – their time away from home was largely centered on church. Public schools didn’t use to be leftist indoctrination centers… The answer to save our nation from the alt-left starts with homeschooling. And as our personal experience shows, there are no social issues with our kids due to homeschooling. Sounds to me like you’ve bought into to the whole lie – or had a very bad experience with your own parents. Digging our way out of the social hell we’ve let the schools drag us into will take several generations – just as it has taken that long to fall this far. “Idiot” – from the Greek, “one who is absorbed by and characterized by self.” Be careful of who you label Greg. Just because we disagree and I’m exercising my right to free speech does not make me less/worse than you. Where is your evidence that homeschooling is harmful to anything beyond left wing values? Don’t the parents have some say in the upbringing of their children? Or are you one of those wackos who believe that children belong to the state and not to their parents? Enlightenment – which requires coming out of one’s shell – has passed you by Greg, as it is clear you can’t intellectually examine anything without ad hominem.

  • Every crisis teaches us something. It shows how local/state/federal governments will act or react. Take Anchorage for example. The mayor and assembly when off the deep end and looked to totalitarianism as their savior. Their decisions have consequences. Businesses are closing for good. The school district also jumped on the “der fuher” wagon. Their decisions have consequences. Parents are upset with the district’s mickey-moused version of education. Parents now have a direct portal into their kid’s classroom and get to witness what their “teachers” are really like and what ideologies they are pushing onto their students. A friend had their 3 kids at home using chrome tablets to connect into the ASD’s remote learning. After 2 weeks of watching what was going on, he called the school, told them he was moving his kids to home school and wanted to make an appointment to drop the tablets off. The school flipped out and asked why. He told them that he was paying for education, not their opinions and their socialist views. My brother also had this reality-check. He’s looking into moving over to home school because the leftist attitudes the teachers have given his son. It’s not a class, it’s a hostile environment which is not conducive to his learning.

    • Been going to the wrong school. Not all teachers are raving lunatic liberals.

      • That’s what they’re taught at ed colleges… Unfortunately the preponderance of teachers are lefties, and their union is far worse.

        • I wasn’t taught that.

      • Naaaa.. They just hide it well.

  • I was wondering which liberal leftist style of math or english or spelling your school taught? Liberal wood shop? Leftist history? Teachers have to teach the curriculum set forth by the board. Not all teachers are out to brainwash your kids, not till they get to college or law school anyway.

    • More ignorance Greg – if they just taught English, instead of alt-wacko literature, gutter-grammar, and something called “values clarification” in English class, that would help. Even the math word problems and the choice of words for spelling lessons are skewed to promote leftism. History is being rewritten dramatically to reflect left values – you wouldn’t recognize it. Teachers have some flexibility in what is taught, but what is forced on them by school boards skews left – and when we do elect conservative board members, they look at the cost of replacing curricula and go too slow in changing out the junk. At least in the bush, the schools districts often ignore what the board wants anyway. State Dept of Ed – career bureaucrats – have some demands also.

      • I’m sorry you feel that way but you are kind of wrong. I know firsthand but many teachers do not teach that way but to give you a little bit of kudos I also know teachers that do but to lump the entire system into your little little bag of crap would be inaccurate.

        • I know more than a few teachers who would be horrified to teach and worse be forced to of such lefty propaganda – but the system is set up to do that very thing. The incredible pressure placed on my son to conform to alt-left values at UAF turns my stomach, and I believe it was Abe Lincoln who said something on the order of “He who controls the schools controls the future. This has been a long process that has been a deliberate effort to reach the state we are in today – to bring about a communist take over of America. Take a look at Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals” – they’re just following their playbook. Yep, I have a little bag full of bitterness because of my love for people and this nation and state – but it’s not crap. It would be a much bigger bag if I had more time to try to do something about it – like when I was a school janitor 30 years ago and the principal arranged for me to throw away “Heather has Two Mommies”, and “King and King” with no one knowing – and the district inventoried the library one year later and sent new copies that were ordered to be prominently displayed. Read their history textbooks – they bear little resemblance of what we were taught and actually promoted love of country and our heritage. The system is broken but I don’t have a path to fix it – or I would be running for school board… We didn’t get here overnight and it won’t be “fixed” quickly either.

          • He goes to the wrong school. I went to Kansas. No nonsense there. Alaska schools are making bank right now. No night gym. Lower utilities. No sports travel which was a huge cost. Govt money. It’s a good time to be a school administrator.

  • No sub pay. No traveling to conferences. Thousands being saved.

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