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Saw this recent piece in Ed Week, “Hybrid Home Schools Gaining Traction”, highlighting a trend which may turn out to be the new emerging norm for education as we get deeper into this new century.  Stated simply using an environmental metaphor, the current “monoculture” of full-time year-round instructional school attendance may be gradually supplanted by perhaps a richer “polyculture” including an array of learning experiences – some classes, some self-study, some collaborative work, and more real-life experience.

The article cites an example of two sisters...

Emmy Elkin’s school day starts with a cooking show. The 10-year-old and her mom, Jill Elkin of Peachtree City, Ga., are up at 8 a.m., making breakfast along with “Iron Chef America” and chatting about algebra. Last week, Emmy left home after breakfast to meet a new Japanese tutor, around the time her sister Kayla, 14, dragged herself awake to get her independent mathematics study done before a friend came over for a joint British literature course. The sisters spent the afternoon working through a chemistry course online, with Jill Elkin giving more individual coaching to her younger daughter... Kayla and Emmy are part of the modern generation of home-schooled students, piecing together their education from their mother, a former Fayette County math teacher, other district and university teachers, parent co-ops, and online providers.
You might initially think that such an approach is only  available to kids from economically privileged families with money for all sorts of tutors and private classes, or maybe with parents trained as professional educators.  But I read about more and more public schools being set up that offer online programs or even individual online classes.  I'm even hearing about a few public schools letting kids come on campus for individual classes or after-school programs, without having to commit to go to that school all day.  If this is a trend, I certainly see it strengthening rather than subsiding in the decades ahead.  From the piece...
Education policymakers and researchers have largely ignored the tremendous growth in home schooling, particularly among these sorts of “hybrid” home-schoolers willing to blur the pedagogical and legal lines of public and private education, said Joseph Murphy, an associate dean at Peabody College of Education at Vanderbilt University and the author of Home Schooling in America: Capturing and Assessing the Movement. The book, an analysis of research on the topic, is being published this month by Corwin of Thousand Oaks, Calif... “Historically home school was home school, and school was school,” Mr. Murphy said. “Now … it’s this rich portfolio of options for kids.”
A rich portfolio of options akin to that ecological “polyculture” I referred to earlier.  In my thinking its got to (or at least very likely to) offer a more robust ground for a kid to grow.  The catch is... can a kid from a less economically privileged family operate in this sort of richer learning environment without the money for private classes or parents (or other adults) available during the day to take them to classes, study dates, real-life experiences or simply keep an eye on them while they study solo.

Again, for the more economically privileged families there are innovative private schools like the Baywood Learning Center in Oakland CA referred to in the article...

A private school for gifted students, has offered hybrid home-schooling programs for the past three years. The school has a la carte classes on individual subjects once a week, as well as a multiage class that meets on Tuesdays and Thursdays to cover core academics. Director Grace Neufeld said demand for the latter has grown 50 percent in the last year, to about 40 students ages 4 to 17.
Well why can't a bunch of public schools try to keep pace with this trend and offer less economically advantaged families a similar school offering, more like a community college or a YMCA than a conventional school?  Would it cost more than a conventional school that tries to have teachers in front of every student six hours a day, five days a week?  Maybe not!

Ah but public schools have to teach to the test, not to the student's interests, which really hampers their ability to adapt and evolve with the rest of us.  If we really care about our kids, that is all our kids in all economic circumstances, we need to get rid of this whole high-stakes testing thing.  Its keeping our economically disadvantaged kids locked in increasingly outmoded educational “monocultures” in a world of emerging “polycultures”.

I read in the article that this “hybrid” approach is becoming more the norm for homeschooled kids, particularly during their teen years.  It was certainly the approach our daughter Emma adopted (at her own direction not her parents').  She chose to...

* Learn French through a variety of methods including community college classes, with a shared tutor, later helping on a farm and at a language school in French Canada

* Take art, piano, guitar, gymnastics and dance lessons (again not stuff her parents suggested/pushed her to do, but by her own choice)

* Take formal and informal training for youth leadership roles in a Unitarian-Universalist youth community

Having become comfortable with this “hybrid” process during her teen years, she has continued to hybridize her learning into young adulthood...

* Take online novel-writing classes from a university (UCLA) extension program

* Going to bartending school

It's good to read in the piece that the conventional education world is beginning to try to address this need for more diversified learning...

The hybrid approach has become “very, very typical, particularly at the middle and high school level,” said Yvonne Bunn, the director of home-school support for the Richmond-based Home Educators Association of Virginia. “It used to be it was very difficult to get materials; now we have people all over the place who want to sell to home-schoolers because they are such a good market.” About half of state legislatures now require school districts to allow home-schooled students to enroll part time if they want to, and both Mr. Ray and Mr. Murphy noted that the current budget crunch may have given districts more reason to offer programs to home-schooling parents, which can generate additional revenue.
Seems like one of the big thrusts in our society and its institutions is to encourage what's often called “lifelong learning”, rather than shutting down that inquisitive mind once you get done with your formal education. But is twelve (or often even sixteen) straight years of a “monoculture” education mostly sitting in a classroom with a teacher in front of you really the best way to encourage one to be a lifelong learner?  Or is it more likely when you are done with that twelve to sixteen year ordeal that any formal or informal learning will be something you will be happy to be done with and avoid?  Wouldn't spending your youth years, particularly your teen years with a hybrid “polyculture” of educational experiences better prepare you to continue learning all your life (certainly so useful and even required in a dynamic high-tech society like our own).

Again, lack of economic privilege seems to be preventing a lot of families from giving their kids the advantage (that they can leverage all their lives) of a hybrid education...

The number of home-schoolers has more than doubled since 1999, to more than 2 million as of 2010, representing nearly 4 percent of all K-12 students, according to Mr. Murphy’s book. More than 90 percent of the families are two-parent, one-salary homes, and the mother continues to be the most likely parent to stay home.
What about those families where both parents work outside the home to make those financial ends meet?  And if the neighborhood is not so kid friendly, requiring the young person to be constantly chaperoned by a teacher or other responsible adult?  Should they be doomed to a diet of endless instruction in a seat rather than a diversified life experience as a youth?  Isn't that saddling that kid with a huge impediment?

Again, we can put people on the moon, decrypt the human genome, but we can't invent a public education system that offers our young people an array of diversified learning experiences, rather than just “old school” instructional seat time...

Time-on-task studies in traditional schools have found students engaged with their studies only about a third of each day, he noted. “If you’ve really got engaged time for 130 minutes, you’ve probably added 30 minutes to what kids get in school.”
When my daughter stopped going to school and no longer had to abide by that schedule, she would often be at the keyboard all night writing.  In her case the writing was extensive posts inventing the back story and continuing narrative for her characters in an online role-playing game, but it was definitely maybe ten hours a day of “time-on-task” honing her writing and overall communication skills.  A conventionally “schooled” kid, constrained by society's formal education timetable for when you must be in that classroom seat, just can't take that sort of a deep dive if they have the notion to do so.

As to the two sisters highlighted at the top of the piece...

Ms. Elkin said she uses the Iowa Test of Basic Skills for her daughters, mainly to guide her own instruction, but she sees more academic development in the way they put together their own learning; Emmy decided to learn Japanese, following her interests in origami and sushi, while Kayla is working on her third novel... “The kids learn to work on their own and figure things out for themselves,” Jill Elkin said.
So Kayla is working on her third novel?  She's fourteen years old right?

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (9+ / 0-)

    Cooper Zale Los Angeles

    by leftyparent on Sat Sep 01, 2012 at 05:00:03 AM PDT

  •  Boy, is this a good description of us! (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FloridaSNMOM, leftyparent, Youffraita

    My youngest is about to start two after school programs, one for drama and one for graphic design. We're looking into a possible third for creative writing.

    My oldest is taking technical math and biology 1 at the community college, AP chemistry through an online website he found, and some writing workshops down the street.

    That is on top of the learning we do at home.

    We find that the time spent learning this way is much more productive than that in a traditional classroom and it helps my kids meet other kids and develop friendships. Near perfect for us. The only thing better is if more kids were being schooled this way so that the school systems in more areas would begin to adapt. Unfortunately, the DC area hasn't caught on to hybrid education at all though they do offer a huge array of after school work/study/enrichment options. You can tell that they are still very much in the school is daycare mode.

    •  Thanks for the first comment!... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      angelajean, FloridaSNMOM

      "Hybrid" education is all about learning directed by the learner (and in many cases their family), regardless of whether it is working on something in the real world, solo searching on the Internet, collaborating with a group or team, formal or informal interactions with a mentor or tutor, or attending a more conventional class or training.  

      You are the driver of the vehicle of your development, rather than hoping on the "school bus" and being driven where it intends to take you.

      Angelajean... what your narrative about your kids' developmental path also highlights is that part of that "hybridization" can involve changing the mix of elements year to year.  

      Also moving away from jumping thru prescribed hoops to "complete your schooling" toward living and "preparing oneself" for life.

      I still wrestle with the metaphors to best describe this profound paradigm shift that some people I think just still don't get.

      Cooper Zale Los Angeles

      by leftyparent on Sat Sep 01, 2012 at 07:48:32 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Hybrid is a step we go through to get to a better (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        FloridaSNMOM, leftyparent

        place a lot of times - like a hybrid car. It's better than what came before and it incorporates what we're heading to in the future. I like it.

        If it's like hybrid fruits and veggies, I don't like it as much. We hybridized those to make better varieties for the American market, those that would travel well and fit well into a corporate culture of agriculture. That kind of hybridizing I could do without!

        •  I guess a "hybrid" is a sysnthesis of other... (0+ / 0-)

          separate things, for better or worse.  

          Though "homeschooling" is the education category name that is now firmly out there in the culture, it would be nice if there was a name for the kind of diverse "smörgåsbord" or "Chinese menu" of learning, where you combine a little of this and a little of that but no huge helping of any one standardized item.

          Cooper Zale Los Angeles

          by leftyparent on Sat Sep 01, 2012 at 10:29:18 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  We're going to be expanding (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    leftyparent, angelajean

    In the next couple of years into more out of home venues and online venues for my son. We're looking into taking a course or two through Florida Virtual School, and he wants to take an online computer programming course as well. He also wants to try a class or two at the community college next year, and in preparation for that he's about to be looking for a part time job so he can save up for it. But even the job will be educational for him in many ways, and I'm hoping his more open schedule will help counter balance any accommodations he needs so far as hiring goes.
    The local schools here don't offer much in the way of hybrid opportunities besides Florida Virtual School, and I'm not sure I could convince him to take part in them if they were. He has a lot of PTSD/anxiety type issues with the public school system still. I wish they were more open to it though for my daughter, she'd love a more hybrid approach. Maybe when she's older we'll be in a place more open to it.

    "Madness! Total and complete madness! This never would've happened if the humans hadn't started fighting one another!" Londo Mollari

    by FloridaSNMOM on Sat Sep 01, 2012 at 06:40:14 AM PDT

    •  Since you are stewarding a young person... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      with extra developmental challenges, your story presents a different aspect of the value of "hybrid" education.  Your son and you have so many more options available when the "home base" of education is out in the world rather than starting from the conventional classroom.  

      And now particularly with the Internet giving you info about and/or access to such a wide range of resources, you no longer need to rely on an "expert" teacher or counselor to be gatekeeper to those resources, you can access them directly.

      Cooper Zale Los Angeles

      by leftyparent on Sat Sep 01, 2012 at 08:00:24 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Extra Developmental challenges and hybrid edu (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        One of the biggest benefits to him is he's been able to deal with the world as he became ready and comfortable with it. When he was in public school for elementary he was so over stimulated and emotionally done by the time he got home he didn't have any energy for anything else. We had to fight to get home work done, he lived like a recluse in his room, and he was aggressive and exasperated.
        Since we moved his schooling home he's relaxed, much more compliant and eager to learn, spends time with the family and a lot of one on one time with his little sister which she loves. He's made good friends online who understand him and work with his foibles and even bring other friends into his circle. I don't think any of that would have happened had he stayed in public school. I think he'd be a reclusive, withdrawn and angry teen, unwilling to deal with the world any more than he was forced to do at school.

        "Madness! Total and complete madness! This never would've happened if the humans hadn't started fighting one another!" Londo Mollari

        by FloridaSNMOM on Sat Sep 01, 2012 at 10:19:24 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  It would be nice if your state offered more... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          services that weren't so "all or nothing", requiring you to put him in school all day for them to be available.  Instead just taxpayer paid educational resources available like a YMCA or community college has classes.

          Cooper Zale Los Angeles

          by leftyparent on Sat Sep 01, 2012 at 10:31:58 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  It would be nice.. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            especially with our financial restraints. But we've made the best of it and I'm happy with the way the kids are growing. And, what we spend on curriculum is actually less than what I'd be spending for school supplies (the lists have been getting longer every year have you noticed?) and new 'good' clothes. This way they have a couple of good outfits for when we go out but must of the time they wear 'play' clothes. It's both more comfortable for them and more practical.

            "Madness! Total and complete madness! This never would've happened if the humans hadn't started fighting one another!" Londo Mollari

            by FloridaSNMOM on Sat Sep 01, 2012 at 10:48:34 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I think part of the continuing "corporatization".. (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              of public schools is leveraging it as an ever greater market for making people buy more stuff, including textbooks and school supplies, clothing, computers and other education "appliances".  It's turning into one big selling and buying frenzy, as the powers that be continue to monetize education and everything that has to do with it, including offering loans to afford it.

              Cooper Zale Los Angeles

              by leftyparent on Sat Sep 01, 2012 at 11:03:26 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

  •  I mean we are in the 21st century here!!!... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FloridaSNMOM, angelajean

    We are capable of so many sophisticated logistical task involved in managing a huge high-technology society.  

    Why do we still have an early 20th century model "mass production" education system for our youth, which we still mostly require complete participation or else no participation in from year to year?

    Why can't we offer every aspect of a public education to everyone, but not require them to take it all or nothing, but choose what bits weave into their own customized education plan?  

    I think the problem here, in the past, was that bureaucratically speaking, the best way to ensure that a service is available to everyone is to mandate that everyone must use that service.  That makes it harder for the local bureaucrats in the hierarchy to backslide.  If everything should be available to everyone but is optional, then it is easier to maybe not really offer it universally.  (Some kind of bureaucratic law I imagine, akin to the Peter Principe!)

    Cooper Zale Los Angeles

    by leftyparent on Sat Sep 01, 2012 at 10:40:36 AM PDT

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