A Virginia mom experienced success with a home-based education for her children and chose to share her story
What lengths would you go to try a different method for your child if a more mainstream option wasn’t the right fit?
For the vast majority of American children, public school seems to be a well-explored avenue—in 2019, approximately 50.8 million children received their education through a public school. That’s about 90% of the school-age population, according to Research.com, an online database.
However, a public school education isn’t the right fit for all students. Lacey Swift, a mother who recently moved to Chatham, looked into homeschooling her children after her five-year-old son experienced a series of concerning events in the classroom in a prior school division.
“I had expressed a bunch of concerns about him being in the school and every single one of those concerns came true,” Swift said. “And so then it was like, ‘Yeah, y’all do you see?’ And, like, they just didn’t seem to care. There was a lot of, like, fake caring.”
Swift said that her child was bullied by his first grade teacher and faced personal struggles over a speech delay. The mother also felt that her child exhibited signs of ADHD and dyslexia, both of which Swift noted she has.
However, the issues didn’t end with the school day. At home, Swift said that some neighborhood children picked on her son, going so far as to tell the five-year-old to end his life.
When Swift moved to Chatham with her children, her son was anxious about the change.
“He freaked out about going back to school. Oh, he did not want to go,” Swift said. “He did not want to get picked on by the kids because he was getting picked on, and his face shoved in the windows on buses and, like, just all sort of things—scratched by little girls.”
After researching homeschooling options, discussing the proper protocol with a local school, and filling out paperwork online, Swift enrolled her son and kindergarten-age daughter in an online, monthly subscription-based homeschool program, Time4Learning.
Exploring Another Option
What if the person who developed your child’s curriculum knew how to make the lessons fun and interesting? Well, that’s where John Edelson steps into the picture.
As a former video game maker and PlayStation game producer, Edelson spoke kids’ language. He knew how to keep youngsters engaged in an enjoyable gameplay environment, but felt he had more to offer.
“It bugged me that I was keeping kids up all night, entertaining the heck out of them—but it was really just for entertainment. I kept wondering when I was making these PlayStation games, shouldn’t I be doing something slightly more useful?” Edelson said. “And then finally I came up with the idea that I could do an online, interactive educational program direct to consumers, which took advantage of what I’d learned making video games to get the kids engaged.”
Edelson founded Time4Learning in 2004, first focusing on the youngest learners. Over time, the program expanded to include grades Pre-K through 12. The lessons engage students with educational videos teaching concepts, interactive learning games, and more, while following state Standards of Learning.
Giving Homeschooling A Try
For Swift, having her children’s curriculum at her fingertips at any time and any place works well—especially with an infant in the home.
“The thing with homeschooling is you don’t have to do it in the morning. You can do it when you get home from work or if you have a sitter, you can get it set up with the sitter to get them to do their work while they’re at the sitter,” Swift said. “There’s multiple ways that you could approach it and figure it out. It’s not impossible.”
Homeschooling also sparked the mom’s creativity. To encourage her children to properly engage with the lessons, Swift set up a “store,” of sorts. When her children complete their schoolwork, they have the opportunity to earn play money. Once they save up enough funds, they’re able to take their earnings to the in-home market and purchase a new toy.
The positive reward system, coupled with a learning environment catered to the children’s educational needs, resulted in a noticeable improvement.
“My son has gotten a lot more confident with his work. He used to be so just, like, ‘I can’t do it. I don’t know. I don’t know,’” Swift said. “He’d be freaking out, like, with anxiety before, just seeing a piece of paper or, like, homework.”
Now, the five-year-old engages with the lessons at his own pace, going back over the studies as many times as needed to grasp the concepts—and moving on quickly for things that come easier to him.
“He’s not as stressed out about stuff because with this, I mean, we can get through so many things. It all depends on, you know, how much he’s absorbing, how much he’s understanding,” Swift said.
In the United States, an estimated 3.1 million K-12 students chose to homeschool during the 2021-22 school year, according to the most recent study from the National Home Education Research Institute.
Edelson noted that many families choose homeschooling due to a variety of concerns, including:
- Out of fear
- Trying to escape a bad situation
- Things are going badly at school
- Health issues
- Tired of having substitutes
While the Time4Learning founder said that parents often choose to homeschool for a time and not for their child’s entire educational journey, the families he’s spoken with over the years continue to tout the benefits.
“I’ve heard a lot of parents talk about their experience with homeschooling. I’ve never yet heard one say that it wasn’t the best and most exciting and most satisfying part of their parenting experience,” Edelson said.
For those interested in seeking out an alternative to a more mainstream education, trying a homeschooling program could be a viable option.
“One thing about homeschooling, as is true whenever you work with your kids, is it doesn’t go exactly according to plan,” Edelson said. “There’s all sorts of happy accidents and then days that don’t go very well. Go ahead and laugh off the bad days, learn from them, and enjoy the good days for all they’re worth.”
Homeschooling is a legal education option in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. However, different states have different requirements that prospective homeschooling families have to meet in order to choose that path. If you’re interested in homeschooling your child, please contact your local school division to learn more.