Supplementing a public education is doable. If you are like most people, this might be your only option. I call it part-time homeschooling after school. There are a lot of families that have misgivings about the public school system but they don’t have the time, resources, or means to offer their children a complete private school or home school experience. There are a growing number of parents who are supplementing a public education with their own after school activities. And here is how they are doing it:
Supplementing a Public Education: This is Part 3 in Series
Supplementing a public education is a useful option for parents who feel trapped in a school system that isn’t fully meeting their child’s needs. Sometimes the best option isn’t practical in your particular situation. Are you stuck in your public school due to funding concerns? Are you unable to homeschool because you have to work full time? Do you have a child with special needs but you want to continue educating him in a parochial school with his siblings? There are some good supplemental options available to you that might make your second best option more palatable.
Supplementing a Public Education: Get Proactive!
Utilize available educational options for your child in your local area. This means finding out what your child needs and how they can get it. If you cannot change your children’s school there are many things you can do to enhance their education on your own. Proactive parents make a big difference in a child’s education. The most valuable resource you can have when supplementing a public education is your child’s classroom teacher! Ask for a meeting to discuss what your child needs specifically. Ask the teacher if he or she can offer suggestions for you to use to supplement your child’s public education.
- Teach phonics at home either prior to enrollment or in conjunction with your child’s kindergarten teacher.
- Invest in a good reading program that improves comprehension and holds your child’s interest.
- Higher a qualified tutor to assist your child outside of the school setting.
- Utilize summer camps and programs that cater to your child’s learning style and needs.
- Take advantage of religious education programs for public school children.
- Enroll your homeschooled child in sports teams through your local public or parochial school.
Part 3: When supplementing a public education, what can I realistically do?
Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Prioritize your main goals when supplementing a public education for your child. Decide what is most important and start there. Set guidelines for when you plan to spend time supplementing your child’s public education.
Teach phonemic awareness and phonics at home either prior to enrollment or in conjunction with your child’s kindergarten teacher. This is probably the single most important thing you can do when supplementing a public education. Reading skills are vital to success in the public school.
Who benefits from early phonics instruction? All kids do. It is especially helpful during K-2 grade. Phonics instruction becomes less beneficial as children age, however, when reading becomes more technical and children are less likely to have heard and learned about their new vocabulary terms in daily life. Which kids stand to get the most out of a formal phonics program? Children with learning disabilities and students who speak English as their second language. If phonics isn’t stressed at your public school, or if you child needs additional time learning it, you need to supplement your child’s education with phonics.
Reading education has traditionally operated under two very different philosophies. There are those that teach and advocate phonics versus those that teach and advocate whole language or sight word reading. In 2000 the National Reading Panel issued a report after doing extensive research on best literacy teaching methods. They discovered that teachers who taught phonics daily using a formal curriculum program had a much higher outcome than those who taught it incidentally during daily reading activities (what is referred to as a whole language environment). There are several different kinds of phonics programs available, and there really isn’t one program that hails as more superior than the others, according to the Panel. Children need to have good phonological awareness when they start a formal phonics program. This makes supplementing a public education in the early years vital. Children should recognize sounds in speech, be able to notice words have syllables and be able to separate the different sounds they hear in a word. The reading program should have daily phonemic lessons built into the phonics instruction, too. If your school does not have a strong phonics program then supplementing a public education is necessary.
The panel tested 38 different phonics programs and basically said there wasn’t one program that stood out above the others as superior. Any formal phonics program that you choose to use is going to benefit your child. So it really depends on your personal preferences. Do you like relying on the internet? Try Click-n-Read. Do you like having materials that you can manipulate with your child? Try Hooked on Phonics for preschool or kindergarten.
If you’d like a full curriculum program that will test and measure your child’s progress for you, try Starfall.com.
Starfall is the perfect online resource for kindergarten curricula, especially pre-reading and early reading skills. Another great resource to check out is the Tumblebooks online reading program that is run through local public libraries in many parts of the U.S. Just call your local library to see if access is available. Another great option is utilizing your iPad. The iPad has many great reading apps and resources for young children. Farfaria is a new storybook iPad app that publishes weekly stories for kids ages 4-8. The service costs a mere $39.99 a year and offers over 300 short stories from a variety of genres. Read more about my Farfaria storybook iPad app review here.
Supplementing a public education doesn’t always require direct parental involvement. Parents of at risk elementary school children already on an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), stand to benefit greatly from individualized one-on-one tutoring with a qualified adult. This is according to the National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities. This does not mean you have to sign your child up for Huntington Learning Center, Sylvan Learning Center, or Kumon Learning Center. Although all three programs are very beneficial for a struggling kid on an IEP, NICHCY actually recommends parents use more cost-efficient strategies when supplementing a public education for their child. The child’s school district can use a trained paraprofessional more broadly for that student or parents can find volunteer tutors for the child. Look for an older student at the school, a peer in the class, or even a local college student. Parents can also request that the school give the at-risk child more small-group instruction.
If you are the parent of an unfortunate child lacking an IEP, either because he doesn’t qualify or because he is in limbo waiting to be tested and placed, good options are still available. You can certainly take advantage of a formal tutoring program in your neighborhood, like the three mentioned above. But if finances are not an issue, consider hiring a teacher already working with your child to privately tutor after hours. This method of supplementing a public education is a good option. It works great because the tutoring teacher can communicate with your child’s classroom teacher regularly, becoming a liaison between your child and the school. And often times the tutoring teacher costs much less than the tutoring center. On the downside, the tutoring teacher usually uses your child’s current curriculum. This may not benefit your child if he has specific learning disabilities that require alternative teaching styles. You are your child’s best advocate, so be sure to specify with the tutoring teacher your expectations.
Check out CampQuest for National information on overnight summer camps. CampQuest will help you find appropriate camps based on your interests and needs. Consider applying for a ‘campership’.
Consider a local day camp that appeals to your child’s special interests and talents. Local public park districts often run special camps for specific interests, especially in urban areas.
In a handful of states Weekday Religious Education Programs are available to public school children. What is the Weekday Religious Education Program? It is an elective religious course for school children that is held during the school day. By law these classes cannot be held on school grounds, in order to abide by the rules of separation of church and state. In many cases, weekday religious education classes are held in mobile units a short walking distance from school grounds. Weekday religious education programs are found in Indiana, Ohio, Kansas, and Virginia. There isn’t a hub page of resources for families by state, or by county within participating states, but there are many weekday religious education programs listed in search engine indexes. Just do a search by your state and county to see if there is one available in the area where you live. In many cases weekday religious education programs are more prevalent in rural areas. Alabama and South Carolina have also approved of off campus religious education classes for students.
Catechism classes, originally called Confraternity of Christian Doctrine are a religious education program for public school children that is taught by the Catholic Church. Catechism is usually called “CCD” for short by participants. Public school children enroll in this weekly class that is generally held at their local Catholic church either after school or during the evening on a school night. CCD classes are offered to public school children to prepare them for receiving their sacraments in the Catholic church. Catechism classes prepare children to make their first confession, first holy communion, and their confirmation in the Christian faith.
Thanks to NFL Denver Quarterback, Tim Tebow, several states are now looking into passing laws that will allow homeschooled high school students a chance to play sports at local public high schools. This is a new option for supplementing a public education that will no doubt become more mainstream in time. Nicknamed the ‘Tebow Law‘, this would open up the opportunity for homeschool kids like Tim Tebow, play for local public school sports teams. There are many that argue against this movement, as well. This is still a hotly debated topic.
In many cases, it is possible for church members or parishioners to add their child on the roster of their local parochial school. As long as you are active members of the church there is a strong likelihood that your homeschool child will be permitted to play in that school’s organized sport.
Read Part One: Choosing the Best School: Public, Private, or Homeschool