Tiffany Evans is a Berks County, PA mom to 7-year-old William. When his pre-school was shut down for a time due to COVID, Tiffany, like many parents, sought information on alternatives. Although Tiffany and her husband had attended their neighborhood public school in their childhood years, they wanted a different experience for their son. Tiffany and a few other moms talked about their various options, and the Evans family along with 2 other area families decided on kindergarten via a cyber charter program.
William did well (despite signs of ADHD and a corresponding extremely short attention span), but the program required substantial parental oversight and involvement to ensure that the curriculum was age, level, and skill appropriate; some assignments were too advanced, and others were too simple. While Tiffany loved the parent community, and William loved the virtual clubs and field trips, she felt that she could do better on her own. The cyber charter experience gave Tiffany the confidence to dig deeper into the possibility of homeschooling her son, which they attempted on a trial basis for one year.
As it turned out, homeschooling was a great option for William - in part because he is able to physically move around at will throughout the day. Homeschooling also allows William to work on a schedule that is most convenient for him and the family. Each morning, William’s curriculum for the day is assembled and put in his backpack so that his caregiver for that day can work with him. Although the homeschooling effort “definitely takes a village”, Tiffany says it works beautifully, because she knows what and how he’s learning. Currently, William, a 1st grader, is currently reading at the 2nd grade reading level.
At first, Tiffany found that locating curriculum could be very overwhelming because so many resources are readily available; so, her journey started with speaking to a friend who was a teacher. Tiffany used a questionnaire to evaluate William’s learning type (visual/kinesthetic), which Tiffany found to be a huge help. From these details, and with hard, time-consuming work, she was able to design William’s curriculum, just for him.
Tiffany says that Facebook groups were a wonderful resource as well, which guided her to The Good & The Beautiful. Although Tiffany preferred secular curriculum, she found that despite some religious mentions, the subject focus was well-maintained. Tiffany started with math and language arts curriculum, and built up from there as she was comfortable. For all other subjects, she has focused on “Theme Learning” and developed seasonal lesson plans.
Some days, William goes to his grandmother’s house with his homeschooling backpack in tow. There, he also plays with kittens and feeds chickens (educational and enjoyable, as William loves animals). Tiffany has been able to also include science instruction and writing assignments on aero gardens and hydroponics, further sparking his already strong science skills.
Tiffany also uses Teachers Pay Teachers and Education.com. Outschool has a wide variety of virtual classes for a fee. Tiffany mentioned that grants are made available to qualifying students thorough the HSLDA, and in her case, she hopes to utilize such a grant for William’s math tutoring. Facebook and Pinterest are among her favorite resources, as is Canva, which she and William use via a special homeschooling section to create worksheets, digital portfolios, and videos. Tiffany passes on resource and Theme-Based Learning ideas and information to other homeschooling families via her Facebook group called “Tiff’s Homeschool Fun”.
Finding resources and places to go can be daunting for families; especially if your child has special needs. Tiffany has had difficulties finding tutors, and speech and occupational therapy opportunities are expensive and limited in her area. It was surprising to hear that some pediatricians can be anti-homeschooling and, as in Tiffany’s case, may attempt to pressure parents with special student needs to seek traditional school environments.
Tiffany admits that socialization and maintaining structure can be difficult when homeschooling, and the job of creating curriculum can still be overwhelming at times; but feels strongly that the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks. Tiffany believes that this experience will institute love of learning for the rest of William’s life. And should the Evans family decide to enter traditional, in person education again in the future, they find security in the fact that William will always know how to learn, find answers, and resolve problems with confidence. They see his ability, even at this young age, to think outside of the box – especially with technology.
The ability to connect in a special way as a family, and generationally, for the Evans cannot be understated – whether it’s cooking together (learning measurements, how to read directions), integration of learning into everyday living, or spending more time together. William’s parents learn new things every day with him. Homeschooling has also given William the opportunity to spend time with both sets of grandparents, who play a huge part in his education. This has provided him with different perspectives - political, religious and environmental. It teaches him empathy and understanding - that “not everything is black and white. It opens up conversations.”
Tiffany encourages parents to evaluate homeschooling further if they feel it might be for them. As evidenced by her own experience, homeschooling can be successful in families where both parents work, provided the right support system is in place. Tiffany’s parting words of encouragement:
“You absolutely can homeschool your child. From the second they’re born, you’re teaching them. You know your child better than anyone else in this world; what their interests and levels are and how they going to learn. Trust yourself! Stop, breathe, and spend time with your child. Don’t get overwhelmed with the noise of everyone telling you what’s best for them - you know what’s best. It will all come to you naturally, and you’ll find a way to integrate learning to into everyday life. My best piece of advice is - do not try and replicate a strict school environment. You’ve chosen to homeschool for a reason, make it your own.
You are not alone. There are other parents with the same struggles. It’s just a matter of finding them. It will continue to get better with time. It’s a new age with homeschooling, and even more resources will be available. Keep communicating, don’t be afraid to reach out to other homeschool families. If you're overwhelmed, just schedule a play date. Let the kids play while you have a cup of coffee and conversation.”
Tiffany Evans is a homeschooling mom, Realtor, and Vice President of her local Woman’s Club. She’s been homeschooling William for two years. William loves taking care of animals and sells fidget poppers to save for his dream car when he turns 16.