In Lieu of Public
Alternative Education Options Around San Diego
The Bishop's School
Photo by The Bishop's School
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Heralded by the butter yellow glow of buses and the packed shelves of pencil boxes at superstores, a new school year is upon us. Traditionally that means a few iconic sights and sounds: squeaky linoleum, rust-spotted lockers and the jarring ring of bells. But across San Diego, those old school (pun intended) harbingers of education are being replaced by diverse symbols of study. Some students find their spots not at graffitied desks but at their own kitchen tables. Others receive their science lessons not in power points but in the salty waves and cool caves of nature herself. Still others find themselves in labs and computerized classrooms so modern and high-tech they hardly resemble the schools of yore.
What we’re trying to say is that “school” doesn’t just mean “public” anymore. From top-notch private schools, to specialized charter schools, right down to modern homeschooling programs, there’s an option in San Diego that’s perfect—and personalized—for your youngin’. Whether they harbor dreams of building techie apps or just want to roam with animals at the zoo, there’s a school or program that caters to their passions and learning style.
If the term “homeschooling” brings to mind unsocialized and unprepared hippy-kids, it shouldn’t; that old reputation is quickly fading. Homeschooling is the fastest-growing form of education in the US, and with good reason. According to most studies, students who receive their education at home tend to score above average on college admissions tests like the SAT and ACT, and they score 15 to 30 percentile points above public school students on standardized testing.
It’s not just the statistics that are swaying more families towards homeschooling. Unlike traditional public school formats, homeschooling is customizable per student. There are a variety of programs, approaches and even academies with a sliding scale of offerings to appeal to every kid. A lot of parents rely on packaged curriculum created specifically for homeschooling. These traditional packages contain lesson plans, workbooks, textbooks—everything you would expect a homeschool to include. But now parents are exploring a diverse spectrum of teaching methods ranging from the casual to the positively fun.
Unschoolers / Natural Learning
This modern method of homeschooling puts the child in charge. Essentially, your child can help manipulate the lesson based on their preferences or passions, but in a natural way. Think of it as the paleo diet of homeschooling. For example, if it’s time to teach your kids about sea life, you might take a trip to the zoo and spend a lot of time in the steamy aquariums. Grammar lessons don’t come from workbooks, but from ordinary conversation.
Like the unschoolers, parents who rely on the eclectic method let the kids lead the way with even more daily control. Whatever fits naturally into the day’s schedule—or with your child’s mood—is incorporated into a lesson. A trip to the grocery store, for example, can offer a valuable lecture in economics. The eclectic method also incorporates play time and field trips, so it’s engaging for younger children.
Unit studies are the catch-all of homeschooling and easy for creative parents to organize, especially for wee ones. It’s easy to engage kids in a topic they’re interested in and then use that same topic for a series of different lessons. If, for example, your child is an avid horse lover, it’s easy to apply that topic to a variety of subjects. Reading (Black Beauty), writing (her own story), spelling (even we forget how to spell “equestrian” sometimes), history (who first rode a horse, anyways?), even math—it’s easy to positively manipulate their minds with unit studies.
The old challenges of homeschooling are easily alleviated with modern methods. A lot of parents in the past worried about socialization, but it’s easy to get the kids out of the house and around other homeschooled children these days thanks to social media and technology.
And if it all seems overwhelming, there are several academies around San Diego structured specifically to help parents with homeschooling. Learning Choice Academy, for example, offers instructional materials, books and a certified teacher to work alongside parents plus field trips and activities to help socialize the tykes. Accelerated Academics Inc. offers accommodations for exceptional children pursuing sports or extracurricular activities.
Our favorite advantage of homeschooling is the ability to travel with your little ones. More and more parents are taking their homeschool on the road. These families are exploring American history and geography from the front seat of an RV, discussing oceanography on the family sailboat and learning economics on the bright streets of India. Without the confines of a traditional classroom, you can create incredible memories and keep your kids ahead of the curve.