From mask mandates to critical race theory, homeschooling in Texas offers freedom from bureaucracy if you can afford it.

Euri Giles | Clareifi

While El Paso city leaders are urging Texas Governor Greg Abbott to rethink his stance on mask mandates in public schools, homeschooling students and parents across the state haven’t missed a beat.

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Last week, El Paso Mayor Oscar Leeser and County Judge Ricardo Samaniego sent a letter to Texas Governor Gregg Abbott asking that the Executive Order that he recently issued which forbids mask mandates in public schools be amended to allow local government or school districts to be responsible for implementing mask mandates if they want to.

Governor Abbott has not publicly responded to the letter, however remains steadfast in affirming "always voluntary, never forced." regarding vaccinations, and mask wearing in the state of Texas.

More parents in Texas and across the country started looking into homeschooling as an alternative to public schools at the onset of the pandemic in 2020. Concerns about their children's health, as well as the spread of COVID-19 into the family home where there may be at risk family members with underlying medical conditions, led to the surge in seeking another option to business as usual regarding schooling.

In many public school districts, last school year was a hybrid model of online curriculum and in class learning that left some of our most vulnerable behind in more ways than one. Besides being left behind academically, the challenges brought on by the pandemic exposed; internet inequality and food insecurity for children of lower income families in Texas and across the country.

Most recently, controversies around the teaching of critical race theory (teaching race, and racism as part of historical events usually left out of traditional textbooks and curriculum) have made headlines. Homeschool families have the flexibility to teach whatever curriculum they like, as they are considered to be a private school without regulation in the state of Texas.

What is the financial impact to a home school family?

For some families, making the decision to homeschooling means that if one of the parents isn’t already staying at home, somebody is going to have to. This means a reduction in household income. Of course, there are countless numbers of single parent households out there as well that would love the opportunity to homeschool their children, but can’t see any way of making that happen with their current job / lifestyle. In addition to the changes or options available to parents and students that were brought on by the pandemic, many households have also felt a shift in the way they work. Work from home took over much of the “white collar” workspace last year, and now the return to the office is resulting in many deciding that they would rather switch careers or make that side hustle into their full-time job to have more flexibility for things like homeschool.

Research and Preparation are key — Notes from one El Paso family’s homeschool journey.

As a family that has been homeschooling for years before COVID-19, we can tell you that no matter how much time you may have had to prepare, it’s always going to be tough. A joyous challenge that we now consider one of the best decisions we ever made.

Does it require sacrifice? Yes.

Does it require patience? Yes.

Does it bring our family closer together? Yes.

Does it empower our children and nurture their natural curiosity? Yes!

Once we overcame the noise in our head and decided to pull our children out of public school to begin our home school journey, we started doing our homework.

We first researched the laws in Texas regarding homeschool and looked for resources to assist us with how to withdraw them from the school district and what types of records we needed to keep.

Next, we researched curriculum and lesson plans that we could follow. The idea initially was to attempt to provide as much structure as the kids had in public school, only at home. That lasted for about three months.

As our journey progressed, we began to adopt a more hybrid approach to homeschooling. It was somewhere between un-schooling, which is a learn as you go method — School-at-Home, which is a more traditional method that tries to keep curriculum based on grade level. Along with a third style, Eclectic Schooling or relaxed homeschooling, with a focus on educating our children and teaching them to embrace their unique abilities and differences.

Ultimately, we choose to use multiple methods, and this allows us to be flexible.

Flexibility is what we all need right now.

We use traditional books and handwritten journals. We require one hour of reading every day, with book reports due upon completion. Not only that, but we use online resources for math games and activities for our younger child, along with engaging apps for science projects and videos. For the older kids, we use an online curriculum from ck12.org.

They’ve all participated in extracurricular activities at one point, from guitar and drum lessons to gymnastics. It works for us, you just need to find your balance.

If you're struggling to adjust to the new reality that we’re living through, remember this. You don’t have to try to reinvent the wheel. You don’t even have to pretend to have all the answers. It may feel overwhelming, and none of us know how long we’re going to be in this situation. The only thing that I know for sure is that;

Our kids deserve the best from us!

Sincerely, what questions do you have for us? We’re by no means experts. We’ve only been homeschooling for four years. But as long as each day is feeling right now, three years seems like thirty.

You are welcome to ask us anything about homeschooling, whether it’s about curriculum, activities, extracurriculars, or support groups. We’ll be glad to lend a helping hand.

What do you think about our Texas Governor Greg Abbott not allowing school districts to mandate masks in public schools?

I’d love to hear your feedback and comments below.

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Euri Giles covers lifestyle content, politics, and news near you in Texas.

El Paso, TX
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