- Associated Press - Sunday, August 2, 2020

FREDERICK, Md. (AP) - With Frederick County Public Schools still unsure of how it will reopen this fall, some parents may consider taking an alternate approach to educating their children - in the form of homeschooling.

Leslie Granofsky and Renee Huston both live in Frederick County and both homeschool their children. They say in the past few weeks they have seen a peaked interest from other parents about the possibilities of continuing education at home.

This has led them to host a virtual panel titled “Considering Homeschooling” with two other homeschooling mothers - both of which are working parents - to answer questions about how to get started, how to juggle work responsibilities, and what to have or not have as expectations.

So far, over 200 people have registered to attend.

“The thing that I tell parents is you have to make it whatever works best for you and your kids,” Granofsky said.

A single mother of two daughters, Granofsky has homeschooled both her children for five years. She is a former public elementary school teacher and said she wanted her daughters to have a more expansive and varietal education while growing up.

“Looking back on my childhood the things that I remember most about education were the things that happened outside of the walls of the school,” Granofsky said. “I wanted my children to have that same experience to be able to learn from the world around them and not necessarily have the restrictions that come with public school.”

Granfosky runs a licensed daycare program out of her home and said homeschooling gives her the flexibility she needs to both run a business and educate her daughters.

There is no structured school day. Her daughters do independent work in the morning and Granofksy gives them instruction in the afternoons and evenings.

There are no standardized tests – which Granofksy says takes a lot of pressure off – and her girls spend time learning in all environments and going at their own pace.

The biggest challenge was breaking her old habits as a teacher and taking on a double role as both parent and educator.

“I’ve had to steer away from comparing what children in school are doing versus what (my daughters) are doing,” Granofksy said, “The transition from me being solely mommy to now me being mommy and teacher…the first year of homeschooling was just a complete learning experience for me and them.”

Huston agreed.

“Because I was a public school teacher, I still had that mindset of it had to look like (public school) or my child has to be at a certain level,” Huston said. “The more that I was able to let go of that and really cater to what my kids needed and what level they were on that’s where I saw them and myself thrive.”

Huston has homeschooled her three children for eight years. A former FCPS teacher, Huston said the homeschooling route allowed her to continue her love for teaching while staying home with her kids.

It hasn’t been easy though, and Huston hopes to get that message across to parents during the panel.

“My kids still struggle…but being able to do it with love and to come beside them and help them work through it and being able to have a close relationship with my kids is what I really want to see other parents just fall in love with,” she said.

The biggest benefit, both women said, is not only having time with their children but seeing how close their kids get to each other.

“A lot of people say that they can’t believe how my kids have such great friendships with each other,” Huston said. “Being home together all day and learning together…they have really just become each other’s best friends.”

When asked how their children socialize both women laughed and said homeschooling often gets a negative reputation as producing children who have been isolated from the outside world.

Both Granofsky’s and Huston’s kids are involved in extracurriculars like dance and art classes, recreation sports, and nature groups. Both women actually think their children have a greater social depth because they interact with other children of all ages.

“If you go to public school then you are in a classroom with kids your same age all day long…whereas with homeschooling they’re exposed to kids of all ages,” Huston said.

Neither pass any judgment on families that choose to send their children to public school. It’s all about doing what works best for each family they said.

They hope with the panel they can excite parents about homeschooling for a reason other than wanting to keep their kids safe during a pandemic.

“I understand that some people are going to do homeschooling…not necessarily because they want to homeschool but because they don’t want the other option,” Huston said. “But it’s really exciting to see that this is quote, unquote forcing some parents to choose homeschooling for this school year and it’s exciting to see what will happen with that.”

Granofsky said she wants to show parents that no matter what their situation – stay-at-home, working, single, or married – homeschooling is a very real possibility, and you don’t have to be a teacher to do it. You just need some creativity.

“If (parents are) willing to take their focus off of what they can’t do and focus on what they can do with their child, this homeschool experience will be something that will completely blow their minds,” Granofsky said.

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