April 1, 2020
By Jenny Clark
On Monday, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey and Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman announced the closure of Arizona public schools for the rest of the 2019-2020 school year. Arizona schools have been closed since early March because of the coronavirus outbreak, forcing families across the state to make significant adjustments to their lives. And Arizona isn’t alone: Many states have announced they will shutter their schools for the remainder of the academic year, upending the day-to-day school experience for countless students.
However, in Arizona and in states across the country, school administrators, educators, and parents have been able to creatively work around these challenges in a variety of ways—reminding us of the value of both innovation and educational freedom for families.
Innovation to the Rescue
Schools and families alike have found new and creative ways to educate students who now find themselves learning at home. Many schools have turned to online platforms, such as Zoom, to hold meetings and conduct classes. Parents in Arizona and throughout the country have discovered new social media groups like “Learn Everywhere” to share resources and opportunities with each other. Mom of four Amelia Greever notes how social media has been an incredible tool for parents right now: “I am so thankful for all the curriculum companies, blogs, Instagram accounts and other homeschooling friends available to me to ask questions and bounce ideas off. I love talking with other moms, too!”
At Love Your School, we’re interviewing educators across Arizona from a variety of school backgrounds, asking them for tips and insights into how parents can help their kids thrive during this season of learning at home. We want parents to see the potential opportunities their children have for growth and to assist them in making the best of their circumstances. We’re also providing resources and recommendations on everything from games to curriculum and everything in between, to help parents navigate all the incredible opportunities at their disposal.
Additionally, the Governor’s “Arizona Together” website also has a wonderful list of free online resources parents can utilize from home to help guide and supplement their child’s education. (The list is constantly being updated, so be sure to bookmark it.) Another helpful list of resources is available over on the National School Choice Week website. Their “free online resources for schools” page has detailed descriptions of programs and allows visitors to search by category, such as STEM resources, science, and so on. Likewise, as mother Marta McBan notes, there is sharing between families as well: “As a public elementary school parent, I’ve been using a variety of books and curriculum at home, like Memoria Press which I received from a friend, National Geographic, and Scholastic Educational. I’m continuing to look for other helpful resources, and finding creative ways to work with my kids at home.”
The Importance of Educational Freedom
As families band together to find solutions that work for their kids, we are reminded of educational freedom’s importance and how Arizonans have a unique head start. Online district and charter schools have been welcomed in our state for years. As a result, many Arizona families have experienced less disruption in their child’s education. Similarly, parents with a child who receives an Arizona Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) have already been tailoring their child’s education to meet their unique needs. Often, this is done with personalized tutors and therapists in a home setting. ESA parents are reporting few disruptions for their students, the majority of whom have special needs. This unprecedented time highlights the value of these types of programs that not only affirm there is no “one-size-fits-all” model of education, but also that parents’ freedom to place their child in a tailored-to-the-student educational setting is extremely important to the child’s success.
More Choices, Stronger Communities
Our current unexpected circumstances cause all of us to value innovation, creativity, and diverse options when it comes to education. These same principles have been the foundation of educational freedom, which recognizes that all children are unique and deserve the educational setting that works best for them. That’s why Arizona has been—and should continue to be—a national leader when it comes to championing educational freedom. And other states should follow the example Arizona has set. Our schools and our communities are stronger when families are empowered with options.
Jenny Clark is the Executive Director of Love Your School, a group that acts as a resource for Arizona families looking for the best educational options for their children.