Director of Alternative Schools for the District discusses homeschooling with Fairbanks BEST

Published: Oct. 16, 2020 at 4:17 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - As we continue to examine the homeschooling landscape of Fairbanks in the pandemic, we checked in with Laurie Beam, the Director of Alternative schools for the district to learn more about homeschooling developments in the wake of COVID-19.

Many school programs, including Fairbanks Best Homeschool, have been inundated with new participants as homeschooling continues to increase in popularity across the U.S.

“We had just under 300 students in the spring, and now we are approximately 980 kids -- and about 40 of those kids are pre-k so sometimes our numbers fluctuate a little from what the district reports out, and then from what we report out. The district does not report out the pre-k kids because we don’t get funding for them. But I always like to add those on cause we’re still responsible for those kids here at Best," said Beam.

The increase in demand for curriculum materials country-wide has impacted many homeschool programs. Beam continued by saying “I guess one of the challenges would be getting curriculum on time to the parents. All the curriculum companies across the U.S. are running low because not only is homeschooling here huge, [it also is] across the U.S. Some of the companies are running out of materials, some of the online programs that we go through or used to go through have closed off because they are so full.”

With this increase in educational requirements comes an increased need for educational workers, providing opportunities to local teachers. “One of the good things for us, we were able to bring on 4 new teachers and an extra admin to help out with the influx of students so we have help. The district has been really good about supporting the program and supporting the teachers," said Beam.

According to Beam the community of Fairbanks has been largely supportive, with parents working in tandem with the school district to work around curriculum delays: “They are very understanding if they had to wait a week or maybe two weeks to get a call in with the teacher, cause at first we only had 3. A lot of parents just have a lot of questions, so we have really good ed specialists who sit down and talk. Normally the meeting might take 30 minutes, [but] they’re taking up to an hour because they’re explaining everything thoroughly when they first call and have questions about what homeschooling is like.”

For any parents considering switching over fully to homeschooling their children, Beam offers advice, and sets a realistic standard for a homeschooling lifestyle: “My advice would be to really sit down with your child or student and make sure that this is what they want to do. Parents are the teacher, they have to teach the curriculum, they need to understand that they’re the ones who are giving the grades, they’re the ones that are giving the homework. So it’s just something that it is a family decision, and the whole family is affected by it. And they just need to know," said Beam.

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