Is Hybrid Homeschooling the Future of Education?

It was around this time last year that schools across the country shuttered and children retreated to their homes to embark upon one of the largest and longest experiments in remote learning in American history. As we got a better handle on the virus and guidelines emerged about social distancing, schools started to contemplate how to reopen safely.

Across the country, so-called “hybrid” models emerged, with students attending classes in school for part of the week and working from home the other part to keep the school population low and adequately spaced out.

Hybrid homeschooling is not new. As I detail in my new book Hybrid Homeschooling: A Guide to the Future of Education hundreds of schools around the country (traditional public, public charter, and private) have been having students attend classes in brick-and-mortar buildings for part of the week and working from home for the other part of the week for decades. 

One of the schools I profile in the book is the Augustine Academy in Delafield. In grades 3-5, TAA students attend three days at school and learn from home for two days and in grades 6-8 students attend school for four days and learn from home for one. TAA’s pedagogy is modeled on the Ambleside method, pioneered by British educationalist Charlotte Mason. Students read great works of literature in the classical pursuit of the Good, the True, and the Beautiful in an environment designed to cultivate virtue and wisdom. It is designed to promote joy and deep engagement with great thinkers and great thoughts.

In most cases, if you want to send your child to an Ambleside school, you have to be ready to dump out your pocketbook. They are typically expensive, and thus exclusive, schools. Because families share the burden of education, TAA is able to bring the cost down and make this type of education much more affordable to average Wisconsin families.

I started writing the book before the pandemic and at the time thought that my subtitle “A guide to the future of education” was catchy, if a bit cheeky. I didn’t think (and I don’t now) that every child in the future will attend a hybrid homeschool. But I did (and do now) think that the questions that hybrid homeschools ask about schooling would shape all schools in the coming years. Questions like:

  • How do schools use time and do they get the most out of the limited time that they have?
  • How do schools partner with families to create a cohesive and supportive environment for children?
  • How do schools effectively build community around accomplishing a set of shared goals?

What I did not anticipate is just how many people would prefer a hybrid schooling environment. We at EdChoice, in partnership with Morning Consult, poll a representative sample of Americans every month and a representative sample of teachers every quarter. In our most recent sample, we asked parents what type of school schedule they would prefer after the pandemic subsides. Fourteen percent said that they would be interested in full-time homeschooling, a number roughly in line with opinion polling that we have done before. But, to my surprise, 45% of families surveyed said that they would prefer a mix of at-home and in-school instruction. Only 41% said they preferred full-time 5-day-a-week schooling. 

Hybrid homeschooling looks to play a much larger role in the school system going forward. Public policy and educational practice needs to catch up, and fast.

Dr. Michael Q. McShane is the director of national research at EdChoice. McShane will be joining CJ Szafir of the Institute for Reforming Government and Tammy Olivas of Hispanics for School Choice for an online discussion of hybrid homeschooling on Friday, April 9.