Advocates for Home Education in Massachusetts, Inc.

"Hybrid" Homeschooling

More and more frequently we are seeing questions abouthybrid homeschooling, the idea being that someone can homeschool but drop their child off at some kind of program, either for a few days a week or full-time. Others when speaking of hybrid schooling may mean homeschooling while taking some classes at the local public school, joining a coop, or using accredited online programs while homeschooling.

Legally, part-time homeschooling does not exist in Massachusetts. You are either enrolled in school, or you are not. When a homeschooler takes classes at a public school, the school does not receive per pupil funding for that student. Theoretically it’s possible for an enrolled student to work out an arrangement with their school to do part of their schooling at home, but this would be up to individual schools, and is not common. So for enrollment, you’re either in or you’re out.

As long as there have been homeschoolers, they have chosen to use the resources of their community to augment their experiences. Many museums, nature sanctuaries, tutoring centers, private instructors, performing arts organizations, and libraries offer classes and activities for homeschoolers. The availability of homeschoolers to enroll in programs during daytime hours offers opportunities to fill otherwise empty spaces. Using such resources brings homeschoolers out into the community (contrary to popular belief, homeschooling does not just happen in the home) and opens them up to new and unique experiences that they might not otherwise encounter.

Co-ops, groups of families who come together and share in educating their children, have existed as long as homeschooling has. They run the gamut. One co-op might rent a space and have parents or hired instructors teach classes while parents and siblings gather on site with some level of parental involvement required and a fee to join. Another co-op might be a few families getting together once or twice a week at someone’s home, with parents rotating responsibility for planning activities. Yet another might be a group of families who get together once a week at a park for free play, and various activities branch off from that, planned by and for subsets of families.

Learning centers (also called microschools) differ from the long-standing homeschool co-op model in that they are drop-off centers, are run as businesses, and do not require parental involvement. Where do such institutions, where large groups of children are dropped off to be supervised by someone other than a parent, fit into the Massachusetts regulatory scheme? On the face of it, it would be logical to assume that they should fall under the regulations for approved private schools, which may allow part time participation of homeschoolers, or as licensed day care centers. Some learning centers may be using homeschooling law to skirt the regulations which exist to protect children and workers. Rather than jumping through the hoops necessary to get approval as a private school, or bearing the scrutiny to be licensed as a day care center, many learning centers simply require that in order to participate you be a homeschooler, meaning that you have in hand an approved education plan from your local district. 

As mentioned previously, homeschoolers have always taken advantage of opportunities for group classes, private teachers, and homeschool co-ops to supplement the learning they do at home. What’s relatively new is dropping your homeschooled child off for multiple days a week, or even full time, at a building with a large group of other children and an adult who is in charge. It is your duty as a parent to safeguard the wellbeing of your children. We encourage all parents to do their due diligence in vetting any services (especially drop-off services) they use. Don't be shy about asking pertinent questions, including:

Keeping the distinction between homeschooling and private schooling or day care helps preserve homeschooling freedom. Homeschooling parents demanding accountability from the businesses they utilize will strengthen and safeguard homeschooling itself.