As another school year begins, some students opt for independent study

Posted at 9:48 AM, Aug 12, 2021

Many students are returning to the classroom for another school year while others are keeping their distance and opting for at-home learning.

Independent study allows for synchronous and asynchronous learning to take place at home or in small group settings under the instruction of credentialed teachers. It's an option that Nipomo resident and mother, Alyssa Holder, says worked best for her son Max

"It gives me a lot more opportunity and focus on him and his development," Holder said.

Although she says the road to get there was challenging at times, she opted to enroll Max in independent study at the start of the 2020-2021 school year after she found distance learning in a Zoom classroom setting not to be the best option for her son.

"Max's handwriting went down immensely just in the couple weeks he was doing the distance learning," Holder said. "He was getting so frustrated trying to do his math on the computer because he was used to writing it out."

Jennifer Bowen, principal at Pacific View Academy, a TK through grade 12 school that offers an independent learning format, says many parents and students found themselves in similar situations as Max and Alyssa.

"We definitely have families that gave this a try and are sticking with us," Bowen said.

Bowen says at the start of the school year last year, enrollment for the Lucia Mar Unified School District school exploded.

"I would say a lot of families chose this option because they wanted credentialed teachers and they wanted to do something that was more asynchronous model where they didn't necessarily have to follow a schedule," Bowen said.

Andy Burnett with Templeton Unified School District says his district experienced the same trend as enrollment nearly tripled last year.

"We are seeing a little bit of interest now in independent study programs, but not nearly on the scale of last year," Burnett said.

Bowen says this upcoming school year will include synchronous, or daily scheduled lessons, for TK through third grades among other changes.

"What's different from last year is that we are able to offer in-person learning too," Bowen said.

As a mom of four and with 15 years of homeschooling, San Luis Obispo resident Gina Turley offers this advice to parents and families that are entertaining the idea of education outside of a traditional classroom setting.

"You have to look at it differently, you have to follow the child more, you have to follow your own child more and realize that it's not your traditional way of schooling," Turley said.

A technique that has worked out for the best for Alyssa and Max.

"It's worked out really great," Holder said. "I think it's brought us closer as mom and son. we've bonded a lot."