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Schools around Montana are scrambling to prepare for the upcoming season, which is now about 30 days away. Earlier this week, Billings School District 2 Superintendent Greg Upham outlined some of the districts plan to school trustees, as reported by KTVQ. Logistical issues include bussing, social distancing, mask use and other potential problems, as COVID-19 seems to show no signs of slowing down before the end of August. With many parents considering at-home learning this fall, Upham said:

What we would try to do with the remote learning is create the win-win and place by priority those that have significant COVID-19 issues in addition to others who may be requesting for a variety of reasons.

I live in Laurel, and while I haven't heard or seen any firm details on what our school district is planning for back-to-school, I did get an email from Superintendent Linda Filpula this morning that said, in part:

As  planning continues for the reopening of schools, we need to identify all students with immune compromised systems and/or other health concerns that may impact your child's ability to attend school due to the Covid-19 virus. If your child needs special considerations please call the Laurel School District Hotline

My wife and I have already decided that we will be keeping our 3rd grader and sophomore home this year. We're hoping the school's remote learning programs are easier to use this fall because it was honestly not very user-friendly for kids or parents when they scrambled to put something together this spring. I realize it was last-minute and they did the best they could, but honestly, it kind of sucked.

Here are three homeschooling options I checked out today:

1. Abeka. Abeka is a Christian-based, complete learning system that includes books and other materials as well as online "classrooms." It appears to be completely turn-key. The cost for my 3rd grader is $959 for a full school year. If you prefer to pay monthly, there is a $75 startup fee + $103.40 per month for 10 months. They offer curriculums from K-12. A friend of mine (Kyle B. I'm talking about you!) mentioned that his parents used this program to homeschool him and he said it was fantastic. Abeka seems to be one of the more expensive options I found.

2. K12. K12 offers tuition-free at-home learning, taught by certified teachers. Their website says, "the K–5 curriculum is mastery-based, which allows your child to work at a pace best suited for their learning process. As the parent or legal guardian, you act as your child's Learning Coach." Their online private school is also offering low-cost or discounted enrollment as well, for families impacted by COVID-19.

3. Time4Learning. This company boasts that their programs have been a "trusted solution" for over 600,000 families. The costs seem quite affordable, with K-8 starting at around $20 month and about $30 per month for high schoolers. There is a discount if you enroll multiple kids.

Homeschooling is certainly not for everyone and many parents and kids appreciate the traditional learning environment of a classroom. Only you can decide what is best for your child and family during the coronavirus pandemic.

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