As part of its commitment to advance environmental-STEM education for North Texas-area children, the Garden has doubled the number of Homeschool Day and Homeschool STEM Studio programs offered this school year.
“We saw an opportunity this year to meet the needs of more students and families, and I’m so excited we made it happen,” says Anna SoRelle, the Garden’s program manager for special programs.
The number of families homeschooling their children has soared since the pandemic. In the spring of 2021, for example, the number of students who withdrew from a public or charter school to switch to homeschooling increased 40 percent over the previous year, according to data collected by the Texas Homeschool Coalition, a nonprofit that promotes and advocates for homeschooling in the state. In fact, that number is likely higher because the state does not track withdrawals from public schools below the seventh grade, according to the Coalition.
These figures line up with the Garden’s experience. “Interest in our Homeschool Day has grown significantly since we resumed on-site programming post-pandemic,” says SoRelle. “Last year, programs sold out within a few days of opening registration, and we would often have a waitlist of 50 to 70 participants.”
The education team realized demand was high enough to repeat each Homeschool Day program twice, doubling the number of students served.
This month, the Garden is offering two sessions of Homeschool Day focused on trees. Tree School explores trees from the tallest evergreens to the tiniest saplings with hands-on activities that engage both caregivers and children. Both sessions, on Sept. 11 and Sept. 18, are sold out, but their waitlists offer the chance to snag a spot if one opens up.
Registration is now open for the October sessions, on Oct. 9 and Oct. 16. Titled Plants on Our Plates, the program will explore fruits and vegetables. Activities will include making and tasting a plant-based recipe and learning about the plants used by Indigenous peoples.
The final Homeschool Day of 2023 will be the two November sessions, Nov. 13 and Nov. 20, where students will explore the FLORIGAMIINTHEGARDEN exhibit and learn about the world of creativity that exists within a simple sheet of paper. Registration for both the October and November sessions is open now.
Homeschool Day is recommended for children with learning needs equivalent to third to sixth grade. The Garden also offers programs recommended for children with learning needs equivalent to fifth through eighth grade with its Homeschool STEM Studio. These are more in-depth workshops where students build and create through STEM learning.
Many families return to Homeschool Day session after session, which SoRelle loves. “One of my favorite things is being able to build relationships with families and help them feel welcome here,” she says.
That welcome extends to all students of all abilities, says SoRelle. “Families choose to homeschool for so many different reasons,” says SoRelle. “We get kids on all levels of abilities and learning needs, and we really try to be cognizant of that. We get feedback from parents that are really appreciative that we take that into account.”