Homeschooling mom feels right at home

Alia Chappell wears a cap and gown delivered by Crossroads to all seniors. 

By Ellie S. Grossman, Special to the Jewish Light

Teaching from home is old school for Kalanit Chappell, who points out there are major differences between actual homeschooling and distance learning, which is what most students are doing now.

A single mom who lives in University City and member of Bais Abraham Congregation, Chappell has homeschooled her children for many years, including her youngest daughter, Nevi, now 12, since she was in first grade. Her older daughter, Alia, who will graduate from Crossroads College Prep this month, is finishing her senior year at home because of the pandemic.

“What people are doing now is overseeing their child’s education at home due to a crisis. They have teachers, a curriculum from the schools and someone else directing and responsible to the state for their education,” said Chappell, who runs a forensic engineering firm. 

Chappell said homeschool parents assemble curriculum, prepare daily lesson plans and do all of the teaching. She said she spends more than 300 hours during the summer getting ready for the school year. Once it begins, she spends at least an hour every night prepping for the next school day and a couple of extra hours on Sundays to prepare for the week ahead. 

Chappell documents her teaching experiences on Nevi’s homeschool page. On the website, Chappell also offers survival tips for parents learning the ropes when it comes to teaching from home.  

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“Take the time to challenge yourself to spark their curiosity or supplement their curiosity. Use this time to creatively learn—together and separately,” she said, listing ideas such as watching a historical film on the History Channel together or a science documentary pertaining to a lesson at school.  

“Or read a fantastic book together, play math games, board games,” she added. “Take a hike in the woods. Teach them how to knit then have them do 15 rows while you get some more work done.” 

For this homeschooling mom, the biggest challenge is managing time between her older and younger child, who learn differently and have different requirements.  

“With an older child, you really have to give them the space to determine their own schedule, and there is a learning curve. Part of that is being available if they hit a bump in the road but not trying to control their navigating. So really, the biggest challenge is that balance between supporting their independence and growth while being available to help in constructive ways,” she said. 

The other perks to having her daughters both learning at home at the same time include having lunch together, binge watching favorite shows and enjoying the slowing down of life. 

“We have always had clear family goals that separate work and school from downtime and enjoying our time together,” Chappell said. “This circumstance just gives us more of the downtime we value.” 

The bottom line, according to Chappell: “It is a blessing to have an opportunity to spend time and learn with your children.”