Millions of students nationwide remain at home in this pandemic, learning on district laptops or tablets. Some children are now back in class and others could return soon. But at least one family won’t go back. They’ve chosen to home-school.
It’s a warm weekday morning in this tree lined neighborhood in Hurst. Seven-year-old Mollie Gilchrist is playing in her driveway with the rest of her family. She went to Bedford Heights Elementary School last year but hasn’t been back since COVID-19 closed it in March. She’s been learning at home ever since.
“Well, I don’t get to see my friends that much in home school,” Mollie said. “But at home school I get to go on field trips, and I’ve never been on one in public school.”
Mom Tricia Gilchrist explains.
“We’ve done a couple of field trips just at home,” Trisha Gilchrist said, “because we still want to be able to socialize them. Get them out.”
Trisha Gilchrist says once COVID-19 closed schools, she tried to untangle the Hurst-Euless-Bedford Independent School District’s plans for teaching her kids online. More recently though, she’s been learning how to teach them herself, making all of North Texas a classroom.
“It just being our family, we have more of an opportunity to take them on field trips,” Trisha Gilchrist said.
“Whereas in public school they do have maybe one field trip a year and last year the field trip got cancelled anyway since they stopped going to school after spring break. They came home for spring break and were never able to go back. So she was very disappointed in having to miss her field trip last year. So here we’ve gotten to do a couple to make up for that.”
Tricia and husband Scott are the tag team teaching their four kids. The youngest, 18-month-old Riggins, is sleeping inside. Everyone else is outdoors under a shady tree or running around, like their 5-year-old, proud say and spell his name.
“Beau. B-E-A-U,” said Beau.
Mollie, the oldest, spells her name too.
“Ellie — and I spell my name E-L-L-I-E,” she said.
Mom and dad both grew up here and still love the HEB ISD and their kids’ school.
“We’ve been actively involved, we loved the teachers, the faculty, everybody,” said Tricia. “But this year, with all of the COVID regulations, it just seemed hard for them to learn in front of a computer screen for 8 hours a day. With our kids being as young as they are it just didn’t seem the best option for our family.”
So, they chose the home-school option. They’d already been considering it. For one thing, the Gilchrists work out of their house. Home schooling may free up more time to travel, which they love. They’re also devout Christians. The pandemic provided the perfect excuse to teach their kids the way they want.
“It definitely helped us consider this and do some hard research and thinking and thoughtful prayer through it. I’d say it was a big impact on our decision,” said Scott Gilchrist.
Because faith influences every decision they make, they’ve chosen a Christian home school curriculum called The Good and the Beautiful. Tricia says it makes teaching easy.
“The curriculum tells you exactly what to say, when to say it, it provides activities to do,” says Tricia. “The schooling part is great. It‘s trying to figure out our new rhythm which has been more difficult.”
They both figure that’ll come with time. After all, says Scott, they’re still new students learning these home-schooling lessons.
“But we’re on week four. It’s hard to assess anything when you’re only four weeks in. But we’re having a blast,” Scott said.
If that changes, they can always re-enroll in the district. The pandemic was a key reason for home schooling in the first place, but an approved vaccine would not be enough to send them back.
“We’re huge researchers,” Tricia said. “So we research a lot, and we’ve always consulted our doctors and pediatricians and all about everything we do but we don’t just believe everything they say. We look into all angles. I can confidently say we would not get the COVID-19 vaccine.”
Gilchrist is also confidant that a recent field trip to the aquarium was good for her daughter Mollie.
“I saw a sloth and learned that they don’t scream. It slept most of the whole time,” Mollie said.
The Gilchrists aren’t screaming either, even though they’ve taken on home schooling for the first time in their lives.
Got a tip? Email Reporter Bill Zeeble at [email protected] . You can follow him on Twitter @bzeeble.