A screengrab of Jillian, a Princeton Learning Cooperative student, shows off one of the baby chicks that she is raising during the lockdown as a project.

Six months ago, who would have predicted that 100 percent of school-age children would be learning from home?

Suddenly, homeschooling is on everyone’s radar. What is it? What is it not? Where do we begin?

Princeton Learning Cooperative is a small educational nonprofit organization for teens that uniquely combines homeschooling and school. We’ve been doing this for 10 years…we were supposed to be holding an anniversary party this upcoming May to celebrate and fundraise.

Largely, we want to say to the public that what is happening now is not homeschooling as we know it. Contrary to common perception, homeschoolers are generally not more isolated or cut off from resources, opportunities or interactions with peers, teachers and mentors.

In fact, the largest singular benefit to homeschooling is its potential to open up one’s education to more: more time, more options, more resources, more variety, more depth, more community involvement. PLC brings these things together by providing mentoring, a community of peers, and a robust team of volunteer teachers and tutors while allowing teens freedom to choose what, when and how they learn.

Now that we’ve gone remote, we’re still doing that.

We’re holding nearly all of our previously scheduled classes (plus some additional ones) through online conference calls. Kids are still able to talk with their friends, teachers and mentors “face-to-face” on a regular basis.

Joel Hammon of the Princeton Learning Cooperative: Is the school shutdown a blessing in disguise for your kids?

Our Nature class is going strong by viewing live cams of an eagle’s nest and baby cheetahs interacting with their mama. They’re also taking walks, laptop in hand, around the backyard and identifying plants. For fun on a Friday, we took a virtual trip to Hawaii, “hopping” from one island to the next.

As mentors, we continue to encourage kids to pursue new interests, build their skills and develop healthy habits and routines. Some are having a harder time with the latter, especially in terms of getting regular sleep, since the days are blending together.

However, many are finding lots of new interesting things to do: painting in new mediums, sewing from scraps in the house, lots of cooking and baking, propagating new plants from cuttings, watching classic movies, and raising baby chicks!

we offer free consultations online For parents who are struggling with their kids learning from home or who simply want to enrich the experience.

All things considered, our program is doing quite well, but we’ve noticed there is greater need in our community of families and in the local communities. While providing for the needs of our own children at home, we are also reaching out to our PLC families and volunteers more than ever and holding online groups for our parents to discuss their current challenges.

We are also offering services to the public. We are offering free half-hour consultations online for any parents who are struggling with their kids learning from home, or who simply want to enrich the experience. Contact the Princeton Learning Cooperative at info@princetonlearningcooperative.org or call (609) 851-2522. We would love to hear from you.

We have also opened up our Career Explorations class to the public. In this class, we invite the most interesting professionals (a local horse veterinarian, a wildlife safari guide from Tanzania, business owners) to answer questions from our teens including how they got into that career and what the day-to-day experience is like.

Even if the career explored is not one of particular interest to any given child, the stories are inspiring and the lessons translate to all of our lives.

We know that we have a unique and wonderful program, but we really struggle to get the word out. Did I mention we are only a three-person staff? We would absolutely love for more people to partake in the Career Explorations class and the consultations. We are always welcoming new volunteers and new members, even near the end of the school year.

Donations are also a need at this time. By offering fee reductions, we are able to have an economically diverse community, and donations make that more possible. Some of our families are struggling given the economic downturn, and we want to help them while still meeting our overhead.

If you are able and willing, please help us as a small business to make it through this difficult time and hopefully see another 10 years ahead of us. Lastly, if you are a parent whose child is now thriving outside of school, please consider us as an option moving forward.

We love the Princeton community, the space that it provides for a small nonprofit like ours to exist, and the reciprocal relationship we have with so many.

Katy Burke is a staff member of the Princeton Learning Cooperative. The Princeton Learning Cooperative was co-founded by Joel Hammon and Paul Scott in 2010.