Evanston homeschool students engage in community through arts enrichment


Daily file illustration by Carly Schulman

Through a variety of local businesses and co-op programs, Evanston’s homeschool students have unique opportunities in music and visual arts education.

Wendy Klunk, Senior Staffer

For the less than 1% of Evanston’s student population who are homeschooled, creative education takes place outside the typical classroom.

Through local arts enrichment programs, homeschooled students have the chance to learn, grow and make friends with other students, whether working behind the canvas or performing on stage.

Ratika Dayaldasani, who works at the Northwestern Center for Talent Development, homeschools her two children. She is a member of Evanston Home Educators, an organization that unites families who participate in homeschooling for group activities and support. Her children are also part of two other co-op programs focused on homeschooled students.

Dayaldasani said homeschooling helps facilitate a strong religious life for her family, which is Hare Krishna. She said the family has more time for religion, socializing, getting outdoors and music, leaving her children less bound by restrictions from a typical all-day school schedule and curriculum. Because of this freedom, Dayaldasani said her kids have been able to learn instruments like the harmonium.

“Music is a big part of our faith tradition,” Dayaldasani said. “We do a lot of singing of hymns and dancing. That’s part of our culture and how we congregate.”

Her children also participate in “jamming sessions” on Saturdays with other homeschooled friends, adding to their social, faith and artistic lives, she said.

“I find that schools can be so focused on STEM, and that has its place, but we need to develop both sides of the brain and really nourish that part of us that knows how to relax, just follow rhythm and beat and get lost in that,” Dayaldasani said.

For those who have not organized their own co-ops and are looking to connect their children with programming around town after the school day is over at home, School of Rock Evanston and One River School of Art + Design provide unique opportunities to delve into the worlds of forming a rock band or studying and practicing contemporary art, respectively. 

One River Director Heather Kipper said facilitating small teaching groups throughout the pandemic could continue to be utilized to forge bonds between homeschooled students moving forward.

“That was for both homeschooled children, but also for students that were working remote due to the pandemic so that they had a consistent place where they could be in their own pod or bubble and still get their art practice in,” Kipper said.

One River uses a subscription model where students attend year-round programming and can explore different media over time. Kipper said this format benefits students socially by maintaining strong connections.

School of Rock General Manager Maggie Weber echoed Kipper’s sentiment, saying parents of homeschooled students in the program have been thankful that their kids can socialize with peers their age throughout the pandemic. 

At School of Rock, children and teens not only learn to play an instrument by taking private lessons but also can be part of an original rock band with other students and perform live. Weber said the unique structure of School of Rock promotes important life-skill building for homeschooled students like confidence and team-building.

“Whatever your talent level is doesn’t matter,” Weber said. “It’s about giving kids the confidence to get up on stage and to have fun and to make some music.”

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Twitter: @WKlunk

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