As schools across Virginia start to make plans to return in the fall, parents are looking at alternative education options.
Anne Miller, president and executive director of the Home Educators Association of Virginia, said inquiries about homeschool options have increased dramatically since the pandemic. In the past three months there have been 3,000 new members to the association’s Facebook page and 2,000 new requests to join through the website.
“Since [the pandemic], people are trying to figure out what to do, they’re very concerned now that the regulations and procedures on classrooms have been announced,” Miller said. “Many parents are concerned about anxiety in the classroom and the threat of resurgence in the fall.”
Miller said the potential for resurgence, and for schools to close again, has caused some parents to look into homeschool options for just the next year so their child can have a sense of stability. Many parents who might’ve been on the fence before are looking at the uncertainty of the future and deciding to take the homeschool plunge.
Many parents are looking at homeschooling options partially because it helps limit the risk of exposure for their children.
At Historic Triangle Classical Conversations, a homeschooling cooperative, class sizes are limited to approximately eight students each, which is far less exposure than in a public school setting with dozens of students in each class, said Jodi Swan, director.
Swan said parents typically notice a change in their children’s health in general when they start at Historic Triangle Classical Conversations. Many of them who used to get sick frequently or experience headaches and stomach aches find that those issues tend to go away when introduced to a smaller collection of children.
Since Gov. Ralph Northam ordered schools to close for the rest of the year, parents have been in large part learning how to educate their children at home. Swan said as a result, many parents have more confidence in their ability to teach their children and have found that the one-on-one lessons have helped their children learn more.
“I think you have both kinds of parents,” Swan said. “I think they didn’t have a choice but to homeschool their kids because they had to and I think some parents saw that they could actually do this.”
Miller said many students who were struggling in certain areas before found themselves becoming more confident under the one-on-one direction of a parent. This is particularly true for African American families, whose children tend to struggle more in the public school system.
“In this day of racial unrest, homeschooling for African American families is on the rise,” she said.
African American children who were homeschooled scored above the 50th percentile in reading, language, math and other core subjects, according to a 2015 study from the National Home Education Research Institute. Many African American families also found that homeschooling helped their children learn about black history and culture.
The biggest challenge of homeschooling for many families is finding a balance between work and education. Swan said families where both parents work full time tend to have a difficult time being able to homeschool their children.
But because of the new work from home norm created by the pandemic, Miller believes more parents will have the flexibility to homeschool their children.
“I think [the coronavirus] is going to change the world and I don’t believe as many people are going to want to go back to the office,” Miller said. “People found out they can be more productive at home…if you want to homeschool, there’s almost always a way to make it work with a working parent and working from home.”
The coronavirus has changed the landscape for education and many expect it will continue to do so.
It was a challenge for many schools to adapt when the pandemic hit, Swan said. But it wasn’t much of a change for families already homeschooling.
It ended up being a benefit.
“I think parents are finding that they are homeschooling anyway, so it’s an easy segue…to jumping in,” Swan added in a text message. “And some do feel like they can do a good job as they are unhappy with the way [education] was handled.”
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