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Interest in homeschooling has ‘exploded’ amid pandemic

Some are worried their districts are unable to offer a strong virtual learning program.
Students learning from home
Students learning from home(KGNS)
Published: Aug. 12, 2020 at 8:42 AM EDT
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MISSION, Kan. (AP) - As parents nationwide prepare to help their children with more distance learning, a small but quickly growing number are deciding to take matters entirely into their own hands and begin homeschooling.

Some are worried their districts are unable to offer a strong virtual learning program. For others who may have been considering homeschooling, concerns for their family’s health amid the coronavirus and the on-again, off-again planning for in-person instruction are leading them to part ways with school systems.

Mindy Kroesche, a freelance writer and editor from Lincoln, Nebraska, had been leaning toward homeschooling her 12-year-old son, who has autism and ADHD diagnoses that made middle school a challenge. But she always felt her 10-year-old daughter was “built for school.” Now with the pandemic raging, she is pulling them both out for the year.

“We just saw that with her wearing a mask for the entire day, that would make learning more difficult for her,” she said. “It was going to be such a different environment. We didn’t think it would be as beneficial for her.”

Homeschooling applications are surging in states including Nebraska, where they are up 21%, and Vermont, where they are up 75%. In North Carolina, a rush of parents filing notices that they planned to homeschool overwhelmed a government website last month, leaving it temporarily unable to accept applications.

There were about 2.5 million homeschool students last year in grades K-12 in the U.S., making up about 3% to 4% of school-age children, according to the National Home Educators Research Institute. Brian Ray, the group’s president, is anticipating that their numbers will increase by at least 10%.

“One day the school district says X and four days later they say Y,” Ray said. “And then the governor says another thing and then that changes what the school district can do. And parents and teachers are tired of what appears to be arbitrary and capricious decisions. They are tired of it and saying we are out of here.”

Interest in homeschooling materials also has been surging, driven in part by parents who are keeping their children enrolled in schools but looking for ways to supplement distance learning.

The National Home School Association received more than 3,400 requests for information on a single day last month, up from between five and 20 inquiries per day before the coronavirus. The group had to increase the size of its email inbox to keep up.

“Clearly the interest we have been getting has exploded,” said J. Allen Weston, the executive director of the suburban Denver-based group. “That is really the only way to describe it.”

Some parents in rural parts of Nebraska are turning to homeschool because staffing and limited access to home internet leave districts unable to offer a virtual learning option, said Kathryn Dillow, president, and executive director of Nebraska Home Schools, a support and advocacy group.

Homeschooling applications continue arriving in Nebraska, where the number of homeschoolers already had risen to 3,400 as of July 14, up from 2,800 at the same time a year ago, said David Jespersen, a spokesman for the Nebraska Department of Education.

Copyright 2020 WVLT. All rights reserved.

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