This is a guest post by Jamie Heston, homeschooling expert.
Homeschooling has Grown in 2020
The educational landscape has seen a major disruption that has brought more changes to education in less than a year than at any other time in our history. Homeschooling numbers have exploded around the world due to the pandemic.
More parents than ever are turning to homeschooling as an educational option because they’ve either decided their risk tolerance doesn’t allow them to send their kids safely to a brick and mortar school, or the limitations of distance learning have deemed it necessary.
Many Reasons to Consider Homeschooling
If a child has to spend hours every day online and the parent has to monitor all of their child’s interactions and schoolwork anyway, why not just homeschool and have more flexibility and much less stress?
A significant percentage of parents with children in both public and private schools have come to this realization. Not only are we seeing more families choose homeschooling as an educational option for their children in recent months, we are also seeing an explosion in offerings to homeschoolers in the form of classes, tutors, and other resources, many of them free.
Prior to the pandemic, just about every veteran homeschooler had an email folder packed full of posts with class offerings, ideas for field trips and projects, curriculum information, and other ideas for homeschooling. With the explosion of offerings over the past nine months, that folder is even more packed with learning opportunities, albeit mostly online ones.
One popular online class vendor saw their teacher numbers increase from 1,000 to 7,000 within several months due to the high demand from both homeschoolers and schooled children seeking supplemental learning.
Homeschool Support for California
The Homeschool Association of California and other homeschool support organizations have seen an explosion of parents utilizing their websites, phone lines, facebook support groups, conferences, and informational offerings.
HSC’s Homeschooling 101 class increased from 30 attendees every few months to 100 every week during the summer. Homeschooling experts and consultants have been busier than ever, supporting and educating parents who have been thrust into homeschooling unexpectedly.
To accommodate the increase in interest, HSC offers their regular and free Homeschooling 101 zoom session for all new homeschoolers as well as ongoing support meetings and an annual conference for current homeschooling members via Zoom.
Free Resources for Parents from HSC
A 25+ page Resource List of educational offerings has also been made available for parents from HSC. Some were available prior to the pandemic, but many more resources have been added to the list that became available from institutions, vendors, and individuals to help parents during this difficult time.
Local, statewide, and homeschool approach specific groups via social media and other small group platforms have become a lifeline for those looking for information about how to educate their children for the first time.
Screen Time or the Use of Bubbles
Even so, many families, especially those with young children who don’t cope as well with lots of screen time, are feeling the pinch when it comes to the lack of real life interactions. There is a lot of concern and discussion about our children’s mental health and development during these difficult times.
To that end, some families have taken a calculated risk and scheduled regular get togethers with families they trust, creating social bubbles where the families decide to get together and limit other exposure to keep everyone in the bubble safe.
These social bubbles require families to communicate extremely well about exposure to the virus and ongoing risk, to continually assess safety.
Parents Who are New to Homeschooling
There has been an interesting mix of parents looking into homeschooling during the pandemic. Some were already looking into it and interested in homeschooling. Others considered it in the past, but are being thrust into it a little earlier than they expected, and still others are being forced into it due to health and safety considerations or after disappointment or difficulties with distance learning.
Lastly, some families are using homeschooling laws in order to set up so-called “pods” where they hire a teacher to lead a small group of children who are socially bubbling together.
It’s been said that it seems highly likely that at least a portion of those thrust into homeschooling during this time will find their way to success and stick with it. If this should happen, long term homeschooling numbers will explode beyond the current generally accepted number of 3% of US students.
Will the Growth in Homeschooling Continue?
In California, many homeschoolers file the Private School Affidavit after forming a small private school to educate their children. The CDE reports that for the month of October, 2020 alone, 29,867 PSA were filed compared to 11,552 the prior year and that doesn’t account for homeschoolers in charter schools, independent learning programs, or any similar program where the parent is primarily responsible for their child’s education.
In a typical year, one of the most common questions veteran homeschoolers field is about socialization. New to homeschooling parents can’t conceive how we make connections and facilitate group learning until they’ve jumped in with both feet and tried it.
At this time, even homeschoolers are stymied by the lack of human contact, and it’s taking a toll on all of us. Prior to the pandemic, park days, classes, field trips, parties, clubs, and other in real life group offerings were well attended.
Imagine what our attendance numbers might be after the pandemic is resolved when you consider how many more of us will be clamoring for connection!
Looking to the Future
This pandemic isn’t going to last forever. One day, we will all be able to commune again, albeit probably with safety measures in place. And that day is coming.
I am excited for the possibilities for our community in 2021 and beyond as we navigate this new educational paradigm and bring this unique option to more families around the world.
About the Author
This is a guest post by Jamie Heston, a veteran Bay Area homeschooler of two teens (one graduated in 2020 and is attending community college), homeschool leader and homeschool consultant, founder of google group Bay Area Homeschool Activity Scene (BAHAS), and a long time volunteer and former Board Member for the Homeschool Association of California. She also runs East Bay Area Nerf, a monthly nerf battle, and nonprofit Foamwar, Inc., that hosts an annual weekend long nerf event in San Jose, called Ragnarocktoberfest. She is passionate about helping parents discover how to homeschool and is a proponent of self directed learning.