Interest in homeschooling has ‘exploded’ amid pandemic

In this March 24, 2020, photo provided by Christina Rothermel-Branham, her son James, does school work at their Tahlequah, Okla. home. Rothermel-Branham, a psychology and counseling professor at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, said she is going to attempt virtual learning through her local school district for her son. But she plans to switch to a homeschooling curriculum of her choosing if it isn't going well after about a month, noting that the virtual learning she oversaw in the spring was "very monotonous." "If there is a lot of stress between the two of us it is probably going to get him pulled out," she said. (Christina Rothermel-Branham via AP)
In this March 24, 2020, photo provided by Christina Rothermel-Branham, her son James, does school work at their Tahlequah, Okla. home. Rothermel-Branham, a psychology and counseling professor at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, said she is going to attempt virtual learning through her local school district for her son. But she plans to switch to a homeschooling curriculum of her choosing if it isn't going well after about a month, noting that the virtual learning she oversaw in the spring was "very monotonous." "If there is a lot of stress between the two of us it is probably going to get him pulled out," she said. (Christina Rothermel-Branham via AP) (Christina Rothermel-Branham)

AP – 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 appear 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.