Thousands of Virginia families wanting to homeschool

We're breaking down the process including how to pick a curriculum

ROANOKE, Va. – Thousands of families are pulling their children out of school and homeschooling this year.

Continuing our in-depth look at reopening schools, we’re working for you to explain the process and how you can choose the best curriculum for your family.

Melanie Rice homeschooled her children for years until they moved into public school. But with all the uncertainty this year, her sophomore wanted to go back to homeschooling.

“He wasn’t really pleased with the online portion last year. He preferred to be in class but if you can’t have that then he would have preferred to homeschool,” said Rice.

Now she is pulling out all her old materials to share with friends who are also homeschooling this fall.

“You’re the teacher so you get to decide. That’s one of the nice things about homeschooling. It can really, really be tailored for the child and either the child’s wants or needs or both,” said Rice.

“Parents are terrified that they’re going to ruin their kids. I had those fears myself. How can I do this? I can’t teach beyond algebra. That is one of the biggest fears that you’ll ruin your kids and they won’t get a good education and they’ll get left behind,” said Anne Miller, the Home Educators Association of Virginia (HEAV) executive director.

Miller says they’ve been busy since COVID started with parents asking questions. The mother of eight homeschooled her children over more than thirty-year time span.

“Don’t worry so much about the academic part, although academics are important. What you want to help your child do is learn how to learn and learn how to love learning,” said Miller. “Get those foundations of reading, writing and arithmetic at all grade levels. If you can get a solid foundation in those areas they can learn anything.”

Miller says picking a curriculum is one of the hardest parts because there are so many to chose from including

  • Studies based on the bible
  • Classical conversations where you get Latin and a heavy emphasis in English and grammar
  • Or a self-guided homeschool method

“Don’t angst too much over what you choose. Narrow it down to your top two or three choices and just pick one. I guarantee when you start your going to find out what works and what doesn’t work. The beauty of homeschooling is that if it’s not working there’s something else and there’s always somebody in line waiting to buy what you bought that didn’t work for your child,” said Miller.

For families like the Rices, the decision made life easier.

“It’s like a weight off your shoulders. It really is. You would think it would be the opposite that it would be all this pressure but really the pressure melts,” said Rice.

There are support groups across Virginia and co-op groups so you can work with other homeschooling families.

If you want to homeschool, Miller says you have to fill out a ‘Notice of Intent’ form. Miller says you should use the one on their website because it only has what the law requires and other forms ask for things you don’t have to disclose. Miller says the deadline to notify your school system is August 15.

The GRHE (Greater Roanoke Home Educators) is a parent support group that helps get information out to homeschooling parents about all the different options of co-ops, opportunities & events geared for Roanoke & surrounding area homeschoolers to know about. You can check out the facebook page here and the website here.

A really important note, homeschooling is NOT the same thing as all virtual learning from your school system. For distance learning or virtual learning, you remain enrolled in your public school and the school system provides the materials for your student to learn at home.

This is part of an ongoing in-depth 10 News series looking into reopening schools in Virginia. Jenna Zibton is working for you, investigating many different angles of what the changes and challenges mean for families, staff, and the community. Contact Jenna if you have questions by email or on Facebook.

About the Author

You can see Jenna weekday mornings at the anchor desk on WSLS 10 Today from 5-7 a.m. She also leads our monthly Solutionaries Series, where we highlight the creative thinkers and doers working to make the world a better place.

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