PENNSYLVANIA, USA — When schools reopened in the fall, a growing number of parents decided to keep their children home for good. Homeschooling, or home education as is the preferred industry terminology, is spiking in popularity as a result of the pandemic.
In Pennsylvania, the most recent data provided by the state Department of Education indicated in 2018-19, there were 25,105 students home enrolled in the commonwealth, which is 1.4% of all Pennsylvania students. That figure had been consistently rising between 1.5% to 2% each year for the previous five years.
However, education experts believe the amount of home enrolled students to skyrocket as a result of the pandemic. Brian Ray, president of the non-profit National Home Education Research Institute, estimates nationally, those numbers could double.
"It appears that homeschooling has grown across the states by 50% to 90% from 2019-2020 to this school year 2020-2021," Ray said, citing several pieces of data.
However, there is a lot about home schooling which parents either don't know, or don't understand.
Maryalice Newborn, an advisory board member with the Pennsylvania Home Education Association (PHEA), does not believe home education is for everyone, but those parents dedicated to make it work will see tremendous dividends.
Newborn home schooled all five of her children through high school graduation. Today, they are two doctors, a chemist, a calculus professor, and a future therapist.
"[Home education] gave them the freedom to explore their own interests. It gives them freedom to accelerate or slow down depending on what they were learning," she said.
Think of home schooling like it's classroom a la carte. Parents can cater their child's learning to their needs. There is no core curriculum to abide by, or set class schedule. Newborn is quick to point out what we are seeing today with students logging into their school district's classrooms and learning virtually is not home education. Home schooling has its own set of laws in Pennsylvania, and parents need to be registered with the commonwealth as ceritfied home educators so their children can learn.
That doesn't mean, however, that the parents must be the teachers for their kids.
"In home education, the parent is the supervisor. That doesn't mean they teach. In fact, their high school years, I taught them nothing. They took college classes and we did dual enrollment," Newborn said.
Home education though is not for everyone, she adds. A lot of parents underestimate the commitment it takes to make sure their children maintain a top flight education. Parents can set the schedule, but the schedules must revolve around the children, Newborn says.
"If you are a stay at home parent and you have your own schedule that you’re used to, that’s blown out of the water."