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What does 2021 hold for homeschooling? More growth | Opinion

Originally published by Sun Sentinel – December 19th, 2020

January 2021 will bring the largest growth to home schooling, ever.

COVID-19 vaccines are close to distribution in the U.S., but cases continue to climb. Nearly 20,000 deaths have been reported in Florida alone, and there is immense uncertainty surrounding the long-term consequences of this virus. It will likely be quite some time before we achieve normalcy, and some parents who remain loyal to their school district’s plans now question their decision.

But the parents who chose to home-school tell a different story. On a daily basis, I hear how home schooling alleviated much of the stress caused by the pandemic. Recent studies only reinforce my anecdotal evidence. A national poll conducted by the National Federation of Children at the end of May revealed that 40% of families are more likely to home-school or enroll their children in a virtual school after the pandemic. Another study conducted by EdChoice released in September revealed that 23% of parents who were not home schooling before the pandemic indicated that they are “very likely” to do so after lockdowns end. In that same EdChoice study, parents also agreed that virtual schools outperformed brick-and-mortar schools when it comes to “clear communication, classroom management and sound instructional practices.”

While many of these families initially turned to online learning platforms out of desperation, they now stay for the myriad lifestyle and educational benefits that come with home schooling. Parents tell me how the experience has made them better listeners, or they share how it’s given their children confidence and independence. By becoming more involved in their children’s learning process, they have found freedom in the flexibility to focus on deficits or reinforce strengths, schedule lessons at times best suited for their child, and align real-world experiences with coursework. They convey the same revelation: Education is not a place or a building, but rather a dynamic process that can happen anywhere, at any time.

Home schooling will continue to be a safe haven for parents looking to provide stability for their children. In Florida’s largest cities, school districts reported declining enrollments this year as parents fled the chaos. Miami-Dade County public schools reported 16,000 fewer students than last year, while Broward County’s PreK to 12th grade population fell from 221,266 in 2019 to 212,507 this year — a decrease of nearly 10,000 students. In the Orlando area, the Orange County school district reported 214,006 kids enrolled for 2019-2020, yet only 206,367 as of November 2, 2020. National home schooling numbers reported approximately 3% to 4% of the population were home-schooling pre-pandemic, now that number is 10%.

Home schooling, once a “fringe” concept, is now firmly embraced by the mainstream.

I expect school district enrollment numbers will decline even further come January. Home schooling, now prevalent in every neighborhood, will spread as parents casually talk about holiday break and school experiences in the coming weeks. And with vaccine timelines in the air and cities begging residents not to travel this winter, they will likely choose to ride out the surge and wait for the vaccine at home.

Luckily, it is still possible to transition to home schooling, and the winter holiday break is an ideal time to do so. The natural change in schedule, coupled with the season’s family-centric mood gives way to reflection and pause. At Time4Learning, we find quite a few of our parents come to us in December after reprioritizing their family’s needs and planning for the year ahead. For those parents considering using the break to transition, we created a quick checklist that outlines what they need to consider.

This once-in-a-lifetime pandemic may have been the catalyst for those already skeptical of the traditional school system, but it has also reshaped how parents think about school. One of the many lessons learned from COVID-19? Home schooling will always have a place in the education system —long after this virus will be controlled.

John Edelson is the president of Time4Learning, an award-winning home-schooling platform based in Fort Lauderdale.

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