Families look to homeschooling as uncertainty over schools reopening continues

Figuring out what school learning will look like this fall has stirred up quite the debate nationwide. Teachers’ unions in California have convinced districts to cancel in-person classes and remain entirely online and other teachers’ unions are pushing for the same; education advocates and policymakers are pushing for schools to reopen, citing the disaster of distance learning and concerns over more lost learning—especially in disadvantaged communities—and impeded social development if schools remain shuttered.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued school reopening guidelines back in May that had parents concerned over their practicality, even though minimizing health risks is a shared goal. Updated guidance from CDC that would clarify its initial recommendations on safely reopening schools has been delayed but is expected by the end of the month.

But all the uncertainty over schools reopening and what it would take for them to do so safely has parents looking elsewhere, according to the Reason Foundation.

Keeping kids masked and separated in a learning environment intended for groups makes sense only to those who have little experience with schoolsor children. That has lots of parents looking at alternatives such as homeschooling that allow them to implement their own guidelines not just for health, but for their kids’ education.

Parents asked about their reasons for pulling their kids from schools cite both concerns about their kids contracting COVID-19 in the classroom as well as worries that traditional school districts aren’t up to the challenges of teaching through remote and hybrid models. They can either place their faith in an education establishment that hasn’t earned that sort of trust, or they can experiment with alternatives that have grown increasingly popular in recent years precisely because they satisfy the demand for flexible and effective learning approaches.

Traditional schools right now are fumbling the response to a crisis and convincing much of the public that they are dangerous to children and society. Families fleeing from those schools in search of alternatives are going to prove a tough audience for arguments that kids should be trapped in poorly managed classrooms that aren’t up to the latest challenge.

A Bloomberg article echoes a similar sentiment: families who can are taking their kids’ education into their own hands to escape the online learning schools will likely resort to if they don’t reopen classrooms.

…[S]ome parents with means aren’t waiting to see what the fall will look like. In the last three months, Weekdays, a Seattle-based company that helps parents set up in-home daycares and schools, said it has helped organize 100 micro-schools around the country. “We’ve been overwhelmed with inquiries,” Shauna Causey, Weekdays’s founder, said.

But schools not reopening puts families who can’t afford private child care or who can’t stay home because of work at a disadvantage and threatens to exacerbate educational disparities that existed pre-COVID.

According to data the Minnesota Department of Education collected from an informal survey, 64.3% of Minnesota parents are “comfortable” sending their students to school in the fall. And of those comfortable, 94.4% would prefer to send their students back full-time.

Minnesota’s guidance for public and charter schools is expected to be announced by the week of July 27, but many of the state’s private religious schools have already announced they are intending to bring students back for in-person classes.

An analysis of Minnesota’s Google search of “homeschool” over the past 30 days shows a recent spike in interest. Across the U.S., Google Trends identified “best homeschool curriculum 2020” as a breakout search (meaning it has received a tremendous increase in searches) over the past month.