Amanda Hoerschelman used to teach 75 children a day.
As a 5th-grade public school teacher in Texas and Georgia , she had a revolving door of 10- and 11-year-olds. She loved teaching and her students but knew they weren’t getting the one-on-one attention they needed.
Still, when Hoerschelman had her eldest daughter Ava, she didn’t think twice about sending her to a brick and mortar.
That all changed when the family moved to Maquoketa, Iowa , with their 5-day-old daughter Autumn in tow.
The plan was Hoerschelman would go back to teaching, but the family ran into trouble finding daycare so she decided to stay home and give her daughters the individualized instruction a traditional learning environment lacked.
“I never thought I would homeschool ,” the mother of four young girls told the Washington Examiner. “My mom worked all when I was growing up, and I thought I would always do that. If you would have asked me 10 years ago, I would have never thought I would be doing this, but there was a shift in my heart.”
Johanna Duffy used to teach in Florida but called it quits after her son Malcolm started first grade.
“It was when [COVID-19] was getting really bad. We pulled him out, and it was the best thing we ever did,” she told the Washington Examiner. Duffy thought homeschooling would be a temporary fix but said she plans to stick with it.
Kristen Rhodes, a former public school special education teacher who lives near the Georgia-Florida border, told The Atlantic she decided not to put her 5-year-old son in kindergarten because she worried about him wearing a mask all day.
Similar to Rhodes, Duffy, and Hoerschelman, more and more public school teachers are choosing to homeschool.
In fact, the pandemic has created an opportunity for all types of families who would have never otherwise considered homeschooling. Desperate parents stuck at home scrambled to keep their children on track. The general lack of coordination in public schools, coupled with inconsistent guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on safety and masks, pushed hundreds of thousands of parents to roll up their sleeves and give homeschooling a try.
Like the Carter family in Midlothian, Virginia, some liked it so much they vowed to leave the public education system for good.
PARENTS STICK WITH HOMESCHOOLING AS CDC FLIP-FLOPS ON MASK GUIDANCE
“This gives us the opportunity to tailor what we teach our son,” Michelle Carter told the Washington Examiner during a recent trip to Target for school supplies. “We’ve been able to work with [our son Toby] and go at his pace, which is something none of our other kids had at public school.”
Across the country, the number of homeschoolers has risen dramatically. The reasons for opting in vary from COVID-19 to creating customized curricula to being fed up with a one-size-fits-all public school approach. A few parents told the Washington Examiner they pulled their kids out because of bullying that was ignored.
For Lauren Schmitz, a former Army nurse-turned-homeschooler, the decision to homeschool wasn’t one she anticipated but one she has embraced.
Schmitz, the writer of the popular blog The Simple Homeschooler , said she couldn’t wait to send her then-kindergartener Zoe off to school. She didn’t cry on the first day like some parents but soon realized something wasn’t right.
“She and I just lost a connection that we had had,” Schmitz said. “We were together 24 hours a day, and then suddenly there was a seven-hour gap. She would come home just exhausted and crying with a homework packet.”
Schmitz said the time the two had together become strained.
“She hated it, and I hated it,” Schmitz said. “I saw the worst of her every day. When I was dragging her out of bed and taking her to school — she had to be there at 7:40 a.m. in her uniform. We had to shove her breakfast down her face, get out of the van, get in the [school] door before they closed it, or she’d be late. And then I’d pick her up after she’s been on for seven hours with her teacher and she was just done. Exhausted.”
Schmitz admits she never thought she’d be someone who homeschools but said she sees why it is such an attractive option.
The number of homeschooled children has skyrocketed over the past few years.
In 2016, a little more than 3% of the nation’s school-age children were homeschooled, according to federal data. However, a significant surge has been confirmed by the U.S. Census Bureau, which reported that in March, the rate of homeschooling rose to 11% by September 2020.
In several states, the numbers are even higher.
Yvonne Bunn, director of homeschool support at the Home Educators Association of Virginia , said there has been a 48% increase in the last year, which comes out to an additional 21,000 new students.
“Pretty much everybody knows somebody that homeschools,” she said. “That’s made a difference because they have personal connections with either someone in their family or someone in their neighborhood or someone in their workforce who homeschools their children. It has become a mainstream alternative to public and private education. It’s really a third way of educating children that is very acceptable, and they now understand and see that homeschool parents are providing an education that prepares their children for the future. “
CLICK HERE FOR MORE FROM THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER
In Wisconsin, public schools saw their largest single-year decrease in enrollment last fall. Private school enrollment also dropped 1.5%, about half as much as public schools, according to a Wisconsin Policy Forum report released in August. The decrease brought private school enrollment down to 118,862 — its lowest point in at least a decade. Homeschooling, on the other hand, shot up by 47% over the preceding year, its largest increase since 1984.
In Texas, the number of parents choosing to homeschool nearly tripled, going from 4.5% in 2019 to 12.3% in 2020, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
In New Mexico , 6.4% of households chose to homeschool at the beginning of the 2020-21 school year. That number jumped to 14.3% by the middle of the fall semester.
But despite its popularity, some people told the Washington Examiner homeschooling wasn’t in their future.
“My mother taught public school for 25 years,” Virginia parent Jeff Reid said. “We’re going to leave it up to the professionals. My wife and I would probably screw it up if we had to teach them on our own. My mother would probably smack me.”