Virginia has seen a spike in home schooling during the pandemic and many parents are sticking with it


RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) – Virginia has seen a huge increase in home schooling during the coronavirus pandemic and many parents plan to stick with it for the long term.

Data from the Virginia Department of Education for the 2020-2021 school year shows that 59,638 students were enrolled in home schooling. This is against 38,282 the previous year. The numbers for the current school year have not been finalized but, for the record, this trend seems to be continuing, according to the Home Education Association of Virginia (HEAV).

HEAV’s director of home school support and government affairs, Yvonne Bunn, said the growth was so important they had to increase staff to help parents find resources.

“I think this will definitely change the education landscape,” Bunn said. “I don’t think it will ever go back to the way it was before. We’ve typically seen in Virginia a 10-12% increase every year, but last year we saw a 48% increase.

When her children started school, Tera Thomas, a mother of four, never saw herself transitioning to home schooling.

“I was teaching English literature in high school and I always joked that I was teaching in high school for a reason,” Thomas said.

With his oldest in Grade 3, Thomas noticed that his children weren’t getting enough individualized attention in their public school. They were exhausted from busy schedules and didn’t seem to enjoy their lessons. She said they fell behind on foundational skills in some cases, but, under the pressure of following a stacked curriculum, their teachers seemed unable to meet their specific needs.

Then, when COVID-19 forced classrooms to close in March 2020, Thomas took a closer look at what homeschooling could look like.

“I thought, hey, we can do it,” Thomas said.

Still anxious, Thomas made the switch in the middle of the semester. When their school system announced its intention to stay fully virtual the following fall, she said that only reinforced her decision.

“I would say maybe it was the nail in the coffin,” Thomas said. “I knew there was no way they would thrive in front of a computer all day. I knew there was no way they would flourish with face masks all day. “

Bunn said each state has its own home schooling laws, each with different oversight and curriculum requirements.

“Virginia has a fairly moderate homes school law. Some states have stricter laws, ”Bunn said.

While some states require parents to be certified to teach at home, Virginia offers a lot of flexibility. Bunn said parents must either have a high school diploma, be certified as a teacher in Virginia, or submit a written letter to their local superintendent with a list of the subjects they plan to teach for. request an exception. Bunn said that students enrolled in a distance learning course are also allowed to be home schooled.

Bunn said state law does not dictate which subjects parents must cover, but at the end of each school year, students must achieve certain standardized test scores to continue home schooling.

Thomas said his children were performing better on tests than ever. In addition, the flexible schedule is suitable for their family and their children seem happier. She does not intend to re-enroll them in public schools.

“I want parents to be encouraged that you have a say in what your children do, who they are, what they become and what they learn,” Thomas said. “You don’t have to do what everyone else does. You don’t have to do the conventional thing.

Bunn recommends that interested parents get in touch with families who have experience in home schooling. For help, visit this website.

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