What do you think? Leave a respectful comment.

Homeschooling through the coronavirus pandemic

Following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic there has been growing interest from parents in homeschooling their children after schools across the nation abruptly shut down and transitioned to remote learning. Ivette Feliciano caught up with two parents in Georgia who have homeschooled their kids for many years to find out how the pandemic has impacted them and what advice they have for parents looking to make the leap to homeschooling.

Read the Full Transcript

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Having children at home learning remotely is an added burden for parents returning to work, or trying to work at home themselves, and it's forcing many to scramble for solutions. Some are organizing schooling pods with a small group of students and a paid tutor or teacher. Another alternative gaining popularity is homeschooling.

    In the spring of 2019, an estimated 3 to 4 percent of school-aged children were homeschooled, according to the National Home Education Research Institute. That number is expected to increase due to COVID-19. NewsHour Weekend's Ivette Feliciano recently caught up with two parents in Georgia. They've homeschooled their kids for many years and have advice for parents looking to make the leap to homeschooling.

  • Ivette Feliciano:

    When NewsHour Weekend first met up with the Sarden family in their Georgia home back in 2018, Judy Sarden was almost six years into homeschooling her two kids, Aidan and Haley, who were then ten and nine.

    In March, when COVID-19 began to rapidly spread in the U.S., Georgia Governor, Brian Kemp ordered the closure of all public schools and colleges. And in early April he issued a shelter in place order, sending parents scrambling to keep their kids learning while doing full-time jobs. According to Sarden, it was a little different at her home.

  • Judy Sarden:

    The first few days of the pandemic were kind of surreal, I think is probably the best way I can put it. You know, our schooling. The schooling portion of our lives didn't change because we just kind of plugged along as we always were. But not being able to get out of the house. Was really crazy for me. And that is because I'm typically out of the house every single day of the week.

  • Amber Johnston:

    We were actually out of the country. So we were in the midst of a world schooling trip.

  • Ivette Feliciano:

    Amber Johnston, a wife and homeschooling mother of four, also from Georgia was in Greece with her kids at the time, the first leg of their six-country Europe tour.

  • Amber Johnston:

    But I was getting all these text messages, urgent text messages and emails from back home asking me to return, friends concerned, wondering what we were doing. And I think, you know, things were becoming more panicked here in the States than they were where we were. But in terms of school, much like what Judy said, we didn't miss a beat. We had our books with us and we were doing the things we normally do.

  • Ivette Feliciano:

    The Johnston's soon returned home but as the two families settled into what became a one month shelter in place order, their professional lives began to change. The choice to educate their kids at home that at times in the past was met with skepticism, was now seen as an asset. They began fielding more and more calls from parents looking to better manage their new situations.

  • Judy Sarden:

    In addition to my private one on one consultation picking up, you know, people are reaching out to me and individuals are but I'm also working with corporations now. You know, to help them provide their employees with strategies and things like that so that they can become more productive and more engaged while working from home while also managing their kids. Because, you know, most, most people didn't choose this.

  • Ivette Feliciano:

    As schools begin to open up around the country with various forms of in-person learning or virtual class, some parents dissatisfied with what's on offer, are looking more and more at homeschooling. According to the National Home School Association, in a single day last month the organization received 3400 requests for information, up from a handful of inquiries per day before the COVID-19 pandemic.

    But Sarden cautions that what many parents were doing with their kids' education in the spring with distance learning, was not traditional homeschooling, and that parents need to prepare, and educate themselves about state regulations before becoming home educators.

  • Judy Sarden:

    What people have been doing is pandemic schooling. They have been scrambling. School districts have been, in the spring, they threw together whatever they could to try to help people continue on, and it's just a hodgepodge. You know, I knew seven months before I started homeschooling, I was going to start homeschooling and I planned, I went to homeschool conventions. I talked to people. I did research.

  • Ivette Feliciano:

    As many parents head back into physical buildings for work, both women agree that whether you work in a factory, office building, or are working from home, homeschooling is more feasible than some might imagine.

  • Amber Johnston:

    The thought that school doesn't have to start at 8:30 and end at 2:30, but you're looking at those equivalent hours and throughout the span of entire seven days, all the hours that you're not at work, can you schedule some school things to introduce new lessons, spark ideas, teach things during that time, and then set up things that your kids can do independently. And even my seven-year-old has things he can do independently.

  • Ivette Feliciano:

    And for Johnston, while the pandemic has brought newfound interest in the world of homeschooling, this teaching moment has been especially important for a different reason. In May, mass anti-racism protests swept the nation following the death of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis, Minnesota. As these events unfolded more home educators turned to her for guidance as they attempted to incorporate more black history and voices into their curriculums.

  • Amber Johnston:

    And so what I see ahead of us is a lot of work that parents and curriculum providers and writers and all of us are going to have to do to continue the shift that started during the pandemic of wanting something new and different and better and more inclusive to present to our children.

Listen to this Segment