Parents opting to home-school beyond closures add to school finance concerns

Kristen Smith’s 10-year-old son is a self-motivated student who loves to learn. And while Smith has been told multiple times that she should consider home-schooling her son, who excels academically and jumped from 4th to 6th grade last year, the idea always overwhelmed her. Besides, her son has enjoyed the social aspects of school and needed to work on organizational skills that come from being in a classroom. 

Now, however, everything is different. In the wake of the global coronavirus pandemic, the Smiths’ school on the Fort Bragg military installation in North Carolina, like so many others across the country, switched to virtual instruction.

Schoolwork has since become increasingly slow-paced, and the socialization benefits for her son are nonexistent, she said. “It’s not a huge deal for a quarter, but I don’t want to do another semester or year of that.”

If the school is still closed and online-only come fall, Smith is planning to scale back her work hours and home-school her son. She’s already started doing research.

Interest surging in wake of coronavirus shutdowns

Smith isn’t the only one. The National Home School Association has seen a surge in inquiries from parents weighing their options if K-12 schools remain online: If their children are going to be home anyway, parents want the freedom to choose their own curriculum and schedule.

“A very large number of parents are now planning on not sending their kids back to school in the fall based on the calls we have been getting,” said J. Allen Weston, executive director of the organization. He said the organization’s call volume has increased “at least tenfold.”

In addition to Smith, a handful of other parents, including some who have lost their jobs because of the pandemic, also told Education Dive they’re considering pulling their children out of school and making the switch.

The future is uncertain — for these families, as well as their schools, which in many cases are preparing for a 2020-21 school year that will look a lot different than what students are used to. New CDC guidelines recommend staff wear masks and promote social distancing when possible, including by spacing out students’ desks to six feet apart and closing communal areas such as lunch rooms.[1]

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