Increases in homeschooling and working from home triggered by COVID-19 closures may have permanent impacts, according to University of Virginia (UVA) researcher Hamilton Lombard.
“Based on trends over the past few decades, the number of homeschoolers and telecommuters were both expected to continue growing rapidly even before the pandemic. If Virginia’s homeschoolers were a school division, they would be one of Virginia’s largest school divisions, and easily its fastest growing,” Lombard told UVA Today.
Lombard said some people currently working from home and homeschooling will return to in-person options after COVID-19, according to UVA Today. He said, “But after the pandemic, the share of Virginians who work from home or homeschool will undoubtedly be even higher than was predicted before the pandemic.”
In August, Home Educators Association of Virginia director of government affairs Yvonne Bunn told The Virginia Star that HEAV was receiving 80-90 percent more interest than normal for that time.
On Friday, she said she’s still seeing increased interest, although not as high as in August. Bunn said the rigid schedule of virtual learning doesn’t always work well for families who work from home, who have multiple students, or have students with disabilities.
“We’re getting lots of calls from parents who are working from home and they’re having to virtual school their children at the same time. And so it’s not working out so well with the schedule,” Bunn said.
She continued, “That’s one of the difficulties they have, with multiple children having to be online at the same time in multiple Zoom meetings, not being able to find passwords, not being able to find the materials, not sure what the link is.”
Bunn said, “I think the public is not necessarily understanding the difficulties that parents are having communicating with their local schools. And they’re very, very frustrated, there’s no one in the office to answer phone calls, messages are recorded and phone calls are never returned, not all parents have computers and hot spots.”
“Homeschooling is not always thought of as a technology-based trend but if you plot the growth in homeschooling in Virginia on a graph, it has grown in tandem with the number of Virginians who telecommute or who have internet over the past few decades. Increased access to educational resources, which the internet provides, is one of the main reasons for this,” Lombard told UVA Today.
He continued, “The more flexible work schedule that telecommuters typically have also makes homeschooling a little easier for parents who work from home. In Virginia, the 10 counties with the highest telecommuting rates also on average have homeschooling rates more than double the statewide rate.”
Amanda Idleman is part of a church-based homeschooling group in Richmond.
“I have met four families that jumped into homeschooling because of COVID and have expressed they are likely to continue past this school year,” Idleman told The Star. “So I think there are a large number of people who are at least open to continuing to homeschool past this year if they feel they are successful this year.”
Idleman added, “If teleworking is here to stay, more families will have the flexibility they need to both maintain a job and have their children learning at home.”
“I expect that some parents will find out that they can do this when they had thought perhaps it would be too difficult,” Bunn said. “I think there will be parents who will continue to homeschool because of their experience, if they’re having to with COVID, and I think we will see continued growth in home education.”
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