Homeroom: The growing trend of homeschooling

Published: Sep. 16, 2021 at 6:49 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Mandy Davis and her six-year-old daughter Annie are working on math concepts.

“Place value, ones and tens,” Mandy says.

She and her husband Matt have four children ranging in age from 17 to 6, and they’re all homeschooled.

The family has been homeschooling since 2013 when their son John Matthew, now 17, began chemotherapy treatments. They didn’t want their daughters bringing home illnesses.

“He was still doing public school called Homebound, where the teacher would come to the house. That was when Common Core was coming out, and all the discussion about that, and he was really struggling with all of the curriculum,” Mandy tells us. “So at that time, I thought if we’re going to be teaching, we might as well be teaching the way that he knows how to learn.”

The Davises are not alone in making the switch to a homeroom at home. A Mississippi Department of Education analysis in December showed that 23,286 fewer children enrolled in the state’s public schools in the 2020-2021 school year, than the year before. Homeschool enrollment removed 6,731 students from Mississippi public school attendance rolls.

The numbers for the current school year will be available soon. In this state, families who plan to homeschool are required by law to fill out an enrollment form for each child, each year, and submit it to the local school attendance officer by September 15. The Department of Education uses the forms to keep track of homeschool enrollment.

The trend is reflected nationally as well. According to a Tyton Partners/Walton Family Foundation study conducted in December, estimated homeschooling enrollment before Covid-19 was 1.9 million. During Covid, in the Fall of 2020, homeschool enrollment had jumped to 3.1 million. Enrollment in learning pods, or groups of homeschooled children learning together, increased from .41 million to .72 million. Public and private schools lost students during that time.

Jeff Barber is President of the Mississippi Home Educators Association, which is a resource for those wishing to explore the homeschooling option.

He says the Association’s hotline used to get an average of two calls per week.

“Now, the last four weeks, we’ve been averaging 50 calls per week, and that does not include the emails, which have just exploded,” he tells us.

Barber says families choose to homeschool for a wide variety of reasons. Bullying at school is one of them. But the pandemic seems to be the dominant factor.

“Based on those 50 calls per week we’ve been getting for the last four weeks, we can sum it up with people saying, we’re scared of Covid,” he says.

Whatever the motivating issue, Barber, who with his wife has homeschooled all five of his children, says one benefit of homeschooling is the ability to tailor lessons and curriculum to each individual child’s learning style.

Much like the Davis household, where Mandy has a knack for spelling and elementary math, and Matt is better suited to teach high school history and higher level math concepts.

“It helps to talk to people that have been through it because it’s not as daunting as it seems,” Mandy says.

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