Mary Beth Sallee
Reporter, Hart Co. News-Herald
It is no surprise that, with the pandemic, the number of parents who have opted to homeschool their children has considerably increased. However, despite Covid-19 vaccines, mask mandates being lifted, and schools having returned to in-person learning, many parents have chosen to continue directing their children’s educations themselves because of personal beliefs.
A U.S. Census Bureau analysis has stated that national homeschooling rates grew rapidly from 1999 to 2012 but had since remained steady at just over 3%. However, in the spring of 2020, the proportion of American families homeschooling at least one child rose to 5.4%. This number grew to 11.1% by the fall of 2021.
Locally, homeschooling has become a choice for several, including the Scott and Edwards families.
Leigh Ann Scott of Munfordville has four children ages 3, 6, 10, and 12. Scott’s oldest three children were each in public school for two or more years. However, the Scott family is now in their second year of homeschooling. Scott stated that her family had considered homeschooling for quite some time, mostly due to their personal beliefs.
“We wanted to make discipleship a part of our children’s education, which is something they can’t get in public school,” Scott said. “That, coupled with things my children had experienced with other students in school and Covid, made the decision easier.”
For Ashley Edwards of Horse Cave, the reason behind homeschooling was very similar as Scott’s.
“As a family, we knew homeschool was in our future, but God showed us the time was right and we began August of 2021,” Edwards said. “Our whole family made this decision together. We are not anti-public school. We are grateful for all the amazing teachers who set the educational foundation for our boys. Their sacrifices and love they had for our boys mean the world to us. As our boys were getting older and seeing and hearing so many things that do not align with our values, we felt that they would be able to better focus on learning in a different environment. This isn’t going to be the case for every child/family, but it was definitely the case for us.”
Edwards, whose three sons are ages 13, 10, and 9, stated that the stress associated with Covid, virtual learning, and then returning to in-person learning was another factor behind the decision to homeschool.
“They (my sons) went from loving school to not liking it,” Edwards explained. “One of my boys cried when we were virtual because it was so difficult for him to learn that way, and he was left behind so many times. That was something many children were experiencing. Once we finally returned to in-person class, he was so emotionally torn from the changing schedule and environment that he was crying every morning, throughout the school day, and when we got home because he hated school so much. It was getting worse day by day. He wasn’t able to learn, and it was a difficult time for us both. We felt there was nowhere to turn for help. The teachers were doing their best in that difficult situation. Everyone was suffering.”
One of the great things about homeschool for both Scott and Edwards is the flexibility it offers for their children. This year, each chose to begin their school years in mid-July.
“We’ve already started this year so that I have a few weeks to get them started before I have to be back at work,” said Scott, who is also a public school teacher. “…Since I work full time outside of the home and my husband works nights, we homeschool when we can. I always say that we do it in the nooks and crannies of our days/week. As long as we aren’t busy in the evenings, I usually have school with them then. Sometimes we have to use the weekends as well if needed.”
“The beauty of homeschool is, while we have a schedule set, it can be changed,” Edwards said. “If we are having a hard day, we can stop and pick up a good book to finish the day with. There is always tomorrow to try again. We work hard to make sure we have a stress-free ‘classroom’. We don’t take a fall or spring break because we are able to take a vacation or day off anytime, and we can still make sure we get all our educational days in. We also have school on holidays so we can learn about the history and traditions of that particular holiday.”
The curriculum used for homeschooling varies from family to family. Scott uses a variety of resources that best fits each child.
“I don’t use one curriculum,” Scott said. “Some of my children use The Good and the Beautiful for some subjects and Masterbooks for others. My two oldest use Easy Peasy for science and social studies. I also use other workbooks and websites for teaching, especially with my youngest…I get curriculum questions from others often. Even stores such as Dollar Tree, Five Below, and Ollie’s have workbooks and other materials that are great for homeschool families.”
Edwards wanted flexibility to focus on what her sons are interested in and what they are best at. She chose to use the “180 Days of…” workbooks in all of the state-required subjects but still focuses on hands-on learning most of all.
“I use a lot of project-based learning resources from Teachers Pay Teachers and find science experiments and ideas on Pinterest,” Edwards said. “The workbooks have been a great tool for seeing what my boys know and provide opportunities to learn the things they don’t yet know. We also take a lot of field trips. There are so many local places that provide educational opportunities.”
As both a parent and her children’s own teacher, Scott said she enjoys the freedom that homeschool offers.
“My children don’t have to sit at a desk all day. They can do their work on the couch, outside on the patio, or even in the car on a road trip,” Scott said. “They all get a one-on-one teacher who knows them well. Because of that, I’ve seen improvements in what they can do, including the things they used to struggle with, and now I know everything they’re learning, which is something I didn’t always have before. I know where their strengths and weaknesses are academically and can provide more help for them where it is needed.”
“Some days they (my children) love it (homeschool) and other days they don’t, but they like how some of the everyday things we do, such as gardening, cooking, reading, and even playing, get to count as school,” Scott continued. “They get to go on lots of fun field trips, and even though they may not admit it, I can see that the relationships between them have improved as well.”
Edwards added that her sons love learning at their own pace and enjoy having a less stressful environment in which to learn.
“They have learned so much and are gaining important life skills,” Edwards said. “The one-on-one learning has been vital for my middle son. If he doesn’t initially understand something I am teaching him, we work through it until he does. We have had so many moments with happy tears because he finally got it and was so excited! Those are the best moments of homeschool, I think.”
Those in opposition of homeschool often cite that children who are being homeschooled may lack social skills. However, Scott and Edwards explained that homeschooling has not in any way dampened their children’s abilities to interact with others.
“I’ve heard those statements many times, and I respectfully disagree,” Scott said. “With there being four of them, my children get plenty of socialization just with each other. Some of them play sports, we do gatherings and trips with other homeschool families, and we are in church regularly, which are all places where they get to interact with others. They also have cousins they get to spend time with. Furthermore, homeschooling them gives me the control of who they are socializing with and what they are learning from others.”
“As far as social skills, my kids are so much more confident and social than they ever have been,” Edwards said. “They don’t have pressure to be the kid with the best clothes or the kid who is the best at sports. They don’t have to worry about what anyone is going to think about them when they give a speech or read out loud. They can be themselves and focus on learning and becoming good adults. They are friendly, respectful kids, and I am proud of who they are.”
Scott admits that she at first had concerns about homeschooling her children while also working as a public school educator, but those worries are long gone.
“I do work in public education, and for a while, I worried of what others would think of me homeschooling my own children,” Scott said. “But I’ve realized that one has nothing to do with the other. Lots of homeschool families have a mom who works either in or outside of the home. My job just happens to be in education. I love children, and I enjoy my job, but public school became a type of education that was no longer right for my family. All families are different. It works for us.”
Edwards also realizes that homeschooling isn’t for everyone and won’t judge anyone for making the best decision for their own family.
“Some people don’t agree with our choice to homeschool, and that is okay. It is our choice and our duty, as parents, to make sure our children are getting the education they need in the environment that serves them best,” Edwards said. “Homeschool is the best option for my children’s education. We see the results every day. We won’t judge your choice. We all have different needs.”