Decline in Missouri public school enrollment, many parents opting to homeschool | KSNF/KODE

MISSOURI – Across Missouri, public school enrollment is down more than 28,000 students this fall compared to the 2019-2020 school year.

The state has experienced a 3.2{c25493dcd731343503a084f08c3848bd69f9f2f05db01633325a3fd40d9cc7a1} drop between public preschool through 12th grade. This follows annual rate decreases of less than 1{c25493dcd731343503a084f08c3848bd69f9f2f05db01633325a3fd40d9cc7a1} since 2007.

Although unclear the reason for the entirety of the decline, many parents have decided to homeschool this year in order to keep their children and family safe.

Local mother of two Natashia Hamlet gave her children the option of homeschooling or continuing public school when the pandemic began. They both chose to homeschool.

“I gave them a choice and that’s what they wanted to do… My daughter didn’t really like the restrictions that they had right now; she doesn’t do well with a mask with allergies, so she wanted to homeschool. My son hesitated, took him a couple weeks to decide because he’s very social. But he was worried about having to do quarantine and having to have breaks in his education and catching up, so he figured at some point he was going to have to quarantine so he might as well just do homeschool.” 

During unprecedented times, Hamlet says having the certainty of homeschool is comforting.

“I always recommend it to people. I think it sounds very scary, but with so much uncertainty right now, it’s been wonderful to have a stable environment for my kids. Every day we know what our routine is,” said Hamlet. “Anything that happens with Covid going on is not going to break our homeschool routine and that’s very comforting for me… And it’s good for kids – I think they need that.” 

Hamlet says there is an “overwhelming number” of resources for homeschooling, including a Joplin homeschool group on Facebook and co-op Homeschoolers’ Network (HSN), which they participate in once a week.

“I really enjoy it, it’s a lot easier than I thought. Again, there’s a lot of resources out there and a lot of help out there… I think people don’t realize that you can still do homeschool and have the curriculum online, so that makes it a little easier,” she said. 

The online curriculum includes grading, tracking and testing, which makes schooling easier on parents. 

“My son is gifted, so it’s something I considered doing with him before and he’s been really easy. We do an online curriculum for him and he’ll get up before me and finish the majority of his work before I even get out of bed,” said Hamlet. “So for him it’s been really good and he’s progressing really fast. He can test out of things or he can just move on when he gets it, so it’s been really beneficial for him.” 

Their school days include two hours of core work, exercise, art and more. 

“I do also recommend people reach out… There’s so many co-ops for homeschoolers in the area. And I think there’s a misconception that kids don’t get the opportunity to socialize if you homeschool. With the co-ops, and just so many places in Joplin have really opened up their businesses to offer homeschool days… Honestly, I think my kids have more social interaction right now than a lot of the kids in school, just because they’re able to go out every day and be active and meet other kids,” said Hamlet.

“I think that [misconception] holds people back. And joining a group like HSN, they can still have a grade with classmates and still do fun activities with other kids.” 

Hamlet recommends trying homeschooling to any parent who is interested in it.

“I just try to share my experience and it’s been very positive, I really enjoy it,” she said.

For more information about homeschooling, visit Joplin Public Library’s resources.

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