Homeschooling during a pandemic: Parents reflect on their choice to become teachers | Education

Home schooling became a popular option for parents during the 2020-2021 school year, with 1,460 students listed as home-schoolers with the Douglas Education Service District in February — a big increase from the usual average of 800.

“My husband and I made the decision to home school back at the beginning of this pandemic,” Brittany Arnold said. “The entire family struggled with the inconsistencies and uncertainty of public school last spring. We anticipated it would remain a roller coaster into this school year, which we guessed right.”

Other parents agreed that the writing was on the wall.

On March 12, 2020, Gov. Kate Brown announced that schools in Oregon would be closed for the rest of the month as the first cases of coronavirus were diagnosed in Oregon. A week later it was announced schools would transition to online and be closed for April. By April 8, it was announced schools would be closed for in-person learning for the rest of the 2019-2020 school year.

The start of the 2020-2021 school year has been anything but smooth, with reopening plans differing by school district and schools sometimes needing to close due to outbreaks or rising case numbers.

“When (schools) shut down last year I went ahead and registered for an online charter school because I kind of just saw the writing on the wall,” Anna Heacock said. “I guess this school year would be a roller coaster. We started at the beginning of this year, through an online charter school and homeschooling through that in that way.”

Heacock registered with Baker Web Academy, which is a virtual public school, and has the curriculum lined up for the children and offers other services to students as well — including helping her son with speech therapy for his individualized education plan.

Arnold is teaching her two daughters, 10-year-old Audrey and 7-year-old Evelyn, while Heacock is teaching two of her three children, 11-year-old Paige and 9-year-old Jace. Heacock’s youngest child, 5-year-old Mattea, is attending preschool at St. Paul Lutheran Church in person.

“I think (my favorite part is) just being able to do school outside or stop early and go outside and play,” Heacock said. “We have so much outside time, so much outside time.”

She particularly enjoyed that even during winter time they would continue outdoor learning. Heacock said her neighbors are also teaching from home and they created a study group so their older children can participate in school together.

“(The children) would just sit next to our campfire and do their reading,” Heacock said. “Read aloud and do their language arts together. It was just really neat. We wouldn’t have done that otherwise. It’s kind of just a fun experience to think back on: sitting around the campfire at 10 in the morning, reading your book out loud and doing your schoolwork. It’s been kind of neat to be creative like that.”

Arnold said she enjoys the quality time with her daughters, the flexibility and the opportunity to educate them on things that her family finds important.

“I also love how we can choose to press into a subject or something that really interests one of the girls if they want to,” Arnold said. “Evelyn was really into worms last spring and we then dedicated a whole week to learning about them.”

More recently, the Arnolds threw a colonial birthday party where Audrey cooked an authentic meal and Evelyn made wigs for everyone to wear.

Arnold said her daughters do miss the social interactions they had at school.

“In all seriousness, home schooling is a full-time job; motherhood is a full-time job,” Arnold said. “On top of that, I have part-time work, my own routines, and all the house tasks — so juggling all those things can be very difficult. Putting too much pressure on myself is also something challenging that can happen during homeschooling. I have to continually remind myself that my kids won’t fail at life because I decided to let Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood teach them for a day (or a few).”

For Heacock, home schooling has come with some pleasant surprises, she said, including a more amicable relationship between her children.

“I’ve been pleasantly surprised this year, I thought it would be a lot worse than it is,” she said. “Maybe I went in with a really bad attitude. But it’s been good, we’re gonna continue probably the middle school years.”

Arnold hopes her children will be able to return to a classroom with all the things they missed, such as lunch in the cafeteria, recess, book fairs and assemblies.

“We’ve so far had a great experience in the Roseburg Public Schools district and we fully understand that the instability and mess that was this past year had seldom to do with our local schools or teachers,” Arnold said. “I feel so bad for everything they’ve had to adjust to and try and figure out. Home schooling has been wonderful and I now have the confidence in myself that I can in fact home-school. It is an option we keep on the table and we will evaluate each year what is best, but right now we’d like to return to school if it proves to be a stable environment without the threats of closing down and distance learning.”

Sanne Godfrey can be reached at [email protected] or 541-957-4203. Follow her on Twitter @sannegodfrey.

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