Thousands of Manitoba students are homeschooling this year, with about an additional 1,500 students learning from their houses.
The Manitoba government says numbers from this year show at least 5,152 students have signed up for homeschooling since Sept. 11.
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Last school year there were 3,689 students registered to homeschool, 3,708 in 2018-19 and 3,643 in 2017-18.
One family that took the leap to try homeschooling is Michelle Budiwski’s. The mom from Rivers, Man., northwest of Brandon, is teaching her three children at home this September for the first time.
“We did so well when the kids were sent home in March for school at home,” she said. “We found a routine. The kids absolutely flourished. They learned more than I had ever seen them learn. They were so excited about it.
“We started talking and researching homeschooling in the spring. When the province made their decision and announced how the school year would look this year, we decided we were going to homeschool permanently and here we are.”
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Over the month of teaching her children, she’s learned her own lessons.
“If they’re not feeling it, I don’t fight with them. Everyone has a rough day. Let’s say if my eight-year-old didn’t sleep well and he’s kind of cranky in the morning, instead of fighting with him, maybe that’s a day we watch a movie in the morning and don’t sit down for formal lessons until later,” she said.
“I don’t structure daily lessons. I know what I want to do by the end of the week. As long as it’s done by the end of the week we are good.”
For Budiwski, her challenge comes from carving out her own time.
“I’m their mom and teacher and do all their planning and I also run a business. I’ve had to be very, very flexible in all of our commitments. We don’t have a regimented routine that from this time to this time we’re going to do X, Y and Z.
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“I don’t know how my day is going to go. If I get a call from a client, or I have to get something done, sometimes they don’t start school until the afternoon because I have to work in the morning. That’s OK as long as I let them know the plan for the day is for the morning, they’re acceptable.”
For Budiwski and her family, seeing that 51 confirmed COVID-19 cases have been announced in schools has confirmed that they made the right choice as a family.
“As a parent with a child who has asthma, I’m glad my children aren’t there. I’m really glad. I am super grateful that this works for us because if it didn’t, I don’t know what I would do. It would be so incredibly stressful to send them to public school right now and worry,” she said.
“The big thing people are saying online is kids need to be in school and maybe five years ago I would have agreed with that. Now my response is, ‘No, kids don’t need to be in school, kids need an education.’ They’re not the same thing.”
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Debra Dumouchel is the CEO and founder of Homeschool Canada, an online resource for families learning about homeschooling. She says they’ve seen a huge increase in the number of families making the shift this September.
“We’ve definitely noticed a huge increase in the number of sales we’ve had as people are scrambling to find an alternative – not wanting to send their kids back to school,” she said.
“It hasn’t slowed down for us. People are still, now, they’re pulling their kids out. They’re not liking how it’s going so it’s still quite busy.”
Homeschool Canada’s sales have tripled this summer and fall compared to last.
“We are running out of everything. I mean, math programs, math and writing are big things people are looking for. People are looking for science kits, too — those are popular as well,” she said.
Dumouchel says if you’re thinking of making the switch, she has some advice for first-time homeschool parents.
“I think it’s important to not have yourself a huge to-do list. But just take the time to reconnect with your kids, and do a gradual entry. Go slow, get a routine going and don’t be pressured by ‘I have to finish things’ on your long to-do list. Because that will just get frustrating. I think you start out with less, you get a groove, then you add to that.”
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