RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Like many parents across the Commonwealth, Jon Morton’s daughter Zoe finished out her 2nd-grade year at Beulah Elementary from a social distance through virtual learning in the early days of the pandemic. Four months later, Chesterfield County Public Schools made the decision to opt for a virtual start to the school year, amidst protests and polarized opinions, Morton says he’s looking for a different option for his daughter and son Josiah a rising kindergartner.
“It made for some difficult learning for our kiddos to make that transition without a whole lot of prep,” Morton said. “I can understand the need to make decisions that not everybody is going to agree with that are going to create some challenges for our county and so we stand with our schools and we stand with our teachers.”
The 4-1 vote in favor of the virtual start came after Superintendent Mervin Daugherty recommended the virtual learning earlier Monday with support of the Chesterfield Education Association, but Morton believes that his could may not thrive under a virtual curriculum.
“It also kind of goes to the fact that we’re not convinced that our children are the kind of learners that are going to do well with a virtual environment long term,” Morton said.
This was the primary reason why Morton decided to make the switch from public schools to home schooling to be more hands on in what and how his children learn.
“For us, it was just easier to bring them home and say we’re just going to make the decision to Home school we can do that,” Morton said. “We actually just decided on Monday after the decision in Chesterfield County was made.”
The choice to pull students out of public and private schools and into to a home school curriculum is one that is gaining popularity for the last five years according to the President of the Home Educators Association of Virginia, Anne Miller.
“It’s booming, so far we’ve added over 700 people last week. We’ve had over 6000 ask to join our group since COVID-19 started,” Miller said.
According to data from the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) over the past 11 years home school enrollment has steadily increased from just 22621 for the 2008-2009 school year to a total of 38282 students across Virginia as of the 2019-2020 school year, an increase of nearly 70 percent.
This year of that number 428 students were home-schooled in the city of Richmond, 684 in Hanover County, 982 in Henrico County and 2,162 home-schooled students Chesterfield. Miller says she expects those numbers to jump significantly come the start of the fall semester, but says that the VDOE will not have official numbers until the conclusion of the 2020 school year.
“The beauty of homeschooling is that you can use the materials that work for your child and that works for you,” Miller said.
Miller says part of what’s driving the interest is the fear parents have that their child could contract COVID-19 in a traditional school setting and the fear that they won’t get adequate instruction at through virtual learning.
“‘If the schools did open, would it be safe and would it traumatize their children?' This is what the parents are saying they just couldn’t see their child with the mask and the social distancing and all the guidelines that they have to follow and then there are parents who don’t want their children to sit in front of a computer all day,” Miller said.
Miller says fewer and more manageable restrictions in a home school setting has been a major factor in the uptick of parent making the switch to ensure that students get the most out of their learning when in class.
“You can be sure that they are at the safe distances that they’re taking the proper precautions, but all during the day while they’re learning they don’t need to be in masks while they’re home, they don’t have the restrictions,” Miller said.
While Morton admits that he’ll miss the teachers in Chesterfield, for the foreseeable future he expects his children to get their education inside the home.
“At the end of the day, we had to do what is best for our family and for our kiddos to make sure that they are getting the education we think they need most,” Morton said.
Miller says in order for students to make the switch to home-school in time for the fall, parents must submit a letter of intent to their respect superintendent by August 13th.
For more information on how to enroll your child in home school click HERE.
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