CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - According to new research from the University of Virginia, the amount of students home-schooled in the Charlottesville-Albemarle area doubled when the COVID-19 pandemic struck, and will continue to be a popular option for families well after the pandemic is over.
“The number of Virginians who home-school is quite substantial. It’d be one of the largest school divisions if it counted as a school division. It’d easily be the fasted growing one," UVA Demographer Hamilton Lombard explained.
Lombard says telecommuting, the ‘new normal’ for many workers, may be the reason for home-school’s growing popularity.
“Places where people telecommute and work from home typically have high homeschooling rates. We’ve already had a lot of companies say, ‘We’re going to continue an option to telecommute.’ Which probably means we’ll have more migration to these counties. That’s going to be the kind of shift in lifestyle that could also mean more people will be homeschooling," Lombard said.
More virtual learning options also give families more flexibility. Emerging online learning platforms now allow parents to personalize their child’s learning.
“When you think about Netflix, there’s actually a lot of correlation to the idea that you can go home and get your entertainment and pick what you want rather than going out to a movie theater and seeing what their showing, and I think homeschooling kind of fits into that trend with what you see with Netflix and iTunes," Lombard said.
The growth rings true for the Opus Cooperative, who said in an email statement that the group has seen a 200% increase in enrollment.
Meryl Sarrechia of the Community Homeschool Enrichment Center (CHEC) says the uncertainty of COVID-19 also has a lot to do with parents opting to home-school their children.
“I think people are kind of overwhelmed with all the changes and they want to make the changes on their terms, not on somebody else’s," Sarrechia said.
Even with COVID-19 making it hard for the home-school community to come together, she says the one in Charlottesville remains strong.
“Charlottesville is so awesome, the home-school community," Sarrechia said. "I could definitely see people in Charlottesville sticking with the homeschooling. It’s a gem of a homeschool community.”