Homeschooling becoming popular during COVID-19 as parents worry about return to campus

Many more families are embracing homeschooling during the coronavirus pandemic out of concerns about sending their children back to campuses.
ORANGE, Calif. (KABC) -- The Bridgman family in the city of Orange admits homeschooling has its challenges. But after three years, they've found it's what works for them.

"It is a lot of work. I'm not going to sugarcoat it. It does take sacrifice, and it does weigh on the family with different pressures than you do with a regular school," said Andrea Bridgman.

Now with school closures and COVID-19, they're grateful they made the choice and they're not surprised to see a surge of families looking to also make the jump.

"Really take the time to look through the pros and cons of each side and ask people, ask a lot of questions to hep you understand those pros and cons," Bridgman said.

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A recent survey by online educational platform Outschool shows more than 60% of parents are not comfortable sending their children back to school until a vaccine has been found. Almost 40% of parents said school closures have made them more likely to consider homeschooling in the future. This could very well be why Outschool has grown 30 times since last year.

"Schools that were providing remote learning tools and worksheets were not taking up the full day and were not providing the enrichment and engaging activities that kids are used to getting at school," said Bianca Bianchi Saven, a product marketing lead with Outschool, based in San Francisco.

Outschool is an educational supplement used by home-school families and those looking to add enrichment courses to their public school experience, especially now with families looking to fill the gap made by distance learning.

"Thousands of families were coming on and our teachers on Outschool at the time were selling out of their classes immediately. So the first thing we did was expand our teacher recruitment," said Saven.

The Homeschool Association of California is also seeing the spike. Before COVID-19, it hosted homeschooling 101 classes in person a couple times a year. Now, they are held every two weeks online.

"Instead of 15 or 20 people, we had 50, 75, a hundred. Our Zoom limit is 100, so there was at least one Zoom that I did where we couldn't accommodate everyone who wanted to be there," said Jamie Heston, a board member with the association.

The Orange County Department of Education has its own home education program with curriculum and support. Many districts will also start offering "virtual academies," which are 100% online.

Under the California Department of Education, home schools are treated as private schools. Per state law, the department does not have any authority over them, so there is no accreditation.
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