ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Since the start of the pandemic, more and more parents are choosing to home school their children.
A survey from the U.S. Census Bureau shows nationwide homeschooling increased more than 5% in the spring of 2020 to just over 11% by the fall. When it comes to racial groups, home schooling among African American families increased 16.1%; 12.1% in Hispanic homes; 9.7% for white families and 8.8% for Asian families. A home school advocate from the Rochester area says she expects to see those numbers grow this year.
“It’ll be surprising to me if it’s not at least 10% or more,” said Dr. Susan Dantoni, a former home school mom and advocate who runs the Homeschoolers of Greater Rochester NY Facebook page of the percentage of those home schooled. “And now with school starting in a week, I’m getting every day probably 10 or 20 requests from people saying ‘I’m not sending my child back to school because of the masks.’ A lot of people don’t want their children wearing masks at school.”
Over the last year, Dantoni says the group has taken over 1,000 new requests for members interested in home schools. The group has nearly 5,000 members from across Upstate New York.
Another home school advocate believes it will surpass 10% this year because of society during the pandemic.
“Now, the world is set up as everybody is independent in the world to be more with their family," said former home schooling parent Shenice Brown-Wilson.
There are many reasons why people choose to homeschool.
The Grape family of Hilton discussed their decision. This fall marks their second year of homeschooling during the pandemic.
“To be completely honest, it’s been an adjustment; we didn’t ever plan to home school our kids,” said Kailey Grape, a mother homeschooling her three children. “But through it all, it has been probably one of the biggest, growing, learning experiences for me.”
Kailey and her husband transitioned to home schooling their children last August after experiencing remote learning during spring 2020.
"When praying and discussing it with my husband, we just came to terms and realizing that this current situation with COVID and the pandemic, and all that was going on, the only way that we could have consistency over our own family was to just pull them and to home school for the time being,” Grape said.
Overall, the family isn’t surprised with the uptick in home schooling last school year.
“You know, your families are just losing more and more control over decisions for their own kids and their own families,” Grape said. “And I think that’s what’s alarming to parents.”
The family says some benefits to home schooling includes being comfortable at home, having a flexible schedule and spending more time together as a family.
“I feel more comfortable with them, instead of being around other people,” Paisley Grape, a third grade home schooler, said.
“It’s just like your family, so you feel more comfortable asking a lot more questions and stuff,” said sixth grade home schooler Jamieson Grape.
Kailey said another benefit is growth their younger brother picking up from both siblings learning at home.
“Just the interaction as siblings on a daily basis,” she said. “Like I said, I’m not going to lie, there’s not all days of bliss and smooth, and they’re all getting along and happy go lucky. But overall, I’ve seen huge growth in my little guy just from watching the older ones.”
Although they’re home, mom has a schedule in place for subjects to work on, and she’s by their side when they need help.
When it comes to involvement, the children are involved in the town’s travel sports team, a home school co-op, and activities at their church.
“As far as sports go, they are very much still involved, even with being home schooled,” Kailey said. “Their sports schedule is multiple days a week.”
As the pandemic continues, the family says they’re taking home school year-by-year at this time.
“You know, I never expected to be doing this in the first place,” Kailey said. “So year-by-year ... we just see how it goes and what’s best for our family as the years and the days go.”