Some Parents Are Opting to Homeschool, Even If Schools Reopen in the Fall

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Mom homeschools son
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The question over whether schools will reopen this fall -- and if so, what that will look like -- has been looming large ever since the pandemic first began. And even though school is just a month or two away, the answer is still unclear, given the recent uptick in virus cases across the country. That said, many parents are starting to share that no matter what happens at back-to-school time, their minds are made up: They're homeschooling next year -- even if it breaks them.

  • Whispers about this have been getting louder since June, when remote learning was just coming to an end in many states.

    After nearly three months of trying to play teacher -- in some cases, while also holding down full-time jobs -- many parents were spent. But the prospect of sending their kids back to school in the fall, before a vaccine becomes readily available, is just too risky an option for some.

    "In August, for schools, it’s a petri dish when it’s not a pandemic," Phoeniz mom Uzma Jafri told the Washington Post last month. “We both know how viruses work, and we cannot understand how schools can open and be safe."

    For Jafri, homeschooling is the safest option. But it's also the one that stresses her out the least.

    "The best thing for my mental health is to keep them all home," she told the newspaper. "And it's working for us. We get all our school work done in two hours a day and they are free to do what they want."

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  • According to multiple reports, she's far from alone.

    In one such report, NBC News also spoke to several parents who felt the same about keeping their kids home this fall, no matter what it took.

    Haley Campbell, a mom of two from Boise, Idaho, told the news station that after months of homeschooling, she had been eagerly anticipating a return in the fall. But that was before she received a letter home from her kids' school two weeks ago, stating the many changes that will be taking place this September. 

    According to Campbell, new school protocol will include isolated lunches, staggered schedules, and the possibility that the school district could return to remote learning at any point.

    This "new normal" hardly seemed worth sending them back in the fall -- especially if she couldn't count on them to stay there. So she made the difficult decision to quit her full-time job as an insulin pump technician, pull her 2-year-old out of day care, and become a full-time SAHM and homeschooler.

  • Ultimately, Campbell's decision had a lot to do with creating the best possible learning environment she could for her kids.

    "Kids need a safe space to feel comfortable learning, and what was being described to me by the school is not good enough for my kids," Campbell told NBC News. "They need to be able to focus on learning and not worry about what they can and can't touch, staying apart and not being able to play with their best friend."

  • The protocol outlined by Campbell's school doesn't seem to be far from the norm.

    Many states are drafting similar plans of action for when schools return, particularly when it comes to staggered class schedules and socially distant lunches.

    In April, reports surfaced about some states floating ideas like "hybrid" school days, which would involve students coming in for half days and spending the other half remote-learning from home. Other measures would likely include mask wearing, desks being placed at a distance, and class sizes reduced.

    At the time, California Gov. Gavin Newsom also pointed out that a “deep sanitation” and “massive deep cleaning” would need to take place before students could be expected to return -- and those measures would likely be ongoing.

    Then there's the matter of getting to and from school. In May, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised that proper social distancing on buses would mean that students could only ride one per seat, skipping rows in between.

  • Still, although those efforts might put some parents' minds at ease, others still believe it's not enough.

    In recent weeks, the staggering rise in COVID-19 cases across states such as Arizona, Texas, and Florida has made the path forward look increasingly unclear. According to the Associated Press, coronavirus cases are rising in 40 out of 50 US states -- something that's left experts alarmed.

    "What we've seen is a very disturbing week," Dr. Anthony Fauci said last week during a livestream with the American Medical Association. If people don't start complying with social distancing guidelines, he added, "we're going to be in some serious difficulty."

    In May, Fauci made headlines for saying that sending kids back to school this fall would be "a bridge too far."

  • For many families across America, choosing to continue homeschooling is something of a luxury.

    After all, not everyone can afford to quit their jobs to become full-time stay-at-home parents and homeschoolers. In some cases, that's because children are being raised in single-parent households; in others, it's because the family has come under added financial strain because of the pandemic.

    That said, many working parents may continue to work from home for the remainder of the year, which would make homeschooling (in some ways) more doable simply because they'd be present in the home.

    "COVID-19 has helped people to see that there are other education options out there that they had never seriously considered before," Michael Hansen, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who directs the organization's Brown Center on Education Policy, told NBC. "It allowed people to see flexibility and think outside the box about what schooling means and how it works best for their children."

    Whether more parents will join this camp as August and September inch closer remains to be seen. But either way, the dilemma both educators and parents are facing now is certainly one for the books.