Vaccines, masks and curriculum changes part of growing interest in homeschooling, experts say

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INDIANAPOLIS — More Hoosier families are taking an interest in homeschooling their children. That’s according to experts and recent numbers from the State Department of Education.

IDOE does not track the amount of students who are currently homeschooled, but it does record the amount of students who withdraw from a public school and into homeschooling.

State officials provided this grid to CBS4, showing the totals over the last several years:

School YearStudents Withdrawing to HomeschoolPercent of All Students Withdrawing to Homeschool
2020-202120,8882.01%
2019-202011,9091.09%
2018-201915,3331.46%
2017-201813,8191.30%
2016-201715,2681.38%
2015-201613,1501.31%
Number of students who withdrew to homeschooling over the last several years. (Indiana Department of Education)

For the 2020-2021 school year, the amount of students withdrawing to homeschool nearly doubled from the year before.

“For many families, it was going to be just a temporary thing,” said Tara Bentley, executive director of the Indiana Association of Home Educators. “We had many families, who thought they were going to homeschool through the fall and jump back in. Obviously, the situation in our country, and in our schools, has continued. So this year, we’re seeing even more interest again.”

Bentley says they noticed more families taking an interest last year. That’s as many have since joined the IAHE email list, Facebook groups and reached out to volunteers.

The push for vaccines, mask mandates and curriculum changes are some of the reasons, Bentley cites, for the growing interest. While homeschooling has been around, she says the last year and a half has nudged families into exploring what else is out there.

“There’s a lot of families, who have just realized that the schools aren’t meeting their needs, and they disagree with some of the things that they’re seeing in their local schools,” Bentley said, “and so, they’ve brought their kids home over the past year, and they’re looking to continue.”

“People used to consider it very much a fringe element, or an option. It’s become mainstream. It was mainstream well before COVID, but even now, it has reached new populations, new communities, people who never would’ve considered it before,” Bentley added.

Bentley, whose daughters are also homeschool graduates, says the last year also brought unique challenges for homeschooling parents.

“It is best if at least one parent is able to really focus on home education, and it can be a full-time job,” said Bentley, “and so especially today, and what we’ve seen over the past year and a half, when families are still trying to keep up with their crazy schedule, and they are, if both parents are working, that is really the unique challenge people are facing today.”

Despite the challenges, there are many options for curriculums that best fit your student. However, Bentley says it’s important to make sure they fall within the state laws of homeschooling.

“We’ve seen a lot of hybrid options that are more of a private school option,” she said. “If you’re paying a teacher to do the majority of your teaching, then you’re really in a small, private school and you’re not home educating.”

IAHE provides an overview of the state’s homeschool laws on its website. Some of the points include being a non-accredited, non-public school, keeping track of attendance and being in session for the same amount of days as local school districts.

Whether you are new to exploring homeschooling, or trying to navigate it during the new era of the pandemic, Bentley says IAHE is here to help with resources, guidance and support.

“You made a decision to basically be with your children 24/7, something that most of the world does not do,” she said. “So it comes with its own challenges. Something as simple as realizing that wait a minute, there’s no one to feed my child lunch five days out of the week, I have to do that. So just getting into new habits, it’s great to be surrounded, be able to ask questions.”

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