Homeschool Applications Up 21% as Schools Release Pandemic Plans

July 21, 2020, 11:49 a.m. ·

Photo by Jessica Lewis on Unsplash

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Applications from Nebraska families to homeschool their children increased 21% so far this year, according to the state Department of Education. Many Nebraskans say the coronavirus pandemic has them rethinking education options.

NDOE has received notification from 3,400 families that they plan to homeschool – about 600 more than last year.

But public information officer David Jespersen says they expect even more over the next few weeks.

Applications for Homeschool:

  • 20-21: 3,400*
  • 19-20: 2,800
  • 18-19: 2,820
  • 17-18: 2,700

* as of July 14

"Anyone who’s new to the process can make that decision at any time during the school year," Jespersen said. "In fact, we’re actually encouraging parents who are exploring this option, because of the situation going on right now, to wait and work with their local school district on what their plans might be before submitting that application, before making that final decision."

Jespersen says there are lots of resources for families considering homeschooling.

Karen Wimpey helps manage one of those resources, a Facebook group for homeschoolers in Washington County in eastern Nebraska. About 40 new families have joined the group recently.

She says some of those families include immunocompromised children, as well as families who were frustrated with e-learning in the spring and want to have more control.

Wimpey and three other families are hosting open house tours of their homes for anyone interested in homeschooling:

"For me, I homeschool at my kitchen table or on the couch because I don’t have space for a school room," Wimpey says. "And I homeschool different than a lot of these younger families because I have older kids. So it gives these people in the community an opportunity to be able to see all the different options and different ways that we do it."

Jespersen says some parents have contacted NDOE about homeschooling, but were really interesting in remote learning instead.

"So they’re still enrolled in that school district, they’re still being taught the same curriculum by teachers, they’re just doing it from home," he said. "Versus true homeschooling where the parent is the teacher and has to come up with all of the curriculum, all of the materials and everything on their own."

Homeschooling has grown in popularity over the past several years. During the 2018/19 school year, 2.75% of school-age children were homeschooled, compared to 2.06% ten years prior.

Back-to-school plans vary by district, but many will have students in the classroom again, with mandatory face coverings for students and staff.