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Homeschooling on rise during pandemic

Homeschooling is on the rise within the Durham District School Board (DDSB) this year. According to the DDSB, 647 students opted for homeschooling this year compared to just 300 last school year.

School has been a challenge for students, teachers and parents during the COVID-19 pandemic. Schools have shut down province-wide on two occasions since the pandemic was declared in March 2020.

Crystal Garvey, a Durham College nursing professor, says the transition from in-person classes to online learning has become a concern for parents, who are also trying to balance their own work interests. Another reason homeschooling has grown is concern of a child being infected with the virus in a school setting and passing it on to people in the household.

Garvey, who has been a nurse for 20 years, is also a parent of three children, two in elementary and one in high school. Although she has not homeschooled her children, due to the pandemic she sees the pros and cons of virtual schooling.

One of the pros, Garvey says, is hybrid learning can help a high school student get prepared for any online learning presence in post-secondary. Also, students don’t have to worry about taking transportation to school and prepping lunches.

However, the cons far outweigh the pros, says Garvey. She believes children in the stages of developing social constructs need to be in a physical environment. What she found during virtual schooling is that she lacked the extra support while having to take on extra roles.

“In the beginning I tried to keep up and then as a parent I get burnt out,” says Garvey. Having a full-time career while having to take care of the educational and life needs of three kids all day put a stress on her.

Garvey isn’t the only one living this reality. Some parents have found the transition from in person to virtual schooling and back again to be difficult.

One of the proposed solutions for parents who have the luxury of time, is homeschooling.

Carlo Ricci, a professor of education at Nipissing University and volunteer at the Ontario Federation of Teaching Parents, says currently 20,000-40,000 students are homeschooled in Ontario.

Ricci, who has dedicated his studies towards homeschooling, says kids suffer mentally in the traditional school model.

“During the school years students take more prescription medication, they check themselves into hospitals more, they commit suicide in larger numbers,” says Ricci.

Ricci has two kids who experienced both homeschooling and mainstream schooling. He also believes the social aspects of school being taken away during virtual learning hurts the kids’ mental health.