Growing interest in true, hands-on home school options as school year nears

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- It's no secret the pandemic is pushing parents to become more involved in their child's education.

Education experts say the move toward true home schooling is growing across the state, and right here in the Bay Area. The approach is different from the distance learning expected this fall, as it's known to be more hands-on.

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While navigating options for education during COVID-19 may seem overwhelming, the Homeschool Association of California (HSC) said there's proof that more parents are pivoting to homeschooling.

"Distance learning and homeschooling are two different things," HSC board member and secretary treasurer, Jamie Heston told ABC7 News. "With distance learning, you are tied legally to a school. They're telling you what you need to do. They're directing the education."

She continued, "True homeschooling is when you are directing the education. That doesn't mean that you have to do everything yourself. That can encompass using classes, or tutors, or other parents."

Heston said parents are able to use online class curriculum and other resources to find success.

"So, you're directing the education but you're not necessarily doing all of it yourself," Heston added.

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She also serves as a moderator of several local home school groups, and is a home school consultant.

Heston explained she usually points parents in the direction of Charter Schools. It's a public school option that offers resources, and teachers to support homeschooling.

"Generally, for families who are going to just home school for a short time and pop back into school... I usually recommend using a charter because that's still a public school, but you're doing the day to day work at home."

However, that isn't an option right now due to state legislation, which is limiting funds.

"Due to AB-77 and SB-98, which set the funding at last year's numbers," she elaborated. "Which means schools can't enroll new students right now, and there's long, long wait list."

She said the usual 40 to 50-person wait list is now a lot longer.

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"This year, I'm hearing, 'I'm 300, 700 on the wait list,'" Heston described. "It's just exponential growth and people wanting that kind of help because of this health scare."

Taking that into consideration, she's suggesting parents explore another homeschooling option.

"Create a small private school in your home, which is how I've always home schooled," she said. "And that's filing the private school affidavits and keeping a few things on file. The government has no say in how private schools are run. So, you have a lot of decision making and a lot of responsibility as a small private school."

The Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) lists three options to comply with California's Home School Law:

  • Option 1: Homeschooling as a home-based private school
  • Option 2: Homeschooling with a private school satellite program (PSP)
  • Option 3: Homeschooling via instruction by a private tutor


In the South Bay, A TEAM Homeschool Community Executive Director Ann Wolfe said the pandemic is forcing parents to become more involved.

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"Parents are more engaged, more on-board," Wolfe told ABC7 News. "Listening to their kids, and not just expecting somebody else to do all the educating."

She's home-schooled for nearly 20 years.

"A friend and I decided to start our own," she said, referring to the A TEAM program. "And we brought in teachers to teach those things that we didn't want to teach. We started in our homes and then eventually went into facilities, church facilities, and expanded our programs."

Now, Wolfe provides support for home-schoolers.

"The ranges from everything from PE to physics, and from Kindergarten through 12th grade," she explained. "Ao people can pick and choose- a la carte- whatever classes they want, whatever days they want, to round out their homeschooling curriculum."

About the growing interest, Wolfe explained, "I just see all these Facebook groups popping up- Pandemic Pods."

"People coming on home school groups that have been around for a while and asking, 'Hey, what do I do about this? How do I home school legally?' And all these different questions," she told ABC7 News. "I've received emails from people saying, 'I'm considering homeschooling for the fall. Can you tell me something about your program? Or how do I do this?' And so, a lot more interest in homeschooling that I've never really seen before."

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She said people tend to imagine homeschooling involves families sitting around the kitchen table, with a parent instructing her children.

"That's sometimes possible," she said. "But you're not going to do that for hours a day. So, a lesson might be 15 minutes, it might be 10 minutes."

Heston shared, "We have a lot of parents who have to work, and they're scrambling. How do they do this? Flip Flop your schedule. Have the kids play in the morning and do school in the afternoon. Or load school onto the weekends, right?"

"School can look like real life a little bit more, especially for younger kids," she continued.

"It does take discipline to be able to do that," Wolfe added. "But working with other people who are in the same boat, or somebody that doesn't work during the day... you have to work together and be in community. That's what's worked best for me."

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), "Home-schooled students are school-age children (ages 5-17) in a grade equivalent to at least kindergarten and not higher than 12th grade who receive instruction at home instead of at a public or private school either all or most of the time."

Bay Area mom, Clarisse Junio is only preparing her 3-year-old daughter for preschool. Yet, she's already choosing home school.

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She said modified Spring schooling proved little Elyssa had had little interest in learning over the internet.

"I don't feel like she'll care for the Zoom classes still," Junio explained. "So yeah, homeschooling was our best option right now."

It's an option that will keep Elyssa's health in her parents' hands.

"There's really no way of trying to contain this virus right now, besides keeping her safe at home, I guess," Junio added.

Her reluctance was met with reassurance, as NCES reported the top reason for homeschooling comes from concern over education environment, including safety.

Junio said her daughter's preschool program is actively limiting the number of children able to attend. Still, she's happy with her decision to home school.

"Can they really keep an eye on every child that's going to be there to really ensure the safety of each and every one? I mean, I'm sure they can and I do trust them, but you just never know," she said.

Homeschooling is just another tool in the education toolbox as parents navigate today's normal.

Heston said, "When I do my home school one-on-ones, I start out with apprehensive, nervous parents who don't understand how homeschooling can work. By the end of the session, they are excited. They are jazzed and inspired about how to get started."

"They don't know what they don't know, and once they understand a little bit more, then they're excited about the process," she continued. "And that's my favorite thing."

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