The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a significant disruption in the schooling system and local school districts and districts across the state are seeing an increase in the number of families opting for homeschooling this year.
Based upon the increase in first-time homeschooled students, Jen Garrison Stuber the advocacy chair with Washington Homeschooling Organization (WHO) said families are finding more stability and have more control over their child’s education by switching from public schools to homeschooling.
“The sort of things we’re hearing from folks really have to do with either their desire to have stability in childcare and work and the other thing we’re hearing is that the screen time is just too much,” said Garrison Stuber.
Centralia School District’s total full-time student enrollment for the 2019-20 school year was reported as 3,449 compared to this school year at 3,201 after the first count. Centralia School District Superintendent Lisa Grant said the district has seen an increase in the number of homeschooled students living within the district — increasing from approximately 60 to 82.
In Toledo, Superintendent Chris Rust said that when schools closed in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic their student enrollment was at 820 and the first count in September of this school year recorded 757 total students.
“We have 37 students who are homeschooling for the first time this year,” Rust said.
The approximate number of homeschooled students statewide reported to the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction was recorded as 13,614 for the 2019-20 school year, compared to 20,844 homeschooled students reported so far for the 2020-21 school year. These numbers could vary because some school districts reported the number of homeschooled families and some reported the number of homeschooled students.
Garrison Stuber said that this spike in homeschooled students is unprecedented. She compared this year’s numbers with the number of homeschooled students registered the school year following the Columbine High School massacre and the 9/11 attacks and found that there was not a spike in those years.
The WHO has also seen a large state-wide spike in the number of parents that have registered to take the parent qualifying course to become certified to homeschool their children.
“We run a parent qualifying course which is one of the ways for parents to qualify for homeschooling. We normally have about 200 people in June and another 200 in September… I had 850 parents sign up in June and 1,000 in September of this year,” said Garrison Stuber.
There are four ways parents can become qualified to homeschool — take the parent qualifying course with WHO, have taken at least one year of full-time college, hire a teacher to meet once a week to discuss lesson plans or gain superintendent approval from their local school district.
“What we’re finding is that because parents were still waiting to see how their public school was going to operate, we are having a huge onslaught of people trying to qualify for homeschooling,” said Garrison Stuber.