There has been an increased interest in homeschooling since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
More than 21,000 Wisconsin families were enrolled in home-based education during the 2019-2020 school year, according to the state's Department of Public Instruction.
Now, parents who homeschool their children are stressing that homeschooling is not the same thing as the virtual learning that many students are set to face from home as they return to school amid the pandemic this fall.
"It's absolutely not the same. Often, I comment on how unfortunate it is that people's first experience with 'homeschooling' has been with 'virtual learning' because it's so different," said Kerry Krienitz with the Milwaukee Area Homeschool Collective.
The pandemic isn't changing up study sessions inside her at-home classroom that she uses to teach her two sons. She said many parents are taking note of that unchanged routine right now.
"Myself, along with other homeschool moms, have been kind of inundated with questions from our friends," said Krienitz.
The Wisconsin Parent Association (WPA), a grassroots organization that helps families explore homeschooling options, tells TMJ4 that there has been a 40% increase in website traffic since mid-March when the pandemic intensified.
The Denver-based National Home School Association, which helps families transition from traditional school settings to homeschool lifestyles, has noticed a change as well.
"We've seen an enormous increase in interest," said J Allen Weston, National Home School Association's Executive Director.
He said about half of the parents reaching out to the association are saying they don't want to send their kids back to school if they're going to required to wear masks. The other half are saying they won't send their kids back to school if masks are not required.
Homeschooling mom Melissa Brander says the freedom that homeschooling offers Wisconsin families is part of what makes "at home" learning routines effective.
"When you're doing the at-home learning you're basically doing what the school is telling you what to do, whereas when you're homeschooling, in Wisconsin we have so much freedom to decide when we want to do school and how we do school and the materials that we use so they're really two completely different things," said Brander.
To sign up to homeschool kids in Wisconsin, parents need to fill out a form of intent with the Department of Public Instruction, then provide 875 hours of instruction per year and offer a "Sequentially progressive curriculum" in reading, language arts, math, social studies, science and health"
16-year-old Eleni Dalianis and her 12-year-old brother Blaise transitioned to homeschooling after years of both public and private schooling. They say they love being homeschooled.
"I got to go at my own pace, he got to at his own pace," said Eleni.
Their 10-year-old sister, Xenia, has been homeschooled from the start.
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"I do my math and science and my school work and then usually after that, I'm done for the day," Xenia said about her routine.
Now, amid the pandemic, Eleni sees the flexibility of homeschooling as an advantage.
"It kind of like relieved some of that stress for me because I don't have to worry as much about oh my goodness I'm not going to do as well in school," said Eleni.
Less stress and less frustration are what attracts more and more parents to homeschooling during the pandemic.
"Getting them to do their homework, getting them to stay on track, that's not what our experience is typically with homeschooling. It's a more relaxed environment and takes that frustration out of it," said Krienitz.
Homeschooling won't work for everybody, though. The Coalition for Responsible Home Education recommends parents seriously consider sticking with their school district's virtual schooling options if there is not full-time caregiver at-home to devote themselves to designing at-home curriculum for students.
The Milwaukee Area Homeschool Collective will host a Facebook Live Q&A conversation about homeschooling on Aug. 6 at 6 p.m.