Garrison: Homeschool interest has quadrupled
Parents look for options to public schools due to virus, inclusive 'seXXX ed'
Last updated 7/30/2020 at 4:48pm
SPOKANE — In the wake of the coronavirus and new state requirements to begin teaching “inclusive” sex ed to students as early as kindergarten, it’s shaping up to be a banner year for homeschooling.
Last week, the Washington Homeschool Organization reported new parental interest in personally managing their children’s education had quadrupled.
The reasons are varied, according to Director Jen Garrison Stuber, who teaches homeschool parental qualifying classes.
Traditionally, homeschool families opt out of public education due to religious concerns and a desire to focus on math, reading and science. But in recent years, families have been turning to homeschooling because of on-campus bullying, she said.
And over the last six months, it’s been due to caronavirus mandates, as well as the requirement to begin teaching what many now call “seXXX ed” to students as young as kindergarten.
“This is changing the face of homeschool,” she said.
Due to new state orders to limit social student interactions, contain pupils to as few classrooms as possible and mask requirements, parents are looking for educational options for their children.
“If schools go back on time, which I’m not convinced, a lot of parents are going to decide against it,” she said.
Many parents, like those in the North Franklin School District, are vowing not to return their children to a public classroom if they are required to wear a mask.
A survey conducted in the Connell area earlier this month said 78% of parents oppose requiring masks of children.
On the other side, Garrison said, many parents have told her they will refuse to send students to school if they are not required to wear a mask.
Some surveys conducted by other school districts, like Columbia (Burbank), avoided that question all together and instead asked parents to choose what type of mask or shield students should wear.
That’s the type of approach pushing families away from public schools, Garrison said, noting parents are looking for options, not mandates.
According to Garrison, some parents are also turning to homeschooling because they “don’t want the rug pulled out from under them, again.”
She’s referring to Gov. Jay Inslee’s decision to shutter schools in March without giving parents viable options to care for young, school-age children or options to continue educating older ones.
Prior to the start of the last school year, more than 32,000 students statewide were being homeschooled, state estimates show.
State figures show a number of homeschoolers in the region.
The most current state reports, from the 2017/18 school year, show there were 143 homeschool students in Whitman County, 73 in Lincoln County and 61 in Adams County.
The Adams County figure looks like it may be increasing.
Only 58.7 percent of parents surveyed in the Lind-Ritzville School District say they will send their children to school in masks and expect them to meet so-called "social distaning" requirements, among other imposed health regulations.
Of the parents who said their children will not be returning for a district education, 22% said they will be moving them to homeschool. In that school district, the percentage equates to about 11 students.
The numbers were decidedly larger in city areas like Pasco, in Franklin County, and Cheney-Spokane, in Spokane County.
In Franklin County, only 16 were reported, but the report only included the areas encompassed by the Kahlotus and North Franklin school districts. No data was provided for the Pasco or other areas of the county in the most current report.
But during the 2016-17 school year, there were 199 homeschoolers from the Pasco area, state reports show.
If that holds true today, at least 215 students are already being homeschooled in the county. And if the interest indeed quadruples, Franklin County could be home to roughly 900 homeschoolers.
In Spokane County, the report shows there were 1,383 homeschool students, at last report. That includes 105 in the Cheney area and another 53 in Medical Lake.
A quadrupling of Spokane County would mean more than 5,300 students being homeschooled in Spokane County.
Furthermore, if the surge of parental interest comes to fruition statewide, the state could see well over 100,000 homeschool students this coming school year.
“It’s certainly possible,” Garrison said.
Union weighs in
The likelihood of that scenario playing out increased this week.
On Thursday, July 23, the Washington Education Association — the teacher union — demanded schools statewide keep campuses shut down this fall.
“We believe the time between now and the beginning of the school year must be spent preparing educators to teach remotely, not on hybrid models or planning for in-person teaching,” a statement released by the union said, citing the possible dangers related to the pandemic. “School districts must invest now in the resources necessary to deliver high quality distance learning...”
In a litany of letters, Pasco Education Association members on Tuesday, July 28, also demanded digital-distance learning. Those letters were read into the record during the Pasco School Board's meeting.
Garrison said that requiring parents to keep their kids home and educate them under public school system edicts opens the door for families to move to homeschooling, where there is more flexibility and a stronger focus on the basics of reading, writing and mathematics.
Those families can also escape the “inclusive” sex ed mandated in public schools.
Garrison said most public school parents have the misconception that homeschool students are all alone.
Under state law, homeschoolers can still play sports in their local public school districts. They can also take classes offered in the district. Students also get together for field trips and other educational activities.
According to Garrison, homeschool parents create educational opportunities among themselves, rather than just obey edicts issued in Olympia.
Many rural parents are now seeing homeschool as a viable education option, while also being able to avoid having their student exposed to the mandated new “inclusive” sex-ed curriculum, she said. That curriculum requires public schools to include gay, lesbian and transgender sex in discussions on traditional intimacy.
Homeschool interest is taking off, in part, because parents are tired of the constant back-and-forth between on-campus, home-based and hybrid plans to educate students in the fall.
So is Garrison.
“It’s giving me whiplash,” she said.
In addition to homeschooling, Garrison noted there are parental groups popping up statewide looking at ways to fund private schools, set up charter schools, create mini-schools and generally get their child out of public schools. They are also looking at districts that offer virtual academies.
“Parents are trying to find a different solution,” she said, noting many may also decide not to have students ages 5-7 in class at all.
“Our state’s compulsory attendance is ages 8-18,” she said. “So, there may be an increase of folks just keeping their kids at home, too.”