As the debate over masks in schools rages on, many parents have chosen to homeschool their kids. In fact, homeschooling has been gaining popularity since the COVID-19 pandemic began in early 2020.
“Homeschooling growth is off the charts,” said Michael Donnelly, director of global outreach for the Home School Legal Defense Association, or HSLDA. . “When everybody was sent home as schools shut down, everybody was homeschooling, and we saw a dramatic increase in the last school year. We all wondered whether that would continue, and I think we have the answer. Homeschooling is continuing to grow at levels we've never seen before.”
He believes homeschooling is a great way for parents and children to experience learning together, but there are a few things to keep in mind. For starters, homeschooling laws vary by state.
“Michigan is a great place to homeschool,” Donnelly said. “You can start a non-public school, or you can homeschool under the homeschool law, or you can do both.”
If you choose the non-public school option, the instructor must have a teaching certificate, teaching permit, or a bachelor’s degree, and you have to send information to the local superintendent with details about the student being homeschooled. The other option, however, is more relaxed.
“If you're homeschooling under the homeschool law, an organized program of instruction is required in certain subjects,” Donnelly said. “There's no need for parents to send in a notice of homeschooling to the local school district.”
This is the option chosen by the vast majority of Michigan homeschoolers, including Diane Hehman, a Byron Center resident who’s been homeschooling her kids for nearly 20 years.
“As I started doing the homeschooling, I really fell in love with the flexibility and the ability to follow my kids at their own speed, whether that's going ahead in some subjects, or working longer on some of the other subjects,” she said. “I could just personalize their education.”
Hehmans efforts paid off. Her first child graduated in 2014, followed by her second child in 2015.
“Colleges love them. Employers love them. So it's really played out well for us,” Hehman said.
She now works as an educational consultant, helping others who wish to homeschool. She also runs multiple learning platforms including Michigan Homeschoolers, West Michigan Homeschoolers, and Homeschool Help, Making your Journey Your Own. Her advice to those thinking about homeschooling is to set goals as a family, then determine the best ways to meet those goals. Hehman also encourages people to take advantage of all the online resources.
“There are a lot of different options in terms of curriculum. Especially in Michigan, we don't have any true requirements as far as recording, reporting, things of that nature. It's on us as parents to make sure our kids get to the place where we want them to go,” she said. “There are a lot of co-ops in Michigan. There are a lot of options for people to do drop off programs where someone will teach your child, help bring your child through a math program, history program, etc. Biology, chemistry, those sorts of things.”
Hehman said homeschooling is not for everyone, but this proud mom believes it was the best decision for her family.
“I love it. Every step of the way, there are great things about raising kids, and there are tough things about raising kids. But when you get these kids in high school and you can kind of tweak that curriculum and the things that they do to meet their personalities and their passions and their talents, and see them starting to grow as an adult, that to me is the best,” she said. “I love homeschooling. It’s not for everybody, and nothing against public schools, but I’ve loved the freedom and the flexibility that it’s given us as a family.”
To learn more about Michigan's homeschooling options, CLICK HERE.
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