While students around the state are returning to in-person schooling, many students have decided to continue learning at home. From the 2019-20 school year to the 2020-21 school year, homeschooling enrollment increased by 73% across the state of Oregon.
Over 3,000 students chose homeschooling for the 2020-2021 academic year in the Northwest Regional Education Service District. The district encompasses 20 different school districts in Clatsop, Columbia, Tillamook, and Washington counties, and is the largest of Oregon’s education service districts.
In Corvallis, mother Stephony Herrera decided to homeschool her 8-year-old son even before schools switched to distance learning, at the very start of the pandemic. Herrera’s husband is in a high-risk category for Covid-19, so the decision to homeschool was initially made out of concern for the safety of her family.
When schools did transition to online learning, Herrera decided to continue homeschooling. As the parent of a child with a learning disability, Herrera worried that her son would “fall through the cracks.” She said to the Oregon Capital Chronicle, “I viewed it as an opportunity to know and understand what type of learner my son is. I didn’t realize how much was on the teacher, and how many students those teachers have.”
Although homeschooling in the state of Oregon requires parental supervision, those who take on the task do not receive state funding.
Rosalyn Newhouse, volunteer at the Oregon Homeschool Education Network, said, “There are a few parents who have tried homeschooling and distance learning and they’re so frustrated. They say, ‘I don’t know how teachers do it, we’re going back to school as soon as possible.’ Other parents are saying, ‘This is the best thing that’s ever happened to us. I’m gonna homeschool forever.’”
Homeschoolers in Oregon are required to take four comprehension tests between grades three and 10. A home-teaching framework, including content standards, is recommended by Oregon’s Education Department. However, parents are not required to use the framework. Homeschooled students may also choose whether to participate in the standardized tests that traditional students must take.
The Oregon district with the largest recent increase in homeschooling is the High Desert Education Service District. This district has had a 500% increase in homeschooling numbers since 2019. Paul Andrews, the superintendent of High Desert, said this trend is due to Covid-19 and the resulting switch to distance learning.
With so many adjustments, it is still not apparent how school districts will be impacted financially. Possible reductions in state school funding will be more clear in the coming years.
Andrews said that what parents do once this is all over, will be the real answer. “That’s when we’ll be able to see what’s really happened.”