(above) Hands-on learning with the Potomac Valley Audubon Society.
Jefferson County Schools tracks home-school attendance and reports 1,176 students electing this option as of December 2021 (approximately 12 percent of the combined student population). In Berkeley County, the home-school number is 2,112 (representing approximately 10 percent of the combined student population). Prior to the pandemic, Berkeley County recorded a much lower number of students schooling at home — in the neighborhood of 1,400 each year. Parents aren’t required to provide a reason for choosing the homeschooling option, but the self-reported reasons indicate that concerns about Covid-19 triggered a significant increase in the number of families electing to educate their children at home during the current school year.
With these numbers, it’s not surprising that plenty of local resources have been created to support the parents taking direct responsibility for their children’s education, from social media support groups to structured co-op groups that hire tutors and arrange activities. While there are many motivations for why parents and children choose to school at home, a preference for hands-on learning and outdoor activities seems to be a common reason for choosing this option. Responding to this interest, the Potomac Valley Audubon Society offers a regular schedule of educational programs specifically geared for homeschooled children at its Cool Springs Nature Preserve.
The desire to provide hands-on experiential learning goes hand-in-hand with a disinclination among many homeschool families to rely too heavily upon online learning activities. In speaking with some local families, concerns about social pressures and online distractions are reflected in very limited reliance on screen-based activities, both for learning and entertainment. Flexibility in the curriculum and the desire to tailor content and technique to each child were also mentioned as important factors in the decision to educate at home.By Staff Contributor