MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (WTVF) — While several school districts are offering in-class or remote learning, other parents in Middle Tennessee are choosing a third option.
Nichole Loveday of Murfreesboro never expected to pull her six-year-old daughter out of school before the start of the semester to homeschool, but it was a decision she found to be appropriate. Loveday said the mounting changes, questions and uncertainties in schools this year would be more detrimental to her child.
"I want her to feel safe and comfortable and I don't want to have a thousand questions in her head all day long with the new things that they're putting in place. I think it's a lot for a first-grader," Loveday told NewsChannel 5. "We don't want them to get sick if it's going around. We don't want them to feel anxious when they go to school. I want her to get the best out of her education."
She realized there were more resources and support from other parents to homeschool. While the term has taken on different interpretations over the years, parents like Loveday are committed to fulfilling the role of teaching their own kids themselves from a curriculum that meets their needs.
Family Christian Academy Administrator Belinda Scarlata Vatany said the organization has been receiving more calls and emails about homeschooling. She estimated an increase of up to 20% of inquiries. Parents have opted to homeschool for a variety of reasons well before COVID-19 including religion, children being too advanced and creating a more family environment. Scarlata Vatany said there are more concerns lately.
"There's a lot of families who have never even considered homeschooling and are now considering it. Safety, concern for health, concern schools will be shut down very quickly without notice are the concerns now," Scarlata Vatany added.
FCA provides different curriculum and other resources for families, and hosts seminars on Thursday nights on what home education means and clear up any misconceptions.
Hannah Lane is also a Murfreesboro mother who chose to remove her eight-year-old son from school because he needed stability and routine to learn effectively. Lane said sending him to school in the midst of a pandemic knowing that he could unknowingly spread COVID-19 is irresponsible.
"Making him learn in front of a computer for several hours a day is not a suitable alternative," Lane said. "I do not want my child to be part of an experiment to see how COVID-19 is going to behave in a school setting. My husband and I both work full-time jobs, but with the help of extended family, we are confident that we are making the right decision."
Jarvis Stubblefield and his wife were both homeschooled and said he enjoyed the freedom and time to focus that allowed him to get a head start on his IT career. He already decided to homeschool their two youngest school-age children last year. The family evaluated the Sumner County Schools' virtual and hybrid plan and felt it would be more beneficial to homeschool their middle school children who had been in public school since kindergarten.
"We thought we had decided on the hybrid option as we do not have the computing devices to be tied up for 6-8 hours per day which is what would be required for the virtual option. When we dug further into the hybrid option, we noticed that if our children presented any “COVID symptoms” (which are practically the same across viral infections) our child(ren) would be separated from the other students and be required to wear a mask. Then to return to school, we would have to have a doctor's note or a negative COVID test. This would be a humiliating and horrifying experience for an adult and more so for children. As a result, my child(ren) would be subjected to needless anxiety and other peer pressures," Stubblefield said.
Parents considering homeschooling should register prior to the start of the school year in their county so the student isn't counted as absent. Tennessee law requires parents to teach four hours per day for 180 days.
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