ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, IL — Like millions of children around the nation, the first few months of the pandemic meant distanced learning for 12-year-old Dorian Valentine.
“It was kind of dry like I liked it, but it wasn't that fun,” he said.
His mother, Angela, who works from home watched closely.
Dorian’s grades were slipping as he stared at a screen for hours on end. For Angela, it quickly became clear that learning away from the classroom was not working for the 7th grader.
“I just thought I saw the light of learning and the enthusiasm for learning just kind of waning in him,” she said. “He was separated from his friends, new teachers, new students, new environment. Everything was so new, and there was just little to no engagement. And to me, it just wasn't a good situation.”
A Google for Education certified trainer herself, she decided to take matters into her own hands and became a first-time homeschooler.
“I understand we were all in this transition period, but I just kind of felt like I could do a little bit better job with him one on one.”
Since 2012, homeschooling rates have remained steady at about 3.3% of households with school-aged children.
But for many like Angela, the pandemic gave them a chance to try it out.
It turns out more and more American families are abandoning the classroom to stay at home.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the rate of households homeschooling more than doubled from 5.4% in March of 2020 to 11% just six months later in September. In Black and African American homes, it jumped by five times.
Angela began with resources and curriculum from the National Black Home Educators’ organization, eventually tailoring her teaching style.
“I did have to do trial and error and find out how he learned, know what his strengths were, what his weaknesses were, and how to curate learning in a fun way that would reengage him again,” said Angela.
With the delta variant running amok, spotty vaccination rates, and the uncertainty of in-classroom learning conditions, she’s decided not to send her son back to the classroom this fall.
“We're going to try it again. Yeah, we're going to have definitely built upon what we've learned and those strengths and weaknesses and just keep working at it until we get it, we find our rhythm," she said.
Finding that rhythm has meant moving into a space outside the home and reaching out to other families to create a homeschooling pandemic pod.
“We found that even bringing the kids together on a Saturday to do a little bit of a coding class, they're like, ‘Oh my God, I've got to go to coding class.’ There's so elated just to be online with other kids, you know, and seeing each other and having fun with it. If we don't make it fun, there's no point because the kids are just going to check out anyway whatever you do," she said.
Still, Dorian can’t help but miss his in-person interactions.
“I may want to go back because I'm just taking a little break,” he said.
It’ll be learning in mom’s classroom for the foreseeable future.