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Coronavirus: More Manitoba families looking at homeschooling for fall

Two female students study and do homework at their home.
Two female students study and do homework at their home. Getty Images

While school divisions and teachers are getting ready for back to class with coronavirus protocols in place, some parents are also sharpening their pencils for the school year.

Michelle Budiwski, a mom from Rivers, Man., northwest of Brandon, says she is pulling her children out of the public education system and teaching them at home.

Read more: COVID-19: Lethbridge parents, professionals give advice on homeschooling as classroom education looms

“It was kind of always in the back of my mind that I wish I could but there was work and all of that stuff. When the schools closed in March, we realized with some one-on-one teaching, just being able to spend time with my kids, focusing on what they need to learn, the way they learn individually, they just flourished. Schooling from home in the spring was very good for our family,” she said.

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“I started researching what [homeschooling] would look like in March, and then the last couple months and seeing what the schools wanted to do, and the uptick (in coronavirus cases), it was an easy decision for us.”
Some Sask. parents unwilling to send kids back to classrooms this year amid school safety concerns
Some Sask. parents unwilling to send kids back to classrooms this year amid school safety concerns

Budiwski says seeing the rise in COVID-19 cases in her area of the province has been a cause for concern since one of her children has asthma.

“This uptick in cases is concerning. The idea of sending our kids back with so few protocols in place is scary,” she said.

“I’m just not comfortable with what the schools and education system are going to look like in the fall.”

St. James-Assiniboia School Division buys reusable masks for older students
St. James-Assiniboia School Division buys reusable masks for older students

Jen Shymanski from Brandon says the number of cases that have spiked in the southwestern part of the province are a worry for her too.

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“I have a high-risk household so I’ve been cautious since the get-go of this. I really think people are getting far too complacent. I had to get groceries and people aren’t wearing the masks or keeping the six feet (apart).”

Shymanski has had pneumonia more than three dozen times and her son has asthma so she’s been nervous about the coronavirus and what will happen when schools reopen.

“I really wish they would continue to do online. If they did some things in person to break it up so they can social distance that would be fine too. The only thing they would have to sort out is transportation issues because I can’t take off work to transport my children all over the place. I really think online is the way to go. They managed to get it together in March and do it well.”

Read more: Coronavirus: All Manitoba students to head back to classrooms this fall, says education minister

Debra Dumouchel Vuong is the CEO and Founder of Homeschool Canada, an online resource for families choosing to teach from home.

She’s never before seen so many parents interested in the option.

“This month has just been insane with sales and particularly since provincial governments have introduced their back-to-school plans. I’m finding a lot of families just aren’t happy with the back-to-school plans, so they’re looking at homeschooling as an option,” she said.

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“We’ve had more phone calls, we’ve had more emails. We are involved in a number of homeschool Facebook groups, while we don’t admin them, we see tons of new people everyday posting ‘I’m new to the group’, ‘thanks for adding me’, ‘COVID threw me into this situation, now I want to home school’, ‘where do I start? What do I do?’ It’s hours a day we are responding to people.”

Dumouchel Vuong has some advice for parents who are looking to take the leap.

“First of all — don’t panic. You can’t ruin your child if you keep them home for one year, the most important thing is their health and safety. There are lots of support groups out there. Of course, we are there to help and support you,” she said.

Just make it fun and be flexible. Don’t panic about checking off all the boxes. Start with language arts and math, get that started and get into a routine that works with your family. If that works well, look at adding science and health. Start slow, don’t overbuy and have this big plan because you’re just going to overwhelm yourself.”

The Manitoba government says the province doesn’t cover any costs related to homeschooling. If you pick this option, you are responsible for obtaining all the materials and resources if you choose to homeschool and covering the cost of equipment, textbooks and supplies.

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The government has more FAQ on their website.