More Manitoba families are home-schooling their children this fall in light of the pandemic.
CBC News obtained the latest figures from the province, which show an almost 25 per cent increase in home-schooling registrations compared to the year before.
That includes students like Nicole Beland’s 13-year-old son, who lives with Type 1 diabetes.
For the first time, Beland — who is a paramedic — is keeping her son out of school, saying she is concerned about the unknown long-term effects of COVID-19 because her son already lives with a chronic condition.
“With the schools not really rolling out any real plan except trying to make a bunch of teenagers wear masks, and already health conditions and the numbers climbing, we opted to stay home,” she said.
As of Sept. 4, Manitoba Education had received at least 4,591 home-schooling registrations from families. About half of those registrations are still being processed, a spokesperson said.
Beland said she submitted her registration form in August, as COVID-19 cases were spiking in the province, but is still waiting on approval due to the backlog of applications.
Last year, the province had a total of 3,689 registrations for home-schooling, according to the department.
Under the province’s back-to-school plan, all students are expected to return to school, with kindergarten to Grade 8 students in class full time, and a mix of in-classrom and remote learning for high schools students.
Full-time remote learning options are only offered to students with compromised immune systems or other medical conditions that put them at increased risk from COVID-19.
Some school divisions have extended the remote learning option to students who live with an immunocompromised relative.
Disappointed by lack of remote learning
Beland said the process to register for home-schooling was easy. She filled out the form online and submitted it to the province’s home-schooling office.
She researched Grade 8 learning objectives, canvassed teachers she knew and joined a few home-schooling groups on Facebook for lesson planning tips.
Beland then ordered a few textbooks and put together a curriculum based on her son’s interests, she said.
A week in, she said it has been an adjustment, but they’re making it work — and her son is happy to be home.
“As much as he loves his friends, he didn’t really thrive [in school]. He’s a smart kid, he was just not always getting his work done because he wasn’t always interested.… So he actually didn’t really mind this plan this year,” she said.
“I find that he needs to devote less hours a day this way, to accomplish the same amount of work that he would if he was in school, so that’s a plus.”
If I’m wrong and there is no major outbreak with all the kids mixing in school, then great. I would love to be wrong and send him back.– Nicole Beland
Beland, who is a shift worker, said she and her son do schoolwork together while she is home. She plans lessons and assignments for the days she is away and her husband is home looking after their toddler.
She plans to keep her son at home for at least the first semester of the school year to see how the COVID-19 case numbers evolve, especially with regard to transmission in schools.
“If I’m wrong and there is no major outbreak with all the kids mixing in school, then great. I would love to be wrong and send him back at the start of next term,” she said.
“If things go as we expect, and kids transmit, then we’ll be keeping him home for the whole year.”
Still, she wishes school divisions and the province had done more to reduce class sizes and offer remote learning options, which she said would benefit all families.
“For every kid that stays home, that is one less body in the hallways,” she said.
“If everybody that could keep their kids home did, then that would have really brought the numbers down and reduced crowding in schools.”
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