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Here’s how COVID-19 distance learning differs from home schooling

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — COVID-19 concerns are prompting many local parents to ask questions about home schooling their children, but they may be waiting to learn more about what school will look like before committing to the change.

Their district’s distance learning plan may play a role in their decision, according to several educators and experts, and while both choices involve children not learning inside a school building, there are some key differences.

Johnston writer and homeschooler Niki Robinson said one advantage to home schooling is the parent, not the district, sets the schedule.

“You have the freedom to be screen free all morning,” Robinson said. “Or I can say I can start work at 10 and they can start school at 11 and they don’t have to conflict with each other.”

Home schooling also allows parents to design their own curriculum as long as it meets district standards, according to the R.I. Department of Education.

That option would also allow parents to eliminate Zoom meeting requirements in distance learning plans in some districts.

Robinson, who writes for the webiste Providence Mom, said she has heard from frustrated parents about younger students getting overwhelmed by screen time.

Brooke Rainville, co-owner of Providence Mom, said some parents may be planning a hybrid approach that starts with distance learning to keep their children out of school buildings.

“Having that option to be able to distance learn, they won’t have to send their kids to school if they don’t think it’s safe,” Rainville said. “And they’re also ready. If the distance learning doesn’t go well, they have that home-school option.”

Target 12 reached out to every local school superintendent, asking whether or not their districts have received more requests from parents to home-school their children.

Most said the official requests are similar to last summer, with a few exceptions.

Chariho Superintendent Gina Picard said so far the rural district received about “14 new home instruction requests,” up from a typical summer average of 10 new requests.

“We have also had about an additional eight inquiries for information about home instruction,” Picard said.

Johnston Superintendent Bernie DiLullo said the district has not seen an uptick in official requests but is “getting many telephone calls” asking for information about home schooling.

Smithfield Assistant Superintendent Sara Monaco said the number of students approved for home schooling is less than last year’s total of 44.

“However, we have had 13 new families requesting home schooling,” Monaco said. “We are still waiting for some families who have home-schooled in the past to submit their letters of intent.”

No increase in home schooling yet in Coventry, according to Superintendent Craig Levis, but he suspects it would be different without distance learning.

“I believe if we forced families to return to school in the fall, many would home-school,” Levis said.

Robinson chose home schooling her oldest child before COVID-19 and will be doing the same for her kindergartner, saying she thinks both are too energetic to sit still for a regular school day.

She said another indicator more parents are considering home schooling during the pandemic is there’s been a run on supplies.

“I don’t even know that all of these people even want to home-school as much as people are nervous that they are going to make that choice and they won’t have anything prepared,” Robinson said.

Send tips to Target 12 Investigator Walt Buteau at wbuteau@wpri.com and follow him on Twitter @wbuteau.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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