LOS ANGELES — Before the pandemic, Karen Mozian had a concrete vision for her son’s K-12 education: He would go to public school, just like she had.
But then the schools closed in March 2020 and Mozian saw 9-year-old Elijah glued to Zoom at the kitchen table, struggling to get his words across. Elijah stutters and distance learning has made it worse. He was barely engaging, dreaming during his lessons.
Elijah was diagnosed with ADHD in the summer of 2021, just before his sixth year. He was back on campus and his school gave him accommodations, such as extra test hours and help with incomplete assignments, but Mozian noticed Elijah had to stand up for himself — and he didn’t. didn’t want to be isolated. His grades drop sharply.
Combined with what she saw as a stressful environment of COVID-19 restrictions, Mozian realized school wasn’t working for her son. It was painful to see him struggle so much. So she took him out and started teaching him herself.
“Saying I’m homeschooling my child are words I never thought would cross my lips,” said Mozian, a wellness business owner and daughter of a long-time teacher. date in a public school. “But I realized there were other ways to learn, that I had great faith in the public school system.”
During the pandemic, a growing number of families in California and across the United States have chosen to homeschool their children. The reasons for doing so are diverse, complex, and span the socio-economic and political spectrums: schools are implementing too many COVID-19 safety protocols, or too few. The polarizing conversation around critical race theory. Neurodivergent children struggling with virtual instruction. And a diminishing faith in the public school system.
What all of these parents have in common is a desire to take control of their children’s education at a time when control seems elusive to so many. In an effort to understand this trend, The Times interviewed 10 Southern California families who were pushed by COVID-19 to start homeschooling. While it remains to be seen how many will continue after the pandemic, most of these parents said they would not return to physical schools now that they have experienced the benefits and flexibility of home schooling.
The proportion of U.S. families homeschooling at least one child rose from 5.4% in spring 2020 to 11.1% in fall 2021, according to analysis by the U.S. Census Bureau. The number of black families choosing to homeschool quintupled during this period, from 3.3% to 16.1%.
In California, nearly 35,000 families filed an affidavit with the state to open a private home school for five or fewer students in the 2020-2021 school year, more than double the affidavits filed in 2018- 2019.
The pandemic allowed parents to truly see how and what their children were learning for the first time, albeit at a time when educators were scrambling to adapt lessons to a virtual space. Many were unhappy with what they saw, said Homeschool Assn spokesman Martin Whitehead. from California.
“There is dissatisfaction with the way people were taught and treated in schools,” Whitehead said.
Such frustration often predates — but has been exacerbated by — the pandemic, and is one of the reasons more and more Black families are turning to parent-led education, said Khadijah Z. Ali- Coleman, co-editor of the book “Homeschooling Black Children in the US”
Black parents already knew their children are far more likely than white students to be disciplined and suspended, Ali-Coleman said. They knew, of course, about the school-to-prison pipeline and the fact that their children wouldn’t see themselves in most mainstream curricula, aside from Black History Month. But seeing these realities unfold in real time was sobering and motivating.
“They saw how the teachers spoke to the kids, the tone of their voice,” Ali-Coleman said. “More black parents have started having conversations and camaraderie about it — that it’s not fair.” Although it should be noted, Ali-Coleman said, black families are not a monolith and their reasons for homeschooling are diverse and layered.
Crista Maldonado-Dunn was interested in alternative education before COVID-19. But when her son’s preschool closed in March 2020, she began talking with her close friends – all families of color – about “creating an environment for our children to explore and ‘love who they are and where they come from’.
They formed a small cooperative (affectionately called their “tribe”) and began meeting in Maldonado-Dunn’s backyard in El Segundo. Parents took turns giving lessons, many of which centered on their own cultural identities and histories. The Maldonado-Dunn children were able to learn about their Apache, Samoan, African, Spanish and Portuguese heritage. The elders of the family were invited to give lessons.
“How do you prepare a child for an uncertain future? asked Maldonado-Dunn, who quit her career as an entertainment consultant to focus on her family. “We just try to give them as many tools as possible and a really strong self-esteem. Every day is different, kind of like college for little people.” Her children, now ages 3 and 5, are learning jiu-jitsu, Spanish and going on weekly hikes with a group of other students at home.
“The pandemic has forced us to really look at what we value and prioritize those values,” she said.
Other parents leave public schools because they don’t want their children exposed to critical race theory. The theory, which became a hot topic among Republicans last year, examines how racism is historically embedded in legal systems, policies and institutions in the United States and not typically taught to kindergarten students. in 12th grade.
Karen Golden, director of Creative Learning Place, an enrichment center in Palms, said that at least four of the 85 homeschooling families she serves have pulled their children from public schools because of the critical theory of the race.
Professionals who provide student support at home also saw a flurry of interest in the fall when Governor Gavin Newsom announced that children in public and private schools would be required to get the COVID-19 vaccine from here next school year.
“I’ve had many, many phone calls from parents who are afraid of the vaccine mandate but don’t know how to homeschool,” Golden said. “They are panicking.”
Mozian, Redondo Beach’s mother, said the impending vaccine mandate also factored into her decision to continue homeschooling Elijah. She and her children are not vaccinated, she said, because she worries about the potential long-term effects of the vaccine.
“A lot of friends said to me, ‘I’ll do what you’re doing soon too, if these mandates come true,'” she said.
A number of Creative Learning Place families started homeschooling because their children were so anxious and depressed after a year of isolation. “They’re collapsing and the schools are not able to meet that level of mental health need,” Golden said.
While the choice of homeschooling has always been ideological – and often still is – a growing segment of “the traditional middle class, well-educated and not at either political extreme, has been very disappointed with the public schools’ response to the pandemic,” said James Dwyer, a professor at William and Mary Law School and co-author of “Homeschooling: The History and Philosophy of a Controversial Practice.”
“Now it’s more about skill,” Dwyer said. “But it remains to be seen how long-lasting that motivation is.” He predicts that many parents will return to public schools for the same reasons they enrolled their children in the first place – daytime childcare, the social environment and extracurricular activities, and the fact that is a service for which they have already paid.
Mozian said she would homeschool Elijah until at least middle school. His natural curiosity shapes what he learns; Beach-loving Mozian and Elijah have been researching ocean currents and tides, and he’s taking an astronomy course through Outschool. Mother and son recently visited the Griffith Observatory to make the subject more tangible and fun. Mozian now works part-time to enable home schooling, which has put a strain on the family’s finances.
She knew it was worth it, however, when Elijah told her after sleeping until 7 a.m. on a weekday, “It’s so nice not to be so stressed and rushed all the time.”
“It kinda melted my heart,” she said.
©2022 Los Angeles Times. Go to latimes.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.