Nfld. & Labrador

This parent is choosing home-school this year, ahead of province's back-to-school details

Uncertainty around government's back-to-school plans and the potentially deadly and unpredictable nature of the COVID-19 virus has some parents looking to educate their kids from home this year. 

'I'm just concerned with keeping my kids safe, and my whole family safe,' says Terri Kelly

Terri Kelly says she will home-school her kids this fall as her youngest son has a compromised immune system and is high risk if he were to contract COVID-19. (Heather Gillis/CBC)

Uncertainty around the provincial government's back-to-school plans and the potentially deadly and unpredictable nature of the COVID-19 virus has some parents looking to educate their kids from home this year. 

Terri Kelly of Grand Falls-Windsor is among them. 

Kelly told CBC News her youngest son is considered high risk if he were to contract the coronavirus. 

"We're supposed to know about the actual plan this week, and I have been told that if there's children who are immune-compromised, or caregivers, that there will be some sort of an online option offered. I'm hoping that that is what's going to happen, because if not then I will do a traditional home-school with my kids," Kelly said. 

Schools closed in mid-March to slow the potential spread of COVID-19. In May the provincial government announced schools would remain closed for the rest of the school year. 

At the time, parents were provided with online resources to help their kids finish the school year from home. 

Kelly said there was a "big scramble" to figure out how to best keep kids learning while the uncertainty of the pandemic pushed on. 

"There's so much unknown about this. Right now we're doing really good with our cases, which is absolutely wonderful, but goodness only knows what's going to happen next month, or two months from now," she said.

"I'm just concerned with keeping my kids safe, and my whole family safe."

Home-school tutor Katie Harrison is offering workshops for parents who are considering home-school this year. (Ted Dillon/CBC)

Another of Kelly's concerns is the social aspect her kids will miss while being home-schooled this year, something Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald addressed during Wednesday's COVID-19 briefing. 

"We must consider the harms posed to children by an ongoing absence from school is outweighing the harms presented by COVID-19," Fitzgerald said. 

"In these unprecedented times our school communities can provide a sense of normalcy for our children and youth, and while there will be changes in the learning environments to ensure everyone's health and safety, what will be the same will be the familiar faces to greet them and supports to help them readjust to school settings."

A little help

Home-school tutor Katie Harrison said she has seen an increase in parents who want to teach their kids at home this September. 

Harrison — who has a background in education, home-schooling and also helped develop and run two home-school groups at Cloudberry Forest School in St. John's — is offering a workshop to help parents navigate uncertain waters of first-time home-schoolers. 

"I'm seeing a lot of parents who are a little bit nervous about the fall. I think the spring was very traumatic for all of us," she said. 

"Learning can happen anywhere, it can look like anything and it doesn't need to be four to five hours of direct instruction, of you sitting down with your child and trying to teach them things that maybe you don't know a lot about."

The two 90-minute workshop sessions cover an array of topics for parents to get acquainted with the idea of home-schooling.

Topics such as what learning from home can look like, child-directed learning versus school-at-home models, the difference between a routine and a schedule and tips for making it work for your family and the importance of free play for children of all ages, will be offered, according to Harrison's application form. 

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Heather Gillis and The St. John's Morning Show

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