Nova Scotia

More Nova Scotia parents consider home-schooling amid pandemic

With less than a month to go before the first school bell rings, some parents in Nova Scotia are still on the fence about sending their kids back to class and considering home-schooling instead.

Halifax home-school coach says interest up more than 10 times from last summer

Erynn Ahern is still on the fence about whether her two kids will attend class or be home-schooled in the fall. (Submitted by Erynn Ahern)

With less than a month to go before the first school bell rings, some parents in Nova Scotia are still on the fence about sending their kids back to class and considering home-schooling instead.

The Nova Scotia government announced its back-to-school plan in July, but with the province's eventual reopening to the rest of the country and a potential second wave of COVID-19 on the horizon, not all parents are feeling confident in the safety of sending their kids to school.

Erynn Ahern, a mother of two, said the province's plan assumes kids are not as capable of spreading the coronavirus as adults, which has recently been refuted, so she's thinking about home-schooling.

Both Ahern's kids are registered for school in the fall, with her eldest going into Grade 3 and her youngest on track to start Grade Primary.

"It's pretty stressful … And after months and months and months of being in this weird limbo, it's just more stress. I hope the kids aren't picking up on it, but they may be," she said.

Once school registrations are processed in September, it will become clear how many Nova Scotia children are being home-schooled this year. (Submitted by Marlon Davis)

But not everyone can stay home from work to teach their kids or afford the resources or support to make it work, Ahern said, and she's very fortunate to be able to even consider the option.

"We have really high child poverty rates here, so people just can't afford to do that type of stuff," she said.

A home-school coach in Halifax said she's had more than 10 times the number of parents contact her for information about home-schooling this July compared to last July.

"The day the province announced that schools would be opening this fall, I was in a meeting and I received 20 messages before I was even done my meeting," said Kimberly Charron, who has been home-schooling her children for 15 years.

Charron, who offers workshops and resources to parents in the province who want to home-school their children, said a lot of parents have expressed interest in home-schooling but didn't "take the plunge" until the COVID-19 pandemic.

"If it's something you want to do, you can do it," she said. "Whether both parents are working full-time, one parent is working full-time, or any other scenario. I've seen parents do it in every scenario possible."

Kimberly Charron, a home-school coach in Halifax, has been home-schooling her children since 2005. (Homeschooling Nova Scotia)

When the pandemic hit earlier this year and schools closed, the province paid for parents to get access to subscriptions to education websites to help with at-home learning. Ahern said she thinks the province should have given parents the option to keep their kids at home this fall.

"If [parents] had access to resources and were only doing the teaching portion and not having to find the resources and make the lesson plan … I think that would have naturally reduced a lot of the stress on the system," she said.

The province's back-to-school plan includes an at-home learning contingency that could come into effect based on direction from public health. Ahern said if the plan was already developed, she would have liked to see it presented as a viable option for parents instead of as a "plan B."

What the province is doing to keep schools safe

Violet MacLeod, a spokesperson for the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, said several public health measures are being taken to ensure students are safe, which include staggered recesses and lunches, separate exits and entrances, increased signage and reminders about good health practices, and providing PPE and hand sanitizer for schools.

"We will continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation and work with Public Health to adjust as needed to keep our students safe," she said in a statement.

It's unclear how many students are registered for home-schooling this year. MacLeod said there were almost 1,500 children registered across the province last year. This year's numbers will be available after registrations are processed in September.