Homeschool programs adapt as COVID-19 continues to affect education in Fairbanks

Published: Oct. 15, 2020 at 5:41 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - The first quarter of the school year nears completion as the education landscape continues to adapt to the obstacles posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic causing the vast majority of public schools to close down, many families have turned to homeschooling as an alternative to continue their children’s education.

“The thing about being a homeschool program and I think a lot of the reason parents came to us, is because we’ve been helping families educate their kids at home for over 20 years. So we were very well prepared to help families do that,” said Daryl Bowers, Director of the Fairbanks IDEA Homeschool Program.

But there has not been a lack of challenge in facing the widespread effects of the pandemic.

“However we were not prepared for the huge influx of families. We’ve grown by several thousand kids this year and we’ve really had to ramp up quickly in order to serve families and add staff as quickly as we can. It’s been quite a challenge but we’re doing okay. It’s a lot of long days though,” said Bowers.

This sudden influx of about 4000 new kids has created issues concerning supply and demand of curriculum resources. Bowers commented on the nature of this issue.

“I think everybody, well, all around the world this year homeschooling is more popular than ever and so, a lot of the curriculum providers and a lot of the vendors that we’re used to dealing with, sold out very early in the school year. So, I know that families have had challenges getting curriculum, I know there have been several delays. Often, when one vendor is having trouble meeting a demand we can go to another vendor and find something comparable but we have had some trouble with that.”

Even amidst the challenges of adaptation, many families are thriving with at home education.

“A lot of families that came to us who are homeschooling for the first time, were thinking about homeschooling for a long time... They just needed something to kind of tip the scale and once they’ve made this decision, we’re hearing from a lot of families that are really having educational success, they’re enjoying it, they’re kids are enjoying it and so, even though they were thrust into it by COVID and they weren’t anticipating it and they may not have done it otherwise, a lot of families are reporting that they’re kids are happy and they’re having a lot of fun,” said Bowers.

Bowers offered up points of advice for any families still considering switching over fully to a homeschooling model.

“You know, I think every family is unique and the demands of their children are unique. How often the parents are working and how many hours they have to give in during the day is unique. And I think what I would have families do if they’re considering it, is to call the various homeschool programs and learn about what the various homeschool programs can offer, and learn as much as they can about that it before they make that decision. I know that schools all around the state that are normally accustomed to serving kids in the class rooms are retooling all the time, and trying to up their game. This has been a real challenge for them, and I know they are evolving and they are continuing to do it better and better. I would just encourage people to give a lot of grace this year. Everybody is really having to do things completely differently, but whatever they’re thinking about, learn as much as they can before they do it and make an informed decision,” said Bowers.

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