The COVID-19 pandemic has forced numerous changes to education.

With the provincial government announcing earlier this week that many students across the province will be returning to school come September, Liane Longfellow, a long-time homeschooling parent, says that homeschooling is an option many parents have begun exploring.

She says that parents have a variety of reasons why they choose that route. But for her, the choice was an easy one.

“I started homeschooling because I wanted my daughter to avoid long bus rides,” she said. “It sounds like a silly reason, but she had a long ride to either River valley, or to Sturgeon Falls that included multiple transfers. I had my little guy at home and thought I would just homeschool her until she’s ready. By the time my youngest was ready to go to school, I didn’t feel like he was completely ready for a full-time schedule either and thought to myself ‘I’ll just do it for a couple more years’.”

Come September, Liane and her family will be starting their seventh year in homeschooling.

Longfellow says her ‘West Nipissing Home Schoolers’ Facebook group, which she started years ago, has had a recent influx of people requesting to join.

“I find it a little tricky with the influx of people asking to join because that’s our space to share with each other. So… so far, I haven’t accepted anyone just yet. This is for families who are actually homeschooling, and for us to lean on each other and ask each other questions and advice. I don’t want to just open the gate and let anyone in who are simply thinking they’re going to do it come September. If they do, then they will be accepted and the rest of us will be there to help them.” she said.

Longfellow says that she understands that parents might have a lot of questions, and she says there are many resources available for anyone looking for info on potentially homeschooling their children.

“The Canadian Homeschooler has great Canadian content, yearly online conferences, free classes for kids, Facebook events, and is a wealth of information. As is Ontariohomeschool.org, which will answer so many questions for any parent looking to give this a real shot. When parents ask me ‘what do I need to get started?’ that’s where I send them. But anyone looking for success stories, or why we do what we do, are free to reach out to our group and ask us questions and we can answer them.”

Longfellow is an advocate for homeschooling and says the benefits are countless.

“You really get to build on your child’s successes. For example mine love math so I push that. Whatever they’re into, you can really dive deep into the subjects that they care about.” she said.

The Ontario government provides no funding to homeschoolers, but Longfellow says that she believes it all comes out to the same at the end of the year.

“I don’t need to buy fancy new back to school clothes, I don’t buy lunchboxes for them, or spend money on lunches. I’m able to cut those expenses. Obviously, there are workbooks and texts books that I need to buy, and hands-on-learning expenses add up, but I haven’t found that I spend more homeschooling,” she said

When it comes to what to teach her children, Longfellow says that the Ontario curriculum is available online.

“It’s available to the public so I download it every year. That way I know that at their grade level, what they would be learning, or should be. That way they stay on par. I don’t know how long I’m going to continue to homeschool, so this is everything they need to learn.” she said.

“Having your kids home is hard. It isn’t for everyone. You need to really want to do it. Your partner needs to be on board. But, helping your children along their learning journey is really rewarding. It can kind of make you question your sanity at times, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth it. It’s hard work, but in the end, you’re part of all these great moments that I would miss if they were in the school system.” she finished.