BLAIR COUNTY, Pa (WTAJ)–Homeschooling still sees rising numbers of families taking part in the learning style, despite many schools returning to normal operations.

According to an AP report, Pennsylvania had one of the higher numbers of children involved with homeschooling. In the 2020-2021 school year, there were over 41,000 students enrolled. No number has been reported for the current school year; numbers are still above pre-pandemic levels.

Home School Evaluator Lynne Shaffer said there are many reasons that families can turn to homeschool. She listed health, religion, learning disabilities, and flexibility are just a few of the top reasons.

Shaffer’s job is to ensure that families’ teachings comply with state law. She’s been involved with the homeschooling industry for 21 years, being an evaluator for the 18 years. Her clients within the past year have increased by 20 percent and 30 percent in the past two years. She averages 40 families a year.

“This year, I picked up eight new families that pulled their kids from public schools,” Shaffer said. “Last year at this time, I had six new families, and they were a direct result from Covid and what was going on in the school, and they just pulled their kids didn’t know what to do and got contacted with me.”

Pennsylvania is one of the states with the more restrictive homeschooling laws. A child must be six years old to enroll as a homeschool student in the district. Families must keep a portfolio of the student’s work, which an evaluator must assess each year. Grades 3, 5, and 8 require an achievement test and specific courses to be covered between grades 7th and 12th.

The Altoona Area Public Library runs monthly homeschooling groups where families network and share resources. Children’s Services Supervisor Kristy Wall said new faces have been attending the meeting. This month’s gathering saw almost sixty people.

“We have seen a lot of new homeschooling families,” Wall said. “It definitely is a trend that is on an upward swing, so we have a lot of our families that have been coming for years, but we do have a lot of new faces as well. That’s a wonderful thing.”

Shaffer said that this trend is a direct result of the pandemic. Many families found that the learning style worked with them then and stuck with it.

However, thanks to the numerous homeschooling groups and teaching resources available to parents today, it’s much more convenient for the families to start the process. Shaffer said that it’s also provided a new form of confidence for parents as they find they are capable of teaching at home.

“I think it just pulled the veil or brought down the wall in people’s minds that I can’t teach my child,” Shaffer said. “When they realize they can.”

Tracey Verilla is a mother of four who started homeschooling her kids when the pandemic occurred. She found that it worked for her kids and gave her family a great deal of flexibility.

“We just fell in love with the lifestyle and the culture that we created with our kids, and the stability in their everyday life,” Verilla said. “It went with our lifestyle.”

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Tracey and her husband Nathan plan to start a hybrid in Tyrone this fall. This hybrid is meant to help homeschooling families and give them resources and social interaction.