Homeschooling popularity remains as pandemic eases
NEW JERSEY - It's graduation season and this year, more and more students will receive diplomas from their parents.
It's not because of pandemic restrictions, instead, they're part of a growing trend of homeschooling nationwide and here in the Tri-State Region.
"These graduates would not be up here if it wasn't for their parents," said Edwin Santiago, President of the North Jersey Homeschool Association.
At a recent ceremony, inside the Hawthorne Gospel Church in New Jersey, it's the parents handing out diplomas for their own children.
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"I chose homeschooling initially, for the freedom to give them more opportunities than what I found was offered in the school scenario," said Kelly Hilberth. She has homeschooled her five children, including one graduating this year.
This year NJHSA had 30 kids graduate high school. There are a total of 262 families in the group which includes families stretching from northern New Jersey to NYC. The group offers resources to help parents educate their own kids at home.
"Education is changing so drastically, that the privilege of homeschooling really helps parents guide and direct their children in the way that they're inclined. And that's a huge advantage already, because now you can look at your children's strengths. And you can build on those," Hilbert said.
Homeschooling children is an option that's surged in popularity in recent years, according to the US Census Bureau. Homeschooling increased more than 5 percent of families in the spring of 2020 -- to just over 11% by the fall.
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Data analyzed by the Associated Press shows numbers have not dropped significantly in the year since.
Closer to home, recent data obtained by Chalkbeat NY showed roughly 14, 800 kids in the city opted for home learning across the city.
That's about double the amount from past years.
Some of the largest increases came in minority communities particularly black families.
Santiago, President of the North Jersey Homeschool Association, says some families choose to do it on their own.
While more and more choose to align themselves with organizations like his to help diversify teaching options.
"Like a mother is not comfortable teaching chemistry, but there's a mother who loves chemistry, we could put them in a science class and so there's different ways," he said.
There are about 130 high school students learning at home with this group.