Seventh-grader Brady Knight of Lisbon does online home schooling Thursday. Photo courtesy of Lindsay Knight

TOPSHAM — As schools struggle to offer safe options for students to return to learning during the coronavirus pandemic, more local families choosing to home-school.

Lisbon seventh-grader Brady Knight smiles during her home-school instruction Thursday. Photo Courtesy of Lindsay Knight

The Brunswick School Department reported 80 home-schoolers this school year, up from 60 in 2019-20.

Maine School Administrative District 75, which serves Bowdoin, Bowdoinham, Harpswell and Topsham, reported last week that as many as 26 students in the district were switching to home school this year. Regional School Unit 1, serving Bath, Woolwich, Phippsburg and Arrowsic, has had 70 home-school applications this year compared to 50 students homeschooled last year.

Lisbon reported as of Monday 56 new home-schoolers this year and a total student enrollment of only 1,151, compared to 1,276 students in March.

Maine Department of Education spokeswoman Kelli Deveaux said the state is hearing anecdotally from some superintendents that have seen an increase in their school districts, though “we are not certain how that will translate statewide.”

Kathy Green is a founder of Homeschoolers of Maine, a nonprofit helping families within the Maine home-school community. She estimates interest in independent home-schooling this year is about 15% higher than last year based on a spike in social media followers and newsletter subscribers. The organization’s website states home-schooling growth since 2005 has averaged about 3% per year.

Brunswick Superintendent Phil Potenziano said he believes the increase is because “parents are concerned with the state of COVID-19 in the classrooms and are apprehensive to send their students back in-person to classrooms.”

He said if conditions become more normal, he expects many home-schoolers will return to the classroom.

Lisbon parent Lindsay Knight said she decided to turn to homeschooling in large part because she felt it would be counterproductive for her 12-year-old to sit in class all day wearing a face mask — a requirement that many districts have in order to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Knight also is worried about the disruption to that education if the school has to suddenly switch to online-only learning.

Home schooling, she said, “at least this is reliable.”

Mariah Sewall, the children’s librarian at Topsham Public Library, points to several books available to parents who are home-schooling their children. Darcie Moore/ The Times Record

Topsham parent Catie Meier opted to homeschool all four of her children, who normally attend MSAD 75 school.

While MSAD 75 allowed students to learn via remote-only or through a mix of in-person and remote learning, Meier said home-schooling was the best option for her family.

One of the best tools she’s turned to is Topsham Public Library. Meier’s home-schooling program requires her children to read a lot of books. Instead of buying all the books, Meier said her children will check out books from Topsham Public Library.

“Going to the library, picking up books, doing that whole routine and coming home and have it be the curriculum in my eyes, it gives my little ones ownership in their education,” Meier said Monday.

Mariah Sewall, the children’s librarian for Topsham Public Library, said she’s already had new groups of home-schoolers in the library already in the last two weeks. The library can offer many resoruces to families who are homeschooling, and she can help find or order books they need.

“What I really want people to know is I’m here,” Sewall said. “I want to hear from families.”

MSAD 75 Superintendent Shawn Chabot told school board members last week that there were 26 students switching to homeschooling.

“That’s concerning because everyone of those students is somebody that we would much rather have in our schools or part of our school community,” he said. “We look forward to the day when those home-schooling students … are welcomed back into our school community.”

Children’s librarian Mariah Sewall holds some of the homeschooling resources available to parents at Topsham Public Library. Darcie Moore / The Times Record


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.