It is rare to get a cool day in the middle of July in Raleigh, North Carolina, which is why 8-year-old Rory Leetham and his 6-year-old sister, Harper, were taking full advantage of the cloud cover.
The two crisscrossed an outdoor playground, running and laughing with one another as they scaled the monkey bars and slid down the slides.
Rory and his sister are among the millions of kids in this country who are homeschooled. Their dad is in the military, which is why their mom, Blythe Leetham, decided years ago that homeschooling would be the best option for this family, which often has to move on short notice.
Blythe Leetham, who once cut hair for a living, turned in her scissors to become a full-time teacher.
“With homeschooling, when multiplication got difficult, we were able to stop and focus on what they were doing and then we can move on to the next subject or chapter,” she explained.
With so many families considering homeschooling because of the pandemic, Laura Stowers has never been busier.
She and her husband own The Homeschool Gathering Place in Raleigh, North Carolina, one of only a handful of stores nationwide that sells materials specifically to families who homeschool their kids.
“There is clearly a need, and I think it gives homeschool families a chance to build a community, not just a purchase,” Stowers said, looking around at a store bustling with activity.
Stowers often advises families who are new to homeschooling to come in and consider a wide array of learning tools. If something doesn't work for a child, she says to just come back and try a different technique or curriculum.
“They can talk to people that have been there, been through the same struggles,” she added.
Most parents who homeschool end up spending about 20 hours a week doing actual instructing. Families typically spend about $600 a year per child on school supplies and books. And the number of kids homeschooled in the United States only continues to rise.
In 2012, there were around 1.8 million homeschool students, and in 2021, that number is expected to be above 5 million.
Amy Ruchte runs a homeschooling support group in the Raleigh area. For students who might be struggling in a traditional learning environment, she often tells parents to think about that when it comes to homeschooling.
“If a child is advanced in a subject, you just move them along. If they’re behind, you work on that until they master it,” Ruchte said.