Education, Homeschooling

Homeschooling: Not So Out of Reach

Nico and Michael Gerenda at the end of a school day

“There’s no wrong choice,” or “You do you.” These are words that have echoed throughout many parental social circles in the months leading up to the beginning of this school year. It’s true, there really was, and continues to be, no wrong choice for parents. If, that is, you are lucky enough to be one of those parents who actually gets to choose.

Because the unfortunate reality for so many is, they just didn’t have a choice in the matter. Eat and pay the bills or send your kids back to an unknown situation that doesn’t look anything like it used to. My hat is off to those families who are likely still holding their breath just hoping this pandemic does not get up close and personal!

Most of the options many parents found themselves scratching their heads about did not exist before COVID-19. Online virtual learning, at-home paper package, modified this or that!

But there has always been one option available to all parents at any time. That is, of course, if they had the means, the know-how and — let’s face it — the patience. And that option is homeschooling.

A Little Education History

Early public education did not happen until 1881. That is when the first one-room school house was built in Edmonton, Alberta. Up until that time, children were not required to go to school. Instead, their learning took place in the home, often learning life lessons and skills from watching and participating in their own family life, being present in any and all activities, different of course for boys and girls, but non the less, learning.

It was not until the 20th century that children were not expected to work alongside adults. When the first school was constructed, in school classes were actually quite similar to those we see today.

The curriculum also covered the basic lessons which are also still taught. Reading, writing and arithmetic. A physical education class, often referred to as a “drill,” was included as well. Sunday school was important in just about every household which is where the children would learn about religion.

A Look at Home Education

Is this method so different from where we are today? Some would argue not. Homeschooling, however, has evolved.

Parents nowadays find this method caters more to the individual needs and learning abilities of their children. The resources and supports within a community and through social media are plentiful. There are a growing number of families who have taken a leap of faith and completely abandoned the traditional ways of learning inside a classroom.

The primary role of the homeschooling teacher is often put on the mother and, with the growing number of women being affected professionally by COVID-19, this option has emerged as viable for many.

Greater Essex County District School Board

Locally, the GECDSB has confirmed that the number of students being homeschooled this school year has increased from approximately 400 students last year to 500 this year. That is about a 25% increase in students and parents opting to tackle this form of education.  This number is fluid and expected to fluctuate throughout the school year for them.

Windsor Essex Catholic District School Board

At the WECDSB, the numbers are also quite telling. Last year their homeschoolers ranged from 60-70 students. This year the total has gone up to 135 students, which is almost a 50% increase. As with the GECDSB, numbers are likely to give and take a bit, given parents’ many options throughout the year.

Homeschooling is not so out of reach for some and continues to be growing in popularity. The decision to homeschool is often a very private and individual decision made by families.

I interviewed Teresa Mazzella for the Kingsville Times. Teresa is a local mother of two who has made the difficult decision to move to homeschooling during this pandemic. She has come up with some interesting twists on how to keep her sons Nico (age 10) and Michael (age 11) engaged and happy.

How many children do you have? What grade(s) are they in and what form of education did they receive prior to COVID?

I have two boys. They are in grades 5 and 6, and were both enrolled in the French Catholic School Board prior to COVID.

Tell us a little about your background, life experiences and education that made you consider homeschooling?

I am a former educational assistant. I more recently earned certificates in holistic and positive psychology. I believe my education in positive psychology motivated me most to consider homeschooling. Positive psychology focuses a lot upon individual character strengths, as well as practices and mindsets that cultivate more happiness.

Had you ever tried an alternative form of education prior to COVID?

No, I haven’t.

What was the decision-making process like for your family, any key factors in deciding?

For us, the process began the minute the schools shut down in March, so this was not a quick decision for us. We weighed out the different options as they became available to us. We kept in mind our children’s learning styles, family values and educational values as well as just what would work best for our family at this time.

How much research was needed to tackle homeschooling in Ontario? Where did you start?

We did a lot of research! We spoke to other homeschooling parents, researched several different homeschooling philosophies and even joined an online homeschooling summit to learn more from homeschooling parents. We started with the Ontario homeschooling website.

What does your daily schedule look like or do you follow one?

We are still trying to find our rhythm, and our schedule varies.  Mainly, we begin the day with quiet activities chosen by the boys such as reading, drawing, board games, journaling, chores, etc.
We then move into curriculum-based work for about 1.5-2hrs.
We go for a walk outdoors.
We have lunch.
After lunch we generally dive into lighter subjects. Couch discussions about history heroes and strengths, art lessons, baking, reading aloud, piano, and online educational games.
Our school day usually ends between 2 and 3 p.m.

How do you figure out what to teach and where do you get your resources from?

We hired a teacher to teach the boys their core curriculum subjects, so she decides what core curriculum-based work they do.  The additional subjects and life skills we do are chosen by the boys, ideas that are aligned with our family values, or ideas from other homeschooling families and groups.

Socialization is a key factor in a child’s overall well-being. How are you addressing that aspect?

The boys are only 18 months apart in age so they have each other. They are very close to their grandparents and spend a lot of time with them. The boys have one or two friends that they visit weekly and so they have become part of our social bubble.

I have also enrolled them in Forest School one half day per week and they are with a small group of children.

Was there anything in your life that you had to sacrifice to make this work for your family?

I am self-employed so I am fortunate to have a flexible schedule, but I do have to work within the pockets of time I have — early mornings, nights, week ends and lunch hour. Also, because we decided to hire a teacher and enroll them in homeschooling types of activities, it has added quite a bit of expense to our household budget.

What are the benefits you are seeing in your children so far that reaffirm to you that you’ve made the right choice at this time?

So many! They are very relaxed and I have noticed their creativity soar! They have ideas for new lessons and help direct their own education, and are excited to participate in those decisions. They love being taught one on one, as well. We are creating a lot of amazing memories.

What are some concerns you have?

I sometimes worry that they are not getting “enough” or that they will fall behind in the curriculum. I worry that they will get bored. lol. General homeschooling mom stuff.

Will you go back to the standard school system or do you plan to continue homeschooling?

Right now, we are embracing homeschooling, but we do plan to go back to the standard school system next September. That is why we chose to hire a teacher to keep them on task with the curriculum.

If you were to go back to the kindergarten years, would you have homeschooled and why?

Hmmmmmm, that is a tough question. We absolutely love homeschooling and part of me does wish that I had homeschooled from the beginning. But at the same time, we had a great experience in the standard school system.

What do you most look forward to in the future for you and your children’s education?

I most look forward to teaching the boys things that they will not learn in the school system as it is. Entrepreneurship, budgeting, and other courses that interest them individually. I want them to learn to lead with their own individual strengths and values. I also look forward to building meaningful memories with them.

* * *

Thank you so much to Teresa Mazzella for her openness and willingness to share her story. If anyone would like to learn more about homeschooling in Ontario you can go to

Facebook Pages of Windsor and Essex County Homeschool Support Groups:

Family Village Homeschool Association

Homeschoolers in Essex County (On, Canada)

Homeschool Windsor-Essex

WE Homeschool – Windsor-Essex County

Windsor/Essex County Homeschool Activity Group

Photos by Teresa Mazzella

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