Image of a homeschool mom with three children on their first day of school surrounding a sign that says
Kristi Harlen (left) and her three children, Conner (middle left), Vivian (middle right) and Jack (right) pose for their first day of school photo on Aug. 17, 2020, in Lincoln, Nebraska, (photo courtesy of Harlen).

Families begin homeschooling during COVID-19

Kristi Harlen of Lincoln was nervous to tell her friends who children attend public schools about her family’s newest decision to homeschool her children. 

“They totally received it,” Harlen said. “I think during the pandemic nobody is judging anybody with the decisions that people have made. Everybody is just doing what they want for their family and what’s right for them.” 

Starting the school year during a pandemic has looked different from previous years. Schools took precautions and added various restrictions and rules for the safety of students, teachers and families. Most schools have required masks and encouraged everyone to social distance.

Because of these precautions and the situation of the pandemic, some families have decided to keep their children at home. The Harlen, Meyer and Rajewski families are a few.

Harlen and her husband, Patrick, decided to homeschool their children, Jack and Vivian in kindergarten during the 2020-2021 school year while sending their youngest, Conner, to preschool. They named their school, “Ginger Mountain Academy– school for giant red heads.” As both parents are very tall their children are as well, the title seemed fitting for their family.

Harlen made the decision to home school at the end of last school year once schools went remote. To them, the pandemic made it clear that they should start homeschooling their children for at least a couple of years. 

Harlen said that she has since gained a better understanding of her children’s learning styles. 

“I think the biggest positive for me is how much I’ve learned about my children that I didn’t know,” Harlen said.

By homeschooling her 5-year-old daughter, Vivian, Harlen has learned more about her daughter’s love language and behavior. This has given her strategies to be a better parent.

Harlen relates her years growing up as an athlete with the challenges of teaching.

“I am never afraid to know when I’m doing something wrong so I can just change it,” Harlen said, “I don’t care, it’s not personal to me… That is a benefit and a weakness all in one because I’m constantly trying to change things yet sometimes I need to roll with it a little bit more.”

One struggle she daily encounters, is finding the balance between being a teacher and being a mom. Although she has a support system of other moms, Sarah Rajewski included, Harlen said she has some good days and some rough ones.

IMG 1529 scaled - Why some families are now homeschooling
Jack (left), Conner (middle) and Vivian (right) do their homework on Aug. 18, 2020, in Lincoln. (Photo courtesy of Kristi Harlen).

Sarah Rajewski is another Lincoln mom who’s decided to home =school. 

“Lincoln has a great homeschooling support system. I do have several friends that also homeschool and they have kind of helped us in our decision making and talked us through things and gave us tips and pointers and different resources so I feel very well supported by the homeschooling community here,” Rajewski said.

Last school year, Rajewski and her husband were left in the dark about her daughter’s performance in math class. As a result, Rajewski felt a deeper calling in her motherhood to be her children’s primary educator in order to be more involved in their lives.

With five children as of this summer, Rajewski is thankful to have many helpers to watch the baby and do chores throughout the school day. However, she has to balance teaching three different grades which she said is the most challenging thing right now about homeschooling.

Rachel Meyer of Lincoln also started homeschooling her three children this year, even though she didn’t want to previously. She was homeschooled growing up and didn’t care for it. 

“I was more of a social person and back then there wasn’t as much stuff going on (extra-curricular activities),” Meyer said.

However, with the restrictions in schools having everyone wear masks and social distance, she didn’t feel it was best for her children to be in that environment this year. She had an urge to keep them at home.

“I personally don’t think it’s healthy for them to wear masks all day,” Meyer said.

She said it’s nice having her kids at home knowing they are safe and close by. 

Meyer has been working at Ramos Pizza in the evenings in addition to teaching and being at home during the day.

She has focused on giving her kids more resources and attention with the subjects they excel in. She has enjoyed trying new things and hopes to keep it interesting as the school year goes on. Sports is one area she wanted to make sure her boys, a fourth-grader and a second-grader participated. 

Since the YMCA didn’t do summer leagues this year, Meyer and a group of friends made their own.

“We put together our own little group of kids. They just got together every week this summer and had a baseball game at the park. We’re doing that same thing with flag football now. It’s nice to see other kids coming out and just being kids in all of this crazy. It’s good for them,” Meyer said. 

She said her sons enjoyed getting outdoors and playing with their classmates and friends. Now, about 18 kids and their parents go to a park every week to practice or play a game of football.

Whether it has been fun football games for Meyer’s family or late-night science lessons for Harlen’s family, the families have been able to be there more for their children.

All three mothers, Harlen, Rajewski and Meyer agree that a support system has encouraged them as they take on the new title, “teacher.”