SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Local homeschooling communities are split on how to best cope with the pandemic. Leza Chandler said the pandemic has caused a divide among those who homeschool their children.

According to the Census Bureau, homeschooling rates more than doubled in some parts of the United States during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. For Georgia, this meant going from a homeschooling rate of 7.1% to 16% between May and October of 2020.

In normal times, homeschooling parents would often rely on groups and cooperatives to allow their children to learn with others and get much-needed socialization.

A homeschooling cooperative, or a co-op, is a group of families that homeschool who meet throughout the week or month to help their children learn and socialize with one another. Co-ops rely on families being able to meet in person to work.

Now, many parents are unsure of what the right decision is.

Do they choose to isolate their children for the sake of their physical health and safety? Do they risk their physical health in hopes of preserving their mental health and social development?

“The homeschool community is completely in disarray about whether or not they are ready to venture back out,” Chandler said.

Chandler is the admin of the Savannah area homeschool co-op and classes Facebook group, the Coastal Georgia homeschool Facebook group and the host of WRUU’s “The Happy Homeschooler.” She has a master’s degree in Clinical Psychology and has over 15 years of experience working as an educator.

She said there are two main options that she has seen families taking: they either continue as they normally did before the pandemic with some COVID precautions or they quarantine entirely.

Chandler said that people tend to stick to one side or the other when it comes to how they’re handling the pandemic.

“I’m not really running into a lot of people who are like, venturing out, and then coming back into quarantine and then venturing out,” Chandler said.

Still, she held no animosity towards either side of the debate.

“There’s no telling why a family makes the decisions that they make in the homeschool world,” Chandler said. “This basically comes down to what works best for them.”

She said regardless of the decisions a family personally makes, the pandemic has put a strain on homeschooling groups and cooperatives.

Because of the pandemic, many people are not able to meet in person or are not comfortable doing so. This can leave existing co-ops on shaky ground. There may not be enough families involved to continue the group or they may not be able to do the things that the co-op was designed to do.

Chandler said homeschooling groups are also being strained by the number of people who are turning to homeschooling as a temporary solution during the pandemic. She stressed that being a family who is teaching a public school curriculum at home is not the same as being a family who chooses to homeschool as a way of life.

She said that homeschooling groups, like the ones she manages on Facebook, have been filled with parents asking questions about how to teach their kids from home, but just until they are able to get out of the pandemic.

Chandler noted that this was a continued frustration for parents in Facebook groups like hers because people have gotten into the habit of conflating homeschooling with virtual school from home.

“I think parents who are coming into homeschooling need to understand that there is a very big difference,” Chandler said. She noted that there is a lot of time and effort that comes with choosing to teach your own child.

Chandler said that homeschooling is not a decision that should be made on a whim or taken lightly, but instead, that it is a lifestyle and a commitment.