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Home school getting another look during pandemic

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(WEEK) -- Interest in teaching from home is up, significantly, in this fall due to the coronavirus.

It's easier to try in Illinois than many parents might realize with support from people and educational websites, too.

And that's why two instructors from Peoria County decided to join forces.

"We went from thinking about home schooling to deciding to home school to starting home school in about five days, " said Kate Bailey.

She's a nursing college instructor for OSF HealthCare.

Her sister, Kristen, is a part-time preschool teacher who decided to keep their students away from public schools this semester.

"I've always wanted to do home schooling so it was a nice little foot step into it," said Kristen Woodley. "I love it. I have already warned my husband that I don't plan on sending my kids back."

Because they only started home schooling six kids this Aug. 3, they're all learning as they go with workbooks that just arrived by mail, paired to visual offerings for history and biology.

They utilize laptops and television monitors, notebooks, Play-Do and markers

The Glasford home they're sharing is active.

Between book work, one of the six kids -- Jonah -- is drumming.

His sister Lauren, a seventh grader, can be found on the clarinet.

"I kind of get to learn what I want to learn," said Lauren Bailey, a seventh grader. "I can move around and stuff, because I like to move around. We can kind of fidget…we can go to the bathroom whenever we want! So, that's nice."

In Illinois, home schooling is a form of private education.

It is one of the least regulated states, in this case.

For one thing, you don't have to register with anybody and you can take your child out of their public school at any time.

The core subjects which have to be taught in English are: language arts, math, biological and physical science, social science, fine arts and physical development/health.

Home schooled students also don't have to take any standardized tests.

"The beautiful thing about home schooling is that it's such a flexible curriculum," Kate Bailey said. "It usually takes us, maybe three hours to do everything that we need to do for the day. And then they're done."

You can also choose to bring your child back to the public school at any point. But those with experience in education say that moment, the re-integration or the return, is the part parents should consider before they choose the home school option."

At Regional Education Office No. 17 in Bloomington, the masks and face shields have arrived, but so have additional questions about home schooling and what's coming next for public schools

"We're all holding our breath each day," said Regional Supt. Mark Jontry, noting an increase in interest over home schooling. "I think there'll be a few more than we've had in the past."

If you decide it's time for your child to return to the traditional, public classroom state law indicates those administrators will place him or her into an appropriate grade level.

They can also require an assessment test or evaluation of some kind.

On the playing field though, it's more complicated.

Home school students aren't enrolled in a public school.

So the district in question decides if your at-home learner can also come out to play a sport at the same time, like football.

"So, if they've got an athlete, they really need to think long and hard about that choice," Jontry said.

As for the actual learning, illinoishouse.org is one source and also a lobbying group you can turn to for guidance on how and what to teach your student or students.

You can also get an Illinois state income tax credit for class materials you pay for, including music or karate lessons, once you spend $250 dollars or more.

It's a 25% credit up to $750 .

If you spend $2,250 on classroom materials and curriculum, for example, you could get the full $750 credit.

To receive it though, you have to fill out an ICR which attaches the Illinois 1040 tax form.

"It's pretty simple to fill out," said Bonnie Lee, an accountant in Peoria. "A few years ago, I had maybe two to three people filing for that credit. Now it's 10 to 12 people. So, it's more than tripled in my estimation. And it's going to go way up. At least that's what I'm hearing and seeing."

Tyler Lopez

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