KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Last January, while Knox County Schools was following recommendations to wear masks in schools and implement virtual learning programs, COVID-19 cases peaked at 277. As of Thursday, there was 734 active cases reported in KCS.
With cases rising so quickly and minimal COVID-19 safety measures in place, one mother decided her only option to protect her children was to pull them out of the classroom. Instead, Felicia Outsy said she would homeschool her three children.
"Him saying, 'Mama, I don't want to die. I don't want COVID,' that's one of the things," she said.
Her son is in first grade, and she also has two children in middle school who will be learning from home. Her decision was made when education leaders kept masks optional, despite high COVID-19 cases across the county.
Since Outsy started homeschooling her children, she said there have been some things she's had to learn too. For her and many families across the region, homeschooling has come as a challenge.
"I believe that if you have a younger child, then you become the teacher 100% of the time," she said.
One of the first challenges she faced was keeping her children entertained. Sometimes, she said, children just need time to get out of the house instead of staying home in front of a screen.
"You need to be able to get them out of the house and do things with them," Outsby said. "Do field trips with them."
One professional educator, Hannah Phillips at Tennessee Connections Academy, said that there were other things parents should consider if they were thinking about homeschooling their children. First, she said that parents should be able to stay focused on lessons and keep children focused too.
For many families, this can take some discipline.
"Make sure that their work is complete without someone necessarily looking over their shoulder all day long," Phillips said.
And finally, they said that the children's learning environment at home should be conducive to learning. For many students, this could mean a specific desk or room that is meant for learning, as well as stable and scheduled times when parents teach children.