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Belgian region of Flanders sees COVID-era boom in homeschooling

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By Meabh McMahon
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Homeschooling in Belgium, October 2020.
Homeschooling in Belgium, October 2020.   -   Copyright  Euronews Brussels
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Belgium's Flemish-speaking region of Flanders has seen a huge increase in the number of home schooled children during the pandemic, according to its Education Minister.

Speaking to Euronews, Ben Weyts, said that in 2020 the number of home schooled children increased by one third in Flanders. He called it the ‘corona effect’ and said that he ‘hopes the situation will return to normal quickly’.

"Homeschooling is a right guaranteed by the constitution, but we firmly believe that it is in the best interest for children to go to school. The best education can be found in a classroom, with a professional and enthusiastic teacher."

In Flanders, compulsory education begins at five and continues until 18. Children do not have to go to school to receive this education. It can also be delivered at home.

Research shows that homeschooling can be ‘stressful and challenging’, especially for families with special needs or no access to computers or printers.

But for others, it is perfect way to connect with their children and nature.

Euronews spoke to the Brussels-based mum of three Mialy, who spends her Wednesday afternoons doing arts and crafts in her local forest. Mialy decided to part-time home-school after the lockdown in Spring. She said it has given her more quality time with her family and allowed them to live a more relaxed life.

“I say that in the vein that I was listening to a podcast from the Harvard school recently about hunter and gatherer societies, and how they used to work 15 to 17 hours a week. We work 40, 50, 60 hours a week. We don't get to spend a lot of time with our kids and in our families,” Mialy said.

Elizabeth Newcamp agrees. The travel blogger from Florida who is normally based in the Netherlands took up home-schooling so her family would have the flexibility to travel.

She told Euronews that, "The ability to let a child read a book all afternoon is wonderful as childhood is so short, as sometimes they will be forced to use their time productively in the workforce. It is kind of nice to give them the opportunity to follow whatever their creative whims are, whatever they are really called to at this point in time."

Mialy and Elizabeth believe home-schooling is not for everyone and can only be done if one parent can afford to dedicate their time to it.

In the meantime and whilst the pandemic continues, for many families in Flanders it will remain the new normal.