Samari, 10, teaches her mother, Michele Webb, to play chess on Wednesday at their home in Lewiston. Webb homeschooled his daughter last year, but the two decided the public school was better suited, and Samari is back in school this year. The girl learned to play chess as part of her home schooling and continues to enjoy the game. Andree Kehn / Journal of the Sun

LEWISTON – After more than a month of blended learning last fall, Michele Webb has decided to work part time and teach her daughter at home.

While many of her peers struggled to pay attention and learn with the mix of distance and in-person lessons, Webb’s daughter, Samari, excelled in her studies at home.

So, as the new school year approaches, Webb has once again chosen to homeschool his now 10-year-old daughter. They went through a month of home schooling before Webb re-enrolled his daughter at McMahon Elementary School in Lewiston at Samari’s request.

Over the past year, home schooling has spread statewide as many parents, like Webb, have chosen to take responsibility for their children’s education. But as schools prioritized strictly in-person learning and vaccines became widely available to those aged 12 or older, many of those former homeschooled children have returned to the classroom.

From October 2019 to 2020, the number of homeschooled students in Maine increased 78% to 12,082. According to the Maine Department of Education, 8,044 homeschooled students in Maine as of October from this year, a decrease of 50% from 2020, but still an overall increase of 16% from the 6,763 in 2019.

Webb wishes she could continue to house school her daughter. Samari, who has been back to school for almost three weeks, comes home every day and tells her how easy her classwork is. Her head teacher is currently on maternity leave and the long-term substitute was ill last week, which left students with different teachers every day.