A historic surge in homeschooling continues despite the return of in-person learning

The COVID-19 pandemic “ushered in what may be the most rapid rise in homeschooling the U.S. has ever seen,” according to a recent data analysis by the Associated Press. 

The analysis found that despite a 17% drop in numbers this year, as compared to last year’s high, homeschooling numbers are still well above the pre-pandemic level. This is despite the fact that in-person learning and vaccines are now generally available. 

It remains to be seen whether the homeschooling numbers will continue to decrease toward pre-pandemic levels. However, if this year is any indication, the numbers will remain elevated for the foreseeable future. 

“It’s clear families that may have turned to homeschooling as an alternative to public schools’ hastily assembled remote learning plans have stuck with it,” writes the AP. “Reasons include health concerns, disagreement with school policies and a desire to keep what has worked for their children.” 

In the 18 states that shared data through the current school year, there was a 63% increase in homeschooling during the 2020-2021 school year, with only a decrease of 17% for the 2021-2022 school year. 

The National Home Education Research Institute estimates there were 2.5 million homeschool students pre-pandemic in the Spring of 2019, or approximately 3%. For 2020-2021 the estimate is 3.7 million, or about 6%. 

The U. S. Census Bureau reported the percentage of households with school-age children attending homeschool doubled from March of 2020 to March of 2021, from 5.4% to 11.1%. And the Home School Legal Defense Association estimates that today, 7-8 million children are being homeschooled. 

Josephine Herr, a mother of four in Kansas City, chose to keep her two youngest children in homeschool even after their school district began to offer in-person learning again. 

“Our boys were academically struggling in school. We knew we had to do something and slowly build their foundation back up, along with the freedom to choose what best met their learning style.” Herr said. 

While the transition to homeschooling her two boys full-time has not been without its ups and downs, for the Herr family it was well worth it. 

“My favorite [part] is how I’m learning alongside my children and seeing the boys master something they’ve struggled with,” Herr said, adding they love the flexibility of their schedule. “We go year-round and take breaks whenever we feel like it. I love the idea that my kids can get their work done by lunch or even [enjoy] a four-day school week.” 

On days when she “bumps heads” with the boys and thinks about “sending them off on that yellow bus,” Herr says, “I’ll have to remind myself of my ‘why,’ which is the reason I began homeschooling in the first place. We’re a family of imperfect people, but in the end the good outweighs the bad.” 

Herr offers some advice for families considering homeschooling for their children: “There are so many homeschool styles, needs and curricula to pick from. We tried out three different programs within the first year, and the third time [was the] charm.” They found that “the online program works best for our boys.”  

Additionally, since there are no federal guidelines, Herr suggests that families familiarize themselves with homeschooling laws in their state, as home education laws can differ widely from state to state. 

Finally, if the prospect of homeschooling sounds daunting, Herr says, “there are a lot of great resources out there to help.” She strongly suggests joining local support groups and online groups to meet other homeschoolers. 

But most importantly, she says, just remember to relax.  

“You don’t need to be perfect.”