Homeschooling in the United States experienced dramatic growth over the past two years, fueled by parental dissatisfaction with public schools, as has been widely reported. What remains to be seen is how many families stick with homeschooling as a long term educational option. So far, the numbers are holding strong.
The number of US families homeschooling at least one child grew from 5.4% in spring 2020 to 11.1% in fall 2021, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The growth within some demographics was even more substantial, with the largest statistical increase coming from Black families, whose homeschooling rates jumped five fold during that time, from 3.3% to 16.1%.
These trends challenge the view that homeschooling families fit a particular stereotype (white, conservative, isolated) and, and they open a wider conversation about the reasons for and benefits of homeschooling within the educational choice movement.
The Homeschooling Capstone Report, published in July by EdChoice, a foundation promoting educational choice in America, outlines the reasons parents decided to leave public education for homeschooling. These reasons included:
- COVID restrictions (at 78 percent, the largest motivating factor)
- the benefits of increased flexibility and attention
- concerns about other school options
- the ability to better focus on their children’s specialized learning needs.
The EdChoice report suggests that homeschooling will be a larger part of school choice options even post-pandemic: the survey found that 47 percent of homeschooling respondents are very or extremely likely to continue homeschooling, including 51 percent of current homeschool parents and 26 percent of parents who have not previously homeschooled.
California is just one state where the rise in homeschooling is drawing attention, as applications to homeschool doubled from the 2018-19 school year to the 2020-21 school year. The Los Angeles Times reported last week that professionals who provide support to homeschoolers saw an increased wave of interest in the fall when Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that children in public and private schools would be required to get vaccinated for COVID-19 by next school year.
Dr. Steven Duvall, Director of Research for HSLDA, a homeschooling advocacy organization, writes: “Currently, it appears that anxiety related to COVID-19, concerns for children’s safety, dissatisfaction with how schools have performed during the pandemic, and school curricular issues may cause more parents to homeschool their children than ever before and could, at the very least, delay parents’ decision to re-enroll students in school.”
James Dwyer, a professor at William and Mary Law School and co-author of “Homeschooling: The History and Philosophy of a Controversial Practice“ told the LA Times, “The mainstream middle class, well-educated and not on either political extreme, has been very disenchanted with public schools’ response to the pandemic.”
“[Now the choice to homeschool] is more about competence,” Dwyer said. “But it remains to be seen how enduring that motivation is.”