I spoke this week with a mother who pulled her children out of school in 2020 to give homeschooling a try. Through remote learning, she saw, for the first time, what her children were actually learning and doing in school and realized that the amount of academic time was quite small. She had always been curious about homeschooling but felt intimidated. When she caught a glimpse of her children’s classroom learning, she realized that she could easily match, if not exceed, the school's academic expectations while providing greater overall freedom for her children’s learning and development.
When her children’s school reopened for full-time, in-person learning, this mom decided to continue homeschooling. Now, she is even happier with her decision, especially as homeschool classes and activities resume their pre-pandemic vibrancy.
New data analyzed this week by the Associated Press confirm that this mother’s experience is a common one. Homeschooling rates surged during the 2020/2021 academic year to more than 11 percent of the overall US K-12 population, but many education observers expected that most of those families would return to school once classrooms reopened for in-person learning. That hasn’t happened.
“Homeschooling numbers this year dipped from last year’s all-time high, but are still significantly above pre-pandemic levels,” the Associated Press reported. It evaluated data from 18 states and found that while homeschooling numbers rose 63 percent in the 2020/2021 academic year, they only dropped by 17 percent this school year, remaining significantly elevated.
The largest demographic driver of the homeschooling surge in 2020/2021 were black families who unenrolled their children from school for independent homeschooling. The US Census Bureau found that the number of black homeschoolers increased fivefold between spring and fall of 2020, from 3.3 percent to 16.1 percent. Black children were overrepresented in the homeschooling population compared to the overall K-12 public school population.
The sustained rise in homeschooling numbers this year reflects the larger theme of parent revitalization regarding their children’s education. During our LiberatED podcast conversation this week, leading school choice advocate Corey DeAngelis explained that “parents have been empowered and emboldened over the past couple of years. They’ve woken up to the problems of the government-run school system and they’re pushing for real solutions.”
Homeschooling is one such solution, particularly as it evolves to encompass much more than traditional home-based, parent-led learning. Homeschooling has become the educational foundation upon which new co-learning models have sprouted, including microschools, “pandemic pods,” hybrid schools, and interactive, online learning communities.
The education disruption that parents encountered in 2020 was a challenge, but it led millions of them to retake the reins of their children’s education and chart a new learning path. Many parents now find this new path to be more satisfying than the old one, and they aren’t turning back.
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