Big Growth in Homeschooling Indicated This “School Year”
The Context for Big Growth in Homeschooling Indicated
Homeschooling has been gradually and notably growing for decades, but new evidence points to big growth in homeschooling being indicated for this “school year.”
What is a “school year”? For tens of thousands of homeschoolers, learning is year-round. Dates and weather do not stop teaching and learning in the real world. Nor in the world of many homeschool families. But most people in the United States think of the institutional or conventional school year, September through May, as the school year because they themselves were institutionalized while growing up. It is all that they know.
Whether learning is 365 days per year, or only 180, homeschooling grew to engage around 2.5 million K-12 students and their just-over 1 million families during the past year. What might the homeschool population be one month from now?
Government officials’ responses to health concerns (e.g., Covid-19, Coronavirus), including restrictive lockdowns, forced about 50 million more U.S. schoolchildren into school at home during the spring of 2020. Some of it was public school at home (e.g., virtual, online), some private school at home, and for some it became private parent-led home-based education (i.e., homeschooling). For various parents and children, it was a stressful and unhappy time. However, through the experiences of spring 2020, millions more parents came to realize that they do not need (a) government-controlled teacher certification, (b) $12,000 per child per year of their neighbors’ taxes, (c) professors of schools of education teaching, training, and indoctrination of school teachers, and (d) “expert”-created institutional school curriculum, and their children do not need to be with 25 peers of about the same age all day long, five days per week to be successful learners, happy, and sociable.
These parents’ and children’s experiences have confirmed what over 35 years of research has shown regarding parent-led homeschooling. The scholarly research base has shown that homeschool students’ academic performance, social and emotional development, and success in adulthood are, by and large, above average compared to that of their institutionally schooled peers (Murphy, 2014; Ray, 2017).
Many wonder, what impact will the past six months related to health concerns have on changes in the homeschool community? In particular, will the homeschooling population grow?
During the past six months, I have been watching for clues and empirical evidence regarding whether homeschooling will significantly grow for and during the 2020-2021 school year. Most solid evidence for growth in homeschooling often does not emerge until a year or two after the growth, or diminishment. During the past three months, however, notable evidence has emerged. The points of evidence come from both nationwide surveys, state or local departments of education, and anecdotes.
Findings on Homeschooling Growth
There are several indications that we will see significant growth in homeschooling – that is, parent-led, home-based private education – over the next three months.
First, there is foundational information. A 2020 nationwide poll found that U.S. public support has been relatively stable over the past several years (Education Next, 2020).
A mid-May nationwide poll found that 41% of parents said they were more likely to enroll their child in a homeschool, neighborhood homeschool co-op, or virtual school once the [Covid-19] lockdowns are over (American Federation for Children, 2020). About a week later, another national survey found that 59% of parents “… would likely pursue at-home learning such [sic] online school or homeschooling, with 30% saying they would be very likely to do so” (IPSOS, 2020).
Another national survey that gives new and detailed insights about Americans and their thoughts on homeschooling was released only a few days ago (EdChoice, 2020). These researchers found the following:
- Parents not homeschooling before the pandemic are more likely to be favorable toward homeschooling now (43% more vs. 28% less).
- “More than half of black parents (53%) said they have a more favorable opinion of homeschooling as a result of the pandemic.”
- “Black and Hispanic parents appear more likely than white parents to want to homeschool their child(ren) next school year.”
- Finally, 23% of parents who were not homeschooling before the pandemic indicated that they are “very likely” to do so full time or part time on their own, and another 35% said “somewhat likely.”
In addition to these national polls on opinions and potential behaviors, there have been several anecdotal accounts from homeschool organization leaders. For example, in early August, Abby Longley of Big Country Home Educators in Abilene, Texas made a prediction – “I would say we’re probably going to triple this year in our home schooling numbers, we are busting at the seams” (Meek, 2020).
Since then, some more concrete evidence about homeschool enrollment has surfaced. Just yesterday, the John Locke Foundation (Stoops, 2020), located in North Carolina, reported the following:
“According to data obtained from the DNPE [N.C. Division of Non-Public Education] last week, North Carolina currently has 101,406 homeschools listed in the state homeschool directory. That is a 6.9% increase compared to the 94,863 homeschools reported by the agency at the end of the 2019-20 school year.
Further, Stoops reported that Vermont’s homeschool numbers are up 75% compared to the same time a year ago, and that both Nebraska and Wisconsin are up by double digit percentages.
Summary: Big Growth in Homeschooling Indicated This “School Year”
The nationwide homeschool population has been growing at an estimated 2% to 8% per annum over the past several years (Ray, 2020). However, it appears that state governors’ restrictive lockdowns in response to a perceived health crisis, institutional schools’ responses, and parents’ and children’s experiences with crisis institutional schooling at home during the spring of 2020 will drive an accelerated and notable growth in homeschooling this coming school year. I have been telling the media that my conservative estimate is that there will be a 10% growth in the absolute number of homeschool students during 2020-2021 school year. If 10 percent materializes, that could mean roughly 2.75 million K-12 homeschool students during 2020-2021. Time will tell.
Regardless of the change in numbers, many new parents and children will be introduced to and enjoy the many benefits of homeschooling. If they take a reasonable and relaxed approach – and not try to reproduce institutional classroom schooling at home – they will experience a learning environment and educational process that includes more flexibility, parental involvement, customization, social capital, mentoring, value consistency, one-on-one instruction, tutoring, mastery learning, individualization, teachable moments, family time, calmness, safety, academic progress, healthy social interactions, and local community involvement than if they were involved in institutional schooling (Murphy, 2014; Ray, 2017).
American Federation for Children. (2020). National poll: 40% of families more likely to homeschool after lockdowns end. Retrieved May 14, 2020 from https://www.federationforchildren.org/national-poll-40-of-families-more-likely-to-homeschool-after-lockdowns-end/
EdChoice. (2020). Homeschooling Experiences and Opinions During the COVID-19 Pandemic. Retrieved August 21, 2020 from https://www.edchoice.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/Homeschooling-Experiences-and-Opinions-During-the-COVID-19-Pandemic-FINAL.pdf
Education Next. (2020). Amid Pandemic, Support Soars for Online Learning, Parent Poll Shows. Retrieved August 21, 2020 from https://www.educationnext.org/amid-pandemic-support-soars-online-learning-parent-poll-shows-2020-education-next-survey-public-opinion/
IPSOS. (2020). Nearly half of Americans support reopening schools before there is a coronavirus vaccine. Retrieved May 26, 2020 from https://www.ipsos.com/en-us/news-polls/usa-today-teachersparentscovid
Meek, Monica. (2020). Abilene home school enrollment ‘busting at the seams.’ Retrieved August 21, 2020 from https://www.bigcountryhomepage.com/news/abilene-home-school-enrollment-busting-at-the-seams/
Murphy, Joseph. (2014). The social and educational outcomes of homeschooling. Sociological Spectrum: Mid-South Sociological Association, 34(3), 244-272, DOI: 10.1080/02732173.2014.895640.
Ray, Brian D. (2017). A systematic review of the empirical research on selected aspects of homeschooling as a school choice. Journal of School Choice: International Research and Reform, 11(4), 604-621. Retrieved February 20, 2020 from https://www.nheri.org/a-systematic-review-of-the-empirical-research-on-selected-aspects-of-homeschooling-as-a-school-choice/
Ray, Brian D. (2020). Research facts on homeschooling. Retrieved August 21, 2020 from https://www.nheri.org/research-facts-on-homeschooling/
Stoops, Terry. (2020, August 20). Pandemic produces a strong increase to NC’s massive homeschool population. Retrieved August 21, 2020 from https://www.johnlocke.org/update/pandemic-produces-a-strong-increase-to-ncs-massive-homeschool-population/
United States Department of Health and Human Services. (2015). Summary of health statistics. Retrieved February 20, 2020 from https://ftp.cdc.gov/pub/Health_Statistics/NCHS/NHIS/SHS/2015_SHS_Table_A-15.pdf
United States Department of Health and Human Services. (2020, retrieved). Physical activity guidelines for Americans. Retrieved February 20, 2020 from https://www.hhs.gov/fitness/be-active/physical-activity-guidelines-for-americans/index.html
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