ALL NEWS

Homeschooling surge continues despite schools reopening

Apr 14, 2022, 8:20 AM | Updated: 9:37 am
homeschooling continues...
In this undated photo provided by Dalaine Bradley, Ahmad Waller, 11, Zion Waller, 10, and Drew Waller, 7, left to right, study during homeschooling, in Raleigh, N.C. (Courtesy of Dalaine Bradley via AP)
(Courtesy of Dalaine Bradley via AP)

BUFFALO, NY (AP) — The coronavirus pandemic ushered in what may be the most rapid rise in homeschooling the U.S. has ever seen. Two years later, even after schools reopened and vaccines became widely available, many parents have chosen to continue directing their children’s educations themselves.

Homeschooling numbers this year dipped from last year’s all-time high, but are still significantly above pre-pandemic levels, according to data obtained and analyzed by The Associated Press.

A Utah angle: Dave & Dujanovic: Parents slamming the book on homeschooling

Families that may have turned to homeschooling as an alternative to hastily assembled remote learning plans have stuck with it — reasons include health concerns, disagreement with school policies and a desire to keep what has worked for their children.

In 18 states that shared data through the current school year, the number of homeschooling students increased by 63% in the 2020-2021 school year, then fell by only 17% in the 2021-2022 school year.

Around 3% of U.S. students were homeschooled before the pandemic-induced surge, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The rising numbers have cut into public school enrollment in ways that affect future funding and renewed debates over how closely homeschooling should be regulated. What remains unknown is whether this year’s small decrease signals a step toward pre-pandemic levels — or a sign that homeschooling is becoming more mainstream.

Homeschooling in Utah:  More Utah children enrolling in homeschooling every year

Linda McCarthy, a suburban Buffalo mother of two, says her children are never going back to traditional school.

Unimpressed with the lessons offered remotely when schools abruptly closed their doors in spring 2020, she began homeschooling her then fifth- and seventh-grade children that fall. McCarthy, who had been working as a teacher’s aide, said she knew she could do better herself. She said her children have thrived with lessons tailored to their interests, learning styles and schedules.

“There’s no more homework ’til the wee hours of the morning, no more tears because we couldn’t get things done,” McCarthy said.

Once a relatively rare practice chosen most often for reasons related to instruction on religion, homeschooling grew rapidly in popularity following the turn of the century before leveled off at around 3.3%, or about 2 million students, in the years before the pandemic, according to the Census. Surveys have indicated factors including dissatisfaction with neighborhood schools, concerns about school environment and the appeal of customizing an education.

In the absence of federal guidelines, there is little uniformity in reporting requirements. Some states, including Connecticut and Nevada, require little or no information from parents, while New York, Massachusetts and some others require parents to submit instruction plans and comply with assessment rules.

The new surge in homeschooling numbers has led state legislatures around the country to consider measures either to ease regulations on homeschool families or impose new ones — debates have gone on for years. Proponents of more oversight point to the potential for undetected cases of child abuse and neglect while others argue for less in the name of parental rights.

All of the 28 state education departments that provided homeschooling data to the AP reported that homeschooling spiked in 2020-21, when fears of infection kept many school buildings closed. Of the 18 states whose enrollment data included the current school year, all but one state said homeschooling declined from the previous year but remained well above pre-pandemic levels. (The exception, South Dakota, recently changed the way it collects data).

Minnesota, for example, reported that 27,801 students are being homeschooled now, compared to 30,955 during the last school year. Before the pandemic, homeschool figures were around 20,000 or less.

Black families make up many of the homeschool converts. The proportion of Black families homeschooling their children increased by five times, from 3.3% to 16.1%, from spring 2020 to the fall, while the proportion about doubled across other groups, according to U.S. Census surveys.

Raleigh, North Carolina, mother Laine Bradley said the school system’s shortcomings became more evident to families like hers when remote learning began.

“I think a lot of Black families realized that when we had to go to remote learning, they realized exactly what was being taught. And a lot of that doesn’t involve us,” said Bradley, who decided to homeschool her 7-, 10- and 11-year-old children. “My kids have a lot of questions about different things. I’m like, ‘Didn’t you learn that in school?’

They’re like, ‘No.'”

Bradley, who works in financial services, converted her dining room into a classroom and rearranged her work schedule to take over her children’s education, adding lessons on financial literacy, Black history and Caribbean history important to her heritage.

“I can incorporate things that I feel like they should know,” she said. Her husband, Vince, who retired from the Air Force last year, steps in at times. The couple also have a 14-month-old. They plan to continue homeschooling for as long as their children want it. Her social media posts about her experience have drawn so much interest that Bradley recently created an online community called Black Moms Do Homeschool to share resources and experiences.

Boston University researcher Andrew Bacher-Hicks said data showed that while homeschool rates rose across the board during the last school year, the increase was greater in school districts that reverted to in-person learning, perhaps before some parents were ready to send their children back.

He said the same health concerns that drove those increases are likely behind the continued elevated rates, despite additional upheaval in schools as parents and policy-makers debate issues surrounding race and gender and which books should be in libraries.

“It’s really hard to disentangle those two things because all of this is kind of happening at the same time,” he said. “But my my guess would be that a large part of the decisions to exit from the system do have to do with COVID-related issues as opposed to political issues, because those things come up frequently and we’ve never seen an increase in homeschooling rates like this before.”

He said parents also may be concerned about the quality of education delivered by schools that have had to rely heavily on substitute teachers amid pandemic-caused staffing shortages.

McCarthy, the mom from suburban Buffalo, said it was a combination of everything, with the pandemic compounding the misgivings she had already held about the public school system, including her philosophical differences over the need for vaccine and mask mandates and academic priorities.

The pandemic, she said, “was kind of — they say the straw that broke the camel’s back — but the camel’s back was probably already broken.”

“There are kids that don’t know basic English structure but they want to push other things on children, and it can be blatant but it can be, and mostly is, very subtle, very, very subtle,” McCarthy said. “So we were ready to pull them and will never send them back to traditional school. It’s just not a fit for us.”

“It’s just a whole new world that is a much better world for us,” she said.

Today’s Top Stories

All News

Travelers wait in for a TSA security check at the Los Angeles International Airport in Los Angeles,...
DAVID KOENIG ASSOCIATED PRESS

Pre-pandemic sized crowds descend on US airports for holiday

TSA is reporting crowds of pre-pandemic size are traveling this Independence Day.
21 hours ago
The National Weather Service of Salt Lake City says there is a red flag warning in effect for Weste...
Lindsay Aerts

Fourth of July weekend weather conditions ripe for fires

The National Weather Service of Salt Lake City says there is a red flag warning in effect for Western Utah. It warns that many fires are human caused.
21 hours ago
Salt Lake County is working to make sure its golf courses don't use as much water in the drought....
Martha Harris

Salt Lake County says it has decreased water-use on its golf courses

Salt Lake County says it has back water usage on its golf courses. The county says it has done by changing how they water.
21 hours ago
Back view of two ambulances...
Don Brinkerhoff

Herriman mother saved by off-duty police officer

A Herriman woman feels lucky to be alive after her raft is tipped over and she nearly drowned last week.
21 hours ago
Residents stand in front of building destroyed by missiles in Ukraine...
FRANCESCA EBEL Associated Press

Russian missiles kill at least 19 in Ukraine’s Odesa region

The Ukrainian president's office said three Kh-22 missiles fired by Russian bombers struck an apartment building and a campsite.
21 hours ago
The Great Salt Lake Fringe Festival will make its in-person comeback from July 28 to Aug. 7. Courte...
Devin Oldroyd

The Great Salt Lake Fringe Festival is coming back to Salt Lake City

The Great Salt Lake Fringe Festival will make its in-person comeback from July 28 to Aug. 7.
2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Tax Harassment...
Jordan Wilcox

The best strategies for dealing with IRS tax harassment | You have options!

Learn how to deal with IRS tax harassment. This guide will teach you how to stop IRS phone calls and letters, and how to handle an IRS audit.
spend a day at Bear Lake...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

You’ll love spending the day at Bear Lake | How to spend a day at Bear Lake

Bear Lake is a place that needs to be experienced. Spend a day at Bear Lake.
Curb Appeal...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

How to have the best of both worlds for your house | Home security and curb appeal

Protect your home and improve its curb appeal with the latest security solutions like beautiful garage doors and increased security systems.
Prescription opioids can be disposed of during National Prescription Take Back Day...
Know Your Script

Prescription opioid misuse | How to protect your family from the opioid epidemic

Studies have shown that prescription opioid misuse has increased since COVID-19. So what do you need to know about these opioids?
national heart month...
Intermountain Healthcare

National Heart Month: 5 Lifestyle Changes to Make Today to Keep You Heart Healthy

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. One person dies every 36 seconds in the United States from cardiovascular disease
Joseph Smith Memorial Building...
Temple Square

The Joseph Smith Memorial Building is an icon of Salt Lake City | Why hosting an event at this beautiful location will make you a hero this year

Here's why hosting an event at the iconic Joseph Smith Memorial Building in downtown Salt Lake City will make you a hero this year.
Homeschooling surge continues despite schools reopening