More parents pick home-schooling after pandemic

Coronavirus lockdowns prompted a rise in home-schooling as parents' attitudes have shifted positively toward home education.

In March, the Census Bureau released a report showing the percentage of households that were home-schooling children doubled during the coronavirus.

Before the pandemic, only 5.4 percent of households reported home-schooling children. During the pandemic, that number jumped to 11.1 percent. The Household Pulse Survey questions asked about home-schooling as a choice separate from remote learning. 

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"Many families have not been satisfied with what their child's school has offered them during the pandemic," Michael McShane, director of national research for EdChoice, told The Hill. "I think lots and lots of families are looking for other options."

As parents and students were forced home due to the pandemic, parents had the opportunity to help their children learn from home during a time of uncertainty in academia.

EdChoice has been polling parents every month since the pandemic began in March 2020 and found that parents developed a more favorable view of home-schooling.

As of April, 64 percent of parents said their view of home-schooling has become more favorable due to the pandemic, according to an EdChoice survey

Not only did COVID-19 give some parents the ability and motivation to start home-schooling, experts say it may have also provided an opportunity to break stereotypes that surround home education such as parents without teaching certificates being unqualified to home-school and home-schooled students being less socialized.

“So parents are finding out, we do not need a government teaching license to be effective teachers. We do not need $12,000 of our neighbor's tax money for our children to learn. We do not need the professor created curriculum,” Brian Ray, president of the National Home Education Research Institute and editor in chief of Home School Researcher, told The Hill.

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“We do not need our children to be around 27 peers for six hours per day to be well socialized. We could have more family time, we could have a more flexible schedule. We do not have to live at the whim of the institutional school and its schedule,” Ray added.

Another common assumption about home-schooling — that it is only for rich, white students — may also be shifting. The Census Bureau found a significant increase among minorities switching to home-schooling during the pandemic.

The Black community saw 16.1 percent of households with children that are being home-schooled compared with 3.3 percent before the pandemic, the Census Bureau found.

“Many families have experienced the flexibility, the stability and the safety that the home environment offers. Home-schooling allows children the opportunity to go at their own pace, to explore their own interests. It allows parents to be more involved in their children's education,” Michael Donnelly, director of global outreach for Home School Legal Defense Association, told The Hill.

Elizabeth Dukart, a former public school teacher who switched to home-schooling for her 7- and 9-year-old children during the pandemic, said she isn’t planning on going back to public school.

"My oldest has said how it always bothered him, like all the time that was wasted in class to wait for a teacher to get a classroom to quiet down and pay attention,” Dukart told The Hill.

Nebraska saw such a significant increase in home-schooling this year that state officials said it contributed to the state seeing its first decline in public school enrollment in 15 years, Education Week reported.

However, some experts are skeptical that this boom in home-schooling will continue.

“My sense is that there will probably be some parents who will feel as though it was a good experience to work with their children at home, and it was a positive experience for their children, and they'll continue to do it. But I suspect that the vast majority will return to the institutional school context,” Robert Kunzman, managing director at the International Center for Home Education Research, told The Hill.

Most schools in the country have opened back up to in-person learning after a year of being shut down. Offices and businesses are now allowed to reopen in most states, as well, sending parents back to work. With many parents and children still navigating a return to normal life, schooling trends may shift again in the months to come.