Pandemic causes homeschooling rates to skyrocket.
Many aspects of people’s lives have changed since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic but only now are some of the concrete results of those changes becoming apparent. One of the largest changes in America has been the drastic increase in children enrolled in homeschool instead of public schools.
The U.S. Census Bureau conducted a Household Pulse Survey in which they asked families at the start of the pandemic, and again in fall of 2020 about their children’s education. According to the survey, homeschooling had increased from about 5.4% to 11.1% of school-aged children. Another article released by HSLDA said that that percentage had increased even more and peaked in May of 2021 at 19.5%.
The numbers produced by the Census Bureau were national statistics. Different states and metropolitan areas had varying levels of dramatic increases.
In Florida at the start of the pandemic, only 5% of households were homeschooling. By the fall of 2020, 18.1% households reported homeschooling their children. Meanwhile in Alaska the percentage of homeschooling was already higher than many other states at 9.6%. However, 16 weeks into the pandemic, that number was up to 27.5%. This was the highest increase out of all 50 states.
There were also differences in the increase of homeschooling between different races and ethnicities. While homeschooling increased across all ethnicities, those homeschooling households who identified as Black or African-American in the survey increased almost 5 times what they were at the beginning of the pandemic, going from 3.3% in April and May of 2020 to 16.1% in September and October. Most of the other race and ethnicity groups were not largely statistically different from one another.
The Census Bureau news article said in explanation of these statistics that it is, “clear that in an unprecedented environment, families are seeking solutions that will reliably meet their health and safety needs, their childcare needs and the learning and socio-emotional needs of their children.”
While the Census Bureau seems to understand why there was an increase in homeschooling, another big question to come from these increases was whether people would return to traditional schooling when schools actually did reopen.
According to HSLDA, “It seems reasonable that the number of homeschool households will eventually decrease after most of the nation’s schools have reopened.” However, it could only be speculated what those numbers would be. Many schools did go back to being in-person this fall, however, because of previous frustration with schools going back and forth on whether they could stay open or close again, households may decide that continuing to homeschool is a more stable and safer option, says the Institute for Family Studies.
Along with that, the HSLDA said that families with at-risk children such as those with weak immune systems or other health complications are more likely to continue to keep their children at home after schools reopen, even with a mask mandate. The Institute for Family Studies also points out that because many parents are not back in their own jobs full time, the rates of homeschooling may not decrease as much when schools reopen because parents are still able to instruct their children from home.
“Teachers unions also received criticism for putting the well-being of their members ahead of the instructional needs of children and the child care requirements of families,” said the Institute.
Regardless of future decisions on homeschooling, the data makes it indisputably clear that education is yet another aspect of people’s lives changed by the pandemic.