Interest in Homeschooling Has ‘Exploded’

Mindy Kroesche, a freelance writer and editor from Lincoln, Nebraska, had been leaning toward homeschooling her 12-year-old son, who has autism and ADHD diagnoses that made middle school a challenge. But she always felt her 10-year-old daughter was “built for school.” Now with the pandemic raging, she is pulling them both out for the year.

“We just saw that with her wearing a mask for the entire day, that would make learning more difficult for her,” she said. “It was going to be such a different environment. We didn’t think it would be as beneficial for her.”

Homeschooling applications are surging in states including Nebraska, where they are up 21%, and Vermont, where they are up 75%. In North Carolina, a rush of parents filing notices that they planned to homeschool overwhelmed a government website last month, leaving it temporarily unable to accept applications.

There were about 2.5 million homeschool students last year in grades K-12 in the U.S., making up about 3% to 4% of school-age children, according to the National Home Educators Research Institute. Brian Ray, the group’s president, is anticipating that their numbers will increase by at least 10%.

“One day the school district says X and four days later they say Y,” Ray said. “And then the governor says another thing and then that changes what the school district can do. And parents and teachers are tired of what appear to be arbitrary and capricious decisions. They are tired of it and saying we are out of here.”

Interest in homeschooling materials also has been surging, driven in part by parents who are keeping their children enrolled in schools but looking for ways to supplement distance learning.

The National Home School Association received more than 3,400 requests for information on a single day last month, up from between five and 20 inquiries per day before the coronavirus. The group had to increase the size of its email inbox to keep up.

“Clearly the interest we have been getting has exploded,” said J. Allen Weston, the executive director of the suburban Denver-based group. “That is really the only way to describe it.”

Some parents in rural parts of Nebraska are turning to homeschooling because staffing and limited access to home internet leave districts unable to offer a virtual learning option, said Kathryn Dillow, president and executive director of Nebraska Home Schools, a support and advocacy group.

Homeschooling applications continue arriving in Nebraska, where the number of homeschoolers already had risen to 3,400 as of July 14, up from 2,800 at the same time a year ago, said David Jespersen, a spokesman for the Nebraska Department of Education.

Jespersen said there is “a lot of confusion” and that “parents are delayed in making their decision” because so much is changing.

Regardless of the final number, Jespersen doesn’t expect that the increase will bust districts’ budgets because homeschoolers will still remain a small fraction of about 326,000 students spread over the state’s 244 school systems.

Most other states don’t have homeschooling numbers, either because they aren’t collected at the state level or it’s too early. But all indications point to increases across the country.

“Now is when the reality sets in,” said John Edelson, president of Time4Learning, an online curriculum provider, which has seen business explode. “People have postponed the decision, but we are at this great inflection point. And it is hard to see what the angle is going to be, but it is definitely up.”

In Missouri, calls and emails pour into the homeschool advocacy group Families For Home Education each time a district releases its reopening plan, said Charyti Jackson, the group’s executive director. She said families are in a “panic” about virtual starts to the year and hybrid plans in which students attend classes parttime and study at home the rest.

“They are asking, ‘What am I supposed to be doing with my children when I am working full time?’” she said.

For the families who only plan to homeschool for a semester or two, some in small groups or pods, her advice is focused on how to make sure students can transition back to public schooling smoothly when the pandemic ends. That’s trickier for students who receive special education services and high schoolers who need to meet their district’s graduation requirements.

There also are some indications the exodus to homeschooling could continue well into fall. Christina Rothermel-Branham, a psychology and counseling professor at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, said she is going to attempt remote learning through her local school district for her 6-year-old son. But she said the virtual learning she oversaw in the spring was “very monotonous” and that she plans to switch to homeschooling if the first month goes poorly.

“If there is a lot of stress between the two of us it is probably going to get him pulled out,” she said.

Rothermel-Branham, 39, already has scouted out curriculum as a backup and has signed up for art and music classes through Outschool, an online learning platform that is reporting 30 times year-over-year growth since March.

“It is such a big mess,” said Outschool CEO Amir Nathoo. “A lot of schools spent all summer preparing for a social distanced reopening and now it looks like that isn’t going to happen because of the virus.”

He said the demand for classes has been particularly strong in states that moved aggressively to reopen, including Texas, Florida, Georgia and Arizona.

Chris Perrin, the CEO of Camp Hill, Pennsylvania-based Classical Academic Press, said curriculum sales to homeschoolers are up by 50% and that enrollment in its online Scholé Academy has increased by 100% amid the pandemic. He said some there was “understandably a lot of bad online learning” in the spring and that some parents were “appalled” as they oversaw it.

“They are saying I can’t stand by and do nothing,” Perrin said. “So they are becoming homeschoolers.”

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8 thoughts on “Interest in Homeschooling Has ‘Exploded’

  1. With all the resources available (i.e. purchased texts, educational books, books of interest, real history books, science books with experiments (safe) at home, cooking and learning measurements and steps, creating stories and plays (acting out at home), and so much more, everything is at parents’ fingertips. The future is extremely bright. This may be the opportunity needed to turn education around and better prepare our children for tomorrow.

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    • Absolutely! The stumbling block is available time.

      If parents work, they first have to find alternate coverage for their kids. Then again, some parents just aren’t attuned to teaching their kids.

      But, for the many, many families who can handle the logistics, it could wind up being a savior situation for our country. Homeschooling parents don’t have to worry that teachers are imposing values that actually may be harmful to the families. And, many teachers keep parents in the dark, so parents today don’t even have the information to decide if there may be a problem.

      I have two great kids, but when we speak, I’m shocked that they don’t share many of my values. How was I supposed to know that they were being taught that socialism was good? As we talk nowadays, and both have become business owners, their view have started to modify back to the real world. So, more homeschooling? Yay!

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      • When all of this began, though we knew politics was involved, I shared with a friend this may be the best thing that ever could have happened for today’s generation. As a teacher, we worked to educate, but also encourage the students to think for themselves. Now, people think we all think. That’s true, but even in my youth I was aware that some of my thoughts weren’t my own, and I couldn’t just go along to get along. Wasn’t in my nature. My friends and family will tell you I’m a difficult one, but I don’t mean to be. I just have to follow the rabbit down the trail of reason. I can’t nod and smile when I don’t agree or when I see the fault in other people’s reasoning. That’s how we got into the mess we have, by not thinking for ourselves. Thinking for yourself means understanding, gathering real information, and “seeing” the real answers. So, with the students, I wanted them to think for themselves, but I would be there to show the errors in their thinking, hoping that they would take the opportunity to really understand, read, research, discuss. Helped a lot of kids. With today’s parents, they get the opportunity to really know their kids. And I hope, with learning together, discussions, and research, some parents discover the errors in their own thinking while others share their wisdom with their children. Fantastic opportunity. Difficult times call for real answers. Not rhetoric or propaganda.

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  2. With the change in public education, many schools going online, parents have a unique opportunity. They can see and hear what is being taught. While their children are learning, the parents can watch, or even record the lessons. In this way, they can learn how subjects are taught, perhaps utilizing the lessons to “learn” how to teach themselves. But there’s a greater opportunity. To really watch the lessons. In this way, parents can discover what they like and what they don’t regarding the materials. They can learn what is taught in schools, but also how it’s taught. And as parents become more involved in their children’s education, they can better understand why their children struggled so much in the past, but also, where good lessons helped.
    As a teacher, I encouraged parents to come to my class. Of course, I was more inclined to parents that had a good attitude, those wanting their children to have a quality education, and if they could assist in the class, I certainly would appreciate. But as the years passed, and the dynamics changed, and more adults seemed to have lost perspective, some looking to create problems, I was probably less apt to encourage, though I still wanted them to understand what I was working towards in preparing their children. But I also realized how the curriculum was becoming of less quality, and therefore my own education, research, and understanding could be utilized to support the students’ education and opportunity to think for themselves.
    But now, parents, at their leisure, perhaps after work, can view lessons. This is a fantastic opportunity. To know what your children are being taught. How they’re being taught. What makes sense and what doesn’t. What parents agree with and what they don’t want their children taught. Perhaps, in this sense, parents can have more oversite regarding education, then decide what the parents want to teach themselves. This is fantastic. For with this opportunity, teachers will realize what they say and teach is monitored, from multiple directions. This can have the effect of creating more discussions, more blogs, more debates, and all to find quality methods of instruction.
    But even more. What subjects they feel are taught well, they can monitor and learn. What subjects are not taught well, or inadequately, perhaps then the parents reviewing the texts to see the materials, they can then bring home “other” materials to provide a more comprehensive understanding. I have found this often with history texts. Since I knew the texts, researched on my own, I could supplement with my own education, research, and readings, bringing in materials to provide a more well-rounded understanding of the subjects. Science too. But I also encouraged them to do their own research. And some students did. And they brought discussions to the class so we could all share and examine history.
    We encourage more and more parents, while this valuable opportunity is with us, and perhaps online learning will become the norm, parents supplementing where they can, to watch their children’s lessons. And perhaps, when regular schools resume, if some send their children back into the classroom, they can sit in those classrooms and “see” if the instructions “match” what was seen online. And with a greater understanding, the children may come home and share what they’ve learned with their parents. For the children’s education is extremely important to their futures, but also how they view the world.

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    • Yes, how and what are being taught are so important. I taught Title I for a few years in grades 5-8. One thing which appalled me was that upon seeing all four math books side by side, they were almost the same! Why would a school put up with this nonsense?

      What concerns me though is that both fact and interpretation are being taught, and as a parent I wasn’t made aware. So, now I hear my grandkids talking about global warming (and other topics) as if it were established fact, as opposed to the unsupported theory it is. So I talk to my kids – their parents – asking if they were made aware of the indoctrination, and they also support this (now) climate change nonsense.

      What is distressing is that, when I present facts to demonstrate a point I’m making, the reaction I get is something like, “Oh, that’s just Republican talking points, so it can’t be true.” I was taught that truth was truth, facts were facts, data was data. If it’s true, it doesn’t make any difference who’s saying it. But no more, I guess.

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      • They’re training the youth to react from a slanted perspective, making rhetoric popular. As a teacher, that was never my job. If we had discussions regarding topics from, say, history, and I pointed out some ideas, I asked the kids to think for themselves, not agree with me blindly. When one student would agree with me, I challenged that student to explain why they agree with me. Don’t agree with me because it sounds good, but from your own understanding, experience, readings, and research. For sometimes I took the position I did not agree with to see what they said. But by and large, my goal was quality lessons and real-world project applications, learning things like map making, steps, balancing checkbooks and learning about mutual funds, and such, but first the core curriculum.

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    • You, like many, would have worked very hard, had homework and home projects, but you would have learned quite a bit (As I can tell you already have, and probably more on your own than would have been in my class.), hoping for engaging teachers in future classes.

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