Education

Homeschooling Hits a Tipping Point

Homeschooling is very much not a niche phenomenon.

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With the public school year underway nationwideor else delayed beyond its normal start by labor actions and fearful policymakersfamilies getting an eyeful of what classes mean this year aren't impressed by what they see. Even as school resumes, localities across the country report that parents are pulling their kids out to take a crack at one or another approach to home-based education. Nationally, the percentage of children being homeschooled may double, to 10 percent, from the figure reported in 2019.

"As COVID-19 continues to disrupt schools in the U.S., parents of school-age children are significantly less satisfied than they were a year ago with the education their oldest child is receiving," Gallup recently reported of its survey results. "While parents' satisfaction with their child's education has fallen, there has been a five-point uptick (to 10%) in the percentage of parents who say their child will be home-schooled this year."

Aware that many schools are teaching children remotely, Gallup was careful to specify that its homeschooling question referred to children not enrolled in formal school. So the survey seems to reveal a real increase in the ranks of families taking on responsibility for the education of their own children.

The same survey forecasts a drop in traditional public school attendance, from 83 percent of all Kindergarten through 12th-grade students to 76 percent.

Gallup's results square with anecdotal reports from around the country. News stories from Texas to Kansas to Ohio to Pennsylvania tell of families dissatisfied with chaotic public school schedules, strikes and sick-outs, and teaching arrangements that fail to meet families' widely varying tolerances for risk in the midst of a pandemic.

"The pandemic has driven an increasing number of parents around the region and the country to give new consideration to homeschooling, spurred by uncertainty about school schedules and aversion to virtual learning programs," the Philadelphia Inquirer reported earlier this week. "Officials have said online learning this fall will be far improved from when the pandemic abruptly closed schools in the spring. But a number of parents choosing to homeschool said their experiences with virtual instruction were simply too frustrating."

The Inquirer noted that Pennsylvania is considered a high-regulation state, which has acted as a deterrent to many would-be homeschoolers. But frustration with public school offerings may be all the push many families need to overcome such barriers.

Elsewhere, legal hurdles to homeschooling are far lower, making DIY education an easier choice for those with the interest and ability to take advantage of the opportunity.

Even though public schools are the easy, default option, pre-paid through taxes, the ranks of homeschoolers have doubled over the past two decades to include an estimated 3.3 percent of K-12 students by 2016. As those numbers grew, homeschooling expanded from the fringes to become an increasingly mainstream choice, especially in areas of the country where it was more common.

Now, the pandemic appears to be accelerating the acceptance of DIY educationencompassing a variety of approaches including unschooling, co-ops, learning pods, microschools, and variations and permutations of the sameto a tipping point. For many Americans, homeschooling has become the safe and reliable approach in a world of failing government schools.

"COVID-19 has created a strange natural experiment in American education: Families who would have never otherwise considered taking their kids out of school feel desperate enough to try it," observes Emma Green for The Atlantic. "The question is whether COVID-19 will cause a temporary bump in homeschooling as parents piece together their days during the pandemic or mark a permanent inflection point in education that continues long after the virus has been controlled. Some families may find that they want to exit the system for good."

Many observers think that we're seeing a world of accelerating alterations wrought by a combination of pandemic fears and imposed political choices. And these transformations, they say, are here to stay.

"While COVID-19 has and continues to impact communities worldwide, it is also changing, in perhaps sometimes positive ways, how we manage our daily lives," writes Hamilton Lombard, a research specialist for the Demographics Research Group at the University of Virginia. Lombard continues:

"The pandemic has … required many parents who have school-age children to jump head first into the world of home schooling while also managing their own work schedules. Despite the difficulties that come with the shift in the way we work, learn and live, it is likely that we will continue to adopt a more technology-reliant and home-based lifestyle even after the pandemic. And this is particularly true with homeschooling, which will inevitably remain more commonplace after the pandemic than it was before it.

An aspect of homeschooling's growth that draws Lombard's attention is that it's very much not a niche phenomenon. The families choosing to educate their own children look like cross-sections of America.

"Growth in homeschooling is being driven by parents who increasingly come from a wide range of backgrounds and who choose to homeschool for a variety of reasons, which indicates that the demographic constraints on how much further homeschooling can grow are looser than they might appear and possibly that a fundamental cultural shift is taking place," Lombard notes.

One potential downside Lombard sees in the permanent expansion of home-based education and the corresponding reduction in the importance of government schools is a resulting decline in shared values. This, he warns, "has the potential to increase social fragmentation in communities."

But in an era of curriculum warsin which political factions battle one another over which spun version of history, economics, and social relations will be presented to students held captive in government classroomsthat may well be a very healthy development. Families choosing DIY education (or private and charter schools, for that matter) have greater ability to select learning environments and curricula that please them than do those who are subject to the whims of public-school bureaucracies. That means fewer battles over lesson content and vastly improved viewpoint diversity.

The graduates of varied approaches to education taught from different points of view may be more socially fragmented in the sense that they just don't always agree with one another. But they're also unlikely to share a misplaced faith in monolithic "truths" taught to them by government educators.

The pandemic is forcing many of us to do things differently, and it's bound to leave behind some permanent alterations to our ways of life. Losing faith in government schools and taking on more responsibility for educating our children will be a positive outcome from a very difficult era.

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  2. I have one friend who has pulled his kid out of school. I expect to see a few more. I hope it’s a lasting trend. I don’t blame anyone for using public schools, but if you can make it work, homeschooling seems like a better way for a lot of kids.

    1. Time educating to the same level is about 50%, the time spent teaching is a wash against time you deal with schools, problems, and fixing your kid’s education, you aren’t shocked and pissed off by what your kid has been taught, school bullying his gone, greater control over who the kids spend time with, there’s at least one teacher from hell in the course of k-12 education… if you’re lucky.

      The hardest part of homeschooling is the startup and getting in the rhythm. The only ones I feel bad for are the ones whose parents either don’t give a damn, aren’t capable, or the home environment sucks.

      1. “The only ones I feel bad for are the ones whose parents either don’t give a damn, aren’t capable, or the home environment sucks.”

        As opposed to those whose teachers either don’t give a damn, aren’t capable, or the school environment sucks?

      2. In most cases homeschooling is beyond reality. A large percentage of parents are single and need to work. Or in many cases both parents need to work. In the case of parents living on gov.’t dole most are not capable of instructing on a deep and varied level.
        Homeschooling is really an option for only the reasonably affluent, and reasonably educated.

        1. So do the homeschooling at night and on the weekends. Leave homework for during the day.

    2. At least one of the kids next door just pulled out. What the heck, if they’re making you do distance learning anyway, why bother doing it with them instead of on your own?

      1. If all your classes are online, why attend the ones featuring the mediocre local teachers (nothing against them, most teachers are mediocre, by definition). Find the best online teachers from the whole country and attend their online classes.

  3. Thank God biden said yesterday he would defend charters so parents against shitty education would be forced to home school.

  4. “While COVID-19 has [impacted] and continues to impact communities worldwide, it is also changing, in perhaps sometimes positive ways, how we manage our daily lives,” writes Hamilton Lombard, a research specialist public school graduate

    Verbs and tense, how do they work?

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  6. Agreed pull your kids out of there. They are nothing but indoctrination mills designed to warp their minds. Private school or home school. Get back to basics.

  7. keep the conformity factories closed.

    1. The PTA has disbanded!

      1. no friend, the PTA has not disbanded!

        1. Not the one in Harper Valley, at least.

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  8. Sorry, no matter how well your homeschooled student does, colleges still aren’t opening as much as they could be. Many colleges face very real possibilities that they will have to close permanently. Don’t admit student and lose revenue. Admit students and get sued. Because in today’s climate of demanding zero risk, every action is a risk that cannot be allowed.

    A professor friend reports that a dorm was quarantined two weeks after it briefly reopened, because the detected a 3% infection rate. Gosh. No deaths, no hospitalizations. A dorm environment has never been a safe environment, so there’s no surprise there. But the university is officially at fault for not following the zero risk rule.

    1. Why don’t they just quarrantine whole campuses? Just keep everyone there, then they all get exposed, and can go back to normal in a few weeks.
      I saw a study (or some data at least) looking at a number of large schools. 26,000 infections and zero hospitalizations.

      I think a lot of schools will have to close. And I don’t think that’s a bad thing for the most part. There are too many colleges and too many people going to college because they don’t know what else to do after high school.

      1. More than a few college professors need to get a job in the outside world. I thing it should be required to have a job in the private sector for at least 10 years before managing a college classroom. I know people in their 50s who haven’t not been in one classroom or the other since pre-school. With any luck, they start shutting down bullshit degrees, starting with social sciences, art history, music appreciation.

      2. High school should be the next scam to go.

    2. Can you point to the lawsuits? The closing is from over reactionary sky is falling democrats who run the schools. See where schools are still open.

  9. I think homeschooling provides a better environment for kids to learn critical thinking. It’s too hard in schools, even private schools (at least the grade school level).

    My kids’ private school is open but my kids and I think the restrictions are overkill. The school asks parents to explain to their children why there are new rules this year. This includes masks all day and can only take them off when sitting at their desks, looking forward and eating their lunch. Keeping masks on during class, gym and recess (they do have enough space for students to sit at least six feet away from each other). Wipe down everything all the time. Walk a certain way. When dropping off/picking up students parents are to stay in their cars while wearing a mask.

    I told my children I cannot explain why they are doing all of this. Luckily the school offers a choice of virtual learning and we have chosen that for now.

    And locally the kids in middle school, high school and college are playing sports such as soccer and football without masks. Where is the logic in this?

    1. Interesting. Our football teams are practicing with masks on.

      I can’t imagine how they do that.

    2. Kids in Georgia are back in school and no masks.

      Facts show nothing bad happened.

  10. One potential downside Lombard sees in the permanent expansion of home-based education and the corresponding reduction in the importance of government schools is a resulting decline in shared values.

    Heh, which “shared values” are meant here? The glories of life under Socialism?

    1. Translation: “group-think”

      Who knows… perhaps there will be a few kids out of this who are not trained to conform and will actually change the world with a new idea that couldn’t have been generated from the same mold.

  11. The more they delay school openings, the more parents get used to the alternatives that they were forced to go to last spring. They have lost the image of indispensability, and are well on the way toward being optional.

    Then, going full Wile E. Coyote, they have started making demands way past the left field foul line — and attempting blackmail by refusing to go back to the classroom until the rest of society gives in. This is the equivalent of pushing a button and having an anvil fall on them.

    Once a significant number of families take homeschooling as a normal thing, we’ll see a sharp drop in the passage of school bonds. Which will cause teacher walk-outs.

    Which will cause more parents to go to homeschooling.

  12. I’m all for pulling your kids out of public schools for either homeschooling or private schools. Charter schools can be great but they face a lot of resistance.

    However, this will lead to a problem. When all the parents who care yank their kids, then no one will be there to stop the increasing indoctrination of the students left behind. Students who are more likely to be in lower socio-economic groups. Instead of marketable skills, they’ll be taught that they are victims who can only be saved by the government. Then they’ll stay poor and send their kids to public school where they’ll be indoctrinated … a downward cycle that will lead to even greater political division.

    Unfortunately, I don’t have a solution to that problem and I can’t recommend that anyone try to solve it by leaving their kids in public schools. You shouldn’t sacrifice your kid’s education today because it might hurt “society” down the road.

    1. The solution is to charge tuition. Parents care when they have to pay. And start charitable foundations to provide scholarships for needy students.

  13. It will be mostly conservatives doing home schooling. Ironically, this will leave the people most worried about the virus with their kids IN the crowded schools, and those who see that it isn’t so dangerous for the non-elderly keeping their kids OUT of the schools.

  14. Our schools see themselves as in competition with alternative education and extra curriculars. In a positive way.

    Maybe other places should try that.

  15. I had a conversation with a young couple the other day who are trying to maneuver local public school “reopening”. They are very pissed off. The kids can only attend in person every other day because of social distancing and of course everybody has to wear a mask. They were unimpressed with the online schooling and are supplementing with other materials. The parents are left to try to keep working never knowing if the schools will shut down completely again because some kid tests positive. She mentioned to me that she doesn’t know anybody who has died from Covid and doesn’t know anybody who knows anybody who died from Covid. She also posited that the purpose of whole scam was to defeat Trump.
    People are not stupid and they are beginning to realize that they’re getting screwed for no good reason. Lefties like to talk about social contracts. For decades parents accepted that if they paid the taxes the compulsory government school system would educate and babysit their kids so they could put on a harness and labor to pay those taxes. Of course government reneged on the education thing a long time ago but at least they provided the babysitting. Now they’ve abrogated the whole contract but they still expect to get paid. I don’t see how this ends well for the education establishment.

    1. The media wont address this difference between Trump and Biden.

      If you are pissed about mask requirements and preventable school and business closures, vote Trump.

      If you are scared and sant masks, vote Biden.

  16. Homeschooling is a perfectly acceptable option. I would like anyone who is thinking about doing this to do a tiny bit of research. The one aspect I found difficult was the social one. It takes resolve to get your child to this practice and that game and this library function, etc. etc. It’s just fine to say you are not happy with public schools, but is another thing to figure out how to do schooling well. Most people can do it I believe, but it takes perseverance and dedication on an ongoing basis. And now so many in person events are cancelled. This is just practical advice. Having anger at the system will not help your 7 year old increase his ability to read with comprehension.

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  18. So, at least 5% of kids won’t be brainwashed into the latest rascist bullshit?

  19. I know many homeschoolers through my church. A diverse group, white, black, a Dominican family. Many of the kids have gone onto college. None of them are out there in black outfits, carrying shields and tossing Molotov cocktails.

  20. Just pulled my 7yo to home school. She was doing remote learning but the schedule was laid out over the course of the day like in person school. Having to log on multiple times throughout the day for less than 2 hours of face to face instruction was just ridiculous. It basically just exposed what their normal day was like when she attended in person. What a waste. Now we are doing Khan Academy, same classes, she enjoys the interactivity, and we spend about 3 hours doing the work and discussing and we have the rest of the day to do other things. (like teaching how to vacuum, cook, and wash clothes)

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  22. If it saves even one life, shouldn’t we shut down all the government run schools, out of an abundance of caution?

  23. We started homeschooling our fourth and second graders this year. In just over half the time they would have spent in their public school’s distance learning, they are able to study math, language arts/English, handwriting/cursive, history and science.
    Our public school spent the first week training kids on the platforms they’re using and social/emotional learning. My kids are both already through their first math workbook and deep into grammar studies.

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  25. As for me, home education is a very correct approach. This helps to create an individual schedule for each child, to be more flexible, and also helps to focus on one child only.
    But of course, if you do not have enough qualifications for this, then hiring a tutor or using services for writing, such as https://bestessayservicesradar.com/ will be good idea. I hope that there will be an opportunity to mix home education and school, this will increase the quality of education in general, to my mind.

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