When the COVID-19 pandemic led to widespread school closings in the spring of 2020, researchers at the time were predicting that the high number of parents who were suddenly having to homeschool their children for the first time would significantly decrease after the schools fully reopened.1 However, this prediction is proving to be inaccurate because data that is being gathered by the United States Census Bureau is showing that the percent of US homeschool households has remained quite stable even though school operations have resumed.
How Homeschooling Growth During the Pandemic Was Measured
Soon after the pandemic struck in 2020, the US Census Bureau initiated the Household Pulse Survey (HPS) to gauge the impact that the pandemic was having on employment, housing, food availability, and education.2 Since then, the HPS has continued to be administered on a regularly scheduled basis and is representative of the 50 states, DC, and the 15 largest metropolitan areas in the country. Each HPS includes 50 items 3 that are administered using email and text messaging, and the survey will be continued until federal funding expires. Because one of the questions on the HPS asks whether any children in the household are being homeschooled, the survey provides a way to continuously monitor the growth of homeschooling.
Initially, multiple attempts to measure the level of homeschooling with the HPS indicated that an average of about 14 percent of US households (percentages ranged from 5.4 percent to 19.5 during 2020–2021) with school-age children had at least one child who was being homeschooled.4 The USCB eventually adjusted this 14-percent estimate down to 11 percent,5 but 11 percent of 32–33 million US households with school-age children still represented a very high number of homeschools. When compared to the number of homeschool households identified by the HPS immediately prior to the onset of the pandemic, the 11-percent estimate indicated that, over the course of the 2020–2021 school year, the percent of homeschool households had doubled or, perhaps, even tripled.
New Data: Estimated Homeschooling Rate for the 2021–2022 School Year
Now, the first HPS to estimate the rate of homeschool households for the 2021–2022 school year has just been published as of March 2022.6 Interestingly, instead of dropping far below the 11-percent rate that researchers had predicted, the first HPS estimate of US homeschool households for the current year has dropped only 1 percent from last year’s historic highs.
Furthermore, the decrease in the number of homeschool households may be even smaller than one percent because the question on the survey implies that parents should not count students as being homeschooled if they are enrolled in a public or private school (parents are asked whether their children are in a public school, private school, or homeschool [not enrolled in public or private school]).7 There are two reasons why this may lead to an undercount of homeschool households.
First, in some states, homeschooling is legally considered a private school option and homeschooled children are actually enrolled in a family’s private school at home.
Second, parents who homeschool older children often teach them at home for much of the week but enroll them in, for example, advanced math classes available through a public or private high school. In such cases, parents who take the HPS survey might think that they should not count their child as being homeschooled because their student is also “enrolled” in a in a public or private school course. The result would be that their home would not be counted as a homeschool and could lead to an undercount.
Consequently, instead of dropping slightly, the number of US homeschool households may not be dropping at all even though the pandemic continues to wane.
Conclusion: What Does This Mean for Your Family?
In summary, a comparison between the HPS findings collected last year and this year indicates that the percent of US homeschool households has generally held steady. Not only does this represent the first sign of sustained growth of homeschooling at very high rates, it means that your family and other homeschooling families across the US are part of the modern homeschooling movement’s record-breaking growth during a historically important time!
Stay tuned: HSLDA will continue to update you on the latest HPS data as it is released in the upcoming months!
1 Carpenter, Dick and Joshua Dunn. 2021. “We’re All Teachers Now: Remote Learning During COVID-19.” Journal of School Choice 14(4): 567–594.
2 US Census Bureau. 2021. “Source of the Data and Accuracy of the Estimates for the 2020 Household Pulse Survey.” Retrieved March 29, 2022. https://www2.census.gov/programs-surveys/demo/technical-documentation/hhp/Source-and-Accuracy-Statement-April-23-May-5-and-May-7-May12.pdf.
3 US Census Bureau. 2020. “Household Pulse Survey Questionnaire (April 23–June 2).” Retrieved March 29, 2022. https://www2.census.gov/programs-surveys/demo/technical-documentation/hhp/household-pulse-survey-questionnaire-week1-5.pdf.
5 Data aggregated from US Census Bureau. 2021 and 2022. Household Pulse Surveys, weeks 34–43. Retrieved March 29, 2022.
6 Data aggregated from US Census Bureau. 2022. Household Pulse Survey, week 43. Retrieved March 29, 2022.
7 US Census Bureau. 2022. “Household Pulse Survey Questionnaire (week 43).” Retrieved March 29, 2022. https://www2.census.gov/programs-surveys/demo/technical-documentation/hhp/Phase3-4_Questionnaire_03_02_22_English.pdf.