When public schools across the United States shut down in response to COVID-19, the families of 55 million public school students had to consider other temporary options for education. Many tried schooling-at-home solutions, like distance learning or charter schools. That didn’t work for everyone, and some kids took a break from school altogether. Other families decided that full-fledged homeschooling was worth a shot.

My neighbors have four children, with the oldest age 7. They decided to homeschool, loved it, and are already connected with three support groups. Their children are happier than ever. This is the story for thousands of parents.

Why did so many parents choose to homeschool rather than return to the public school system? Let’s look at some of the reasons.

Exploring why families jumped into homeschooling in 2020

As HSLDA’s growing numbers started to reflect the spike in homeschooling across the nation, we wanted to learn more about where our new families were coming from, what they were seeking, and how we could best serve them. So we sent a survey to all 20,000 of our new members who joined in 2020. If you’re a new member, thanks so much for joining us! And if you also participated in our survey, we’re so grateful for your help! Here’s some insight on the families who are joining the movement:

  • Over 60% said they started homeschooling in 2020.
  • Over 90% of our new members are homeschooling all their children.
  • Generally, the top three reasons why new members chose to homeschool were (1) the ability to provide a parent-directed education for their students, (2) a wariness of the values pushed in the public schools, and (3) a recognition that, given the current state of affairs with school closures and COVID-19, homeschooling was the most realistic option for their family.
  • When asked why they joined HSLDA, the top two answers given by new members were access to legal advice for homeschooling and HSLDA’s efforts to fight discrimination against homeschoolers. Several other factors (such as the desire to keep homeschooling free and the assurance that they were complying with homeschool law) were significant as well.

I talked about the potential impact of this growth on the homeschool movement in last quarter’s Court Report—you can read my thoughts here.

If you were homeschooling before the virus hit, your educational paradigm might not have shifted that much. If this is you, we’re thankful that you were—and are—still able to homeschool in order to give your children their best, most personalized educational experience.

And if you live in a state that’s struggling to fully reopen, like California, you know that many parents are considering doing that exact same thing. In fact, some believe the homeschool population could even double, reaching 10 percent of all school-aged children.

Will California set a trend?

Since many California public schools are not reopening to in-person instruction until January at the earliest, they are requiring students to receive virtual instruction. This means families must have internet access to stream the school’s online classes—and their child will spend hour after hour in front of a computer for several more months.

Children have different ways they learn best. Some children, especially those in younger grades, don’t learn well under this 100% virtual-school format and might even suffer mental health issues as a result. Many parents who don’t want their kids spending all day on the computer are finding homeschooling to be a viable option.

California’s virtual charter schools are public-school-at-home programs that allow families significantly more educational flexibility and customization (under the public school’s guidance) and that pay for curriculum and extracurricular activities. However, first overwhelmed by students fleeing their local public school’s inflexible 100% online program and then anticipating reduced funding because of lower 2021 student enrollment across the entire California public school system, these virtual charter schools have had to turn away new students and tighten the budget for the current enrollees.

Many families that would have chosen this public-school-at-home method are finding homeschooling to be their only accessible option.

(One San Diego official went so far as to suggest that, because of the limited funding, fewer teachers and fewer classrooms in regular brick-and-mortar public schools will be available down the line—which may result in potential re-enrollments being rejected and provide yet another reason for families to consider homeschooling next year. Read about it here.)

Looking ahead

We believe that homeschooling will continue to grow—it’s really about parents discovering the beauty and effectiveness of freedom in learning and then taking on full responsibility for their children’s education. Many parents have been recently thrust into that role—and not by their own choice. But there’s good news: many of you have realized that you can do it

This is a good thing for the future of homeschooling and for America.

And we’re delighted to be able to help make homeschooling possible for you and your family!