Uncertainty and disruption caused by the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic has led to much speculation about potential growth in homeschooling. Virtually every family with school-age children experienced some form of learning, teaching, or tutoring from home this spring. Not all of these families will homeschool this fall, of course. But many will.
If what happened in North Carolina is any indication, homeschooling is going to explode.
The North Carolina Division of Non-Public Education opened its website for processing 2020-2021 homeschool notices on July 1, and by the July Fourth holiday, the website had crashed due to the volume of new homeschool notices that were filed.
Division staff have since fixed the website, but they and private homeschool organization staff alike have been inundated with contacts from parents interested in teaching their children at home this fall.
Spencer Mason, Director of Law and Policy with the North Carolinians for Home Education (NCHE) told me that based on the number of contacts he has received he was not surprised to hear that parents were rushing to file their homeschool paperwork.
And he’s not alone. His experience is consistent with the increase in contacts Home School Legal Defense Association is receiving from interested parents and busier-than-ever homeschool support groups, co-ops, and organization leaders across the country.
Too Much Uncertainty
Parents are trying to decide what is best for their children, and the uncertainty makes this decision even more difficult.
With the beginning of the new academic year just over a month away, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper has delayed—a second time—a final decision on how schools will reopen. And a lack of clarity about what schools will look like this fall is a common theme across the country.
This uncertainty makes homeschooling even more attractive. The National Center for Education Statistics reported in 2016 that the most important reason for homeschooling was “concern about the school environment,” which specifically included safety issues. And that was before the COVID-19 global health crisis.
Safety concerns are paramount, and homeschooling not only provides academic freedom and flexibility, but it also allows children to learn from the safety and security of their home.
As HSLDA Senior Counsel Mike Donnelly points out in Could Homeschooling Really Grow by 500 Percent, several surveys of parents indicate homeschooling will grow substantially this fall—perhaps even doubling or tripling. So instead of 2.5 million homeschool students, there could be 5 to 10 million.
Here to Help
HSLDA is poised to assist parents who decide to make the leap and start homeschooling, just as we have been doing for more than 35 years.
Our new hslda.org/get-started website is designed specifically for new homeschooling parents. Our experienced, passionate education consultants are also ready to help equip these parents to provide their children with the best education possible. The educational consultants are experts in the field of home education and daily field questions about learning and teaching styles, curriculum, record keeping, scheduling, and ways to customize home education for HSLDA member family needs.
And HSLDA is encouraging homeschooling families to be prepared to help as well.
Unfortunately, what is an exciting start for new homeschooling families may be a concerning trend to others who are less enthusiastic about so many new homeschoolers.
No Unnecessary Requirements
Dramatic growth in homeschooling could lead to proposed restrictions, regulation, or government oversight of homeschool programs.
Throughout this spring and summer, HSLDA has been releasing a series of articles in response to Harvard Professor Elizabeth Bartholet’s proposed presumptive ban on homeschooling that would severely reduce the number of parents who choose to homeschool.
But we are also watching for seemingly small changes that add unnecessary red tape to the homeschooling legal process.
As an example, when the Division of Non-Public Education fixed its website so parents could file their homeschool notice online, it included an additional question, requiring parents to identify a specific reason for homeschooling before they could submit the homeschool notice.
The question itself may seem harmless, but articulating a reason for homeschooling is simply not a requirement in North Carolina law. So I coordinated with Spencer Mason of NCHE to contact the Division about this glitch.
To its credit, the Division quickly updated the online form to allow parents to file the notice without selecting a specific reason for homeschooling. But this demonstrates just how easily seemingly innocuous bureaucratic requirements can become commonplace. While state education officials serve in an administrative role, they do not have the authority to create new requirements that carry the force of law.
Bureaucratic tinkering and attempts to severely limit homeschooling and are both likely to emerge as homeschooling continues to grow.
And this is exactly why HSLDA’s mission to make homeschooling possible by preserving homeschool freedom and equipping homeschooling parents is as important now as ever before.
HSLDA is committed to advocating for freedom in the legislatures, courts, and the court of public opinion. We hope that you will join with us and your fellow homeschoolers to support each other during this challenging time.