Are we witnessing a historic shift away from institutional, state-run education toward a flexible, customizable model directed by parents?
Global trends seem to indicate that the coronavirus pandemic has inspired a move in that direction—and not just in the United States.
It’s a reform some advocates have said is long overdue.
In his 2012 book, Homeschooling in America, Vanderbilt Education School Dean Joseph Murphy puts homeschooling in a larger context of change, suggesting that over the latter half of the twentieth century, societies have moved away from big institutions toward smaller and more private activity. That’s certainly what we’re seeing during the present health crisis.
As I wrote for The Federalist in May, polls suggest there could be as many as 10 million children homeschooled this fall. How many families will continue to homeschool, if and when conditions return to normal, remains unknown.
But one thing is certain: many more parents will have discovered the benefits of homeschooling—how it allows them to provide an education that is tailored to each child’s interests and needs. And it lets children learn in a safe environment.
This phenomenon is also global in nature. Homeschool organizations all over the world are reporting similar growth in interest.
Sylvia Copio, president of Portugal’s largest parents association, summed up her country’s education situation in two words: “It’s chaos.”
As for families switching to homeschooling, she said, “we are seeing thirty to forty percent growth. People are running away from the system. Is this a temporary change? Maybe, but some will keep homeschooling after the pandemic.”
Sylvia suspects part of the interest stems from the fact that homeschool students were able to keep learning even when public schools shut down in the spring to cope with the novel coronavirus.
“All schools and exams were closed,” she said, “but officials were still requiring homeschooling families to go to schools and do exams.”
In Africa, more parents than ever are showing an interest in homeschooling.
Ugandan homeschool advocate Godfrey Kyazze told Home School Legal Defense Association that he is witnessing a huge change in attitudes among East African parents.
“School will not reopen for a year, we are being told. Parents are not satisfied with this,” Godfrey said. “They want their children to have an education. Private curriculum is sold out. Homeschooling is a topic that everyone, except the government, is talking about.”
In South Africa, a country with both decades of homeschooling experience and one of the world’s largest homeschool populations, advocates say they are expecting a surge.
Karin Van Oostrum of the Pestalozzi Trust told me that, in some places, the government can’t handle the inquiries about homeschooling.
“The government wants people to register,” Karin told us. “But they simply can’t handle the inflow and numbers, so they have just shut down and are not registering anyone. A bill introduced last year that would have increased [homeschool] regulations has bogged down, and I don’t expect that, under these circumstances, it will be moving forward at all.”
She added: “The schools opened for a time and then shut down. No one knows when they will open back up. But in the meantime, homeschooling is an option many are taking up.”
We’ve received similar reports from dozens of organizations. The global pandemic has put a spotlight on homeschooling—which may also be a global solution for teaching children safely.
This is the theme of an upcoming global home education conference. Postponed due to COVID-19, the Global Home Education Exchange event is now set for November 9–13.
The online conference will feature hundreds of speakers, including policy makers, researchers, organization leaders, and others. You can register at GHEX.world.
Homeschooling is growing. Friction between government authorities and families is increasing. What will the education landscape look like when the dust settles? It’s hard to know, but HSLDA will be here, serving families and making homeschooling possible. It’s what we’ve done for 40 years, and God willing, it’s what we’ll be doing for the next 40 as well.
And it looks like for a lot more people, too.