Homeschooling Growing by Leaps and Bounds
Homeschooling numbers have increased over 300% in the last two years, according to federal government Census data. This spike does not include Americans engaged in virtual learning through a public or private school program due to COVID protocols. These are full-time homeschoolers.
The United States Census Bureau has been tasked with collecting data through nationwide surveys for over 80 years. The data are intended for use by other government agencies and elected officials for policy decisions. This is the first time the Census Bureau has sought to identify the total number of homeschoolers in America. Previous surveys only marked children who were un-enrolled from public or private schools. That rate usually hovered around 3.3% and was as high as 5.4% in 2019.
Homeschool families have been traditionally seen as a small minority and have been largely ignored by elected representatives. In 2020, due to the COVID school closures, Census questions were modified to specifically identify the number of homeschoolers, and the results were shocking for many. In October 2020, 11.1% of 22–23 million U.S. households reported being full-time homeschoolers, without any enrollment in a public or private school. Besides Alaska, which reported 27.5% of households dedicated to full-time homeschool, Oklahoma led all states at 20.1%. Other notable states included Florida at 18.1%, Vermont at 16.9%, Georgia at 16.0%, and Tennessee and Arizona at 13.0%.
There was little surprise at the exodus from public and private schools due to COVID mask mandates and health concerns in 2020. What has been surprising is that many of these students did not re-enroll for the 2021–2022 school year. No doubt the push for Critical Race Theory, and the loss of confidence in the traditional institutions' ability to teach children via virtual technology, played a significant role in a shift toward full-time homeschooling. The number of homeschool kids grew from 11.1% in 2020 to 16.5% in May 2021. Homeschool numbers are continuing to rise, along with their potential political influence. Homeschooling parents will undoubtedly have a larger impact on their local and state policymakers, and this is a good thing for America.
Two common points advocated by opponents of homeschooling are that homeschooling is inferior to a public-school education and that homeschooled children lack the social skills that other children learn in public- and private-school extracurricular activities. However, one reason for the record growth in homeschool is due to the dispelling of some of these negative assumptions through social media connections and support groups. All colleges and universities, including the Ivy League, accept homeschooled students and homeschooled students have traditionally performed better in college than public- and private-school students.
Not all pro-homeschool data have been published by homeschool advocacy groups. For example, one study, published in the Journal of College Admissions, found that homeschoolers who attended the College of St. Thomas averaged 26.5 ACT scores versus 25.0 for private- and public-school students. The researchers also found that homeschoolers finished their freshman year of college with an average GPA of 3.46 compared to 3.16 in the alternate group.
Communities around the country continue to dispel the popular misconception of a lack of socialization among homeschoolers. Increased opportunities have come with the rising number of students. Homeschoolers can partake in co-ops, organized sports, and any extra-curricular activity imaginable. At least 29 states allow homeschool students to participate in public school interscholastic activities. For example, in Oklahoma City, there are even homeschool junior high and high school football teams.
Homeschooling has many beneficial impacts on communities and public school districts. More homeschoolers mean lower teacher-to-student ratios. Smaller class sizes make it easier for teachers to address the needs and unique challenges of individual students. Fewer students lowers the overhead for school transportation and administrative functions. This should lead to a reduction in administrative faculty and drastically reduce education expenses, which homeschool proponents argue is the real reason why teacher unions are so opposed to homeschool growth.
Homeschoolers still pay public school taxes, which usually account for the greatest portion of state and county property taxes. The purpose of these taxes is to ensure the proper education of future American citizens. It seems reasonable that homeschool, private school, and charter school parents should be granted a reduction in education taxes. Redirecting these funds to parents who are seeking alternative forms of education would help cover the costs of curricula, computers, technology, and other educational resources.
There are also many reasons why parents should be given the freedom of school choice. Homeschools offer an alternative solution for parents whose children face situations like bullying (including cyber-bullying), poorly performing school districts, a need for flexibility and personalized education, chronic illness, and military moves. Many parents have argued that the right of school choice is more important than ever, as public curricula veer away from traditional teaching methods toward Critical Race Theory and other forms of political and immoral indoctrination.
There is a definite rallying cry for the freedom of school choice, and many Americans are advocating for policy change. Perhaps the 300% nationwide increase in the number of homeschool families will finally encourage policy change to protect parents' right to homeschool their children.
Steven Whitson is a USAF lieutenant colonel, commander, and command pilot. He is also the CEO of The Institute for American Liberty and Security (TheIALS.org).
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