The history of conflict between homeschoolers and public districts is long and punctuated by occasional knock-down, drag-out legal fights over issues that district officials view as theirs.
After all, schools are organizations authorized by law to provide mandatory education to children, and depend on getting children into their classrooms for their funding.
Parents don’t always agree.
But now a new report from the Washington Examiner looks at a number of public school teachers who have turned, for a number of reasons including the chaos in public facilities because of COVID-19, into homeschoolers themselves.
One who was interviewed was Amanda Hoerschelman, who was a fifth-grade teacher in Texas and Georgia. But on a recent move to Iowa, she had obstacles finding day-care for a 5-day-old daughter, and made the break, deciding to teach her own daughters at home.
“I never thought I would homeschool,” Hoerschelman, a mother of four girls, told the Examiner. “My mom worked all when I was growing up, and I thought I would always do that. If you would have asked me 10 years ago, I would have never thought I would be doing this, but there was a shift in my heart.”
Another “former” public school teacher is Johanna Duffy, who left a district in Florida when her son started school.
“It was when [COVID-19] was getting really bad. We pulled him out, and it was the best thing we ever did,” she said. What she considered at first a short-term resolution now has turned into a long-range plan.
A third is Kristen Rhodes, who recently told The Atlantic she decided against public school kindergarten for her son because of requirements to wear a mask all the time.
The Examiner documented, “The pandemic has created an opportunity for all types of families who would have never otherwise considered homeschooling. Desperate parents stuck at home scrambled to keep their children on track. The general lack of coordination in public schools, coupled with inconsistent guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on safety and masks, pushed hundreds of thousands of parents to roll up their sleeves and give homeschooling a try.”
Michelle Carter, whose family lives in Virginia, explained to the Examiner the move from public schools to homeschool “gives the opportunity to tailor what we teach our son. We’ve been able to work with [our son Toby] and go at his pace, which is something none of our other kids had at public school.”
According to a report from the Home School Legal Defense Association, homeschooling has expanded rapidly in the last year or so.
“Between April 2020 and the present, data collected via the US Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey (HPS) indicated that an estimated 22–23 million US households included school-age children. The percent of these households that had at least one homeschooled child (i.e., a child who was taught at home but not enrolled in a public or private school) was 5.4% in spring 2020, 11.1% during fall 2020, and 19.5% by May of 2021,” it reported.
But it noted future participation in homeschool still is hard to assess.
“Since 1999, the National Center for Education Statistics has found that the most frequent reason parents pulled their children out of public schools to homeschool them was because they believed that schools were unsafe places for learning. During the last year, of course, additional safety risks posed by COVID-19 increased those concerns. Even so, when the virus began to wane and schools began to reopen during spring 2021, it was expected that most students would return to school. Many did, of course, but it was also evident that more US families than ever before were choosing to homeschool their children, instead.,” the report said.
“Consequently, either more time was needed before parents could again feel comfortable with the notion of sending their children back to school or else other things were perhaps responsible for their delay in doing so.”
Part of those decisions by parents moving forward likely will include consideration of academic instruction at the schools, which is either the second or third-leading reason for homeschooling in recent years.
“A report revealed that, on average, students had lost five months of academic gain in mathematics and four months in reading on average by the end of the 2020–21 pandemic-affected school year, with the biggest losses being incurred by historically disadvantaged groups,” the report said.
“When coupled with recent reports concerning parental dissatisfaction with some of the controversial subject matter that has been inserted into school curriculums, it seems reasonable that, before many parents halt their homeschooling efforts and re-enroll their children, they may wait until schools significantly improve the academic performance of their students and curriculum materials in their districts.”
The Examiner noted Yvonne Bunn, of the Home Educators Association of Virginia, said there has been a 48% increase in homeschoolers in the last year, which comes out to an additional 21,000 new students.
“Pretty much everybody knows somebody that homeschools,” she said. “That’s made a difference because they have personal connections with either someone in their family or someone in their neighborhood or someone in their workforce who homeschools their children. It has become a mainstream alternative to public and private education.”
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