Blue state parents turn to home schooling

Closed public schools. COVID-19 mandates. Woke curricula. For these reasons and more, parents in blue states are turning to home schooling in droves.

Nationally, home schooling has boomed. According to Census Bureau data, the proportion of households home-schooling their children skyrocketed from 5% in spring 2020 to 20% in spring 2021.

This home school boom has occurred not just in red states but also in blue ones.

For example, in the first year of COVID-19, from spring 2020 to fall 2020, the proportion of New York households home-schooling their children jumped from just 1% to 10%.

In fall 2021, Susan Dantoni, a home schooling advocate in Rochester, New York, said 10-20 requests every day “from people saying, ‘I’m not sending my child back to school because of the masks.’”

Over the previous year, Dantoni said her upstate New York home-school Facebook group had received more than 1,000 new requests from members interested in home schooling. Her group now has 5,000 members.

During the pandemic, New York mother Kailey Grape decided to home-school because “families are just losing more and more control over decisions for their own children and their own families. And I think that’s what’s alarming parents.”

In Midwestern blue states, there are also clear indications of a home schooling boom.

In Minnesota, Census Bureau data showed the proportion of households home-schooling their children doubled, going from less than 5% in spring 2020 to nearly 10% in fall 2020.

Ellen Crain, who started a Facebook page for Minnesota home-schoolers, says the number of followers to her page “jumped to more than 7,000 followers since the pandemic began.”

“Home schooling has definitely become less intimidating because of the internet,” says Crain, because parents “have a lot more access to resources.”

In Michigan, a 2021 study by the University of Michigan found that enrollment of students at public schools fell by nearly 46,000 from 2020 to 2021. The study said that home schooling accounted “for a majority of Michigan students who did not return to the public system.”

And out West, in bluer-than-blue California, home schooling is also increasing.

There are several ways to home-school in California. If parents want to home-school their children independent of any connection with the government, they file a private school affidavit, which declares their home a private school.

The number of parents filing such affidavits more than doubled between the inception of the pandemic and last year.

In 2018-19, 14,548 affidavits were filed with the California Department of Education. In 2020-21, that number had surged to 34,715.

Bay Area mother Cathy Yu decided to home-school her teenage son after he struggled with distance learning.

“He now has more drive,” she said. “It has been a very positive experience for us.”

According to a report by the California Globe, “Pre-pandemic, California had roughly 200,000 homeschooled students.”

“However,” the publication noted, “with the pandemic, as well as other factors such as an increase in parents removing students due to issues over what is being taught,” the number of students rose “to 400,000 being homeschooled for at least part of the 2020-21 school year.”

Another way to home-school in California is by enrolling students in a home-school academy at a publicly funded charter school. These academies offer enrichment courses for home-schooled students and parents get free access to various curricula.

Because of high demand, Pursuing Academic Choice Together, a home-school charter school in Sacramento, held an admissions lottery for the first time in its history in 2021.

“I think that people are starting to consider home schooling as a viable option, not a fringe option,” said PACT head Alicia Carter, and, consequently, home schooling “has become much more diverse religiously, ethnically, and socioeconomically.”

What these blue-state trends show is that home schooling is a truly national phenomenon and, given widespread dissatisfaction with the public schools, will likely be the education wave of the future.

Lance Izumi is senior director of the Center for Education at the Pacific Research Institute. He is the author of the new book The Homeschool Boom: Pandemic, Policies, and Possibilities.

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