Education Week - November 25, 2020 - 12
Home Schooling Is Way Up With COVID-19.
Will It Last?
By Arianna Prothero &
Christina A. Samuels
Concerns over exposure to the
coronavirus, excessive screen time,
and instability in school schedules
have driven an unprecedented number of parents to home school their
children this academic year-a shift
that could have lasting effects on
both public schools and the homeschooling movement.
Nine percent of parents who
weren't home schooling their children last school year said they
planned to home school their children at least some of the time this
school year, according to a nationally
representative survey of parents by
the EdWeek Research Center.
Typically, a little over 3 percent of
the nation's school-age children are
home-schooled in a given year, federal data show.
Home schooling in response to
the pandemic is driving enrollment
declines in schools and districts
across the country, according to a
majority of principals and superintendents surveyed by the EdWeek
Research Center. Fifty-eight percent in a mid-October survey listed
home schooling as being a major
contributor to enrollment declines
caused by COVID-19-more than
any other single reason, such as losing students to charter schools, private schools, or " pandemic pods " in
which families band together to hire
instructors who teach their children
Among this new class of home
schoolers is Lacy Nadeau of Lincoln, Neb. She and her 10-year-old
son, West, are at high risk for health
complications from the coronavirus.
West started 4th grade this year in his
school district's remote-learning program. But for West, being on Zoom
and silently watching his teacher
work with classmates attending
school in-person was both isolating
and a slog.
" At the end of the day, all of us would
have to take a nap because we'd all be
exhausted from holding it together
all day long, " Nadeau said. " It kind
of feels like the school board picked
something that isn't really workable
and isn't functioning, but the failure
ends up being on the children. "
About a month into the school year,
she withdrew her son to home school
him, and she's not alone.
Difficult to Track
Nebraska is one of several states
reporting a sharp increase in the
number of students home schooling this year. So much so that this
will be the first time in at least 15
years that enrollment in Nebraska
public schools will have declined-
a drop state education officials have
said corresponds with the number
ment, and the majority of it is home
school, " said Eric Runez, who leads
the DeForest Area school district,
which is in a suburb of Madison, Wis.
The district started school remotely
this academic year but began bringing its youngest students back to
school under a hybrid schedule last
" Some of it is going to private
school because private schools were
fully opened. But I think home school
has probably been the biggest reason
for enrollment decline, " he said.
While only about 50 students left
DeForest schools, a district of nearly
4,000 students, to start home schooling this year, it marks the first time in
nearly a decade that enrollment in the
district has declined, said Runez.
DeForest has also seen a big drop-
between 15 and 20 percent, he estimates-in the number of new families
of new home schoolers. Nebraska
private schools have also seen a dip
Even so, it's difficult to quantify exactly how much home schooling has
increased nationally with the pandemic. Even in normal times, home
schoolers are a difficult bunch to
track. States define and track homeschool enrollment differently, if at all,
and there is a lag in the federal homeschooling numbers.
But other states besides Nebraska
have reported significant increases
in families saying they plan to home
school, even as official tabulations
have yet to be released.
In North Carolina, more than
10,000 new families filed notices of
their intent to home school between
the beginning of July and the end of
August this year, compared to just
over 3,500 during the same time pe-
declines, coupled with cutbacks
from the economic slowdown
caused by the pandemic, may be
a " double whammy " for their finances, said Christopher Lubienski,
a professor of education policy at
'Something They Can See
Lubienski, who studies home
schooling, said the pandemic could
give a long-lasting boost to the movement. While he believes many families that opted to home school this
year will eventually return to public
school, he thinks the United States
will see a permanent increase in the
number of home schoolers even after
the pandemic ends.
That's " partly because people who
haven't really thought about it before
Parents Who Are Home Schooling
The percentage of parents within each education level and income group
who said they were planning to home school their children this year.
Less than high school
free and reducedprice lunch
ȱɐƊǶǞ˛ƵƮ for free
and reducedprice lunch
SOURCE: EdWeek Research Center, 2020
riod last year.
On the first day that North Carolina families could file online with
the state to home school, the system
crashed from the traffic, according
to the Associated Press. The state
agency that oversees home schooling
said the increase in notices filed may
have been the result of some parents
being confused about whether they
needed to register as home schoolers
in order to participate in their public
school's remote learning option.
Wisconsin is another state reporting
a spike in parents and guardians filing
with the state their intent to homeschool. For the previous two years,
intent to home school forms were
submitted for about 14,800 students
between the beginning of July and
mid-October. This year the number
was just over 23,000.
" Every one of my counterparts
[in neighboring districts] indicated
they have seen a decline in enroll-
12 | EDUCATION WEEK | November 25, 2020 | www.edweek.org
enrolling in kindergarten compared to
Even a comparatively small number of families opting to home school
can squeeze districts' finances, said
" It's rarely clean enough that you
can say, 'Oh, they are all 1st graders,
that's a full 1st grade class.' It's probably three or four or five a grade level
and you're still running typically the
same number of courses and classes, "
said Runez. " You still have many fixed
costs. ... You lose 20 students in your
high school, but your utility costs are
still the same. "
Runez said that the fact that Wisconsin awards per-pupil funding on
a three-year rolling average, and
that his district had been until this
year a consistently growing one,
somewhat insulates DeForest from
the worst financial impacts of losing
But for some districts, per-pupil
suddenly saw themselves forced into
[home schooling], and then realizing
that it's something they can see themselves doing, " he said.
According to Education Week's
survey, which was conducted at the
beginning of the academic year, the
less education and income parents
had, the more likely they were to say
they were home schooling this year.
Twelve percent of parents whose
highest level of education is less than
a bachelor's degree said they are
home schooling their children at least
some of the time this school year,
compared to 5 percent of those with a
bachelor's degree or more.
Twelve percent of parents whose
children qualify for free or reducedprice lunch said they are home schooling, compared to 5 percent of parents
whose children do not qualify for reduced meals.
" Because of the pandemic crisis,
some people ... may have lost their
job anyways, so educating at home
becomes much more possible, " said
He also thinks home schooling will
become more mainstream and socially acceptable, now that so many
people are getting experience with
schooling their own children from
home-whether it's through traditional home schooling or overseeing
their children's remote schooling.
And finally, Lubienski said, the influx of home schoolers from the pandemic will likely alter the profile of the
The two dominant stereotypes of
home schoolers for a long time have
been the conservative Christian parent and the anti-institutional progressive parent.
But over the past decade, said Lubienski, the home-schooling sector
has been diversifying. In particular, more Black parents have opted
to school their children at home
because of racism in their public
" I think that faced with this new
reality it will diversify it even more, "
said Lubienski. " It's not just people
with those two stereotypical reasons
for home schooling. It's people who
are seeing that this is a new option for
To accommodate families who are
finding that they like the flexibility of
schooling their kids at home, Runez,
the superintendent in Wisconsin, said
his district is considering making their
remote option permanent.
Runez is confident most of his
home-schooling families will come
back to the district. He reached out
to every family that withdrew from
DeForest Area schools to hear their
reasons for doing so. He found they
were mostly worried about getting sick, their children getting too
much screen time, and the whiplash of going back to school only to
be sent home again if an outbreak
occurred-all issues that will be resolved once the pandemic is over.
For other parents, though, poor
planning and dysfunction in their
school districts drove them to take the
plunge and home school.
Jenny Walsh, of Williamsville, N.Y.,
outside Buffalo, has three children:
Hudson, a 3rd grader, Theo, a 1st
grader, and Charlotte, a preschooler
(who Walsh has decided to wait to
enroll in kindergarten until next year,
when she's 6).
Walsh, a stay-at-home mother with
a master's degree in special education, started preparing to home school
her children this summer, after she
saw how education was handled in
her district in the spring. But she enrolled her children in remote education this fall, just to make sure it was
Education Week - November 25, 2020
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - November 25, 2020
Education Week - November 25, 2020
Training Bias Out of Teachers: Does It Work?
What the Research Says
Pandemic Is a Workers’ Rights Issue For Schools
How Hybrid Learning Is (and Is Not) Working During COVID-19: 6 Case Studies
A Highly Effective Vaccine Is Likely on the Way. What Does That Mean for Schools And Kids?
Home Schooling Is Way Up With COVID-19. Will It Last?
Districts Are Retreating to Remote Learning As COVID-19 Surges. Do They Have To?
How Will Schools Pay for Compensatory Services for Special Ed. Students?
Let’s Get Back to School—Differently
How to Support Your Grieving Students
23 EdWeek Top School Jobs
Parents Are Watching Like Never Before. ‘Trust Us’ Isn’t Enough
Education Week - November 25, 2020 - Education Week - November 25, 2020
Education Week - November 25, 2020 - Briefly Stated
Education Week - November 25, 2020 - 3
Education Week - November 25, 2020 - Training Bias Out of Teachers: Does It Work?
Education Week - November 25, 2020 - What the Research Says
Education Week - November 25, 2020 - 6
Education Week - November 25, 2020 - 7
Education Week - November 25, 2020 - How Hybrid Learning Is (and Is Not) Working During COVID-19: 6 Case Studies
Education Week - November 25, 2020 - 9
Education Week - November 25, 2020 - A Highly Effective Vaccine Is Likely on the Way. What Does That Mean for Schools And Kids?
Education Week - November 25, 2020 - 11
Education Week - November 25, 2020 - Home Schooling Is Way Up With COVID-19. Will It Last?
Education Week - November 25, 2020 - 13
Education Week - November 25, 2020 - Districts Are Retreating to Remote Learning As COVID-19 Surges. Do They Have To?
Education Week - November 25, 2020 - 15
Education Week - November 25, 2020 - How Will Schools Pay for Compensatory Services for Special Ed. Students?
Education Week - November 25, 2020 - 17
Education Week - November 25, 2020 - Let’s Get Back to School—Differently
Education Week - November 25, 2020 - How to Support Your Grieving Students
Education Week - November 25, 2020 - 20
Education Week - November 25, 2020 - 21
Education Week - November 25, 2020 - 22
Education Week - November 25, 2020 - 23 EdWeek Top School Jobs
Education Week - November 25, 2020 - Parents Are Watching Like Never Before. ‘Trust Us’ Isn’t Enough