More parents than ever turning to homeschooling

Education

(NewsNation) —There is a lot of worry for parents right now when it comes to sending their children to school.

For over two years, the COVID-19 pandemic rocked schools nationwide as debates around masking and in-person learning created controversy for school districts to navigate.

On top of that, school shootings continue to plague the nation, with 19 students and two teachers killed at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, when an 18-year-old gunman opened fire at the school, adding to an all-too-long list of such tragedies to occur in America’s schools.

With these things and more to consider, more parents than ever are homeschooling their children.

The overall rate of parents choosing to homeschool their kids has grown from 5.4% to 11.1%, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

James Dwyer, author of “Homeschooling: The History and Philosophy of a Controversial Practice,” joined NewsNation “Prime” to discuss what the rise in homeschooling tells us.

The reasons parents are choosing to homeschool may not be cut and dried, however.

“Whether it will be a lasting effect from the shootings, we don’t know, we may never know,” Dwyer said. “When parents choose to homeschool, school districts don’t ask them why they’re doing it. In fact, in some states’ parents don’t even have to notify the school district that they are going to homeschool.”

NEWTOWN, CT – UNSPECIFED DATE: This handout crime scene evidence photo provided by the Connecticut State Police shows the exterior of the Sandy Hook Elementary School following the Dec. 14, 2012 shooting rampage, taken on an unspecified date in Newtown, Connecticut. (Photo by Connecticut State Police via Getty Images)

School shootings have played a factor in parents homeschooling, but there is not consistent data to show it is a major factor.

“Consistently, parents have reported safety as a concern, but it’s not been mass shootings, even in the year just after some horrible incident, but, rather, bullying,” Dwyer said. “Their child is being bullied, there’s fighting going on in the school, there could be gang presence in the school. Those sort of things their own child could be experiencing may motivate a parent to homeschool their children.”

The COVID-19 pandemic, too, coupled with stigmas around homeschool fading away have also led to the increase, Dwyer said.

“For many parents, we’ve just gotten past the strangeness or the novelty of homeschooling,” Dwyer said. “Something that parents might or might not have considered before … suddenly they were forced to be at home and learning and many decided instead of having the school direct that education and having to deal with the school schedule, they could take on a homeschool program of their own.”

He believes the bump in homeschooling numbers is here to stay but probably will not remain as high as it is now.

As far as whether an increase in homeschooling will impact the quality of education children are receiving, not enough is known yet to answer the question, Dwyer said. Homeschooling can be “just as wonderful or just as horrible” as regular schooling, it all just depends.

“Really the bad instances are not dealt with,” Dwyer said. “We don’t have meaningful aggregate studies of the homeschool phenomenon, but even if we did, what really matters is each child.”

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