The U.S. Census Bureau released new survey data showing that 11 percent of American children are now homeschooled.
Before the pandemic, just 3.3 percent of kids were being homeschooled. The pandemic and widespread school closures appear to have caused significant increases in homeschooling, particularly among ethnic minority children. Among African American children, 16 percent of students were homeschooling as of the fall. 12 percent of Hispanic children were now being homeschooled.
The Census Bureau reasons that the pandemic is leading families to consider new learning options for their children.
It’s clear that in an unprecedented environment, families are seeking solutions that will reliably meet their health and safety needs, their childcare needs and the learning and socio-emotional needs of their children.
From the much-discussed “pandemic pods,” (small groups of students gathering outside a formal school setting for in-person instruction) to a reported influx of parent inquiries about stand-alone virtual schools, private schools and homeschooling organizations, American parents are increasingly open to options beyond the neighborhood school.
As schools begin to reopen and life begins to return to normal, policymakers should pursue reforms to give more families the freedom to choose the best learning environment for their children, including homeschooling, to ensure equal opportunity.
It’s particularly important to address inequalities in American families’ resources to support their children’s learning outside of the home. As I wrote last year,
According to Greg J. Duncan and Richard J. Murnane, the richest 20 percent of American families spent approximately $9,400 on enrichment for their children compared to $1,400 spent by the poorest 20 percent, as of 2006.
Federal and state policymakers should establish or reform existing education savings account programs to help families afford to provide high-quality outside-of-school learning opportunities for their children. With American families much more interested in homeschooling in 2021, addressing this area of inequality should be a national priority.