Home education was the most prevalent way to educate America throughout the 17th through most of the 19th centuries. Free schools for the public were common in New England, but home education and private tutors or private schools for the most part dotted the landscape. Public schools began their dominance in the latter part of the nineteenth century, but they were still exclusively controlled by parents and teachers. In the twentieth century, home education virtually disappeared, and state-controlled education (then later with heavy federal influence) became the norm.
Home Education started making a comeback in the 1960s and 70s through parents who saw public education as squelching the natural inquisitiveness and development of children. It should be noted that the people who desired to bring back home education were not “right wing Christians”. In fact, many did not openly profess any religion. They just wanted a better alternative.
Home education faced a titanic legal struggle throughout the 80s but eventually prevailed, so that by the early 1990s home education was legal in all 50 states. By January of 2020, 3% of America’s school children were being educated in the home.
That number began to increase rapidly in the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic. According to the US Census Bureau, in a Household Pulse Survey conducted throughout the pandemic, the number of home schooled children increased to 5.4% by April of 2020. In October that number was 11.1%. By May of 2021, the number of home educated children was 19.5% of the population of school-aged children.
According to this poll, almost 20% of America’s children were educated in the home last spring. The survey specifically excluded children who were educated through public schools in a remote setting. These were “traditional home schools” that made up the 19.5%. Whether people answered this poll accurately or not is anyone’s guess.
How long will this trend continue? Most of America’s public schools are open this fall. Yet plenty of school districts are forcing masks on children who are kindergarten age through middle school. Will parents ditch what they experienced in home education and go back to public schools? Personally, I think we will see a decrease in the numbers of home educated children as public schools relax their Covid restrictions. However, I will be surprised if the percentage dips below 10% and goes back to the baseline of 3%.