I’d like to start by offering my condolences to parents and students who were looking forward to a fresh start to a brand new school year. The COVID-19 precautions that are currently being forced upon millions of children certainly are nothing new.
For the third year in a row, many children’s education will likely be disrupted by mask mandates, social distancing, and the looming threat of being consigned — yet again — to the outer darkness of online education. The educational environment is hardly the best-case scenario for student learning prospects.
For many parents at the start of COVID-19, the switch to online homeschooling, whether welcomed or dreaded, was the only viable option. Still, now going into the third year of COVID-19 restrictions, there may be room for optimism, as parents who have become more comfortable in their new teacher role are more aware of the best homeschooling practices to make the most out of their child’s education.
According to a new report from the Bellwether Education Partners, over 2.6 million students had their parents become their teachers in some form this past school year — doubling the amount of homeschooled students in the United States to nearly 5 million. Now over 10% of all American children are being homeschooled, and with COVID cases on the rise, it is likely more families will choose this route as the best education option available for their children.
Post-pandemic, the current rise in homeschoolers should only continue. The various benefits coming from parents, guardians, and other adult family members teaching their students may be enough for families to leave the traditional classroom setting.
Benefits of Homeschooling
One benefit families have already experienced by becoming their child’s instructor has been the fostering of closer connections as they participate in educational activities together. Another benefit parents have seen with the switch to homeschooling is the opportunity to teach the values they want to instill in their child, whether cultural, religious, or moral, by creating their child’s curriculum.
Moreover, the flexibility of homeschooling children ironically means that learning does not have to take place in a one-room indoor setting like the kitchen. For example, some homeschoolers participate in an educational practice called roadschooling. Roadschooling takes learning on the go as families travel to landmarks and museums so their children can learn about important events while exploring the locations where they took place.
Such educational practices have allowed homeschoolers to excel in their academic endeavors as parents tailor curriculum to fit their child’s needs. In fact, the educational flexibility homeschoolers experience consistently contributes to their performance on standardized tests being better than their public school counterparts by 15 to 30 percentile points.
In addition — despite myths perpetuated in anti-homeschooling circles that homeschoolers lag behind socially — homeschoolers actually excel both socially and emotionally, developing at higher rates than public school students, according to various studies. These findings are mainly attributed to the difference in environment for homeschoolers.
Sitting around the kitchen table with mom or dad and the siblings has its own challenges, but it’s nowhere near as toxic as the climate in many public schools. Kids can play nice, but when left to their own devices, they can also be brutal to each other. Between the bullying and the cliques, in the wild halls of a public school, things can turn “Lord Of The Flies” pretty quickly.
Homeschoolers simply don’t have to deal with these issues. Instead, they have the opportunity to learn — free from outside interference and surrounded by their loved ones. That’s a healthy learning environment.
Make Homeschooling More Accessible for All Families
Still, not all families have the financial flexibility to access the benefits of homeschooling their children. However, Education Savings Accounts (ESA) can provide a helping hand to lower-income families and students. ESA’s are special accounts that allow parents to spend funds otherwise earmarked for their child’s public school on education-related expenses, including tutoring, learning materials, special needs therapies and homeschooling. On average, per-pupil spending on education in public schools totals over $15,000, meaning the average American student and family could access over $180,000 to customize their entire K-12 homeschooling experience.
Policymakers providing families with an extra financial boost by passing ESA’s could do wonders for students and families who want to try homeschooling. Admittedly, homeschooling is not a silver bullet and may not be the right fit for every student and their family, but it should never be the wrong fit for financial reasons. ESA’s can solve the money problems holding back students from achieving their full learning potential. No matter their background, every student deserves access to an educational option that works best for them. ESA’s provide that access.