There is no question that the pandemic disrupted the public school norm. In many respects, that disruption has been welcomed because it has invited an opportunity for much needed change. One key change that resulted from the pandemic was a re-envigorated discussion about school choice. Whether it was the option to continue virtual learning, private school, public charter, microschooling, or homeschool, options were and continue to be made available. The impacts have been negative to school enrollment, but positive for students’ needs that are being met during this lingering pandemic and perhaps beyond it. Read on for a glimpse into what our future may hold:
- It may be less of an either-or option, as homeschooling is combined with online experiences, neighborhood pods, cooperatives, or joint undertakings with public and private schools.
- Homeschoolers today constitute a diverse group of families with many different educational objectives.
- There is no convincing evidence that homeschooling is preferable to or worse than public or private schools in terms of children’s academic outcomes and social experiences, depends on individual needs and the reasons that families adopt the practice.
- Homeschooling Growth – Homeschooling is on the rise. Surge in homeschooling may be a temporary phenomenon induced by the pandemic, as parents find it to be exhausting and disruptive to their lives.
- Regulating Homeschooling – Critics still call for regulatory safeguards to protect home-schooled children from abuse and to ensure they receive an adequate education. A small number of US states require notification and/or mandate testing of home-schooled children or that certain subjects be taught by trained educators, as opposed to many European countries impose tight restrictions.
- Effects on Student Learning – Many critics of homeschooling are more worried about ineffective or misguided instruction, maintaining that homeschoolers should be required to use standard educational materials and that their children should have to take statewide tests to measure academic progress. Data are too limited to sustain any strong conclusions about home-schooling learning outcomes.
- Homeschooling Diversification – Despite some patterns, the stereotypical face of the home-schooling family is being eroded by time and the pandemic. Families choose home-school for religious and moral instruction, special needs or mental-health challenges, gifted children, families cite dissatisfaction with academic instruction at schools, safety and bullying issues at schools, scheduling flexibility and personalization.
- Homeschooled Adults – It’s possible that a lack of exposure to mainstream norms and institutions could make home-schooled children ill equipped to navigate higher education and careers as adults, although evidence is lacking due to limited data.
- The Future of Homeschooling – No convincing evidence that homeschooling is either preferable to or worse than the education a student receives at a public or private school. The success of homeschooling seems to depend largely on the individual child and parents. If so, it may make sense to allow families to decide whether homeschooling is right for them. It remains to be seen whether the growth of homeschooling experienced during the pandemic will persist and how different it may look in our educational future.