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The following is presented as part of The Columbian’s Opinion content, which offers a point of view in order to provoke thought and debate of civic issues. Opinions represent the viewpoint of the author. Unsigned editorials represent the consensus opinion of The Columbian’s editorial board, which operates independently of the news department.
News / Opinion / Columns

Allen: Schooling at home now mainstream

By Cynthia Allen
Published: November 18, 2023, 6:01am

I do not recall my exact reaction when my husband suggested that we consider home-schooling our children.

Laughter seems plausible, particularly since we had no children yet when he casually worked its mention into our conversation. But my sense of home-schooling at that time was mostly that it was for families on the cultural fringe — not us.

Yet, here I am years later, not only a home-schooler but finding that our decision to educate our children ourselves isn’t fringy at all. It’s actually increasingly mainstream, if not slightly cool.

According to a new analysis from The Washington Post, home-schooling is the fastest growing form of education in the U.S. — not just in conservative states like Texas. In New York City and Washington — famously bastions of progressivism — home-school communities are growing and flourishing.

Indeed, home-schooling is now a less ideological practice with more diverse practitioners, attracting families across the political spectrum and across various racial and ethnic communities. That’s probably because today’s home-school families are motivated by an assortment of factors, not just moral and religious education but also physical and emotional safety, social environment, curriculum, family flexibility and accommodating kids’ special needs and education goals.

For most families, like mine, it’s really a combination of reasons.

And alongside traditional home-schooling models, micro-schools, hybrids and co-ops have also exploded, providing families with a parent-led learning environment that also provides social outlets as well as needed structure and support.

Indeed, home-schooling’s newfound social status should be seen as a challenge to the long-held notion that a quality education can only occur inside a traditional school environment.

It’s not exactly news that home-schooling ballooned during the pandemic. The Washington Post data shows, however, that while the number of children being home-schooled has declined slightly since its COVID-peak, the growth of home-schooling remains stable and significant.

Before the pandemic, estimates suggested that about 1.5 million children in the U.S. were home-schooled. The latest data suggests that number is now somewhere between 1.9 million and 2.7 million.

Home-school critics argue that the loose or nonexistent regulation will result in substandard or parochial education.

But one only need look at standardized testing results in a district like Fort Worth, where minority students in particular consistently cannot read or perform math at grade level, to recognize that attending school in no way guarantees that a student receives a quality education.

Then there are the detractors who deride home-schoolers for the same reasons they criticize private school participation — that it takes resources away from public schools.

Public schools do serve an important role in our communities, but they have never been a panacea. And with more and more families finding that public schools do not meet the needs of their individual students, it behooves state governments to support alternative forms of education.

Parents deserve choices. To give them the most possible, any legislation should include support for home-schoolers.