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A Census Bureau survey found that the number of households that reported teaching at home had doubled last year. Eric Baradat / AFP via Getty Images .

rocker legend Eric Baradat / AFP via Getty Images

A Census Bureau survey found that the number of households that reported teaching at home had doubled last year.

Eric Baradat / AFP via Getty Images

In a year when so much about schooling has changed, add this to the list: A significant increase in the number of households where students were homeschooled.

That’s according to data from the US Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey, an online survey that asks questions about how the pandemic is changing lives in American homes.

When the survey began, the week of April 23 to May 5, 2020, 5.4% of U.S. households with school-aged children reported homeschooling.

By the fall, that number had skyrocketed: 11.1% of households with school-aged children reported taking classes at home from September 30 to October 30. 12 investigation. The Census Bureau says that figure is double the number of homeschooled households at the start of the 2019-20 school year.

Homeschooling rates increased most significantly among respondents who identified as black. The proportion of black children in school has increased fivefold, from 3.3% in late spring to 16.1% in fall.

And there was significant variation between states. Alaska, Florida, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New York, Oklahoma, Vermont and West Virginia all saw an increase of at least 9% in homeschooled households . Many other states, meanwhile, did not show any significant change.

Possible reasons for this variation, the Bureau noted, include local rates of coronavirus infections and local decisions about how school is conducted.

A look at the data

Before going any further, a few words on the data. The Household Pulse Survey uses a large nationally representative sample of US households.

The Census Bureau notes that a clarification was added to the survey question at some point between May and September “to highlight the distinction between homeschool and virtual school.”

The updated question asks:

“At any time during the 2020-2021 school year, will any children in this household be enrolled in a public school, enrolled in a private school or educated in a kindergarten to grade 12 home school or ‘equivalent? Select all that apply.

– Yes, enrolled in a public or private school

– Yes, homeschooled (not enrolled in a public or private school)

– No”

The previous version of the question did not specify that homeschooling meant the student was not enrolled in a public or private school.

Christopher Lubienski, professor of educational policy at Indiana University, noted some potential complications with this data.

First: what counts as homeschooling? “If you complete what their children get in their regular school or at an online school, for example, are you still homeschooling?” Lubienski said. “It’s a question of definition.”

With parents and guardians now assuming many of the educational roles typically assumed by teachers in normal times, “homeschooling” has certainly taken place in many households where students were enrolled in school.

Second: It has long been difficult to get reliable numbers on how many homeschooled American students are, Lubienski says, because some of the families who do are not inclined to take questionnaires.

“Many families study at home precisely because they avoid any kind of conflict with the government,” he explains. “Part of this is that they don’t want to respond to the arrival of the government and ask it how they are educating their children. They consider it their right to go under the radar.”

A confluence of factors

There has been anecdotal evidence throughout the pandemic that more and more families are turning to homeschooling.

J. Allen Weston, executive director of the National Home School Association, said last summer that inquiries from parents interested in home schooling had “exploded.”

NPR member station WUNC recently reported on families in North Carolina who have turned to homeschooling, some planning to do so for another year, and some eager to send their children home. public school.

He’s not surprised to see the current growth, but he doesn’t think it will last forever: “Will it be there in five years? I think there will still be legacies of this homeschool explosion. , but it won’t be at these latest rates by any means. “

He points out a number of factors at play right now.

For starters, many schools remain physically closed, and not all parents and students are happy with the virtual lessons offered instead. Second, even when schools are open, many parents and caregivers remain concerned about their child’s health and safety during a pandemic.

And many parents have a new flexibility to try homeschooling in the first place – they’re suddenly working from home for the first time.

The length of the current peak will depend on whether employers continue to give workers flexibility, Lubienski says. If workers can continue to telecommute, “it could potentially open up opportunities for homeschooled families who are not there otherwise.”

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