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Homeschooling Doubled This Last Year

The U.S. Census Bureau reports twice as many households with school-age children are homeschooling now as were at the beginning of COVID closures.
school hallway

Data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey show a brightside to lockdowns and public school closures over the last year; 11.1 percent of households with school-age children report homeschooling. That’s about double the number of homeschool households reported at the beginning of the 2019 school year. The relevant survey question was clarified in its most recent use to ensure households reported true homeschooling, unaffiliated with an educational institution, rather than participating in the oxymoronic “virtual learning,” whether through a public or private school.

I wasn’t homeschooled, myself, so my characterization of this development isn’t too biased. But I never attended public school, either, so then again, perhaps it’s biased after all. The homeschool rate in my home state of Washington grew more modestly than the national average, according to the survey, from 6.6 percent of households with school-age children at the beginning of widespread pandemic responses to 8.1 percent now. Washington was rather thoroughly locked down thanks to Governor Jay Inslee, but his team seemed careful not to make life as hard as he might have for private schools such as the one I attended as a kid, or like the ones the children of his donors very likely attend. In the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue metroplex, the most populous (and liberal, and wealthy, hosting Microsoft and Amazon) part of the state, homeschooling only grew by 1 percent, from 4.2 percent to 5.2 percent of households with school age children. 

Especially in light of the apparent affects of pandemic measures on another private-school heavy area, and this one with notably bad public schools, namely the Beltway, I’m inclined to think these statistics should be taken as further evidence of the massive wealth divide in how families experienced lockdowns. While the DMV (D.C., Maryland, Virginia)-metroplex saw very modest growth in homeschooling—3.1 percent to 5.8 percent—the District by itself had a little bit more growth, and a higher percentage in the first place: 7 percent to 10.3 percent. While the Census Bureau doesn’t make this connection explicit, it does note that nationwide homeschool rates grew the most among black Americans (3.3 percent to 16.1 percent), and so I’m left wondering how that played out here in our nation’s capital. But, of course, we probably won’t know all the educational damage or repair done by the disruptions of the last year for many more years to come.