Will Virginia Lead the Way on School Choice, Homeschooling?

(Richard Alan Hannon/The Advocate via AP)

One of the silver linings of the COVID-19 pandemic is the new trend of parents choosing to exercise their options when it comes to the education of their children. Much to the consternation of leftists, who seem to believe children belong to the state, not parents, more Americans are deciding to homeschool their children. In Virginia, the number of homeschoolers has increased drastically over the past few years.

The Washington Examiner reported:

The number of homeschoolers in Virginia has increased by nearly 40% since 2019, making up about 5% of Virginia’s total public school enrollment.

There are now around 62,000 homeschoolers in Virginia, according to the Virginia Department of Education. That number is down slightly from more than 65,500 homeschoolers during the 2020-2021 school year.

Andrea Cubelo-McKay, president of the Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers, told Virginia Mercury that many parents decided to homeschool their children after experiencing “Zoom fatigue” amid the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown orders.

“When public schools moved online, many students experienced Zoom fatigue, failing grades and other trouble learning in a virtual environment. They wanted an alternative,” she explained. “At the same time, more parents were working from home, had flexible schedules or were furloughed from their jobs. That made them more available for home schooling.”

But it wasn’t just the convenience of homeschooling that appealed to parents; They were also concerned about the material being taught in the classroom. When people realized teachers were infusing their lessons with concepts related to Critical Race Theory (CRT), a backlash ensued in which parents attended school board meetings and vociferously objected to the far-left ideology being presented to their children.

Last month, parents held a protest in front of the Loudoun County Public Schools administrative office’s building in which they placed 650 shoes nearby. The shoes signified the increasing numbers of families that are considering pulling their children out of public schools.

“The children don’t belong to the state,” Yvonne Bunn, director of government affairs for the Home Educators Association of Virginia, or HEAV, said during a conversation with Virginia Mercury. “I think parents really want to impart their own values to their children — their values and beliefs and their own worldview. And that is a major reason parents are home schooling.”

The trend appears to be bubbling up in other states as well.

The Topeka Capital-Journal reported:

Worried about safety, resistant to mask orders and troubled by a lack of confidence in public schools, thousands more Kansas parents are opting to teach their kids at home.

The shift comes in the wake of the pandemic that convinced those families they could handle the job.

Bert Moore, who handles homeschool registrations for the Kansas Department of Education told the Journal that they “just had call after call after call” from parents wishing to homeschool their children.

In a normal school year, about 1,400 new families register to home school. But in 2020, that number rose to 5,527. The Journal reported:

Experts say the switch to remote learning during the pandemic persuaded record numbers of families to consider home-schooling long-term. Some want more flexible schedules or greater control over their children’s lessons. Others are disillusioned with the traditional model of education or worried about plummeting test scores.

Illinois has also seen an increase in families choosing to homeschool. National Public Radio (NPR) reported on the continuing decline in public school enrollment last year. While researchers told NPR that some parents are delaying pre-K and kindergarten enrollment, more are choosing charter and private schools, along with homeschooling.

The number of families choosing to homeschool their children doubled over the past two years, according to Census data from March 2021:

In the first week (April 23-May 5) of Phase 1 of the Household Pulse Survey, about 5.4% of U.S. households with school-aged children reported homeschooling.

By fall, 11.1% of households with school-age children reported homeschooling (Sept. 30-Oct. 12). A clarification was added to the school enrollment question to make sure households were reporting true homeschooling rather than virtual learning through a public or private school.

That change represents an increase of 5.6 percentage points and a doubling of U.S. households that were homeschooling at the start of the 2020-2021 school year compared to the prior year.

This trend won’t likely slow down anytime soon. The increase might be slower than it has over the past two years because of waning concern over COVID-19. But now that parents have seen that homeschooling is a workable option and become privy to inappropriate material being taught in the classroom, it would not be shocking to see more families taking the plunge.

Quisha King, founder of the Mass Exodus movement and host of the “Quisha King Show predicted that the nation will see more families looking at other options for educating their children. She told RedState in a text message:

We all hate COVID, I think I can speak for everyone when I say that. But the silver lining, is the information we learned about our children and what they were being exposed to and government-run schools has brought about a well-needed shift in public education. I believe we’ll see more parents move to take their children out of government-run schools, and reform public education. That’s what the Mass Exodus Movement is all about.

But, what is surprising about this paradigm shift is that it has not yet met with much opposition from the far-left, many of whom believe parents should not have a say in what their children learn in schools. Perhaps this is because there are not enough families making this decision for them to care about the issue at the moment.

But the fact of the matter is that more Americans are embracing the notion that parents should be the ones who decide what their children are being taught and where and how they should be educated. This won’t go over well with progressives in the future and it is not out of the realm of possibility that the issue will become one that figures into the upcoming midterm elections. Either way, one thing is clear: the overall debate over education isn’t dying down anytime soon.