New Census Bureau data show that 11.1 percent of K-12 students are now being independently homeschooled. This is a large uptick from 5.4 percent at the start of the school shutdowns last spring, and 3.3 percent in the years preceding the pandemic.
These new homeschooling families are also reflective of surging homeschooling numbers in certain parts of the country. Here in the Boston-Cambridge-Newton, MA-NH area designated by the Census, homeschooling increased from 0.9 percent last April-May to 8.9 percent in September-October. In Massachusetts more generally, the homeschooling rate soared from 1.5 percent in the spring of 2020 to 12.1 percent last fall.
In its Household Pulse Survey, the Census Bureau counted homeschoolers as students whose parents had officially removed them from a school or never enrolled them to begin with. This distinguishes independent homeschoolers from the millions of students doing home-based remote schooling during the pandemic response.
In addition to massive overall growth in homeschooling, the survey results also revealed increasing homeschooling rates across all races and ethnicities.
While the homeschooling population has become more demographically diverse over the past decade, the Census Bureau found that the number of black homeschoolers increased nearly fivefold between spring and fall of 2020, from 3.3 percent to 16.1 percent. This black homeschooling rate is slightly higher than the approximately 15 percent of black students in the overall K-12 public school population.
The new Census data confirm what previous surveys have shown while also suggesting a tripling of the homeschooling population from its pre-pandemic levels.
In August, Gallup reported that 10 percent of families expected to homeschool their children this academic year. And in November, Education Week estimated the number of current homeschoolers at nine percent. Prior to the pandemic, approximately 1.7 million students were homeschooled, according to the most recent federal data from 2016. The Census data now puts that number at over 5 million homeschooled students, which is comparable to the number of K-12 students typically enrolled in private schools.
This year’s new homeschoolers are also more likely to come from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. The Education Week survey last fall found that more lower-income families were choosing homeschooling during the pandemic response than higher-income families, challenging the myth that homeschooling families are more affluent than others. The New York Times pointed out this myth in July, explaining that “the population of home-schoolers — before the pandemic — was less affluent than average.”