Homeschooling grows in popularity in wake of pandemic

Homeschooling grows in popularity in wake of pandemic

As students head back to school, not all are returning to the classroom.

Class is back in session for the Snively family near Louisville, Kentucky. Valeri Snively, a former teacher, is homeschooling her three children.

“It’s just really nice to have the freedom to be able to pick and choose what works best and things that work for the children’s learning styles,” Snively said.

Homeschooling in Kentucky has surged 81% since 2018, based on numbers from the Kentucky Department of Education.

“I think there’s quite a few reasons, to be honest with you,” Snively said. “I feel like some of them are health-related. Some of them are for religious purposes. Class sizes are getting bigger, and unfortunately, student learning is impacted.”

For Angie Blunk, homeschooling is about her granddaughter’s safety.

“I just think about, you know, like the shootings and things like that,” Blunk told CBS News. “Like, can you imagine the trauma?”

There were 3.7 million homeschooled students in the 2020-21 academic year, up by more than one million compared to the year before, according to numbers from the National Home Education Research Institute.

“It’s the discipline, over-disciplining of our children,” University of Georgia professor Cheryl Fields-Smith, who studies homeschooling, told CBS News. “It’s the low expectations for our children, the lack of access to gifted education. And so, by homeschooling, it’s a refuge, because the kids are protected from that kind of a schooling environment.”

While homeschooling has traditionally been more common in White populations and rural settings, that is changing. Black and Hispanic students are the fastest growing homeschool demographic groups, according to the Census Bureau’s pulse survey. By October 2020, the number of Black students learning at home had more than quadrupled to 16.1%, per the pulse survey.

Fields-Smith doesn’t believe that trend is going to change.

“It’s become more of a norm, I would say, for Black families than it has been in the past,” Fields-Smith said.

Kris Van Cleave

Kris Van Cleave is a congressional correspondent for CBS News based in Washington, D.C.