By Elena Trueba
Millions of children and their families are navigating a world without in-person school this fall, as the Covid-19 pandemic continues. A nationwide surge in homeschooling seemed far-fetched six months ago, but today, 60 percent of parents say they are likely to pursue at-home learning options this fall. These options extend far beyond remote learning provided in the spring by brick-and-mortar school districts (which The Wall Street Journal deemed “a failure”). The number of families in Vermont filing the necessary paperwork to homeschool has increased by 75 percent from last year (laws vary by state, with many states requiring no notice at all). In Nebraska, filings are up by 21 percent and counting. Parents in North Carolina rushed to submit notices of intent to homeschool online, incapacitating the state’s nonpublic education system’s website. The senior counsel for the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), the premier legal establishment responsible for expanding homeschooling rights across the U.S., predicts that there could be a 500 percent increase in homeschooled students this fall.
As a product of the Christian homeschooling movement, I’m concerned about what exactly new homeschoolers will find. Many Christian homeschooling advocates have decried public schools as “values-indoctrination centers.” The reality, however, is that much of the most popular homeschooling materials—which many of these new homeschoolers are certain to find—are their own form of indoctrination. A large part of the industry markets their K-12 curricula to a distinctly conservative evangelical audience, offering comprehensive lesson plans and textbooks in every subject. I can certainly trace the unique benefits of my own K-12 homeschool education—the freedom to pursue my own interests chief among them—but I can also identify the troubling messages about religion, race, and the origins of the United States that I encountered in the world of Christian homeschooling.
Before the pandemic, homeschoolers were a small but growing population, roughly 3 percent of American schoolchildren. One of the most remarkable features of the nearly 2.5 million U.S. homeschoolers is how relatively little we concretely know about them, due to a lack of oversight and reporting measures that vary by state. The most current (albeit limited) data on homeschoolers tells us that they are generally Christian (66 percent), above the poverty threshold (79 percent), and white (83 percent).
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