By Marziya Hasan | Dec. 16, 2021
When Laurie Block Spigel decided to take her oldest son out of school in the middle of the school year, she never imagined the positive impact it would have on her family.
“Within two weeks… I realized it was probably the best decision of our lives,” she said. “I didn’t realize till we started homeschooling that school was the elephant in the room.”
For many like Spigel’s son, the traditional schooling system failed to provide them with the education they needed. With the start of COVID-19, the demand for a different method of learning grew immensely. According to the United States Census Bureau, the number of families that had reported homeschooling their kids increased 5.7% in the fall of 2020.
Before the pandemic, families turned to homeschooling for a variety of reasons.
Joanna Allen Lodin, parent to three alumni homeschoolers and founder of Fearless Homeschooling, which provides resources for homeschooling parents, found that the decision typically depends on the individual.
“I have worked with parents who were pregnant for the first time who just loved the idea of it and are exploring it and just wanna talk about what it can be like.” she said. “I’ve worked with families who have a senior in high school who is dealing with trauma of some kind… who have to pull their child out and don’t know where to turn.”
Jennifer Snyder, president of LEAH, a Christian support and advocacy group for homeschoolers in New York state, shared that the start of COVID-19 created an alarming atmosphere for parents who wanted to start homeschooling.
“We were getting phone calls from panicked parents, emails from panicked parents,” she said. “We were getting referrals from people who were already part of the organization.”
Once the pandemic began, reasons for homeschooling started to branch out from simply wanting to provide their child with a different education to understanding why the current education system was problematic.
Jacqueline Gittens, a parent volunteer at LEAH, shared an instance of her child’s experience at school that led to her considering homeschooling.
“One glaring example was when my oldest was in Pre-K,” she said. “She had a substitute teacher that for some reason thought it was a great idea to teach the class that children that look like my daughter have been slaves in this country. This is a kindergarten class.”
Gittens immediately found more pros for homeschooling than cons. This experience was shared by other parents who realized through COVID how beneficial homeschooling could be for their child.
Lodin, who has experience consulting new homeschoolers, shared that a parent who took her child out of school due to fears of COVID got emotional seeing how well their child adapted to homeschooling.
“Not only did they love being home together but she said they were learning so much more.” she said. “Her children were experiencing learning in a completely natural and self- directed way. She said it was a beautiful thing.”
The Census report also found a specific increase in Black and Hispanic families homeschooling in the fall of 2020. This was observed by educators such as Spigel and Erynn Albert, founder of Different Directions, a non-profit resource center.
Albert found that the pandemic, along with the Black Lives Matter movement, sparked a collective sense of confusion and frustration in the community.
“[The BLM Movement] was like, ‘What are they actually teaching them’?” she said. “What history are they learning here that is benefitting or even relevant to my family?”
Spigel, who created the website HomeschoolNYC to share resources with other homeschoolers and is an educator herself, believes there’s no requirement for a parent to be able to homeschool.
The DOE did not respond to Dollars& Sense’s request for comment.