Homeschooling Just Crossed the Tipping Point

4 ½ min

In the months before COVID hit, a number of my friends began a new phase of motherhood by starting careers as homeschool teachers. They expressed normal trepidation, concerned they would fail, and by extension, their children would.

Then the pandemic hit, homeschooling became the new way of life, and my friends were suddenly homeschool veterans, all settled in and progressing with their curriculum while everyone else scrambled to get their act together. I now hear a sigh of relief and an eager “Yes!” when I ask them if they’re glad they’re homeschooling.

They’re not the only ones. Recent data shows that as much as 11 percent of the population is homeschooling since COVID-19 hit. Bad news abounds these days, but the soaring success of homeschooling is a silver lining in the clouds of COVID and chaos, suggesting we may have reached a new tipping point.

Unfortunately, many try to tell us otherwise, as is the case in a recent National Review article by Sean-Michael Pigeon entitled “Homeschooling Can’t Be for Everyone." Yet the idea that homeschooling cannot be a prominent part of the answer to America’s educational crisis is misguided.

Pigeon argues that homeschooling on a larger scale is unworkable because of the costs and sacrifices required. “More affluent families,” he says, “may not want to dramatically decrease their standard of living by cutting off an income stream” while others “simply won’t want to take on the task of personally educating their children.” With the increased ability of parents to work from home, and the proliferation of pandemic pods, the barrier to entry for homeschooling has fallen significantly. Besides, just because a family doesn’t want to live on a reduced income or doesn’t want to spend time educating their children doesn’t mean that it can’t be done. It all depends on where you decide to put your time, talent, and treasure.

The most interesting critique Pigeon offers of homeschooling concerns how bad ideologies will continue to proliferate in schools if parents don’t push back, and how a mass exodus of students from conservative families from the public school system will accelerate our cultural decline.

It is here that it’s helpful to consider the concept of tipping points. “Scientists have found that when just 10 percent of the population holds an unshakable belief, their belief will always be adopted by the majority of the society,” researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute reported in a 2011 study. The author Malcolm Gladwell has also explored this phenomenon in his book published in 2000, The Tipping Point.

A few years ago, homeschool students made up roughly 3 percent of the student population, making the tipping point a distant prospect. But as of fall 2020, 11.1 percent of school-age households nationwide reported homeschooling their children, according to a recent U.S. Census Bureau report. The homeschooling rate doubled in many states and tripled or quadrupled in others. The boxes in red on the chart below highlight some of this enormous growth. Alaska continues to lead the pack, with 27.5 percent of school-age households homeschooling. One in five such Oklahoman households now homeschool their children, while 18 percent of such Floridian households do the same.



But it’s not just red states that are jumping into the homeschooling game. Predictably blue Vermont saw its homeschooling rate rise from 4.1 percent to almost 17 percent. New York’s rate rose from 1.2 percent to 10.1 percent, while Massachusetts grew from 1.5 percent to 12.1 percent.

If we have achieved the tipping point so quickly, who is to say the homeschooling rate can’t grow further in the next few years? And if it does grow more, who is to place limits on it in terms of its ability to change students’ ways of thinking, and the education system as a whole?

Some may say such change is a pipe dream. But those who say this are forgetting that homeschooling does a great deal to develop strong families, fostered through increased togetherness. It is this strengthening of the family that will be the commonality around which the tipping point is created; the family, one of Edmund Burke’s “little platoons,” can achieve great things in changing the course of a country.

“To be attached to the subdivision, to love the little platoon we belong to in society,” Burke said, “is the first principle (the germ as it were) of public affections. It is the first link in the series by which we proceed towards a love to our country, and to mankind.”

If you’re discouraged about the course of the country, perhaps this silver lining in the growth of homeschooling will give you cause to take heart. It’s always darkest before the dawn. We’re about to see the light arise as thousands of American families abandon the public education system and rediscover learning and family at the same time.


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Image Credit: 

Flickr-John Koetsier, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Annie Holmquist

Annie Holmquist

Annie Holmquist is the editor of Intellectual Takeout. When not writing or editing, she enjoys reading, gardening, and time with family and friends.

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National Review’s Pigeon is concerned that “a mass exodus of students from conservative families from the public school system will accelerate our cultural decline.” On the contrary, such a mass exodus could accelerate the decline of the public school system as it now stands, which would be a good thing. At the same time, it could very well help reverse our cultural decline. I say this as a retired public school teacher who is very glad to be retired.


Rowana F
I too had to laugh that Marxists would consider the loss of conservative families in their schools to be a detriment. They certainly do everything they can to undermine and squelch conservative values in their schools! What they really don't want is the loss of revenue from shrinking enrollment and fewer students that they can directly corrupt. The more conservative families again become the primary guidance for their children, the better for our culture and society.
Just today, August 13, I read home schooling is up 17% nationwide. (Sorry, I read it on the road and don't have the source.) Annie's comment about 10% forcing a change, is historically accurate. Add families moving their children from public schools to trusted private school to the increase in home schooling suddenly those $$$ going to the teachers' unions and overly staffed public school administrations starts affecting school bottom lines. Summary - we must change - if the USA goes south, freedom is over. Home schooling and non-public school alternatives may very well save not only the USA but the world.


I was one of the first homeschooling parents, many years ago. It was stunning to me at the time to figure out that schooling is not about educating children, but indoctrinating them. Even in the 80's, when I was talking to the school educators about reading, writing, and math, they would counter with, it's not about that, it's about coercing the children to live in the type of society progressives envision, and they CAN'T do that if they don't have the CHILDREN IN HAND. At the same time, they never realized their own grasping need to have my kids in hand - they were doing it for "our good". Do NOT expect the system to let go of the children, once people start to try and assert control over their own children. It simply won't be allowed. We've gone that far.


Rowana F
Oh, the public school system will fight tooth and nail against parents pulling their children out of the system! They fear having much competition for students to control and the funding that comes with them, they fear the spotlight being shown even more starkly on their academic mediocrity, and the Leftists fear losing control of what children are and are not taught. However, I believe they won't be able to stop parents from opting out of the public school system.
I think "JM" makes a valid point regarding the difference between "Homeschooling" and "school at home." But one of the biggest mistakes is to set up sterile classrooms at home and attempt to reproduce public school in the home. Just as Jeff Minick points out, the home must be a sanctuary [Homemakers: The Last Bastion in Our Cultural Chaos]. Home schooling should be a bastion from the school system. Simply keeping children at home is not the answer. It is establishing and keeping a safe, loving and learning environment. Having been involved with this movement for well over 30 years it is clear that not everyone can or should do homeschool. I've known a number of families who jumped on the home school band wagon to protect their children from society and their kids suffered due to the parents own failures and lifestyles. Nor is Homeschooling for the faint of heart. Nor unprepared. Much can be said for alternatives such as Classical Education. But our hearts are with the homeschooling families where each child can learn at their own pace and based on their individual learning style. Something that no classroom can provide. No system is perfect just as no parents are. Also Annie's quote from Pigeon about affluent families is true. Like it or not some have made the decision and will not continue keeping their children at home because of professional commitments. But many, as we did, will put their children ahead of the quest for an affluent lifestyle and one parent will be at home. But it takes two parents (ideally) to establish and feed a safe home environment. Read to your kids! Oh, I could go on...!!


Rowana F
Indeed, it's a mistake to try and recreate "public school" at home, with it's regimentation, inflexible schedule, and strict age segregation. It's pure frustration to try and do "public school remotely from home." They're not the same! Some of the greatest things about home schooling are the possibility of a flexible schedule, letting each child learn at their own best pace and accelerate in subjects they love, and reintroducing "classical" subjects that are absent from public schools.
I am a retired public school teacher with over 30 years of experience (including 3 as a principal). For over ten years I have administered a nationally normed test to Christian homeschooled high school students. Those students are bright, polite, well-adjusted, and articulate.