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From Home to the Classroom (And Back Home Again!): How School and Homeschooling Have Changed

Shmuel Fischler, LCSW-C · May 14, 2020

In 2007, over 1.5 million children were taught at home instead of boarding the school bus to head back to school. That small fraction of children in the United States used to be much higher decades ago, when public schooling was less common or entirely nonexistent. The homeschooling movement we know today started in the 1980s, but how were things before then?

A History of Homeschooling

Teaching children at home was very common until the late 19th century, when most children received all or most of their education at home. Starting around that time, different states passed compulsory attendance laws. These required children to either attend a public school or a private school. Starting in the 1970s, there was a movement led by John Holt to encourage parents to school their children at home. Holt believed that home was the best place for children to learn, and many parents removed their kids from public schools as a result.

Explosive Growth in the 1980s

Over 20 states legalized homeschooling in the 1980s as a result of the spread of evangelical Christian families electing to teach their children at home. The Home School Legal Defense Association was formed specifically to help families who wanted to teach their children at home in court when leading battles against anti-homeschool laws.

Homeschooling Today

Today, homeschooling is legal in all 50 states. Beyond that, the current COVID-19 pandemic has every child learning at home, whether they attend private or public school. The movement towards homeschooling includes families of all races, religions and belief systems. Many states even allow students who are homeschooled to participate in public school sports despite not being enrolled.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, why was homeschooling becoming much more common? There are many different factors in play. The abundance of technology allows for things like online charter schools to flourish, and students who learn at home access to more formal curriculums. Some families are also more concerned about whether or not public schools, with large class sizes, are able to accommodate the educational needs of their children. Today, homeschooling is more common that it has been in decades, and it continues to grow. It remains to be seen how many parents enjoy the process of teaching at home so much that their children don’t return to school after the pandemic!

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