The pandemic has increased the rate of homeschooling substantially, both nationally and at the state level. In North Carolina, the number of home schooled students increased by 21% from 2019-20 (149,173 students) to 2020-21 (179,900 students).
In this blog post, we take a closer look at North Carolina’s data to see how the percentage increase of homeschooled students varies across counties.
Data provided from homeschool annual reports compiled by the NC Department of Administration shows that the number of homeschooled students increased in all 100 NC counties between 2019-20 and 2020-21. Percentage increases ranged from 38.5% in Currituck County (467 homeschooled students in 2019-20 to 647 in 2020-21) to 2.2% in Pamlico County (178 homeschooled students in 2019-20 to 182 in 2020-21). The specific breakdown of percentage change in number of students across all 100 counties is shown below:
We don’t see strong patterns in home schooling increases by geographic designation (rural-non-metro, rural-metro, suburban, or urban), indicating that this trend transcended geography. Instead, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Pulse Survey, some national trends may help to explain the overall increase.
First, localized rates of coronavirus infections may have influenced parents’ decisions about whether to follow local instructions on how school is conducted – virtual, in person, or hybrid options. In addition, there has been a well-documented occurrence – referred to as the “Great Resignation” - where employees are leaving their jobs for a variety of reasons, including shifting priorities, from money to flexibility to family obligations. Families making the decision to homeschool may be influenced by this reprioritization of work and life balance.
This isn’t only happening in North Carolina. As Laurel Wamsley reported for NPR, “Alaska, Florida, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New York, Oklahoma, Vermont and West Virginia all saw at least a 9% increase in households homeschooling.” The increase in homeschooled students was driven by the pandemic, which has numerous fallout effects – from health implications, to working conditions, to K-12 and postsecondary conditions, to reprioritizations of values, as well as many other implications. As such, it’s difficult to predict whether the increasing trend of homeschooling may increase or decrease as the pandemic subsides.