Tuesday, September 26, 2023

The Homeschool Game: More Students Leave State Education System Due to COVID-19


Moms and dads across New Mexico and the nation once again got the “teach your kids” ball tossed onto their kitchen table. Many were unprepared, both in the educational system and at home court, to cope with another COVID-19 “slam dunk.” For several thousand people across New Mexico, dropping out of the public school system and creating their own school at home was an easier gig to handle. Fast forward, and a slightly better prepared public homeschooling hybrid learning system has been put together to try to keep the kids on a roll with their learning. The learning curve for all has been slow, and at this point, faced with expanding COVID numbers, no one knows how long it will have to continue. Thousands of students are dropping out of public school as their parents jump the minimal hoops New Mexico has in place to set up their own homeschooling program for their kids.

One of the surprise effects of COVID-19 is that more parents in New Mexico are interested in taking on their own expanded version of homeschooling and teaching their children themselves. According to public data from the National Home Education Research Institute (NHREI) shows the number of students receiving home-based education in New Mexico peaked in 2011 with 33,800 and has dropped steadily every year to 7,549 in the 2018 to ’19 school year. Just over 3,000 families have registered in 2020 to homeschool their children. A possible reason for the huge decline over the years could be the addition of charter schools into the public educational system.

To be clear, homeschooling is not the same as traditional public, charter or private online/in school/hybrid schooling that is being done due to the pandemic. Homeschooling means that you've sent a notice of intent to the school district your child attends stating you're no longer a part of the public-school system and are taking charge of your child's education on your own. You have also jumped New Mexico’s small hurdles of requirements to homeschool and have taken on the role of being your child’s full time teacher/administrator of their education.

Major findings by a national RealClear Opinion Research survey of 2,122 registered voters shows that support for educational choice is strong, and that a significant portion of parents are more likely to pursue homeschooling opportunities after the lockdowns end. For parents with kids in public schools, there’s been a 10 point jump in support for the concept of school choice, from 67 percent to 77 percent since the last RealClear poll in April. The results of the May poll show that 40 percent of families are more likely to homeschool or virtual school after lockdowns, and that 64 percent support school choice and 69 percent support the proposed federal Education Freedom Scholarships bill. This bill allows individual and corporate taxpayers a tax credit for cash contributions to certain scholarship-granting and workforce-training organizations. It imposes a cap of $10 billion on the sum of contributions that qualify for a tax credit under this bill.

Fear of COVID-9 learning has led many parents to explore homeschooling for the first time. The most commonly cited reasons for choosing homeschooling for their children included: their ability to control the curriculum; setting their own learning pace on each subject taught; the right to teach religion or not; the fact that their child wouldn’t have to put up with peer pressure, bullies, drugs or boredom; control over diet; elimination of expensive or dangerous field trips; ability to integrate your child’s curriculum to work within your lifestyle.

Those choosing not to take on a full-scale homeschool cite disadvantages related to time, financial restrictions, too much 24/7 with their kids, lack of sports or other activities their child can participate in, and lack of social interaction. Some 78 percent of public school parents and 79 percent of non-public school parents supported this statement: “Recent federal legislation gave governors new funding they can use for K-12 education. Some governors have let families control the funds for the purchase of education technology and materials, private school tuition and home education. Would you support or oppose your governor sending the funding directly to families and allowing them to choose how to use those funds to support their child’s education?”

John Schilling, President of the American Federation of Children, in a statement to the media, summed up the shift in parents looking for an alternative to traditional public school: “Every single family with kids in school has been incredibly disrupted by the lockdowns. With 55 million students no longer in their normal educational setting, families are clearly considering new options and many are seeing the benefits of homeschooling and virtual schooling. Shilling advised that policymakers should note that there is a strong desire to have these and other educational options available to families, with both strong support for the general concept of school choice and even stronger support for a specific federal proposal, Education Freedom Scholarships.” “This is the time for leadership and for desperately needed bold reforms to be implemented across our K-12 education system.” Schilling contends millions of families are seeing the inadequacies of school districts that are too inflexible and we owe it to our nation’s families and students to give them more flexibility and additional educational options. “Policymakers owe it to the taxpayers who are footing the $800 billion K-12 education bill to maximize their investment by ensuring every child has access to a quality education and outcomes are improved across the board.”

When homeschooling their children, New Mexico families are required to comply with laws that mandate they are the child’s parent or legal guardian and have a high school diploma or GED, as well as a copy of their diploma on file Homeschooled children must be between the ages of 5 and18. Homeschooling parents must provide written or electronic notification to the state each year by Aug. 1 for as long as they homeschool and keep a copy of their child’s immunization records on file.

Homeschooling is legal in all 50 states. While a GED is not required for homeschooled students to graduate from homeschool, some employers and universities may require it. For legal purposes the New Mexico Legislature agreed to change all variations of this test to read “High School Equivalency Credential.”

Homeschooling makes sense from an achievement point of view. Research suggests homeschooled children tend to do better on standardized tests, stick around longer in college and do better once they're enrolled. Is it possible to work from home and teach your kids and keep your sanity? Time will tell.


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