Before March of 2020, only seasoned homeschoolers could really provide an opinion on whether they considered the education format to be a favorable experience. And, of course, since homeschooling families generally opt to take that route for a reason, their opinions on the matter tend to skew favorably.

All of that changed last March, however; soon after that, practically every parent with a school-aged child had at least a semi-educated opinion of homeschooling, because nearly every parent or caregiver around the world was experiencing homeschool in some way, shape, or form.

According to Ed Choice and Morning Consult research, 55% of parents with kids in school had a favorable opinion of homeschooling at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Between then and February 2021, there were some ebbs and flows, some highs and lows. But by the end of last month, favorable opinions of homeschooling were up eight points over last March–63% of surveyed school parents had a favorable view of homeschooling!

Why? A deeper look at the data shows that a solid percentage of parents feel that their children are progressing “very well” in three key areas: academic learning, emotional development, and social development. Let’s dig into those categories a little bit further.

Academic Learning

According to Ed Choice and Morning Consult’s data, 33% of parents homeschooling during the pandemic felt their child(ren) was progressing very well in academics. By comparison, only parents of private school children had a higher satisfaction rating, at 48%. Only 25% of district school parents were very satisfied with their children’s academic learning progression.

There are several potential explanations for these numbers. And the wild card with all of this data is that school was literal chaos for the remainder of the 2020 school year, from March through June, as schools adjusted as quickly as possible for remote learning. This on-the-fly adjustment also translated to parents, who were thrust into the previously uncharted territory of either homeschool teacher or something resembling a proctor. That might explain why favorability ratings were so low during this period. Parents, like schools, were caught completely off-guard and were unprepared for homeschooling or school at home (entirely different things).

But then opinions started changing. By summer, homeschooling favorability hit nearly 75%. So, what happened? It’s impossible to speak for the parents who participated in this survey, but clearly by the end of the 2019-20 school year, parents and students began to find a comfort zone. Once the initial panic and disarray of COVID-19 subsided a bit, parents and children alike may have realized that the forced homeschooling was actually a blessing in disguise.

Perhaps many of these kids discovered they enjoyed learning at their own pace in their own way, and they thrived as a result. Maybe their parents figured out a way to juggle homeschooling with their work schedules and found the flexibility to be a relief. It could be that children flourished when they and their parents chose their own curriculum. With time, perhaps kids were able to settle into a distraction-free home classroom and improve their focus. It was probably a combination of all of the above, but one thing is for sure–parents’ view of homeschooling has reached a much higher level as far as favorability, and they think their kids are progressing at a higher level academically than parents of students in public schools.

Emotional Development

Let’s be honest–this has been a brutal year. This pandemic took its toll on every single human being on this planet in some way. We’ve all been on a rollercoaster of emotions for the past 12 months–and this rollercoaster had a very steep drop that just kept plunging deeper and deeper into the abyss until it felt like we were headed into a bottomless pit.

The light at the end of the tunnel is growing in size, but the damage has been done–physically, mentally, and emotionally. In some cases, that damage is permanent. It’s hard to say whether COVID-19 took a larger toll on kids or adults. In some ways, kids are probably more immune to some of the emotions that adults have experienced over the past year. Either they’re too young to understand, or they’re simply too busy being kids to care. Whereas parents are absorbing every piece of bad news, trying to figure out how to navigate this “new normal”, working to keep our kids (and ourselves) safe and healthy, juggling work and homeschooling/school at home, trying to keep a happy face with our kids, and on and on.

That said, kids still took a major emotional hit during the pandemic. Younger kids struggled to understand why they couldn’t get on the bus and go to school, play with their friends, go to the movies, play in their local sports leagues, visit relatives, go out to eat, or have birthday parties. When young children who are accustomed to all of those things we used to take for granted all of a sudden have those things taken away, it’s emotionally distressing. They don’t understand why. Older kids are more similar to adults in the sense that they feel like they’re losing their freedom, and they understand why but are hesitant to accept it.

The data on emotional development progress in the eyes of parents are interesting. Once again, private school parents are the most satisfied with their children’s emotional development progress, at 44%. Homeschool parents are next, with 31% feeling that their kids are progressing very well emotionally. Bringing up the rear are public school parents, at 22%.

This might be easier to explain in the sense that public school students are so accustomed to getting on the bus every morning, roaming the halls with their friends, going from class to class, taking part in gym, eating lunch in a cafeteria, working on group projects with lab partners, then hopping back on the bus at the end of the day. Going from all of that activity as part of a daily routine to sitting at home on a computer with limited interaction for months at a time…that’s going to take an emotional toll on kids. With that in mind, the 22% figure for public schools makes sense.

For families that were previously homeschooling, the 31% of parents who thought their student was progressing very well emotionally during the school year is an interesting figure. Perhaps, because these families were already accustomed to the framework of home-based education, there simply wasn’t a large jump of the needle in either direction. Though the move to remote education was a shock to the system of public school students, there wasn’t much of a shift–if any–for homeschooled students.

Of course, the pandemic has been an equal opportunity distressor, so homeschooled students certainly are no more or less immune to all of the emotional impacts we’ve all felt over the past year. Homeschoolers still had to deal with all of the sickness and death and the seismic changes to our everyday lives–it was only their schooling that wasn’t as impacted quite as much as others’. That said, many homeschooling families participate in group learning or co-ops with other homeschool families, and that was yet another victim of COVID. So, emotional difficulty was experienced by everyone, though nearly one-third of homeschool parents felt that their children were still progressing very well emotionally over the past year.

Social Development

Socially speaking, parents of public school children are (not surprisingly) far from satisfied with how their children progressed over the course of the school year. Again, only 22% stated that they felt their kids were progressing very well socially, compared to 50% of private school parents and 39% of homeschool parents.

This one is pretty easy to figure out. Kids who were so used to seeing friends practically every minute of every school day lost that interaction completely. No more chatting on the bus, hanging in the halls, socializing at lunch. Beyond the classrooms, there were no more after-school or extracurricular activities, no sports, no indoor hangouts or gatherings, no sleepovers. The very aspects that public school kids enjoyed about their typical school days were gone. Sure, FaceTime and Zoom helped mitigate that some, but so many kids simply need that in-person interaction and really suffered without it.

More public and private schools are starting to reopen fully after a year, but as these plans were being discussed and debated months ago, it was interesting to hear the arguments parents were presenting as to why they wanted their kids back in school so badly. Social interaction seemed to be the driving force behind the push to open schools–not academics. It’s understandable; many children and teens (and adults) struggled mentally with quarantining and social-distancing. Depression is rampant, and suicidal thoughts have increased alarmingly.

In fact, according to a CDC survey published in November 2020, over a 30-day period in August 2020, suicidal thoughts occurred in 11% of people of all ages, compared to 4.3% in August 2018. In young adults, the numbers are staggering–in 2020, 25.5% of adults aged 18 to 24 seriously contemplated suicide compared to 10.7% in 2018. The impact that the loss of socialization has had on kids of all ages can’t be overstated–and for kids who already suffered from emotional disorders, the loss of their friends, their support systems, has been devastating.

Of course, this impact isn’t limited to just public school kids–though parents of those children clearly see their kids falling behind on social development significantly more so than those of private and homeschooled students. Homeschoolers may have simply adjusted to the situation better than public school kids. Not because homeschooled kids don’t socialize–we know now that is a myth. But it’s possible that homeschoolers have progressed better socially simply because they were more used to learning taking place in the home, mostly independently.

There are many ways to slice up the data, many viable theories and explanations as to why these parents feel the way they do and why their kids are progressing at the rate they are. No matter how you look at it, we can take this away–homeschooling parents are happy with the way their kids have been progressing throughout the pandemic and view homeschooling in a much more favorable light than even a year ago.

And there’s plenty of logic to support that view–flexibility, the ability to select courses and curriculum according to learning style, just to name a couple. Bridgeway Academy offers all of that, plus accreditation and unparalleled support throughout the entire homeschool journey. If you’re not already one of the homeschool families who is excited about the progress your child is making, call us at (800) 863-1474 to learn more about why homeschooling might be the perfect fit for your situation.