It’s no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic and all of its subsequent school closures, virtual learning programs, and hybrid education changed the landscape of education around the world–perhaps permanently. A simple Google search will turn up headlines such as:
You could probably find quite a few of these stories from every state. The common theme? Public schools are losing students. The pandemic opened the eyes of many families, who discovered that homeschooling is not only a viable way to educate their children, but also a very beneficial one for many reasons–from flexibility, to freedom to choose curriculum and lessons, to health and safety.
For those reasons, and more, an increasing number of parents have decided to continue homeschooling rather than risk sending their children back to in-person school, where the COVID-19 threat is still very real. And public schools are starting to panic.
The frightening reality for public schools
Any dip in enrollment is concerning for public schools. Declines in enrollment such as those that have occurred throughout the pandemic are potentially devastating for public schools–for their staffing, for their funding and budgets, and for their overall success. And while the level of concern is understandable, some school districts are showing their panic by acting irrationally…and even illegally.
Every day, our Admissions team at Bridgeway Academy speaks directly to families looking to homeschool, and you might find it surprising the lengths that some school districts are going to in order to prevent parents from un-enrolling their children from public school and doing the educating themselves.
In one instance, a family from North Carolina explained that an official from their child’s public high school threatened to call social services if they removed the student from the school and began homeschooling.
In New York, one parent said that her child’s school district informed her that she can only homeschool her child for religious reasons.
If districts keep losing students to homeschooling, you can bet that there will be many similar stories to follow. The problem here is, neither state is within their rights to take such actions.
“In both North Carolina and New York–and every other state–parents have a right to homeschool their children,” says Michael Donnelly, senior counsel with the Home School Defense Legal Association (HSLDA). “Homeschooling is a legal exemption from compulsory attendance laws in every state. And virtually every state allows parents to homeschool with notice.”
According to Donnelly, a recent survey showed that one in five parents is subject to hostile or negative reactions from school districts when they’re notified of a student being withdrawn from their district. Though school districts are frustrated and nervous about what the future holds, no parent or guardian should ever have to deal with hostility when making a decision based on what they feel is best for their children.
Know your rights
Regardless of what school districts want you to believe, you have every right to homeschool your child. And Donnelly wants you to know that you have an ally and a resource should you need assistance in removing your child from public school. “People who are encountering resistance from school districts are not alone,” he states. “HSLDA works with families who are encountering difficulties with school districts and are virtually 100% successful in resolving those conflicts.”
Though HSLDA has your back, it is always important to know and understand your state’s laws regarding homeschooling. You can find them on HSLDA’s website as well as in our blog series about state laws (A-H, I-L, M-N, O-S, T-W). And while some states are more homeschool-friendly than others, the bottom line is that it is still 100% legal for parents to educate their own children, as long as it’s done within the confines of the law.
The landscape has changed…perhaps permanently
Even before COVID-19 changed the world, homeschooling numbers were already on the rise…which meant that a steady trickle of parents had been pursuing alternative education options for a variety of reasons. The pandemic violently crashed through the dam, and that trickle became a full-blown tidal wave.
It was as if thousands and thousands of families experienced an educational awakening or discovered an unearthed secret–homeschooling is actually an excellent form of education that opens so many doors, possibilities, and opportunities that you simply don’t receive with a public school education. And that’s not a knock on the public school system; millions of children obviously go on to achieve greatness with a public school education. But it simply does not offer the freedom to choose, explore, and grow the way homeschooling does.
Once all of the homeschooling newcomers came to this realization, it may well have decreased the odds of them ever sending their children back to public school. And if that becomes the case, homeschooling numbers will continue to grow as one family tells another, then that family shares their experiences on social media, and so on. Before long, you’ve got groups of homeschoolers learning together, and the American education system landscape will have changed dramatically.
Is that a likely scenario? Only time will tell, but trends are certainly pointing in that direction and will continue to do so as long as public school systems threaten the rights of how families decide to educate their children.
Any parent dealing with this kind of treatment from their school district should contact the HSLDA immediately, Donnelly recommends. “These parents should sign up for a rush membership with HSLDA, and they can do so by going to hslda.org/Join,” he says. “No parent should be interfered with when exercising their constitutional rights to direct the education of their children. HSLDA is here to help.”
And so is Bridgeway Academy. We offer both a fully accredited homeschool academy, which provides transcripts and records that schools may request in order to comply with state homeschooling laws, as well as independent programs that families can implement on their own; for those going the independent route, Bridgeway offers a separate Records and Support package, which provides the necessary accreditation, transcripts, and other records that your school district may need. Call us today at (800) 863-1474 for more information.