Sparked by pandemic, homeschooling surges across the country and in North Carolina

Homeschooling rates have surged in North Carolina, as they have nationally.

According to state data just published this month, there was a nearly 20 percent jump in the number of students who were homeschooled in North Carolina during the last school year, compared to the year before.

There were 179,900 students enrolled in homeschooling in 1st through 12th grades between July 1 of 2020 and June 30 of 2021, according to the North Carolina Department of Administration Division of Non-Public Education.

Compare that to 149,173 students during the same time period between 2019 and 2020.

The US Census Bureau reported in March that the rate of households homeschooling their children rose to 11 percent by September of 2020, more than doubling from about 5 percent six months earlier.

Black households saw the largest jump in homeschooling rates nationally.

Elizabeth Parent, of Fuquay-Varina, homeschooled two of her children during the last school year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

One was in pre-K at that time. The other in kindergarten.

"He has a speech delay, so I knew that Virtual Academy would not have benefitted him," Parent said. "He needed in-person, one-on-one work, especially for reading. I just, I knew that the screen time would not have benefited him in the long run."

Stacy Lyerly, of Apex, homeschools her children and has a business, called The Homeschool Experience, offering classes, clubs and field trips for homeschoolers.

Lyerly said her business has seen a boost from pre-COVID to now.

"We saw a small uptick when we went online and some people wanted to supplement some of their public school classes with our homeschool classes, and we are planning on going in-person this fall and our numbers have pretty much jumped by a third," Lyerly said. "I think that for some families having their kids at home and seeing how they're learning, has kind of awoken them in terms of maybe I need to sit down and work with my kid a little better, and in doing so, realizing that it was a positive experience for both of them."

The state tracks children being homeschooled in grades 1 through 12, so Parent's children were not included in that data.

Parent says keeping her children safe from COVID-19 is another reason she and her husband decided on homeschooling.

While her children are enrolled to go back to school during the next school year, Parent said that could change if, for example, their school district takes away the mask mandate.

"My priority is to keep them healthy and safe, and if they're not being well protected in schools, I will consider homeschooling one more year and that is a really difficult decision for us to come to," Parent said. "My family needs me to provide an income or help provide an income."

The Associated Press contributed.
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