Voices of Youth: Homeschooling’s rise and how it can help students

By February 2020, about 2.5 million students were homeschooled. That number rose to 300 million students just one month later due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

As schools began in-class instruction in 2021, 3.7 million students chose the homeschool route, and as of late 2022, that number increased to 4.3 million students. 

The homeschooled population is on a steady rise of 2% to 8%  every year and grew exceptionally between 2019 and 2021. Since 2019, the number of children homeschooled has tripled, according to the National Education Research Institute (NHERI). 

I am one of those students. 

The reason I prefer homeschooling is because I can be more to myself, I'm not anxious and I have the feeling of being overwhelmed walking around school. 

There are a lot of reasons for homeschooling. I think the pros are that you can sleep in, you can take a break and eat whenever. You have the reassurance of being in a safe environment, and homeschooling gives you more options to do things and frees up your schedule for other activities. 

The homeschooling evolution 

Homeschooling was illegal in the 18th century, when Massachusetts was the first to pass truancy laws stating that attendance in public schools was compulsory. All states followed suit, and in 1917, Mississippi became the last state to pass the laws, making homeschooling illegal.

The modern homeschooling movement started in the 1950s through the 1980s. Articles were published by multiple authors stating how kids should be allowed to learn at home. 

For example, American writer Paul Goodman published the book, Compulsory Miseducation, which highlighted the “inadequacies of public schooling.” Likewise, educator and author John Holt published How Children Fail and Growing Without Schooling, which became the first home education newsletter. 

In 1972, homeschooling hit the United States Supreme Court with Wisconsin v. Yoder, which ruled that Amish parents were allowed to homeschool their children after eighth grade. This was a huge win for the homeschooling movement, and by 1985, nearly 200,000 families in the U.S. were homeschooling their children. 

The homeschool movement was such a hit that by the late 20th century, most states were passing bills and discussing making homeschooling legal. By 1992, every state had passed bills making homeschooling officially legal. A year later, President Bill Clinton signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, increasing the number of homeschooled students to 750,000 by 1995. 

Homeschooling saw a resurgence after the COVID-19 pandemic and Mazonnah Holiday is one of those students.

Grand Rapids’ homeschool culture

I think it's fair to say homeschooling has changed greatly since the 1970s. 

I recently interviewed a Grand Rapids mother named Laura Naughton, who chooses to homeschool her son. What made Naughton start homeschooling her son was seeing how he learned virtually. He could go at his own pace and didn’t have to compete with classmates for attention if he had a question. Of course, there were challenges.

“During the pandemic, doing school virtually was hard,” Naughton said. “Especially for younger kids who are used to playing outside and receiving breaks rather than sitting still all day at the computer.”

In Grand Rapids, Naughton has found opportunities specifically for homeschooled students. Two days a week, her son learns in a completely child-led space, which Naughton appreciates about the flexibility homeschooling provides. 

“Everyone learns in their own way,” she says. “Some kids like traditional school and work really well in that institute.” 

For her son, however, Naughton said there was a particular moment that prompted her to look into homeschooling as an option. 

“I remember picking him up when he was still in person at school,” she says. ”He was always just melting down because he was overwhelmed about the day.” 

Today is a different story.

“When I pick him up, he is just so happy, and when they're working on stuff, he has an interest,” Naughton says. “He hyper-focused on his interests — he loves science, math, reading, and history. He loves doing these things but he does it at his own pace and speed.” 

I asked Naughton why she started homeschooling.
“Seeing how my son learned and being able to facilitate him at home,” she says. 

Originally, homeschooling wasn’t an option she had in mind. However, after seeing how her son responded during homeschooling, she decided that was the best option for him.

“I wanted him to be able to be more free with his exploration experience,” Naughton says. “Just wanting him to be able to ask questions when he wanted to and not necessarily have to wait or never be able to ask questions, because there’s no time left.” 

When I asked her if homeschooling affected her schedule, Naughton says, “It's a little tricky trying to get to and from different places but I have a more open schedule. It's a little easier than someone who’s working full time.” 

Naughton notes, though, that homeschooling does come with its unique challenges.

“It’s hard, and not everyone can do it. There’s definitely time, commitment and energy involved with it in trying to gather materials in what they’re interested in.” 

Voices of Youth participant Mazonnah Holiday poses with Rapid Growth Publisher Tommy Allen in her home.

As someone with my own homeschooling experience, I agree that it does take time, and there is a certain commitment that goes into homeschooling. You have to be dedicated to doing your work every day and being consistent with your schoolwork. As a student, you take the responsibility of waking up and getting yourself up to do your work.

Overall, my experience in public school and as a homeschooled student really helped shape my character as a person. There are pros and cons to being homeschooled and being in school in a public setting. In each of those experiences, I’ve learned to be myself.

To learn more about Rapid Growth's Voices of Youth project and read other installments in the series, click here. This series is made possible via underwriting sponsorships from the Steelcase Foundation, Frey Foundation and Kent ISD

Mazonnah Holiday is 15 years old and goes to Northview in Grand Rapids. She's an author and had her pieces published in two books. She has been homeschooling for one year now, and it has helped her focus and learn better. It adapts to her schedule well, and she is more comfortable at home doing work.

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