New York Kids Are Fleeing To Homeschool In Record Numbers

The number of families opting to homeschool in New York City have jumped at alarming rates.

By Rick Gonzales | Published

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The numbers are dramatic and telling. Children in New York City are homeschooled in record numbers and it’s a trend that doesn’t appear to be going away. Since the COVID pandemic took over, homeschool numbers in New York have jumped a staggering 88%.

Numbers across the five boroughs were eye-popping as this year alone nearly 15,000 children were pulled from public education to instead be homeschooled. This represents a near 7,000 increase (or the aforementioned 88%) since the pandemic began. The number of new registered New York homeschool students topped 4,000, the biggest jump since the start of the corvid pandemic.

According to a Chalkbeat analysis, the biggest New York homeschool increases came in school districts that had a higher concentration of low-income students. There are a number of reasons families have chosen to forgo a return to public education as the pandemic wears on. Some parents were forced out of the workforce or into working from home, which gave them the opportunity to see what life for their children was like with remote learning. Unfortunately, as it was seen across the country, remote learning in many cases turned into poor learning experiences for many kids.

While the experience that forced many New Yorkers to homeschool was bad for plenty, it was families of color that often found the curriculum wasn’t working. For other families, it turned into a safety issue as to why they opted for homeschooling. Parents felt their kids were safer at home because of the fears surrounding COVID. Likewise, the uptick in school violence seen as students returned to in-person learning was much larger than a simple uptick.

homeschool new york

Shalonda Curtis-Hackett is a Bushwick mom who decided at the beginning of the school year to keep her three children at home in protest. She joined a number of other families who wanted the remote learning option to be given to New York City families because of the continuing pandemic. The new variants only grew Curtis-Hackett’s concerns. But for Curtis-Hackett, she had concerns other than just COVID, which turned the New York mother to homeschooling. Her concerns revolved around the bias she felt she was seeing in public school education. She felt there was a level of anti-Blackness being taught, so she notified New York’s education department, informing them that she would home-school her kids.

Curtis-Hackett’s version of New York homeschool is called “unschooling,” a form of homeschool with much looser reigns. It allows kids to follow what interests them instead of a set school curriculum. “Our kids are harmed in public school,” Curtis-Hackett explained to ChalkBeat. “Because we’re unschooling, we play a lot of games. I let them play video games. We put together a puzzle globe, and we spin and pick a place to research.”

Homeschooling, as many families have learned over the past two years, is not an easy task to make work. One reason is the lack of financial support to get learning materials, as family tax funds are still going toward public education. For this reason, legislators across the country are introducing bills to allow for school choice. This would mean families would be able to take their public-school tax funds or even have a school education account set up so they would be able to use funds for private schools or even to do what Curtis-Hackett did with New York homeschool decisions.

homeschool new york

Since the 2019-2020 school year, students in K-5 have moved over to homeschool in New York at the biggest rate. They have jumped an amazing 119% in that timeframe. Middle schools have seen a 74% increase in their homeschool numbers while high school homeschooling rose 64%. These jumps in numbers show that New York low-income families might have chosen the homeschool route at higher rates. The six highest poverty New York school districts saw a 119% increase in homeschool children, while the six lowest poverty New York districts increase 79% during the COVID pandemic.

“The past two years have been challenging for school communities across the nation, and families made the best decisions suited to their unique needs and circumstances,” said New York education department spokesperson Sarah Casasnovas. “As New York City recovers from the impacts of the pandemic, families are returning to classrooms. Chancellor Banks is committed to engaging with families and working to restore trust in New York City schools.” But the New York homeschool numbers don’t lie. These statistics are also alarming to the public education system. Taking students away and opting for homeschooling will represent an even larger problem if the intended school choice bills move forward. The COVID pandemic and resulting mass school closures have had unintended repercussions that there may be no coming back from.