Pros and Cons of Homeschooling for school students disrupted by COVID-19, part 1

by Brian D. Ray, Ph.D.

(Revised September 28, 2020)

A news article headline in March of 2020 stated, “‘Unparalleled Disruption’: 290 Million Students Around the World Face Weeks at Home” in China, Japan, Iran, Italy, Iraq, North Korea, Azerbaijan, United Arab Emirates, and Lebanon. [i] Some parents with school-age children are concerned about their children’s attendance at school if anyone there were to be diagnosed with COVID-19 (or Coronavirus). They are also concerned about what to do for their child’s education (schooling) if his or her school has been or were to be closed for some period of time. This article shows that research informs homeschooling due to the COVID-19 Coronavirus.

Another headline reads, “Coronavirus May Lead to “Mass Homeschooling”.” One solution that has already been implemented in some cities around the world – or suggested by experts and laypersons – is homeschooling (home education, home-based education, home schooling) of the child. With homeschooling having re-emerged and grown around the globe for the past 40 years, this suggestion is not surprising. In the United States alone, there are already around 2.5 million homeschool students in grades K-12.[ii]

By September of 2020, several U.S. state governments and private homeschool organizations had reported growth rates of 20% to 75% compared to the same time a year ago. It would not be surprising if the overall U.S. homeschool student population were to grow by 20% for the 2020-2021 conventional school year, compared to the preceding year.

Some homeschool organizations have already provided getting-started homeschooling resources for families. Two examples are one that is noted at “HSLDA Releases ‘Quick Start’ Guide to Homeschool in Light of COVID-19”[iii] that links to “Homeschooling Quick Start.”[iv] and the other is “A crash course in getting started in homeschooling.”


What might research say about the possibilities of homeschooling for children and families who had not been planning on engaging in homeschooling? First, research evidence shows that parents of many backgrounds have been and can be successful at home educating their children. A demographically wide variety of people homeschool – these are atheists, Christians, Mormons, and Muslims; conservatives, libertarians, and liberals; low-, middle-, and high-income families; black, Hispanic, and white; parents with PhDs, GEDs, and no high/secondary-school diplomas. One study shows that 41 percent of homeschool students in the United States belong to the ethnic minorities of Black, Asian, Hispanic, and others (i.e., not White/non-Hispanic).[v]


Next, families can homeschool their children for a fraction of the cost (money) that public schools spend on students.[vi] Families in the United States spend less than eight percent per homeschool child on curriculum materials than what public/government schools spend per student. If a family has access to the Internet, they can generally do well with simply the educational resources available online and what is freely available in their

communities and families outside of schools.

As a corollary of the monetary costs to families, there is great savings to the taxpayers (including the families that home educate). For each student not in government-run institutional schooling, taxes can be lowered. In the USA, this is about $13,000 per student per year of tax savings. And this dollar amount does not include capital expenditures and research and development costs for public/government schooling. For example, USA homeschoolers are saving USA taxpayers at least $32 billion during the 2019-2020 public-school year.


Third, people wonder, what is academic achievement or performance like for homeschool students versus public school students? Homeschool children typically academically outperform their institutional public school peers by 15 to 30 percentile points on standardized academic achievement tests.[vii] In a review of research of peer-reviewed studies, 11 of the 14 (78%) studies on academic achievement revealed a definite statistically positive effect on achievement for the homeschooled students compared to those in state/public schools.[viii]

Academic achievement scores of homeschool and public state-school students

Academic Achievement of Homeschool and Public State-School Students, summary of many studies