Oct 11, 2023 - Education

Oregon's homeschooling boom may be here to stay

Illustration of a welcome mat with the word "school" written on the front

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

At the onset of the pandemic, some Oregon families chose to homeschool their children. Three years later, many have decided to stick with it, according to state and county data.

Why it matters: Numerous factors contribute to why families decide opt for homeschooling, but the plethora of digital resources available to parents post-COVID has made it easier than ever before, according to Rosalyn Newhouse, board president of Oregon Homeschool Education Network.

Yes, but: An increase in homeschooling contributes to falling enrollment, budget shortfalls and potential cuts. Drop in enrollment contributes to resources available for schools, but funding varies district to district, per Oregon Department of Education.

What they're saying: Parents who chose to continue homeschooling even after students returned to class say they've found the process rewarding and enjoyable, Newhouse said — and they've seen their children's happiness rise.

  • "Homeschooling does require a real intent and commitment on the part of the parent," she said. "If you just try to skate by doing nothing, your kid is going to demand more."

Zoom in: Oregon is one of 13 states where parents only have to file a notice of intent to homeschool once, not yearly like West Coast neighbors Washington and California.

  • Oregon doesn't have specific curriculum requirements for homeschooled children.
  • Students are required to take a standard assessment test at the end of 3rd, 5th, 8th and 10th grade and submit scores to their local education service district (also known as ESDs — there are 19 across the state).

By the numbers: Because Oregon doesn't track the total number of homeschooled children, registration numbers more accurately track trends of homeschool participation.

  • The number of new homeschool registrations in Multnomah ESD rose 244% from the 2019-2020 school year (517) to the 2020-2021 school year (1,776), according to data from the district.
  • In the Northwest Regional ESD, which includes Clatsop, Columbia, Tillamook and Washington counties, there were 967 new homeschool registrants in the 2019-2020 school year, compared to 3,053 in the 2020-2021 school year — a 216% bump.
  • The home-schooling surge during the pandemic has cooled some. Both Multnomah and Northwest Regional ESDs have seen a decline in new registrations for the 2022-2023 school year — 467 and 729, respectively.

The big picture: Across the country, an estimated 2 million students are homeschooled, according to the Coalition for Responsible Home Education.

  • Fewer students in public schools means fewer state and federal dollars coming to school district budgets, which get money based on headcounts, David S. Knight, an assistant professor of education finance and policy at the University of Washington, told Axios' Christine Clarridge.

The intrigue: Home schooling is estimated to account for more than 26% of the 1.2 million drop in student enrollment at public schools nationwide, while private schools account for about 14%, according to a 2023 study by Thomas S. Dee of Stanford.

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