The NH Department of Education recently released home education enrollment data for the 2021-22 school year. Enrollment figures are based on new home education notifications as of October 1 of each year, not the total number of homeschooled students, reporting to the Participating Agency options available to families: their local public-school districts, the Department of Education, and private schools that offer this service. Public academies and chartered public schools cannot act as participating agencies to homeschooling families per state law, RSA 193-A.
Although the number is down from the all-time high of 2020, the 2021 data shows strong growth for the current academic year and over the past five years.
Unlike the data for public school enrollment, participating agencies only report the new, not the total number of homeschool students who file with them. Families are required to provide notification to their chosen provider within five days of beginning a home education program.
2021 Home Education Enrollment
note: Home education notification does not require families to assign or share grade levels for their children.
What Does The Data Mean
Families want more educational options for their children for a variety of reasons, and the continued impact of Covid is a primary motivation. Home education offers a safe harbor during these uncertain times and gives families more control of their children’s learning.
As expected, GSHE saw many 2020 “crisis homeschoolers” return to their local public schools when they reopened in spring 2021, but many are extending their home education experience this academic year, and based on the DOE’s data, more families are giving home education a try. Informal surveys in our various social media groups indicate that roughly half of the 2020 “crisis homeschoolers” returned to their district schools and half chose to continue with their home education programs.
Veteran homeschools remain vigilant about potential backlash as public schools continue to see significant enrollment declines.
It is important to distinguish the home education data from the new Education Freedom Account (EFA) program. The EFA is a separate and distinct way to satisfy compulsory attendance and although it may be used for at-home learning, it is not the same as home education. EFA families follow different requirements created in RSA 194-F and Ed Rules 324. EFA families may use the funds for approved educational uses by approved providers.
The NH Department of Education’s Recovering Bright Future program launched in fall 2021 and offers district and community small-group learning options through Prenda. The community pod model is considered home education. According to recent news reports, there are roughly 100 students using Prenda in 21 community pods and five district pods; a breakout of that data is not currently available.
In summer 2020 GSHE observed a renewed interest in self-organized, small learning groups, also called “homeschool pods.” We interviewed Commissioner Frank Edelblut twice that summer – video #1 and video #2 – about these family-based educational cohorts. We also created a niche Facebook group, GSHE Homeschool Pod Connections, to help bring families and educational providers together to form these home-based learning communities and it has over 1,000 members.
Our primary social media group, Granite State Home Educators, also experienced explosive growth over the past 18+ months, increasing to nearly 5,000 members as of this writing.
GSHE has additional social media groups to facilitate families connecting in where it fits their needs and interests. We also offer a monthly e-newsletter to help families easily find news, encouragement, social and educational events, and other important information relevant to home education. People can sign up at our website.
As we saw this tidal-wave of interest surge across the state, GSHE upped our resources and created over a dozen videos specifically to help prospective and new homeschooling families. We cover many of the most common questions and areas of concern while providing encouragement and support. Because we could not host our in-person Intro Sessions, we hosted one virtually, recorded here, as well as a live Ask Me Anything re Homeschooling.
GSHE is happy to support prospective, new, and experienced homeschooling families through their home ed journeys. One of our core beliefs is the power of community, and we remain committed to supporting families for however long they decide to home educate their children.
By Michelle Levell