According to the Virginia Department of Education, there are now around 62,000 homeschoolers in Virginia. That number is down slightly from more than 65,500 homeschoolers during the 2020-2021 school year.
"When public schools moved online, many students experienced Zoom fatigue, failing grades and other trouble learning in a virtual environment. They wanted an alternative," Andrea Cubelo-McKay, president of the Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers, told Virginia Mercury. "At the same time, more parents were working from home, had flexible schedules or were furloughed from their jobs. That made them more available for homeschooling."
In recent years, the controversial Critical Race Theory and other cultural values were other key factors causing families to turn to homeschool.
Cubelo-McKay lives in Loudoun County, where angry parents often attended school board meetings challenging the use of Critical Race Theory in school.
In December, a parent-led demonstration placed around 650 shoes outside of the Loudoun County Public Schools administrative office's building, marking a rise in the number of families and teachers considering leaving the public school system.
"The children don't belong to the state," Yvonne Bunn, director of government affairs for the Home Educators Association of Virginia, or HEAV, told Virginia Mercury. "I think parents really want to impart their own values to their children — their values and beliefs and their own worldview. And that is a major reason parents are home schooling."
In Virginia, the number of homeschoolers varies among the commonwealth's counties, with more than 15% of students in rural areas opting to homeschool. In Franklin and Highland counties, almost one of every five students homeschool.
Homeschooling families have found they enjoy the assortment of learning opportunities.
"Our children learn from us in different ways," Nikiya Ellis, a homeschooling parent, told Virginia Mercury. "And it doesn't have to be this academic way of learning all day, every day. They learn from watching us cook, watching how we treat each other. It doesn't have to be sitting down at a table with pen and paper."
In April 2020, a Harvard law professor wrote in Harvard Magazine calling for a ban on homeschooling, claiming that the "dangerous" practice isolates children and fails to prepare them for participating in a democratic society.
"The issue is, do we think that parents should have 24/7, essentially authoritarian control over their children from ages zero to 18? I think that's dangerous," Harvard Law professor Elizabeth Bartholet said in the article.
Homeschooling continues to stay popular, though.
Since September, Bunn stated that HEAV had handled more than 21,000 phone calls for homeschooling advice.
"It's been unbelievable the surge in parents just wanting to know what they need to do and how they could do it," Bunn said.