As a Boston homeschooler, you're part of a rare and extraordinary group. We hope this decade of data encourages you on your journey.
When Did The State Start Tracking Homeschoolers?
In 2010, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) started tracking homeschoolers. At that point, Boston had 108 documented homeschoolers, which represented a teeny fraction of Boston's student body (0.15%).
Why Would DESE Track Such A Small Population?
DESE values different learning styles. So it created a center dedicated to educational options. This includes homeschooling.
Where Are The Rest Of Boston Students?
89% are in public school. This includes charter (15%) and out-of-district public schools (5%) through programs like METCO. 11% attend private and parochial schools. And <1% attend collaboratives.
Please note that state virtual schools (which can take place at home) are not the same as homeschooling. Remote learning (through virtual schools) is a form of public education, while homeschooling is considered private.
Also children under 6 and over 16 may be missing from homeschool data. While, DESE counts homeschoolers between the ages of 5-17, Boston only requires registering homeschoolers between the ages of 6 and 16.
How Has The Number Of Boston Homeschoolers Changed Over The Years?
Since 2010, the number of Boston homeschoolers has more than doubled. Despite the upward trend, there were 3 times over the past decade that the number of homeschoolers declined. This could be due to ...
homeschoolers graduating or aging out
homeschoolers transitioning to traditional schools
homeschoolers moving out of state,
homeschoolers not registering with the city,
clerical error by the city or state, or
other unknown reasons.
Nevertheless the largest increase (+70%) in Boston's homeschoolers was in 2018. And the largest dip (-28%) was in 2015.
How Did COVID Impact Boston Homeschool Numbers?
In 2020, we added 68 new homeschoolers. It is unclear whether the global crisis caused or accelerated families' decision to homeschool. Meaning some families had already considered homeschooling and the plandemic presented the perfect opportunity. Whatever the case, +68 in 2020 was still smaller than the +90 jump in 2018.
We looked at 2020 Google Trends to see if their results matched the city.
According to this graph, there were a few peaks of homeschool interest. And similar to the city's results, there was more interest in 2018 than 2020.
Here's some key points...
We used data from the entire year, instead of the 2020 academic year, because families typically think about homeschooling before registering.
We used the search term "Boston homeschool," because "Boston homeschooler" and "Boston homeschooling" didn't get enough traffic for Google to track.
Despite Google being the world's #1 search engine, not all families use Google to research.
And Google Trends only shows interest, and doesn't show families who actually registered.
We did notice a very interesting finding that was contrary to the city data. Google shows a downward trend in homeschool interest over the years (-43%).
How Do Boston Homeschoolers Compare To The Rest Of The State?
With over 70,000 students living in Boston, 0.36% are allegedly homeschooled. That’s 3 in every 1,000. On the other hand, 1.76% of Massachusetts students were homeschooling. That's almost 5x Boston's rate.
15% of Massachusetts homeschoolers live in these 10 towns.
You may be wondering how Boston ranks among the top homeschooling towns if their numbers didn't significantly increase in 2020.
Boston has a significantly larger student body (70,213) compared to other towns. Which means there are more children, so even if a small percentage homeschools, that number can be larger than some towns entire student bodies. In 2014, 2018 and 2019, Boston ranked #1 in number of homeschoolers.
Other cities who have ranked #1 include Worcester and Springfield. For context, Worcester (27,491) and Springfield (29,042) both have half the student body of Boston, but still ranked high on the list.
Did You Discover Anything Interesting About The Data?
Yes! We noticed a trend of smaller towns having higher percentages of homeschoolers.
For example, Agawam has a larger percentage of homeschoolers (4%) in their student body compared to Boston (0.36%). Meaning homeschoolers in the town of Agawam are probably more likely to meet other homeschoolers than they would in Boston.
We thought these findings were fascinating, because Boston homeschoolers can feel insecure about their decision to homeschool. Maybe because of the lack of local like-minded people. But if you drive a few miles west, homeschooling is more commonplace. Here's a list of towns with the highest homeschooling rates pre-COVID. You may find this helpful if you want to move outside of the city.
Many of these smaller towns are non-operating (non-op). Which means they do not "directly operate a school district."
In 2020, Warwick ranked #1 for the town with the highest percentage of homeschoolers. Their 2020 student body was magically half of what it was in 2019 (35). To get a mental picture of how small that is, all of their students (at that point) could comfortably fit in a Boston school bus.
How Does Boston Compare On A National Level?
National stats are a little tricky. Per the International Center For Home Education Research (ICHER), states like New Hampshire stopped collecting data in 2014. So the following geo map is pretty inconsistent. I used data from ICHER mixed with current data from some of the state sites.
And we couldn't find data on 20 out of the 50 states. Which led us back to Google. According to Google Trends there was a lot of homeschool interest in New York in 2020. Comparatively, Massachusetts didn't get enough searches to rank nationally.
On a global scale, homeschool searches were very popular in Paraguay (100), followed by the US (6), Puerto Rico (6), South Africa (5), Canada (3), Australia (3), the UK (3) and the Philippines (3).
For geo maps, Google Trends designates popularity scores of 0-100. The scores allow for smaller countries to get a proportionate score. Meaning Paraguay's 100 score means homeschool was a very popular topic in that area compared to the other locations.
What The Numbers Don't Show...
When reviewing data, it's important to understand the researcher's intent. Our reason for analyzing homeschool data is to make sure families do not feel alone (especially since Boston has such a small group). Our goal is not to persuade others to home educate, but to encourage the families that do. So our approach to data analysis is to make sure homeschoolers know others like them are out there.
The data also doesn't show any demographic information such as which Boston neighborhoods, income or educational levels, family structures, ethnicities, political or religious affiliations or genders are more likely to homeschool. While this info may be insightful and esteem boosting, we're personally thankful the city doesn't collect it. But the National Center For Education Statistics (NCES), which conducts voluntary surveys -- collects some. As a homeschooling family, we have not received a homeschool survey, so our family (and families like ours) may not be represented.
When reviewing data sets, also remember national results don't necessarily reflect the reality in our city. One example is that the national homeschool rate in 2016 (according to NCES) was 3.3%, but the percentage in Boston (1.8%) and Massachusetts (0.75%) (according to DESE) at that time were significantly lower. If NCES' data is accurate, then it reveals how niche of a group Boston homeschoolers really are, especially on a national level.
Lastly, it'd be super interesting to know what moves these families to homeschool. One theory is that Boston is known as the nation's education capital with an abundance of resources. Our personal reason is because our daughter asked and we wanted to honor her choice. We've also seen facial expressions used, simply because words are not enough to express the multitude of reasons why a family chooses to homeschool.
Despite what's missing from the data, we hope you feel a little more informed about your educational choice and confident interpreting the information that is out there.
What Can This Data Teach Us About The Future Of Homeschooling In Boston?
At the current rate of growth and our analysis of it, Boston homeschoolers are expected to double by 2030. Our goal is to make it a little easier for them. So we've created a homeschool-friendly calendar and compiled a list of local resources that we hope will provide value for years to come.
What do you think about homeschooling in Boston?
Until next time...
Love The Journey,