Homeschooling during COVID sees culture wars flare-up

The growth of homeschooling during the pandemic has encouraged Christian homeschooling leaders and families while opening new fault lines between the Christian orientation of much of the movement and its secular and more liberal newcomers. These new points of division can be seen in an article by Elena Trueba in Religion and Politics (September 10, 2020). Estimates on the growth of homeschooling—and not just remote learning—have reached the double digits in many states; the number of families registering to homeschool in Vermont jumped by75 percent, with states such as Nebraska and North Carolina also showing high growth rates. The premier homeschooling advocacy group Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) predicted as much as a 500 percent increase in homeschooled children this fall. Trueba writes that before the pandemic, homeschoolers were a small but growing population (making up about three percent of American schoolchildren), with data finding they were generally Christian (66 percent). The Christian component in homeschooling was established in the 1970s under such conservative Calvinist figures as R.J. Rushdoony (who was one of the founders of Christian Reconstructionism, which holds that society should be run on biblical teachings) and the evangelical legal activism of Michael Ferris and has become a worldwide movement in recent years.

Trueba adds that new Christian right activism has often been associated with Christian homeschooling and that this connection is fueling conflicts with the more secular homeschooling families that have arrived on the scene since the pandemic. The Christian-oriented HSLDA and state homeschooling associations are targeting these new families leaving traditional schools during the pandemic. The HSLDA has launched a website during specifically addressing mothers to help them manage homeschooling during the pandemic. Trueba focuses on the curricula that the HSLDA and associated organizations recommend to new homeschoolers, which tends toward the conservative Christian side of the spectrum, as found in such publishers as Bob Jones University, Abeka, and the materials from Accelerated Christian Education (ACE). She argues that the texts are “Christian nationalist,” by which she means that they teach that Christians have to take back the country from secularism. Trueba cites one homeschooling mother and writer who has attended homeschooling meetings and charges that the homeschooling subculture is “embedded with patriarchal and Reconstructionist ideologies.”

(Religion & Politics,