Lee County sees 103% increase in homeschooled students over 4 years

WINK | By Annette Montgomery | November 28, 2023

Nationwide there’s been a surge in the number of parents deciding to take their children’s education into their own hands.

Data from the Washington post shows since the 2017-2018 school year, there’s been a 72% increase in the number of students homeschooled in Florida.

Last year, our local school districts saw an even larger increase.

Lee County saw a 103% increase for the 2022-2023 school year since the 2017-2018.school year.

Collier increased by 62% since the 2017-2018 school year to last year.

Charlotte County increased by 86% during the same time frame.

FGCU Education expert Dr. Jennifer Sughrue thinks the pandemic is the main culprit in the increase in parents deciding the way they want their child to receive an education, but she believes there are other reasons more parents are moving to a home-based learning method.

“I think the pandemic had a major impact on the population shift of where they’re receiving their education. All the brick-and-mortar schools had to close down,” Dr. Sughrue said. “There’s concerns about school violence and bullying, teacher shortages, curriculum changes that might not be sitting well with parents.”

The pandemic is the reason Sarah Horwath moved her family to home schooling. She now teaches her three children in kindergarten, 2nd and 5th grade.

“I have three girls that are currently being homeschooled and they are only doing like academics for maybe three hours a day. And everything else is life experience,” Horwath said.

She’s not alone in her decision. Mom Jessica Downs said she knows how much time her son would spend in a public school, and she wants to make sure she can tailor the influence school may have on her son who is in 2nd grade.

“In a perfect world, there’s 180 days in a school year, six hours a day. And that’s over 13 years. So over 14,000 hours, that someone else could have an influence over our children,” Dr. Sughrue said.

To put the percentages into numbers, in 2017-2018 1,850 students in Lee County were homeschooled, in 2022-2023 that number jumped to 3,760.

Dr. Sughrue does think the increase we’re seeing statewide is one that’s now hit its peak.

“Historically, what the data has said…they peak at home, the parents aren’t able to maintain the curriculum growth with their children,” Dr. Sughrue said.

She went on to say once children hit that middle or high school age, parents are no longer able to really keep up with their coursework.

“They know that that’s beyond their skill sets, so they move them back into the public schools at those ages,” Dr. Sughrue.

Horwath and Downs said the common misconception that homeschooled children aren’t able to participate in social activities is false. They said their children are enrolled in several extracurricular activities from sports to music.

Both mothers also said they aren’t on one side or the other when it comes to putting their child back into public school or choosing to continue home schooling them once they hit middle or high school, they said by that time they hope their children will be able to voice how they want to learn.

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