Alternative Schooling | Homeschooling in 2022 Is it for Your Kids?

Photo courtesy of Tim Mossholder (aUXXModtz3c-unsplash).

One of the biggest fallouts from the COVID-19 pandemic has been its effects on education and the need for alternative schooling. Millions of children were sent home to learn, with unexpected results.

Many students realized they preferred learning at home, or that their anxieties and learning struggles decreased once home. Many parents realized their kids were not learning well or were struggling with learning disabilities.

Still, other parents felt their children were not getting a good enough education, especially remotely, once they could listen in to the classes. Others may have realized their child excelled learning at home and decided to take their education into their own hands.

This complex mix has led to an increased interest in homeschooling nationwide, and Colorado is no exception. Though tracking down the exact number of homeschoolers per state is difficult, some work has been done to estimate national numbers. One recent study by the National Home Education Research Institute estimates just over 3.1 million school-aged homeschoolers during the 2021-2022 school year. They also report nearly the same number of homeschooled and charter school students nationwide, indicating that homeschooling continues to grow in popularity. Unfortunately, these numbers are complicated by different state reporting requirements and classifications.

It is difficult to estimate how many homeschoolers are currently in Colorado and whether that number has grown over the last couple of years. What can be found, however, are expanding resources, more school choice options, and attempts to pass pro-home education legislation.

Over the summer, Arizona made a splash by announcing H.B. 2853, which stated that the state’s Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) would be expanded to every student in the state, instead of certain student populations. This means that parents of any school-age child in the state will be eligible to receive the funds to help pay for education expenses – up to about $7,000 per year per child.

These funds can go to everything from private school tuition to homeschool materials, tutors, learning pods, and more. There are no testing requirements, no requirements for an affidavit of intent to homeschool (the ESA contract becomes the affidavit), and will not affect existing ESA recipients in any way. ESA funding comes directly from state taxes and is equal to roughly 90% of what would be allotted for the child if they were to attend public school.

As with any major change involving money and schools, this has caused quite a furor, with arguments for and against raging over the summer. Those in favor of change state that the bill gives them more freedom when it comes to providing their children with an education that is right for them. It would allow parents who might not otherwise be able to afford these other options a chance to pursue them for their children.

Meanwhile, those who oppose it bring up issues of accountability and concerns that public school students and the original populations ESAs were created for will lose out. They also point out that voters denied a similar bill back in 2018.

What About Colorado?

It does not appear that any legislation similar to Arizona’s is in the works in Colorado. However, that does not mean legislators here are not trying to help home educators and school choice supporters. The Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSDLA) lists Colorado as a “low regulation” state, and in the past several years, a few pro-homeschooling bills have been brought forward, though all have been postponed indefinitely.

Back in 2020, a tax credit bill was proposed for taxpayers who provided home education (or had their children enrolled in certain types of non-public schools) – it would have provided up to $2,000/year in tax credits depending on several factors.

Another attempt at a tax credit came about the following year, this time under the umbrella of “nonpublic education costs incurred as a result” of the pandemic. This one was aimed at parents who were homeschooling a child who had previously attended a public school full-time but no longer was; it went up to $1,000/year.

Early this year, a learning pod bill that would have allowed recipients of a certain type of scholarship to keep the funds and apply them to costs associated with a learning pod was also postponed. It does seem there are some legislators who are trying to stand up for home education year after year.

Colorado has some straightforward homeschooling regulations that can be found at the Colorado Department of Education site. Basically, parents must file a notice of intent to the local school district, participate in standardized testing (with some exceptions), and meet a certain number of education contact hours per year. These laws apply to pure homeschooling, and standards are different for those using online programs from public, charter, or private schools as well as umbrella schools.

The good news for current and prospective homeschoolers is that, even without a funding bill like Arizona’s, there is still a renaissance of sorts going on. By visiting the CDE site, one can quickly see how many resources exist in an “official” manner, but there are also so many more beyond that. Homeschooling in Colorado is straightforward and generally supported.

Alternative Schooling Homeschooling
Photo courtesy of Jessica Lewis (SrJuOjX2qso-unsplash).

New Developments in Colorado

One of the most exciting developments in recent years is the idea of a micro-school. Micro-schools (also known as learning pods) is an old idea, revisited. Sometimes considered the middle ground between home education and public school, they involve small class sizes, multiple ages/mixed grades, and personalized education. Some may be affiliated with larger schools, while others may be run by a group of homeschooling parents, former public school teachers, or even out of churches. Some local micro schools have been officially founded, including Ascend Micro School, while others are more informal and can only be found via word of mouth or in social media groups dedicated to such topics.

Many others take advantage of hybrid options within their local school districts when offered – students can attend some public or charter school classes every week, which in some cases also qualifies them to join sports and activities offered by the schools.

The education environment is constantly evolving and is evolving in a homeschool-friendly way. Although Colorado does not offer the same levels of financial support as Arizona, it remains a homeschool-friendly state with a variety of supports, resources, and some friendly legislators.

Now is a good time to make the commitment and take the leap into homeschooling, there are more options available than ever before, and people seem to be open to the idea and realizing the positives of homeschooling on a wider level than ever before, an unexpected result of the pandemic and school shutdowns.

Information for enrichment programs statewide can be found at the CDE Homeschool Resources site. The same resource page also lists many support groups, as well as homeschool-friendly programs for a wide variety of activities offered by various groups and businesses across the state.

The Maverick Observer is an online free-thinking publication interested in the happenings in our region. We launched in February 2020 to hold our politicians and businesses accountable. We hope to educate, inform, entertain, and infuse you with a sense of community.

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