RSU 9 Superintendent Christian Elkington listens during a discussion on Tuesday, Nov. 14, over the ambiguity of the number of students that are homeschooled in Maine.  Brian Ponce/Franklin Journal

FARMINGTON — Regional School Unit 9 Superintendent Christian Elkington shared an article with the board of directors at their meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 14, regarding the ambiguity of students that are identified as home schooled.

“We’ve had some conversations about home schooling,” Elkington stated at the meeting. “The numbers are changing and growing for many reasons, but I thought it was a well written article to share a lot of different perspectives.”

The article, which was a collaboration between Peter Jamison, Laura Meckler, Prayag Gordy, Clara Ence Morse and Chris Alcantara for the Washington Post, states that the rise in home schooling at the beginning of the pandemic has managed to sustain itself, which has defied the expectations and predictions that most would return to school once masking mandates and COVID-19 restrictions were lifted.

California, New York, Rhode Island and Washington D.C. have reported significant increases to the population of students that are home schooled, with Washington D.C. reporting an increase of 108% from the 2017-2018 school year to the 2022-2023 school year.

The data collected for the study came from 32 states and the District of Columbia, accounting for 60% of the country’s school-age population. The remaining states did not provide reliable data, with 11 states, including Texas and Michigan, not requiring notification when a family decides to educate their child at home, or monitor how those students are progressing.

Maine was among the states that could not provide an accurate number of the home schooling population, a fact that director Rich Ruhlin of Industry noticed and brought to the attention of the superintendent.


“I’m just curious as to whether we have sense to the statistics at Mt. Blue for home school kids?” Ruhlin asked.

Elkington responded by stating he will provide newer, more accurate numbers at the next meeting, stating this group of home schooled students is twice the size of the numbers prior to COVID-19. He added, however, that several private school students were listed among the home school numbers as a result of an issue with a local private school that Elkington did not disclose.

Previously in October, Elkington reported 270 parents or guardians had applied to home school their child or children for the 2023-2024 school year. In contrast to that, the number of families that applied in 2019-2020 was 123.

“It seems to me that they would have dropped back to the pre-COVID numbers, and they’re staying at around 270 now,” director J. Jeffrey Barnum of New Vineyard asked at the meeting. “Any idea why that’s the case?”

Elkington attributed the issue to a number of factors, including concerns over mandatory vaccines as well as parents doubting the abilities of the public education system.

The article from Washington Post contradicted this by stating that, “despite claims that the home schooling boom is a result of failing public schools, The Post found no correlation between school district quality, as measured by standardized test scores, and home schooling growth.”

Angela Watson of the Portland Press Herald provided a different perspective in her commentary piece from November of last year. In it, she observes that, while the population of families that chose homeschooling over other forms of education had receded in the spring, “home schooling is still strong.”

“Even before the pandemic, home schooling was popular for all kinds of families,” Watson stated in her piece. “Student-athletes and families with less traditional schedules value the flexibility that home schooling provides. Students with special and gifted needs can find a customized match for their needs in a home school environment. Bullied students may find safety at home.

“In fact, safety is the top reason parents select for choosing to home-school their child and is an especially prevalent choice for minority families seeking a culturally affirming education,” she added.

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