COSTA MESA, Calif.—The demand for homeschooling options in California is on the rise as parents express concern over the state’s COVID-19 vaccine mandates for K–12 students and critical race theory entering into various subjects.
Tom Pollitt, founder of the home school program Orange County Christian Schools in Costa Mesa, said parents have been increasingly dissatisfied with the public education system over the past year.
“Parents all had an opportunity this last year to see what the kids were being taught online, and most of them didn’t like it,” Pollitt told The Epoch Times.
Henny Abrahams pulled her 6-year-old son out of the Newport-Mesa School Unified District and enrolled him in Orange County Christian Schools, concerned about sex education and other subjects, which she believes shouldn’t be taught until later.
“I don’t like the fact that my son who is half white [and] half Iranian has to, at some point, identify as anything but a child,” Abrahams told The Epoch Times. “There were so many red flags for me that homeschooling just became apparent that this is the route we have to go until there’s a massive change in our education system.”
Abrahams also made the switch to homeschool before the COVID-19 vaccine mandate could be enforced for K–12 schools in 2022.
“If somebody wants to get it, 100 percent, go for it,” she said. “But taking any sort of freedom away … there’s going to be a huge mass exit from public schools. … A lot of people come from counties [where] that you don’t get to choose what to do with your body. But once that gets taken away, then that’s an issue.”
As controversy continues to spark throughout California schools, Abrahams said she suspects more parents will also make the switch.
At Orange County Christian Schools, students begin their day in the homeroom, citing the Pledge of Allegiance before reading a Bible verse and learning traits of integrity and honesty.
“If we’re not providing a better than average education for the kids, parents will lose interest real quick,” Pollitt said.
The school is set up as a private school for state homeschool-enrolled students. Parents are responsible for the teaching but receive support from the homeschool organization. Tuition is $1,000 a year, which funds books, materials, and other educational expenses.
Scholarships are also available.
“We’re trying to provide an alternative for the parents that want to get out of the public school system. Not everybody can afford the average cost of a Christian school or private school,” Pollitt said.
The school operates at Harbor Light Church, with 27 students from K–12 enrolled since opening in September.
The school is fully staffed with instructors after receiving an overflow of retired teachers requesting to volunteer their time when the program was first announced.
Students are split by grade level and in class sizes of four to seven, for eight hours a day, four days a week.
On Tuesdays and Thursdays, students work on reading, writing, arithmetic, science, math, and history. On Mondays and Wednesdays, they participate in enrichment classes for music, dance, foreign language, and more.
The Costa Mesa school opened nearly five months after the California Department of Education announced last spring a sharp decline in California enrollment for the 2020–21 academic year.
According to the department, California’s public schools witnessed a decrease of over 160,000 students—or about 3 percent of the previous school year’s enrollment.
“In a year that has been so challenging for educators, students, and families, it is concerning to see this decrease, especially those in our youngest grades,” State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond said in a statement at the time.
While there is no exact answer to the decline in enrollment, Thurmond pledged the state would work toward understanding the drop and develop strategies accordingly.
Similarly, California private schools also experienced a decline in enrollment—down 18,000 students in 2020–21 from the previous year, according to state data.
By comparison, homeschooling was on the rise during the pandemic. According to the most recent data, the state reported over 22,000 home school enrollments in the 2019–20 school year compared to over 14,000 in the 2018–19 school year.