Do many parents homeschool their kids because they don’t want to get them vaccinated and comply with vaccination laws?
Vaccines and Homeschooling Myths
Opponents to a vaccine law in California that removed personal belief vaccine exemptions, SB277, claimed that it would lead all children currently receiving personal belief exemptions to leave those schools and become homeschoolers.
One problem with this idea is that even though 32 states don’t allow personal belief vaccine exemptions, avoiding vaccines laws is not a top reason for why most parents choose to homeschool their kids.
“Parents cite a number of different reasons for choosing to homeschool, including concerns about the school environment and desires to provide religious/moral instruction.15 In fact, a Department of Education study says that 38.4 percent of respondents claim they are homeschooling for religious reasons,16 while Christopher Klicka suggests in his book, The Right to Home School, that it is closer to 85 percent.”Khalili et al on Off the grid: vaccinations among homeschooled children
Instead, most parents homeschool because of:
- academic reasons – thinking they can provide a better education for their kids at home and dissatisfaction with public or private school
- family reasons – such as a child with special needs, not being able to get into the right school, transportation issues, or simply wanting more family time
- religious reasons – including providing religious instruction at home
- social reasons – including negative social activity and exposures at public and private schools
The availability of virtual education, cyber schools, and charter homeschools has likely also been a factor in some parents choosing to homeschool their kids.
What about vaccines?
In one article, Homeschooling parents’ practices and beliefs about childhood immunizations, only five parents (4%) included a desire not to vaccinate children as a reason for homeschooling.
Also, homeschooling rates are about the same in every state, just over 3% of students. A few outliers include Delaware (2.1%), North Carolina (7.7%), Pennsylvania (1.1%), West Virginia (4.6%), and Wisconsin (1.6%).
Of these states, only West Virginia doesn’t allow non-medical exemptions. But neither does Mississippi, which has very average homeschooling rates (3%).
Are Anti-vaxxers Turning to Homeschooling?
If anti-vaxxers are truly turning to homeschooling to avoid getting their kids vaccinated, we might have expected to see it happen in 2015, when California passed SB 277. That law eliminated non-medical vaccine exemptions and has been in effect since the 2016-2017 school year.
Although California is dealing with fake medical exemptions, there has not been a lot of evidence that many folks are homeschooling, leaving schools, or leaving the state after SB277 because they now have had to vaccinate and protect their kids.
“The law, however, does not apply to children who are home-schooled, a loophole that parents seem to be increasingly exploiting. Over the past three years, the number of kindergartners who were home-schooled and did not have their shots quadrupled, according to a Times analysis of state data.”Parents who won’t vaccinate their kids turning to home-schooling in California, data show
While there were more homeschoolers last year in California (3%), the rise in homeschooling in California is also being seen in many states without new vaccine laws.
“Home-schooling mothers were concerned about SB-277 but did not report that it was directly impacting their children, their vaccine decisions, or reason to home school.”McDonald et al on Exploring California’s new law eliminating personal belief exemptions to childhood vaccines and vaccine decision-making among homeschooling mothers in California
And, according to the Los Angeles Times, only “1.2% of the state’s kindergartners were home-schooled and unvaccinated in the last school year.”
The Homeschool Vaccine Loophole
It is also important to note that many states already have laws requiring homeschooled students to be vaccinated!
So yes, it is correct to say that the parents who are switching to homeschooling to avoid vaccinating and protecting their kids are exploiting a loophole.
“Submit proof of vaccination and receipt of any health services or examinations as required by law.”Home Schooling in Tennessee
Interestingly, North Carolina, with one of the highest rates of homeschoolers, requires that homeschooled children be vaccinated.
Is being able to homeschool without vaccines a loophole that will have to be closed?
“And though most of their schooling may take place at home, many are part of programs that meet several times a week with other students. If one contracted a disease such as measles, they could still spread it at the park, or the grocery store, or anywhere they come into contact with other people, said Dr. James Cherry, a UCLA expert on pediatric infectious diseases.”Parents who won’t vaccinate their kids turning to home-schooling in California, data show
It will likely depend if we end up seeing outbreaks among clusters of unvaccinated homeschoolers…
“During the six weeks after the gathering, a total of 34 cases of measles were confirmed. Of the patients with confirmed measles, 94 percent were unvaccinated, 88 percent were less than 20 years of age, and 9 percent were hospitalized. Of the 28 patients who were 5 to 19 years of age, 71 percent were home-schooled. “Parker et al on Implications of a 2005 measles outbreak in Indiana for sustained elimination of measles in the United States.
Few people will remember the 2005 measles outbreak in Indiana that occurred mostly among intentionally unvaccinated homeschoolers and cost over $167,000 to contain. At the time, it was “the largest documented outbreak of measles in the United States since 1996.”
And it is likely that few people know about the two unvaccinated homeschooled kids in Oklahoma who got tetanus in 2012, including an 8-year-old who was in the ICU for 18 days…
What to Know About Vaccines and Homeschooling
Parents who homeschool their kids should get their kids vaccinated and protected on time and on schedule and follow all of the other AAP recommendations for preventative health care.
More on Vaccines and Homeschooling Myths
- More Questions to Help You Become a Vaccine Skeptic
- Abuse of Vaccine Exemptions
- Why Are We Worried About 60,000 Unvaccinated Kids?
- How Is California’s New Vaccine Law Working?
- Ouch! – Now that didn’t hurt: The Implementation of the Vaccination Bill SB 277 in Orange County
- California SB 277: New evidence that restricting nonmedical exemptions to school vaccine requirements works
- Why You Shouldn’t Shop for Medical Exemptions
- Study Examines Fallout of California Vaccine Exemption Law
- How many children are homeschooled in the United States?
- Number and percentage of homeschooled students ages 5 through 17 with a grade equivalent of kindergarten through 12th grade, by selected child, parent, and household characteristics: Selected years, 1999 through 2016
- A Fresh Look at Homeschooling in the U.S.
- Measuring the Homeschool Population
- Number of Homeschoolers in US 2018-2019
- Study – Experiences With Medical Exemptions After a Change in Vaccine Exemption Policy in California
- Study – Homeschooling parents’ practices and beliefs about childhood immunizations.
- Study – Perceptions of vaccination within a Christian homeschooling community in Pennsylvania.
- Study – Exploring California’s new law eliminating personal belief exemptions to childhood vaccines and vaccine decision-making among homeschooling mothers in California.
- Study – Elimination of Nonmedical Immunization Exemptions in California and School-Entry Vaccine Status.
- Study – Implications of a 2005 measles outbreak in Indiana for sustained elimination of measles in the United States.
- Study – Vaccine-preventable disease among homeschooled children: two cases of tetanus in Oklahoma.
- The immunization status of home-schooled children in America.
- States With Religious and Philosophical Exemptions From School Immunization Requirements
- Home Schooling in Tennessee
- North Carolina Home School Requirements & Recommendations
- Off the grid: vaccinations among homeschooled children.
- The Truth About Vaccinated vs Unvaccinated Homeschoolers
- Parents who won’t vaccinate their kids turning to home-schooling in California, data show
- ‘Home-school charters’ let families use state dollars for Disneyland, horseback riding lessons and more
- Antivaxxers turn to homeschooling to avoid protecting their kids’ health
- AAP – 2019 Recommendations for Preventive Pediatric Health Care