It’s no surprise the number of homeschool families swelled during the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, the U.S. Census  Bureau has released new data showing just how significant that growth has been.

Nationwide, the number of homeschoolers doubled in 2020. Between April 25 and May 5, 2020, the Census reported 5.4% of all U.S. households with school-age children were homeschooling. That leapt to 11.1% of households by fall. In North Carolina, the increase was from 5% to 9.4%.

“It’s clear that in an unprecedented environment, families are seeking solutions that will reliably meet their health and safety needs, their child care needs and the learning and socio-emotional needs of their children,” wrote Census researchers Casey Eggleston and Jason Fields.

The pandemic could be contributing to homeschooling becoming even more diverse. In households where respondents identified as Black or African American, the increase in home education was five-fold, from 3.3% to 16.1%.

“No one should be surprised that homeschooling surged during the pandemic,” said Dr. Terry Stoops, director of the Center for Effective Education at the John Locke Foundation. “Some parents wanted to avoid subjecting their children to months of shoddy instruction and school reopening mayhem in their assigned public schools. Others sought to protect the health and wellbeing of their families through home education.

“North Carolina led the nation in homeschooling before the pandemic. The state will continue to be a pacesetter long after the pandemic ends,” Stoops added.

More details about the dynamics of North Carolina’s homeschool enrollment increase will be available in July, when the N.C. Division of Non-Public Education releases its annual report. Based on preliminary estimates, Stoops estimates homeschool enrollment will now exceed 160,000 students for the 2021-22 school year.

As a percentage, other states garnered even more impressive growth in homeschooling: Alaska spiked from 9.6% of families with school-age children to 27.5%, while Florida wasn’t far behind with a jump from 5% to 18.1%. Even deep-blue Vermont showed a surprising gain, from 4.1% to 16.9%.