How Education Freedom Accounts are Helping Homeschool Families Unbundle Education in New Hampshire

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Note: This article was originally published on EdChoice’s blog, Engage.

By Ann Marie Miller

Before they had kids, Jonathan and Megan Ebba knew they wanted to be in charge of their children’s education. They wanted education to be a family adventure because education is very important to them. When Meg chose to become a stay-at-home mom, it was clear their income would not allow them to send their three children to private school, so they turned to homeschooling.

“Homeschooling is so fun. When you’re raising your own kids and you get to be there for their educational successes, it’s very rewarding. I’m so glad that I get to be there for that, ‘ah ha’ moment when something clicks for them.”

Thanks to New Hampshire’s Education Freedom Accounts, the Ebba family has even more options to customize their children’s education.

“In New Hampshire, there are now two legal pathways for homeschooling. One of them is traditional homeschooling, the way most people think about it. And then we have this new program called Educational Freedom Accounts. We’re able to take our choices to the next level.

There is no way, as a low-income family, that we could be able to afford the newest curriculum or the latest version of an edition of a textbook,” said Meg. “I would say we take a hybrid approach to our children’s education. We have them attend in person co-op classes. They take a la carte classes at a private school. We do some stuff at home. They have online classes, and my oldest is doing dual enrollment.”

Enacted in 2021, the New Hampshire Educational Freedom Accounts (EFA) program provides education savings accounts that can be used by families with a maximum income of 350% of the poverty line ($105,000 for a family of four in 2023–24) for a variety of educational expenses. Education Freedom Accounts have given the Ebba family the ability to personally customize education around the interests of each of their children.

“My oldest is looking at college classes because she knows she’ll need them to study medicine. With the EFA, we were able to send her to a top private school in our area for in-person lab chemistry while she takes online courses. She’s also been able to start earning college credit through dual enrollment classes,” said Meg. “My son either wants to be a rocket scientist or an electrician. Last summer, he did a welding camp to see if he liked the trades. We’re also looking at some mechatronics certificate courses that he can do while he’s still in high school to see if he prefers robotics.”

“Our youngest wants to be a nurse midwife. In New Hampshire, you can become a Licensed Nursing Assistant (LNA) at 16, and the EFA program will cover the coursework. Thanks to the EFA, she can start working as an LNA and see if she really likes it. If not, she can explore other options.”

“We told our kids from the beginning that being well-educated and a critical thinker is the priority over going to college. If they choose a career path that needs higher education, we will certainly encourage that, but we’re encouraging them to explore their interests before they go to college. The EFA has empowered us to do that in new ways,” Meg said.

During the pandemic, the number of homeschooling students in New Hampshire doubled from around 3,000 to nearly 6,000. Meg found herself feeling survivors guilt knowing that many of her friends and neighbors would be homeschooling for the first time, while her family had already become accustomed to this type of education. So, she decided to offer her support.

“I ended up having two or three backyard meetings at my house with my neighbors where we all sat with our little folding chairs 6 ft apart, to show them how they could homeschool for a year and then go back to traditional schooling. I had curriculum samples that people could review, and we just talked about it,” Meg said.

She was surprised to learn that many parents really enjoyed home education and decided to continue with homeschooling after classes resumed in person.

“They liked the freedom to make different choices with education and to go faster in some subjects or slower in some subjects or ditch certain subjects altogether. I know people worry about how to homeschool their children if they themselves weren’t the best students or didn’t go to college. The truth is that there’s so much support out there now and that the problems that you have with homeschooling are almost always parenting problems that you would have had anyway. When it comes to homeschooling challenges, sometimes it’s the wrong set of a curriculum; or discovering your child has a learning disability or is special needs; and you have to figure out what’s best for your child with each subject.”

In New Hampshire, 48% of families are eligible for the Education Freedom Accounts program, and in Fall 2023, the program supported 4,470 students. Meg hopes more families will consider homeschooling as an option and that the Education Freedom Account program will expand to support more families in customizing their education.

“In New Hampshire there’s a huge homeschooling community. We have a statewide home school prom annually, so every homeschooler could go to prom if they want. It’s really fun. There are a lot of different co-ops, experiences and organizations to support you,” Meg said.

“And if there’s a group that you’d like to see, but doesn’t exist yet, you can just start one and people will show up. It’s very grassroots around here. Homeschool parents like the freedom of tailoring their education to their child, which I think is sort of the point of school choice. You are the parent, and you know your child the best.”

About Ann Marie Miller: As EdChoice’s communications and content associate, Ann Marie leads project management, content creation and supports all Communications projects. She comes to EdChoice with a background in storytelling, writing and social media marketing. Prior to this role, Ann Marie served as a storyteller for the Illinois Policy Institute illustrating the intersection of public policy and people’s lives, business and choices. She graduated from George Mason University with a master’s degree in economics and earned a interdisciplinary bachelor’s degree in Economics, Spanish and Japanese from Western Carolina University.

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