People in the home-schooling community said rather than fear of their children catching Covid-19, lockdowns had highlighted concerns about the quality of education, the benefits of having children at home and the effects of Covid-19 restrictions.
Ministry of Education operations and integration leader Sean Teddy said since September last year it had received "significantly more applications to home education" compared with 2019 and 2020.
On December 8 last year, there were 8552 pupils in New Zealand with an exemption to be educated at home, up from 7749 at the beginning of July, 7192 in 2020 and 6573 in 2019.
Home-schooling in Otago had risen from 167 pupils in 2019 to 240 last year, while in Southland it had risen from 114 in 2019 to 165 last year.
As there was no obligation to provide a reason for a home-school exemption, the ministry could not categorically say it was a result of the pandemic, but feedback suggested it had had an impact, Mr Teddy said.
First-time Dunedin home-schooling mum Dale Smart-Flett said her decision was influenced by ongoing issues in the school system.
Class sizes had increased and the Covid-19 response had caused many disruptions for children.
She was looking forward to reconnecting with her 11-year-old son and learning alongside him, Mrs Smart-Flett said.
Supporting Home Education Among Families in Dunedin co-ordinator Linda Patterson said lockdowns prompted many parents to consider home-schooling.
Having children at home during lockdowns allowed parents who were on the fence to decide if the choice was right for them, she said.
There were many benefits to home education, such as allowing children to follow their passions and letting families live a lifestyle that suited them.
Although numbers were growing, home-schooling was not something that could be rushed into.
Getting an exemption to home-school meant going through a robust process to prove you were informed and committed to home education, she said.
National Council of Home Educators of NZ government liaison Cynthia Hancox said Covid-19 forced parents to evaluate their children’s learning.
A small number of parents would opt for home education to help prevent their child getting Covid-19, but it was not common.
Home Schooling NZ principal Todd Roughton said some parents had taken their children out of schools because they were unhappy with Covid-19 restrictions.
Many parents were unaware of the "appalling" standard of education until classes moved to video calls at home, he said.
Some were unhappy with how the Ministry of Education approached social issues and politics.