Category Archives: Home schools

Progressives against homeschooling

How significant is homeschooling? Consider this, from Kevin D. Williamson at National Review Online:

“by the simple act of instructing their children at home, [homeschoolers] pose an intellectual, moral, and political challenge to the government-monopoly schools, which are one of our most fundamental institutions and one of our most dysfunctional.”

The article describes how homeschooling has evolved from its roots in the hippie counterculture to being an important part of conservative and evangelical life.

It also mentions, accidentally, one objection to school choice of all forms. Speaking of one scholar, the author says,

“She went on to argue that the children of high-achieving parents amount to public goods because of peer effects — poor students do better when mixed with better-off peers — meaning that ‘when college-educated parents pull their kids out of public schools, whether for private school or homeschooling, they make it harder for less-advantaged children to thrive.'”

You’ll read words to this effect not only in a conservative publication such as NRO, but in Education Week, the industry publication of K-12 education. To be sure, human are social creatures, and we do respond to those around us. But limiting a child’s educational options in the name of saving the system is morally offensive.



USA Today/NBC discover home schooling

USA Today discovers home schooling. A recent article offers several reasons why parents pursue home schooling for their children:

They wish to take the children to visit various countries or part of the U.S., using the world as a classroom.

They wish to spend more time with their children, to have more opportunity to be parents. One homeschooling parent said that when her children were in public schools, “Our time together was squeezed into a few hours in the evening.”

Who pursues homeschooling and why?

Brian D. Ray, founder of the National Home Education Research Institute, said about 2 million children and teens are home-schooled in the United States. In 2003, 20 percent of parents said they chose to home-school their kids for “other reasons” that included “family time” and “travel.” By 2007, that percentage had jumped to 32 percent.

Understanding homeschoolers: Who are they?

Recently I came across an interesting back-and-forth on the social and other characteristics of homeschooling families.

Robin L. West, a professor at Georgetown University, wrote a journal article titled, “The Harms of Homeschooling” [PDF].  As you might expect, that was not a popular article among the homeschooling community. West claims that homeschooled children are at a higher risk for child abuse, disease, and to put things bluntly, a lousy education.

One person who responded to West was Milton Gaither, a professor at Messiah College. Gaither, who has studied homeschooling himself, wrote a response to West on his personal website, which in turn inspired a number of comments from readers.

Homeschooling still retains a bit of a “freak show” reputation in a few quarters. And I suppose that among homeschooling parents, as you’d find in any subset of the population, you or I will find people very different from ourselves–people we’d rather not simulate or live next door to or whatever.

A self-described secular, progressive homeschooling mother replied, on Gaither’s blog, to West’s characterization of homeschoolers:

It’s not very compelling to read, over and over again, the words of people outside the homeschooling community who reluctantly concede that, well, sure, I suppose legally we have to let them homeschool, but they’re a little creepy, those people who like spending all day with their kids, so let’s just write some laws to keep an eye on ‘em.

If you’d like an introduction to the cultural controversies surrounding homeschooling, the two items I’ve linked to might be a good place to start. One lesson from observing this debate may be that “education” is often not about whether or not children understand logic, how to do math, or know key facts, but whether they are spending their time in ways that are approved by the powerful.

Teacher: I don’t like virtual schools, but they’re necessary

Online learning is coming to Indiana, and a teacher there is resigned to it:

As a classroom teacher, I’m not crazy about online schools. I like to think that I can challenge, question, excite and ignite students in a way no Internet program ever could. I’m also a realist. If Indiana wants to improve high school and college graduation rates, we must make education as flexible as possible. Enter online learning into the landscape.

It’s important to remember that there can be a role for teachers in online schooling. In fact, many online schools employ teachers, who interact with students via phone, e-mail, or chat. In a hybrid scenario, students periodically come into a bricks-and-mortar school to interact with teachers.

For more on homeschooling, see the Kansas Education resource page as well as this archive of blog posts.

By the way, the article mentions homeschoolers. The Home School Legal Defense Association, which many homeschool families belong to, actively discourages one form of online schooling, the virtual charter school: It “strongly cautions homeschoolers against enrolling in virtual charter schools,” saying they are nothing more than miniature versions of public schools that target homeschoolers.

From home school to college

Can home school children do well in college? That question is so … 1970. Here’s an item (a few years old) from the Deseret, Utah, News:

After years of skepticism, even mistrust, many college officials now realize it’s in their best interest to seek out home-schoolers, said Barmak Nassirian, associate executive director of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers.

An article from the Journal of College Admissions says that homeschoolers are not who you think they are:

Experience and anecdotes have led many people to believe that homeschool parents were either move-to-the-country anarchist goat-herders, or right-wing Bible-thumpers, and their children were either mathematically-limited, due to Mama’s fear of math, or child prodigies in rocket-science who were unthinkably socially hindered. Although one can find statistical deviants in every group, homeschooling research tells a different story from the experience-based stereotypes and biases concerning those involved in home education.

More recently, a researcher at the University of Saint Thomas, in Saint Paul, Minn., undertook a study of college students who had been homeschooled. The results were impressive: Incoming college students who were home school students had higher academic credentials, earned higher grades in college, and were more likely to graduate. Here’s the research (PDF).

Lynn O’Shaughnessy provides a summary on, and links to other articles on the subject, some of which I’ve included above.

If you think about it, the success of home schooling shouldn’t be a surprise. It’s the ultimate in personalization, parental involvement, and one-on-one attention. (If smaller classes are good–a popular assumption that doesn’t have as much merit as you’d think–how about a class of one, or three?)

What does all this mean for public policy? Don’t harass home schoolers, for one thing. They’re paying money in taxes to support public schools, but not using them–and producing some citizens who may be more educated than the typical public school student. A small tax break may even be appropriate, though many homeschooling parents would refuse to take it, fearing the red tape that might come with it.

Another lesson may be that for all the academic degrees, institutional controls and hard work of people in the education industry, parents and students can be more trustworthy than given credit for.

Do public schools stunt teens’ maturity?

Newsweek carries a provocative essay, “why teenagers are growing up so slowly.” The topic includes but goes beyond public schooling.

Here’s where public schooling comes in:

Basically, we long ago decided that teens ought to be in school, not in the labor force. Education was their future. But the structure of schools is endlessly repetitive. “From a Martian’s perspective, high schools look virtually the same as sixth grade,” said Allen. “There’s no recognition, in the structure of school, that these are very different people with different capabilities.” Strapped to desks for 13+ years, school becomes both incredibly montonous, artificial, and cookie-cutter.

As Allen writes, “We place kids in schools together with hundreds, sometimes thousands, of other kids typically from similar economic and cultural backgrounds. We group them all within a year or so of one another in age. We equip them with similar gadgets, expose them to the same TV shows, lessons, and sports. We ask them all to take almost the exact same courses and do the exact same work and be graded relative to one another. We give them only a handful of ways in which they can meaningfully demonstrate their competencies. And then we’re surprised they have some difficulty establishing a sense of their own individuality.”

And we wonder why it’s taking so long for them to mature.

On the other hand, most of the home-schooled children I have known seem to be remarkably mature for their age. Perhaps that’s because many home-schooling parents (contrary to stereotypes about “unsocialized children”) engage them in the broader world.

Emergency homeschooling

You know the rap on home-schooling: It’s either for bigoted fundamentalist Christians who want to shelter their children from the world, or for hippies who can’t stand authority.

From the Washington Post today comes a different type of homeschooling student, the one engaged in emergency homeschooling: “Brodie had no intention of abandoning the public schools of Lexington, Va. She just wanted a respite from battles over homework and some temporary distance from the pressures of standardized testing.”

Matthews quotes from Home  Education Magazine, a first stop for anyone interested in homeschooling.

Homeschools Save the U.S. $4 – 10 Billion Each Year

Homeschoolers pay taxes just like anyone else, yet they don’t put their children in public schools. If they did, the demand on school budgets would be much higher–according to one estimate, $4 to $10 billion higher each year.

Have you thanked a home-schooler today?

1.5 Million Children in Home Schooling

The U.S. Department of Education came out with a report last month on the state of home schooling. In 2007, there were 1.5 million children in a home school. That’s a sizable number of families who can’t get satisfaction from their local school system.

Home Schoolers are a Diverse Lot

While doing some research for another subject, we came across this interesting point about home schooling. It provides further evidence for journalistic impressions.
In the journal “Education and Urban Society,” Ed Collom of the University of Maine studies the motives of parents who homeschool.

Parents are motivated by four different concerns, he says, including academics and pedagogy and religion. He further says that religion is declining, relatively speaking, as a motivation.

He concludes that “homeschoolers are a heterogeneous population with varying and overlapping motivations.”

More evidence that families need school choice. One type of school doesn’t work for everyone.

(See this abstract from Sage Publications)

Home Schools Under Attack

As you’ve probably heard, a court in California has ruled that laws in that state require all home-schooling parents to have state certification as teachers.

There is no shortage of commentary on the subject. Here’s one article by Liam Julian, who works at the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation. Here’s a key paragraph dealing with the “hard case” nature of this situation, which is the allegation of child abuse:

Some adults abuse their children. It’s awful, but it’s not a compelling argument for criminalizing home schooling. Limiting parents’ ability to home school in order to combat child abuse is a crude solution for a more specific problem. It is also, perhaps, not much of a crude solution: the high rates of truancy in many public schools; the anonymity that can pervade at some of the larger, more impersonal ones; and the migration of students between states and cities and classrooms render it possible that abusive parents may be just as abusive for just as long regardless of whether their child attends the local school or stays at home. Moreover, there is evidence to suggest that students have a greater chance of being abused at school than at home — in fact, that’s precisely why many parents home school in the first place.

And of course most parents, homeschooling or not, do not abuse their children–a fact that makes the rationale for exerting a large burden on parents who wish to homeschool indefensible.

Meanwhile, the Flint Hills Center for Public Policy has released an op-ed on the question, too. It’s called Homeschooling in California and the Good Society in Kansas (PDF).

A key thought:

As it goes about its business, then, government must operate within limits. The Supreme Court has affirmed this principle many times. Other limits include the Bill of Rights; a division of power between the national government and the state governments; and checks and balances among the executive, legislative and judicial branches. Limits on government are an essential part the American fabric.

Equally important to American life is the recognition that the political sphere is only one of several vital institutions in society. Others include the family; religious communities; the world of commerce; and voluntary organizations.

Each of these institutions is valuable, providing something necessary for life. Each has its own purposes and operating principles. “Treat everyone the same” may be a good principle for public programs, for example, but most parents will find that it’s not a good idea for childrearing.

Trouble results when one institution acts like another.

Home School Networks

To follow up on yesterday’s comments on home schooling, there are multiple grassroots organizations available. We don’t endorse them, but provide them for the public benefit.

The Lawrence Area Homeschoolers Network (LAHN) calls itself “a secular, inclusive homeschooling group that supports families and encourages homeschooling in Lawrence, Kansas and surrounding areas.”

Teaching Effective Academics in Christian Homes (TEACH) is as the name suggests a group of Christians in Lawrence.

The page Homeschooling in Kansas has links to other networks.

Home schooling is a niche product, but one that works for a variety of students and their parents.  As such, it’s a part of Kansas education.

Home Schooling in Lawrence and Beyond

The Lawrence Journal-World has an interesting set of articles on home schooling in Kansas. It’s called “Learning Outside the Lines.”

More Parents Opt for Home Schooling describes the big picture.

“A study by the National Center for Education Statistics said 1.1 million students were being home schooled in 2003–the most recent year data was available– and the U.S. Department of Education estimates the number is increasing by 7 percent to 15 percent each year. Home schoolers make up 1.7 percent of the 50.2 million K-12 students in the United States.

The National Home Education Research Institute, an advocacy group that conducts its own research, estimates the number of home-schoolers to be closer to 1.7 million to 2.1 million.”

The article says that home schooling took off through the interest of hippies, but of late has been adopted by conservative Christians. Obviously, home schooling can serve people of different belief systems, as should be the case. Both types of families see similar benefits of home schooling: one-on-one teaching, more family time, less peer pressure, a flexible schedule, and a customized curriculum.

Home school by the numbers contains information from 2003. More than 1 million students (2.2 percent of the population) are taught in a home school. It also contains the fascinating observation that home-schooled students at KU had higher ACT scores as incoming freshmen than the incoming class as a whole.

Experts debate research findings looks at the methodological issues involved in evaluating home schooling as an idea. As a group, home-schooled children outperform the general population on the ACT, but the group that administers the test says that there are too few numbers involved to make statistically valid comparisons. The article sensibly closes with a quote from a KU professor who says, in brief, that home schooling can work well for some families, but not all.

Home-schoolers say socialization not a problem addresses what is perhaps the most commonly cited objection to home schooling. Critics say that home schooling shelters children from the big, bad world, and the need to negotiate with others. Yet of course no child will be sheltered indefinitely. People learn, socially as well as academically, at different rates, so this concern is most likely overblown.

Three Couples Share Reasons has a promising headline, but doesn’t get into much depth.

Locals helped change state activities policy talks about the old question of whether home-schooled children (yes) and students in virtual schools (maybe) can be excluded from extracurriculular activities of district schools.Several children and parents talk about their home schooling experience. Some use a standard curriculum, some rely on support from virtual schools.

A 14-year old, who learns at home, talks about unschooling, in Rain Quinlan deals with home school stereotypes. (If her curriculum seems ill-defined, scroll down to the comments on that article to find alternatives.)

Rain’s mother offers her view of the experience in Sarah Sobonya says unschooling led to creativity. “There’s an idea among some people that home schooling parents need to know everything their children will learn, or they’ll need to hire a tutor for those topics. I haven’t found this to be true,” she writes.

Kansas home school laws open to interpretation discusses the ambiguous state of home schools in Kansas.
“Kansas does not specifically recognize home schools. Technically, home schools are considered nonaccredited private schools, says Kevin Ireland, a Kansas Department of Education staff attorney. Such schools are not accredited or approved in any way by the state, although they must register the name and address of their school with the Kansas Board of Education.” It also mentions that Rep. Pat Colloton, D-Leawood, would like to increase state regulation of home schools–but that home schoolers are a politically active bunch.

Meanwhile, National Group Pleased with Kansas Home School Laws.

In former home-schoolers transition to college, work, we hear from some students themselves. Our favorite? A former home-schooled student now at KU. On some occasions, he plays the stereotype. “People think I live under a rock. It’s really weird. Sometimes I tell people, ‘I’m a hermit. I live in a cave. You’re the first person I’ve seen all year.’”

Colleges look to recruit home-schoolers quotes one college official: “Academically, home-schoolers are typically very well prepared for college, due to the discipline and self-motivation required to home school. We’re happy to have them.”

Finally, the audio and video files are good complements to the articles.