From the day they are born, children learn from their parents how to eat, talk, settle conflicts within the family, and so forth. As children get older, they often leave the home for parts of the day to learn from formal schools. But not always. In the case of homeschooling, parents retain a substantial role in choosing what is taught, how it is taught, where it is taught, and why it is taught. It is, if you think about it, the ultimate extension of “local control.”
This page, which will be occasionally updated, offers some information on homeschooling.
Home Schooling in California and the Good Society in Kansas is an op-ed I wrote in 2008, offering the argument that a political system of government requires giving homeschoolers wide berth.
How many homeschool students?
Though there’s some uncertainty about the number of homeschooled students, one thing is sure: It’s going up.
The National Center of Education Statistics, a unit of the U.S. Department of Education, says there were 850,000 homeschooled students in 1999, and 1.1 million in 2003. (“Homeschooling in the United States: 2003”)
It later said there were 1.5 million in 2007. (“Issue Brief: 1.5 Million Homeschooled Students in the United States in 2007“)
The NCES also noted several reasons why parents opt for homeschooling:
In 2007, the most common reason parents gave as the most important was a desire to provide religious or moral instruction (36 percent of students). This reason was followed by a concern about the school environment (such as safety, drugs, or negative peer pressure) (21 percent), dissatisfaction with academic instruction (17 percent), and “other reasons” including family time, finances, travel, and distance (14 percent). Parents of about 7 percent of homeschooled students cited the desire to provide their child with a nontraditional approach to education as the most important reason for homeschooling, and the parents of another 6 percent of students cited a child’s health problems or special needs. (Fast Facts: Homeschooling)
Relying on the same information as the NCES documents cited below, a reporter from the Kalamazoo (Mich.) Gazette noted several demographic differences between homeschooling families and all families with minor children. The parent(s) had higher educational achievements (in 50 percent of homeschool families, at least one parent had a bachelors degree, compared with 43 percent of all families with school-aged children). Homeschool families were also more likely to have a family income of over $50,00, but less likely to have an income of over $75,000. (“What the U.S. Census says about homeschool families“)
Brian D. Ray, an author and Ph.D. often cited by homeschool advocates, put the number of homeschooled students at 2.04 million children in a document he published in January, 2011. Ray is “highly confident” that in the Spring of 2010, the number of homeschooled students was somewhere between 1.7 million and 2.3 million. Ray adds that homeschool enrollment has increased faster than enrollment in public schools.
Why the uncertainty? States vary in the registration requirements they impose on homeschoolers, and some homeschooling families are “underground,” meaning that they choose to not register with state or local governments, fearing the possibility of regulatory entanglement.
While religious reasons are an important factor cited by many homeschooling families, it should be noted that homeschooling is also increasing in popularity among families of no faith.
For more on the topic, see blog posts with the tag home schools.