By most estimates, about 1 million students are homeschooled in the United States each year.
Why do parents choose to homeschool their kids? Among common reasons that were cited in a National Center for Education Statistics study were that parents:
- believed that they could give their child a better education at home
- had religious reasons
- thought that their children had a poor learning enviornment at school
- had family reasons
- wanted to develop character and morality
- objected to what schools teach
- thought that their school wasn't challenging their child
Other common reasons are that their child has special needs or disabilities or that he or she was having behavior problems at school. Unless you have some training though, these last two reasons might not be a good reason to homeschool. Children with special needs or with behavior problems might be able to help at school from specially trained professionals.
Surprisingly, homeschoolers distribute over the grade groupings in much the same way as nonhomeschoolers. This means that there is the same percentage of 1st graders being homeschooled as high schoolers. I had always thought that parents usually homeschooled their younger children and then often sent them to school when they got older.
Some other characteristics of homeschoolers:
- 75% are white, non-Hispanic, while only 65% of nonhomeschoolers are white.
- many come from families with 3 or more children
- 97% of homeschooling parents were married couples. This isn't surprising, since in a single parent home, that parent usually has to work outside the home
- the household income of homeschoolers, reported in ranges from less than $25,000 to over $75,000, is the same as the household income of nonhomeschoolers
But Isn't Homeschooling Bad?
Of course not. A large number of homeschoolers who have taken state-mandated tests or who have provided their results to researchers actually have above average test results. They also have above average test results on the ACT and SAT college entrance exams.
And even though they might spend less time with other children that are their same age, studies show that homeschooled kids often have better social adjustment than kids who go to school. Many homeschooled kids participate in homeschool support groups, scouting, church and recreational activities, and other associations.
How To Get Started with Homeschooling
To get started, most homeschooling families join local support groups. Families often find these groups by word of mouth or through public or private schools, religious groups, or state or national associations. At least one homeschooling association is active in every state. These groups offer advice and information and hold conferences at which families who school at home discuss legal, philosophical, and teaching issues.
Parents can also find guidance in web sites, message forums, books, magazines, and newsletters. .
Some school districts have established centers at which families may enroll in classes or obtain resources and instructional support. Such arrangements are called shared schooling, dual enrollment, or assisted homeschooling. Some districts also allow homeschoolers to attend public school part-time. Many private schools, some public schools, and the state of Alaska provide homeschoolers with texts, materials, and support. Homeschoolers also rely on libraries, museums, parks department programs, churches, civic associations, and other local institutions.
Is Homeschooling for Everyone?
No. Homeschooling is hard work. It can also be expensive, as you have to pay for educational materials and extracurricular activities. You may also be faced with a loss of income if one parent has to quit a job to homeschool.
The Parent Survey of the National Household Education Surveys Program, 1999
ACCESS ERIC Homeschooling Parent Brochure