As a writing tutor for children who are homeschooled, but as a parent who sent her own child to public schools for the majority of his education and as a professional who has spent most of my time as a public school educator, I have often contemplated the reasons people choose to homeschool.
In my experience, many parents choose to homeschool because they want greater control over the curriculum their children are exposed to. Others want greater control over the social situations their children are exposed to. Finally, many parents were homeschooled themselves and believe the benefits of individualized educational attention far outweigh any benefits public schools offer.
In its 2003 survey (the most current data) of over one million homeschooling households, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) found that families had multiple reasons for choosing to homeschool.
- Families included among their reasons concern about the school environment (including concerns about drugs, safety, or peer pressure), the quality of academic instruction, and the desire to offer their children a greater degree of moral or religious instruction.
- Families wished to homeschool for specific child-centered reasons, such as their child’s mental or physical health issue, other special needs that their child had, or the child’s own desire for a homeschooling education.
- A small number of homeschoolers also wanted the greater flexibility that homeschooling can provide or wanted more control over the curriculum.
- When asked to identify the chief reason that they wished to homeschool, about a third of families identified the environment of other schools as the most compelling reason, while another third made the choice primarily to provide moral or religious instruction in their child’s curriculum.
Number of Students Homeschooled
Reviewing the number of students attending different types of schools, the NCES data shows that:
- In 2003, 2.2 percent of all students – about 1,096,000 – were homeschooled, up from 1.7 percent of students (850,000) in 1999.
- Over 43% of homeschooled students were in grades K-5, with about 28% in grades 6-8 and about 29% in grades 9-12.
- Over 19.5% of parents of homeschoolers have been to graduate or professional school.
- Of the 1,096,000 students being homeschooled in 2003, 82% of them had no education other than homeschooling, while 18% attended another school part-time, most of those for less than 9 hours a week.
Observations on Curriculum
With regard to homeschooling methods, the NCES 2003 data reveals that:
- Over 41% of homeschooled students were involved in some kind of distance learning.
- Of those students involved in distance learning, slightly more than 20% were gaining instruction through television, video, or radio; nearly 19.5% were instructed through the Internet, email, or other use of the web; and slightly more than 15% were instructed using the United States Postal Service (USPS).
Other sources that were used for curriculum included:
- the public library for nearly 78% of homeschool families
- a person or publisher specializing in homeschooling for nearly 77% of homeschooling families
- a trade bookstore or other store for nearly 69% of homeschooling families
- an educational publisher without a homeschooling specialty for nearly 60% of homeschooling families
- an organization specializing in homeschooling for nearly 50% of homeschooling families
- a religious organization for 36.5% of homeschooling families
- a private school, public school, or public school district for 39.4% of homeschooling families.
Considering the statistics, several things stand out for me as a homeschool instructor. First, quality of education is very important to parents who choose to homeschool and this is borne out by their commitment to providing the appropriate resources for their children whether through visits to the library, purchasing books or contact with homeschooling support personnel. Second, parents often choose to homeschool for the greater flexibility it offers in choosing curriculum for their children, and these choices are often driven by the needs of the child, whether developmental, social or intellectual needs.
Homeschooling is the perfect fit for many families and the resources available for homeschooling parents make it a viable option.
National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) – nces.ed.gov/pubs2006/homeschool