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Homeschooling on the Rise

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According to USA Today, a recent report released by the U.S. Department of Education shows that the percentage of homeschooled children has nearly doubled in the last 10 years. In 2007, 2.9 percent or roughly 1.5 million of all school-aged children were homeschooled compared to an estimated 1.7 percent in 1999. The report also indicates an increase in the number of girls being homeschooled over boys, which were almost an even match in 1999. Girls now account for 58.1 percent of homeschoolers compared to boys at 41.9 percent. Findings from the report also reflect the changing demographic of parents who homeschool. They are increasingly white, wealthy, and well-educated.

When parents were asked why they chose to homeschool, 36 percent—the largest proportion—said they wanted to provide religious and moral instruction, while 17 percent said they were not satisfied with the academic instruction offered in schools. Twenty-one percent of parents expressed concern about the school environment in general.

16 Comments

As a teacher, homeschooling, as a concept, makes me angry!

I could drone on and on about why homeschooling is an affront to the student, the society, and maybe even God (for real).

Here's an article entitled "The Case Against Homeschooling" that I found interesting.

http://teacherrevised.org/2009/05/30/the-case-against-homeschooling/

The education of children is the right and responsibility of the parent. If they do not elect to send students to our public schools, we may do better to listen and learn than to get angry. In some cases public schools are "an affront to the student, the society, and maybe even God," and that may be why people are taking their "business" elsewhere.

Homeschooled kids seem to be more educated than kids taught by teachers. That would make me homeschool my kids, but I don't have the patience.

The only reason teachers and some parents have a problem with homeschooling is because the schools lose money. If the teachers want to keep the students at school, teachers need to keep the kids interested in learning with an improved learning style so that they will actually retain the information.

As for the social aspect of homeschooling, the only social time middle & high schoolers have at school is at lunchtime and that is not very much time. I know that kids don't get talk very much in class and they have about 5 minutes between classes. So that is not a good argument.

If people are going to get mad about parents homeschooling their own kids then those people do not care if the kids are getting a good education or not.

Parents are teaching their schooled kids anyway, because of the homework that is brought home. If kids are not doing well in school parents are blamed for not helping the kids at home.

If you're going to get angry then get angry, but know that you are not looking at the best interest of the kids; you are looking at the best interest of the schools.

It is true that while the "party line" opposes home schooling, it is frequently suggested, even foisted on kids who present with lots of needs. It can be a quick and dirty way around the district responsibility to kids with disabilities who aren't complacent rule-followers and respond to systemic ostracism with uncontrollable behavior. In my state a district can get by with a minimum (about 2 hours per week) of face to face tutoring if they can get parents to sign off on "home study" in an IEP. Of course, this is generally at the end of a long and conflict riddent road. It is usually a trade-off to suspension or expulsion, or placement in some kind of warehouse program for juvenile offenders.

I recall reading somewhere about a district that decided to talk to (instead of about) families of home-schooled children. It turns out that their needs/wants were not terrible, or terribly difficult to understand. Further, there were things that they really preferred to get from the district (phys ed/sports, content beyond whatever their moral "hot spots" were). In the end, they were able to arrive at something of a "blended" situation. I wish I could furnish a reference--but I just don't recall.

I don't support home schooling as a broad-based solution--most of us don't have the resources, and I worry about kids whose parents really don't know what they are getting into. But, I do think that it is important to understand the concerns that would lead some parents with means to choose such a solution. Their concerns are not likely to be far different from the rest of us, who frequently end up feeling just "stuck" with what the district wants to provide. It's not a good situation.

Parents choose to homeschool for so many reasons and I personally feel it is a fundamental right. In the end it's the parents and children who must live with the consequences of public schools not meeting the needs of an individual student. Homeschooling may be the best way to keep from being 'stuck' in a situation that is not working for some or many reasons.
Why did we choose to homeschool?
1. To fill in the gaping holes in her education after 6 years of public school. During that time I don't think her reading or writing level has improved much beyond where it started - but now grade level has finally caught up to her level.
2. To prevent her from having yet another teacher who is recognized as checked out and who behaves inappropriately in class.
3. To re-instill the joy of learning and a sense of curiosity as opposed to boredom. In a homeschool environment it is easy to do tons of labs and hands on activities - and talk about field trips.
4. We can spend time on electives like home economics, art every week instead of half the year, music daily, foreign language, etc.
5. We have the option to cover curriculum items not currently in vogue - like grammar.
6. To give her a break from the overheated drama of preteens (and yes, she's socially adept and popular).
7. Curriculum can be tailored to her learning style and needs.
8. To savor the bonds that are built stronger between us through this experience.

After several years of trying to work with the system and getting almost no where, I need to be selfish and make certain the needs of my children are met. As children get older, it becomes harder to fill in the gaps through home supplementation because you run out of time and there is more to cover. For people who get angry at homeschoolers (like the blog in the link), I would ask them to please not make their problem mine.

As a parent, grandparent, educator, and life-long learner. I don't think the debate is public or home. Brain research shows that we are wired to learn. We learn for survival and because we are curious. That being the case, why not focus on the respective talents and learning styles of each family member and nurture the created nature starting in the home? Build a platform for life-learning.

Really, Jesse?

That's the best post you can find against homeschooling?

I'm a public school teacher and my family homeschools.

There's nothing substantial in your comment or the blog indicating anything but an "I'm-too-cool" attitude.

Why do you feel so threatened by homeschooling?

Home schooling works. Public schools work. Regardless of media hype and individual experiences as a "system" public schooling educates most children in ways that make them successful adults. My fear with home schooling is that without ever meeting anyone who is different than you or who dislikes you or who doesn't have your best interests at heart limits the coping ability of young people. Public school for all its pit falls helps shape our society. We are a multi-cultural, multi-racial, multi-religious society. Children learn how to deal with diversity and adversity in school. If they do not learn those social lessons when they are young, I fear they will be intolerant or unprepared to deal with the issues of our multi-whatever society. Will these home schooled children be resilient or will they be limited in their understanding of the greater world beyond their parents' loving instruction?

Julie is right on with reasons for homeschooling and I think if you add school culture as a concern you also have good reasons for enrolling in a charter school. Not enough can be said for parental choice, involvement and control in their children's education. Conscientious parents want the best for their kids right now and should not have to wait for their neighborhood public school to get better. Homeschool curriculum choices are plentiful to suit the parents and children. Home school coops and other groups are around so families can support each other and keep socialization a priority.

I think public schools need the competition from charter and home schools to force them to get better. If that occurs, then parents who aren't gifted to home school their kids for very long will have a desirable choice in a public school and/or a charter school. I realize the jury is still out on the effectiveness of charters, but many of them are very effective, especially the ones where parents are a driving force in how the school pursues its mission.
These are opinion from a public school administrator who has 4 school age children in a large urban area.

Wow, Jesse, what an extremely well-researched and thoughtful article you posted! The fifth reason: "it kind of p***es me off". Well done.

I see zero data to back up your argument. If the best you can do is "they're kind of geeky" then you are indulging in the worst kind of stereotyping, the type of stereotyping I am sure you would dissuade your own students from using against other groups.

As with anything, there are homeschooling parents who do it right, and those who do it wrong, just as their are public schools that do it right and those that do it wrong.

Study after study after study show homeschooling students far surpass their peers in most objective measures of performance. This cannot be denied.

And the socialization of homeschoolers is a myth (Shyers, 1992 and Van Pelt, 2003). For more, you can go to www.fraserinstitute.org for an excellent overview of some research and conclusions.

Next time you choose to comment, have something besides biased opinion to back it up.

By the time my younger daughter started 4th grade, she was so wound up from the pressures of testing (standardized and otherwise) in public school that it was affecting her behavior and her ability to learn. I decided to pull her out of school for one year--a compromise to the objections of my husband--mostly so that she could have a 'breather' to concentrate just on learning rather than performing on tests.

If you think homeschooling is about doing workbooks all day at the kitchen table, then you need to think again. We got involved with a secular homeschooling group of over 100 families of diverse ethnicities and religions. At our first encounter, we went to 'History Club' in which numerous children of different ages (including my daughter!) did various presentations to the group on on the 'Westward Expansion' period in the US in the 1800's. At the end of the presentations, the other kids invited my daughter to go upstairs with them to the children's section (we held the meeting in a library meeting room) so they could use the computers up there for some interactive gaming.

The children in this group were articulate; they were inclusive; and they were interested in learning (rather than just earning grades.) The parents were imaginative, dedicated and hardworking. We did some amazing projects and incredible activities throughout the year. While there were a few trade-offs--for instance, while it's not that hard to find sports teams, it can be difficult to find musical ensembles and such to participate in so she didn't get the opportunity to play her violin with an orchestra that year; and we spent quite a bit of time (and gas) traveling to meetings and activities but mostly made up for it by listening to (and discussing) audiobooks--it was time well-spent. My daughter made some new friends, went from hating math to finally liking it, made huge strides in her writing ability (which she slid back from a bit after going back to school), read tons and tons of books; but most importantly she got her footing back, educationally speaking.

If I could go back and redo both of my daughters' elementary years, there are several years for which I wish I had homeschooled each of them instead of sending them to public school--I am still trying to undo my older daughter's 'schooling damage' in math, the first time in first grade, which I finally got her over by sixth grade, and then again in seventh. And ironically, when the younger one went back to public school in fifth grade, she got a teacher who was very nice but who, my daughter complained, only did worksheets. But hindsight is 20/20. Now I keep a very close relationship with the school, and I am very demanding and also very supportive.

I agree we are hard wired to learn. Learning is a joy that is often squashed by the public school system. My children homeschool and are thriving.

The homeschooling debate will never resolve itself due to the emotive nature of the topic. I am a state school principal and as such have seen some outstanding teachers and some very average teachers along with a few who just should not be teaching. Parents, by the very nature of their roles, home school to varying degrees. They engage with their children, they model appropriate behaviours and they read to them. A teacher does the same thing however the good ones take this to the next level, they inspire the child to explore their world and make better sense of it.
If I could afford to home school I would. It would mean that I can work with my two children by spending time with them in the vegetable patch doing science. we could learn about history by visits to the museum and the art gallery on a regular basis. We could go to the beach to look at the ocean collect rubbish to do graphing. We could go to a shopping centre and count the amount of people who use the shops and explore how far they travelled. We could do all the things that some teachers find hard to do because of the cost invovled or the inability to secure enough help from parents to work in small enough groups to make the excursion a viable learning tool.Education is important for all of us . Some of us are able to home school or make the sacrifice to do so while others choose to and put their faith in a system that can and does at times let us down. The important thing is that we make sure our teachers, those who we trust with developing our childrens minds are passionate about what they do and are capable ofinspiring a child to want to learn.

After reading Jesse's comment I was angry and shocked. After reading the others, however, I am delightfully surprised in all the support shown for homeschooling. I've been an advocate for many years and will always defend parents' right to choose for many reasons. Essentially, there are no valid reasons NOT to homeschool, as it is superior in every way due to the endless possibilities which may be incorporated. It's funny that we should find ourselves in this position, however, because our forefathers worked so hard to have a systematic education for all Americans...hmmm...it makes me think of the universal healthcare debate we're currently engaging. We've seen the effects of a one-size-fits-all approach in many ways (think NCLB) and now know that it doesn't work. There are thousands of laypeople that are ready & willing to speak out against universal healthcare and other things universal...are we listening? More important, are we thinking?

I read the USA Today and report and found nothing in it that indicated that homeschooling parents are "increasingly white, wealthy and well-educated." Instead, the report indicated that the larger portion of homeschool families have an income between $25,000 and $75,000 -- hardly wealthy -- and on the low end of that scale, downright poor.

I field calls from about 400 people a year in my state who are looking to homeschool. For the past five years, the vast majority of those calls have been from people frustrated with public schools and thinking of pulling their kids out. Most of these people have financial concerns, but they are willing to do what it takes to make sure their children's academic, emotional, social and moral needs are met.

The willingness of parents to assert themselves on behalf of their children, even in the face of criticism and difficult circumstances is very encouraging to me.

Oops. It was the ies report I read -- the one that USA Today apparently got its stats from and miscontrued them. Here's the link to the ies report: http://www.nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/2009/section1/indicator06.asp

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