Homeschooling: Growing and Thriving in the 21st Century
- Monday, March 08, 2010
A recent study released by the National Center for Education Statistics reveals that roughly 400,000 more children have joined the ranks of the homeschooled in the past five years. According to a report released in December 2008, roughly 1.5 million children in the U.S. are now educated at home. This represents about 2.9% of the school-age population, a 36% relative increase in just a five-year period, and a 74% relative increase since 1999. This study also suggests that the figure may be even higher—as many as 1,739,000 homeschooled students.15
Other researchers believe that the actual number exceeds even that estimate. Because homeschooling reporting varies from state to state and some homeschoolers do not register at all, it is difficult to arrive at a wholly accurate figure. In September 2008, Dr. Brian Ray of the National Home Education Research Institute estimated the number of U.S. homeschooled students at between 1.8 and 2.5 million.16
But why is homeschooling growing at such a rapid pace? The answer lies in the growing frustration with the type and quality of public school instruction and concerns about classroom environments. According to the recent 2008 NCES Survey, the main three reasons that parents chose this option were "to provide religious or moral instruction" (36%), "concern about the school environment" (21%), and " dissatisfaction with the academic instruction available at other schools" (17%). The desire to teach children with special needs (including physical and mental health issues) accounted for another 6% and "interest in a non-traditional approach to education," 7%. The others cited additional reasons.17 However, this survey contained responses only from the parents of 290 homeschooled children.
In 2007, Dr. Heather Allen conducted a more comprehensive survey for The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine on their website. Of the 4,662 respondents to the question of why they homeschooled, 55% cited "religious reasons or convictions" as their primary reason for homeschooling. Concern with "public school conditions or philosophies" again came in second at 19%, and the "desire for individualized instruction" was cited as the third most common reason (15%). The desire to teach special needs children represented the primary motivation of 3% of the population. The remaining 8% cited other reasons.18
Based on the research conducted over the past twenty years, it is clear that homeschooling is indeed growing and thriving. All indications are that it will continue to grow in the years to come as more people begin to see homeschooling as a viable alternative to traditional classroom education. This growth offers several advantages to homeschooling families.
One advantage is that the boom in homeschooling means that homeschool resources and support systems will likely continue to be available in greater numbers to meet the growing demand. As an example, in 2001 The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine started out as a twelve-page eBay homeschooling business newsletter offering advice to homeschoolers. Now, eight years later, it is one of the fastest growing resources in the homeschool market—a quarterly magazine packed with approximately 200 pages of articles and roughly150 ads from companies that cater to the needs of homeschooling families. The magazine also offers its own website, blog site, store, E-Newsletters, E-Books, and Speakers Bureau. And this is just one homeschool resource. We have come a long way from the early days when I began homeschooling with little more than a piece of chalk, a slate, and used Christian and public school textbooks.
There is also strength in numbers, for the increase in homeschooling families means that we now have a stronger voice as governmental and regulatory issues arise. An example of this occurred in 1994, when opposition by homeschooling families forced Congress to adopt an amendment that excluded homeschooling families from an education bill that could have required homeschools to have certified teachers.19 By some estimates, the number of homeschooled students has nearly tripled since then. Imagine the impact that homeschoolers would have today if a similar issue arose.
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