Who Homeschools and Why Do They Do It?

Research continues to show that home educators are from all social and racial/ethnic backgrounds: parents with a tenth-grade education, others with Ph.D.s; the wealthy and the less well-off; agnostics, Christians, humanists, Jews, Mormons, Muslims, and New Age devotees; families with eight children and those with one; married couples and single parents; those in the inner city and those in the wilderness of Alaska; sales clerks, public school teachers, doctors, and plumbers; and parents who never stopped being the main and daily educators of their 15-year-old son from his birth, and parents who removed their daughter during the seventh grade from an institutional school setting.13

Every year the variety of home educators broadens and expands. Research published by the U.S Department of Education, for example, discovered that 23 percent of home-educated students in the spring of 2003 were black/non-Hispanic, Hispanic, or “other,” while families from such minority groups were much rarer in homeschool groups about a decade earlier.14 The main reasons for homeschooling are to (a) customize or individualize each child’s education, (b) accomplish more academically than in an institutional school, (c) provide a safe learning environment, (d) offer consistently parent-guided social interaction, (e) enhance strong family ties, and (f) transmit the values, beliefs, and worldview of the parents rather than those of the public-school system or of others. The last reason—the philosophical and political one—naturally leads to the next section of this article.

Academic and Policymaker Angst Over Home-Based Education

Despite consistent and broad research evidence that homeschooling is associated with positive outcomes, behaviors, and traits, it appears an increasing number of academics and policymakers are expressing concerns about parent-led education. For example, Dr. Rob Reich clearly implied that the home educated will not be as decent, civil, or respectful as state-schooled students.15 Dr. Christopher Lubienski claimed the following: “The accelerated movement toward home schooling reflects a serious threat to the collective good . . .”16 More recently, Dr. Kim Yuracko expressed that there should be more discussion about whether and how “. . . a liberal society should condone or constrain homeschooling, particularly as practiced by religious fundamentalist families explicitly seeking to shield their children from liberal values of sex equality, gender role fluidity and critical rationality.”17 Further, she argued “. . . that states must check rampant forms of sexism in homeschooling so as to prevent the severe under-education of girls by homeschooling parents who believe in female subordination.” In 2008, Dr. Reich argued for more state control over home education to protect his posited interests of the state, the parents, and the children in the education of children.18

On a related note, it seems more policymakers are willing to explicitly allege that too many parents use homeschooling as a way to hide evil actions against their children and that a major purpose of schools or school laws is to keep all children under the eye of the state and to try to “catch bad people” before they commit evil deeds. For example, some in Florida recently suggested law or policy might need to be changed regarding homeschooling because some parents allegedly pulled their children out of public school so they could hide their abuse.19 Many persons miss, however, two major points here. First, the Florida Department of Children and Families already knew about the matter and admits that it needs to work to repair the “. . . total systematic failure of the child welfare system.”20 Second, in a free nation, education or schooling laws, if they should exist at all, should be used to encourage literacy in citizens and should not be used as pre-emptive dragnets to control families’ lives in order to try to detect or catch “evil people” before they do bad things.