Government Says Homeschooling Still Growing

Written by Dr. Brian Ray

www.nheri.org

 

Is it still growing? If so, at what rate? This is what a lot of media reporters, proponents of homeschooling, and antagonists of parent-led home-based education want to know regarding the homeschooling population. Researchers with the federal government recently took another look at this question. .[i] The study also considered demographics of the homeschool students and why their parents homeschool them.

Amber, Stark, and Redford (2013) explain that their data for the National Household Education Surveys Program are “… nationally representative of students enrolled in kindergarten through grade 12, including children enrolled in private schools, enrolled in public schools, and homeschooled. The total number of completed questionnaires was 17,563 [397 homeschooled and 17,166 enrolled, p. 23] children), representing a population of 53.4 million students enrolled in kindergarten through grade 12 in 2011-12″ (i.e., January through August 2012) (p. 1).

“Homeschool calculations follow previous homeschool reports by including children ages 5 through 17, in a grade equivalent to at least kindergarten and not higher than grade 12, and excludes students who were enrolled in public or private school more than 25 hours per week, and students who were homeschooled only because of temporary illness” (p. 21).

They concluded that 3.4% – or 1,770,000 – of U.S. K-12 students were homeschooled circa spring of 2012. The 95% confidence interval would be about 1.54 million to 2.00 million (pp. 17, 46).

The reasons parents gave for homeschooling these children, in decreasing order of frequency chosen, were the following (and parents could choose more than one reason):

1.      A concern about environment of other schools – 91%

2.      A desire to provide moral instruction – 77%

3.      A dissatisfaction with academic instruction at other schools – 74%

4.      A desire to provide religious instruction – 64%

5.      A desire to provide a nontraditional approach to child’s education – 44%

6.      Other reasons – 37%

7.      Child has other special needs – 17%

8.      Child has a physical or mental health problem – 15%

When asked what is the most important reason for homeschooling, the parents answered as follows:

1.      A concern about environment of other schools – 25%

2.      Other reasons – 21%

3.      A dissatisfaction with academic instruction at other schools – 19%

4.      A desire to provide religious instruction – 16%

5.      A desire to provide moral instruction – 5%

6.      A desire to provide a nontraditional approach to child’s education – 5%

7.      Child has a physical or mental health problem – 5%

8.      Child has other special needs – (“reporting standards not met”)

‘Other reasons’ parents gave for homeschooling include family time, finances, travel, and distance” (p. 18). The researchers also reported on the “locale of the student’s household” (e.g., city, suburban), the student’s race/ethnicity, parents’ highest educational level, and the family’s “poverty status.”

The last time the federal government explored similar aspects of homeschooling was during the Spring of 2007, when they concluded there were 1.508 million K-12 homeschool students, or 2.9% of the U.S. K-12 population. [ii] Ergo, the federal government apparently concludes that the homeschool population has grown in absolute size (1.508 to 1.770 million students, by about 17%) and in terms of the percent of the school-age population (2.9% to 3.4%, by about 17%) over the course of 5 years, 2007 to 2012.

The authors of the current study point out, however, that this time they used a mail survey as compared to a telephone survey being used in 2007; therefore one should use caution in comparing estimates from the different years. For another comparison, Ray (2011) estimated (using methods different from those used by both government studies) that there were 2.04 million K-12 homeschool students in the United States in spring 2010.[iii]

Based on the estimates of research by the federal government and other studies, it appears that homeschooling continued to grow during the late 2000s and into 2012 but not as fast as during the 1990s and early 2000s.

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