Written by Dr. Brian Ray
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.
There was much similarity in reasons for homeschooling between the government’s 2007 and 2012 studies. One notable difference regarding the most important reason for homeschooling is that in 2012 “a concern about environment of other schools” was most frequently chosen as the most important reason and it was more often chosen than in 2007, and “to provide religious or moral instruction” was a little less frequently chosen as the most important reason in 2012.
Every indication is that there are plenty of more U.S. parents who would like to homeschool their children but it appears that certain limiting factors slowed homeschooling’s growth during the late 2000s. Time will tell whether growth factors (e.g., even less satisfaction with institutional schools, especially public schools; graduates of home-based education choosing homeschooling at a higher rate for their children than the national average) enhance homeschooling’s expansion during the last half of this decade.
–Brian D. Ray, Ph.D.
National Home Education Research Institute
P.S. Please feel free to send us your questions about homeschooling and we will try to answer them in upcoming messages.
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[i] Noel, Amber; Stark, Patrick; & Redford, Jeremy. (2013). Parent and family involvement in education, from the National Household Education Surveys Program of 2012 (NCES 2013-028). Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved August 31, 2013 from http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2013/2013028.pdf (from http://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch).
[ii] Bielick, Stacey. (2008, December). 1.5 Million Homeschooled Students in the United States in 2007 . Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education (National Center for Education Statistics). Retrieved December 23, 2008 from http://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2009030.
[iii] Ray, Brian D. (2011). 2.04 million homeschool students in the United States in 2010. Salem, OR: National Home Education Research Institute. Retrieved 2/18/2013 online http://www.nheri.org/research/nheri-news/homeschool-population-report-2010.html.