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Why Homeschooling Has Gone Mainstream

Studies show homeschooled kids, on average, are better educated than public school children.

A few months ago at 11 a.m. on a Tuesday, I saw a mom showing a very well-behaved 8-year-old boy flashcards with Chinese characters on them in Panera Bread. Homeschool alert!

I figured this woman was either a very conservative Christian or a crunchy granola type. Being annoyingly curious and inappropriate, as is my M.O., I struck up a conversation with her. She wasn’t either of those narrow-minded stereotypes.

She was very nice and talked to me for a while about her experiences homeschooling her kids. I learned that homeschooling is way more organized than I thought and very in vogue at the moment. 

In 1980, home schooling was illegal in 30 states. Now, it is legal in all 50 states with about 1.5- million to 2 million children being homeschooled in the U.S., roughly 3 percent of school-age children nationwide, according to a study by the National Center for Education Statistics.

In the same study, it was found that between 1999 and 2007, the number of homeschooled children rose 77 percent. The actual number may be even higher because not all parents who homeschool report information to the government. However, the general consensus is that the stigma associated with homeschooling is gone as it becomes more and more mainstream.

As for why more parents are homeschooling, it is not surprising that the highest percentage listed religious and moral instruction (36 percent), the next most popular reason being concerns about the school environment (21 percent), followed by dissatisfaction with academic instruction (17 percent). 

There is also a trend toward co-op homeschooling where small groups of parents take turns teaching the children and/or hiring tutors to assume some of the responsibility. The image of homeschooled children spending their days sitting at the kitchen table are long gone. Today’s homeschooled are out and about with many museums offering programs to homeschoolers as well as other hands-on activities, such as nature centers. There are endless websites dedicated to non-traditional learning opportunities in addition to websites offering support and resources for homeschooling families

I can teach a classroom of 28 fifth graders who, between them, cover every learning and behavioral issue under the sun (note to my former colleagues: I said I could, I didn’t say I was good at it), but the thought of teaching my own boys scares me to death. 

I always believed it was better to leave their academics in the capable hands of those who did not give birth to them, thus eliminating the emotional turmoil involved in getting them to open a book. But statistics indicate that this might not have been the wisest choice. According to the Homeschool Progress Report 2009: Academic Achievement and Demographics, homeschoolers, on average, scored 37 percentile points above their public school counterparts on standardized achievement tests.

Almost every study touches on a few other facts. It seems homeschooled kids are far from isolated from peers, do well in social situations, and are more likely to be involved in their community. The education level of the parents had little effect on the success of their children, as did state regulations, gender of the student or how much parents spent on education.

Speaking of spending per student, in public school about $10,000 is spent on each student, each year, as opposed the $500 spent on the average homeschooled student. This number sounds a little fishy since the last time I took my kids to the aquarium I spent $74 on three tickets. Bad puns aside, when I began this article I was dead set against homeschooling, as are many certified teachers. But, after doing research, I’m not so sure. Maybe the public school system could learn something from the homeschool community.

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Svetlana Soloha-Stowers July 25, 2012 at 02:48 PM
Very nice article, thanks! However, where do the spending numbers come from? Do these amounts reflect pure supplies or do the include teacher's and staff's salaries, utilities, transportation and etc.?
Susan Schaefer July 28, 2012 at 03:07 AM
To answer your question, I read so many studues and I really don't remember which one gave those numbers. but, if you google the cost of homeschooling it should come right up. These numbers are averages and the cost of homeschooling varies greatly. When districts publish cost per student it does not say whay it includes, but as a former classroom teacher who never had enough textbooks for each of my students, I would bet the numbers include teacers saleries, transportation, and everything else.
Susan Schaefer July 28, 2012 at 03:12 AM
Dianne & Sean, I was referring to my own narrowmindedness before I began my research, nobody else's. I apologize for my poorly constructed sentence and to anyone it might have offended. Best, Sue
Aimee Christian August 05, 2012 at 09:28 PM
Sue, I too put myself firmly in the "not for me" category before I sent my oldest to public school. Then it all changed, we actually pulled him out halfway through the year and started homeschooling. We've never (well except for those crazy "why am I doing this" days) looked back. It's a great fit for our family. We didn't make the decision based on religion, but it has been a side benefit for our family. We've actually joined up with a Christian homeschool co-op called King's Academy in Woodstock that teaches the kids two days a week. I recently started a Homeschool Mom's Support Group for anyone that is interested. We will begin meeting for this school year on September 13th from 7-9pm at Fellowship Bible Church. If anyone is interested in more information, please contact me.
Michelle Newbold August 16, 2012 at 09:25 PM
Hi Susan. Thanks for the great article. I have enjoyed homeschooling my 4 kids in Roswell for over 10 yrs now. We also have bad days, like every other mom. But we have enjoyed learning and doing things together and it has allowed me to customize our schooling and activities based on each child's own personality and interests. We are out in the community every day of the week -- which is always a problem if the car needs to be in the shop! Thanks again for writing and for taking the time to talk to a homeschool mom in a restaurant!

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