Homeschooling is the teaching of school subjects to one's children at home.
Throughout American history virtually every child who received an education was home schooled. But during the mid 19th Century, local and state governments began compelling attendance to their schools, beginning with Massachusetts in 1852. In general, children who grew up in rural areas continued to be taught by their parents, but as the industrial revolution shifted labor markets into the towns and cities, more and more students moved into government classrooms.
Modern Home Schooling
The modern home schooling movement in the United States is relatively new, first gaining traction in the early 1980s.A number of legal barriers, logistical hurdles, and social stigma had to be overcome by those early families who wished to break free from government education systems. Contrary to popular understanding, the range of home school families is quite diverse. There are religious conservatives from the Mormon Church, Christian Evangelicals, Amish families, and Atheists; social conservatives, social liberals, and libertarians do so also.
Many parents were unhappy with the poor quality of government schools and were either equally dissatisfied with private institutions or unable to afford tuition. Often they wished to start their own programs in order to have greater influence over their children’s education. Court decisions which resulted in the prohibition of religious expression or practice, philosophical disagreements with government curricula, and the poor record of state education programs all motivated parents to find their own alternatives. In the United States today roughly two million students, or about 3% of the total K-12 population, are taught at home.
Nationwide, the average cost per student at government schools is more than $10,000. For students at private schools, annual tuition costs are $8,549. Homeschoolers have the most cost effective education, averaging somewhere near $500 annually. Note that this figure, of course, does not account for the opportunity cost of a parent not being in the workforce. However, home school families often own small businesses, or supplement the working spouse’s income through other means, and thus offset this cost. Also note that in many cases there are families with single incomes who have children enrolled in traditional schools, which means the same costs exist for these families, but their preferences are such that it’s worth the diminished income.
Another trend has been that private schools are becoming more open to home-schooled students participating in organized sports and other extra-curricular activities. Across the country, many private academies are opening for the sole purpose of supplementing or enriching home education programs. Students of these institutions have access to the pooled resources of other families and can enjoy many learning opportunities otherwise unavailable to them. Among these are foreign language training, science, biology, and computer labs, private tutors, and various arts classes from voice lessons to sculpture to dance. Local and regional organizations also sponsor formal graduation ceremonies for seniors.
The results of standardized tests clearly demonstrate the superior quality of home schooling when compared to socialized education programs. Home-schooled students’ average test scores rank near the 87th percentile, while the typical government-schooled child scores at the 58th percentile. Unlike traditional government schools, empirical evidence shows that no significant gap between ethnic groups exists for children taught at home. While black students generally scored between the 24th and 28th percentile in math and reading, Hispanic students fared only slightly better, with 28th and 29th percentile scores in the two respective categories; for children taught at home, no significant difference existed.
A growing stereotype is that winners of the Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee are home-schoolers. Increasingly, these students are finishing very high in the competition, and in one year, the top three contenders were all home-schooled. Until the late 1990s few home schooled students ever competed, but over the past decade the portion of homeschoolers has grown to more than 13 percent of contestants.
In the United States, in 2007, the number of homeschooled students was about 1.5 million, an increase from 850,000 in 1999 and 1.1 million in 2003. The percentage of the school-age population that was homeschooled increased from 1.7 percent in 1999 to 2.9 percent in 2007. The increase in the percentage of homeschooled students from 1999 to 2007 represents a 74 percent relative increase over the 8-year period and a 36 percent relative increase since 2003. In 2007, the majority of homeschooled students received all of their education at home (84 percent), but some attended school up to 25 hours per week. Eleven percent of homeschooled students were enrolled in school less than 9 hours per week, and 5 percent were enrolled between 9 and 25 hours per week.
In 2007, the most common reason parents gave as the most important was a desire to provide religious or moral instruction (36 percent of students). This reason was followed by a concern about the school environment (such as safety, drugs, or negative peer pressure) (21 percent), dissatisfaction with academic instruction (17 percent), and "other reasons" including family time, finances, travel, and distance (14 percent). Parents of about 7 percent of homeschooled students cited the desire to provide their child with a nontraditional approach to education as the most important reason for homeschooling, and the parents of another 6 percent of students cited a child’s health problems or special needs.
In the 2011–12 school year, 1.77 million students were homeschooled, 3.4 percent of the school-age population.
- Merriam-Webster. homeschool, referenced 2011-09-17.
- Reference. USA Today 06-29-2010
- Reference. Council for American Private Education website.
- Reference.  Home School Legal Defense Association website
- Reference. Ibid.
- Reference. Homeschool.com website.
- Michael Planty, William Hussar, Thomas Snyder etc. "The Condition of Eduction 2009" (pdf) , p.14, National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Department of Education, June 2009. Referenced 2015-02-03.
- "Table 7. Number and percentage distribution of all children ages 5-17 who were homeschooled and homeschooling rate, by selected characteristics: 2011-12", from the Parent and Family Involvement in Education, from the National Household Education Surveys Program of 2012 - Parent and Family Involvement in Education, from the National Household Education Surveys Program of 2012. National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Department of Education, 2012. Referenced 2015-02-03.
- Why Home Schooling Thrives by Mark Brandly, August 1997
- The Why of Homeschool by Isabel Lyman, February 2003
- Homeschooling Comes of Age by Isabel Lyman, September 2007
- Homeschooling: The Public Schools’ Invasive Species by Wendy McElroy, May 2014
- Home School Legal Defense Association (nonprofit advocacy organization for homeschooling)
- Home schooling at Wikipedia