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 childrenâ€™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 spouseâ€™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 itâ€™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.
 Academic Performance
The results of standardized tests clearly demonstrate the superior quality of home schooling when compared to socialized education programs. Home-schooled studentsâ€™ 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.