Popularity of Homeschooling Grows in the U.S.
Special Report - January 7, 2009
The proportion of school-aged children in the United States who are homeschooled increased by an astounding 74 percent between 1999 and 2007, according to a new report from the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). The December 2008 issue brief estimates that 1.5 million students were homeschooled in 2007. The NCES’s findings are based on data from the National Household Education Surveys program, which has collected information on homeschooling since 1999. Researchers conducted telephone interviews with the parents of over 10,000 students age five to 17, including 290 home-schooled students. Students were considered home-schooled if their “parents reported them as being schooled at home instead of at a public or private school for at least part of their education, and if their part-time enrollment in a public or private school did not exceed 25 hours a week.”
According to the survey, 1.5 million homeschooled students in 2007 represented 2.9 percent of the school age population, up from an estimated 1.1 million in 2003 (2.2 percent of the school age population) and from 850,000 in 1999 (1.7 percent of the school age population). The 2007 NCES survey asked parents to select specific reasons for their decision to homeschool their children. The reasons cited most by parents were: concerns about the school environment (88 percent), a desire to improve the religious or moral instruction of their children (83 percent), and dissatisfaction with the academic instruction of other schools (73 percent). Between 2003 and 2007, the percentage of parents who cited “a desire to provide religious or moral instruction” increased from 72 percent to 83 percent.
The NCES also added a new choice to the list of reasons for homeschooling in the 2007 surveya desire for a “nontraditioinal approach to child’s education.” Sixty-five percent of parents in the survey chose the non-traditional approach as one reason for their decision to homeschool (there is no comparison to previous years since the choice was not offered in the past).
According to the latest statistics from the North Carolina Division of Non-Public Education (NCDNPE), a total of 71,566 students were home-schooled in the state during the 2007-08 school year, up from 27,978 in 1999-2000. Homeschools were legally recognized in North Carolina during the 1985-86 school year, after the State Supreme Court’s decision in Delconte v. North Carolina. In 1988, the General Assembly passed legislation defining a homeschool as “a non-public school in which the student receives academic instruction from his/her parent, legal guardian, or a member of the household in which the student resides.” The law requires parents wishing to homeschool their children to file a notice of intent with the NCDNPE and authorizes the state agency to “annually inspect” the homeschool’s attendance records and nationally standardized test score results.
“The meteoric growth of home education in the United States and in North Carolina over the past decade is evidence of the dissatisfaction that many parents feel regarding the quality of many of the public schools in this country,” said Matt Lytle, director of research for the North Carolina Family Policy Council. “As the latest statistics on homeschooling show, religious instruction is not the only reason parents choose to educate their children at home, but it is an important one. Many parents are choosing to homeschool because they are concerned about the quality of education provided by our public schools because they oppose the increasing tendency of public schools to push a social agenda that is contrary to parents’ personal beliefs.”
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