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Here's 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 well-behaved 8-year-old boy flashcards with Chinese characters on them in Panera. 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 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%), the next most popular reason being concerns about the school environment (21%), followed by dissatisfaction with academic instruction (17%). 

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 5th 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.

COD July 26, 2012 at 06:42 PM
It was 90 minutes a day for us. My son starts college in fall - it seems to have worked just fine. Note that he spent way more than 90 minutes each day learning. 90 minutes was the time he spent on "school."
SuziQ July 26, 2012 at 11:48 PM
Lori, I don't think the problem is simply proofreading. The problem with SolarPete's post is even more elementary - punctuation and grammar. It is obvious, though, he has the utmost respect for his step-sister!
Teresa Sadowski July 27, 2012 at 11:01 AM
I'v been a school speech language pathologist for over 25 years and I too am warming up to the idea of home schooling. The block scheduling, state mandated testing (testing is important I am just not happy with it's development or what it tests) and now CORE curriculum I can see why parents would lean toward home schooling. I personally did the private high school thing to avoid dealing with it. I saved my town thousands while going into considerable debt but it was worth it. Teachers spend a lot of time teaching to the test and kids spend a lot of time taking tests. Students I've noticed are less well rounded and more are demonstrating splinter skills.
Laura I. Maniglia July 27, 2012 at 12:43 PM
Over the 17 years since I started Handle Associates, I've had home-schooled students enroll in my Language Arts. They have been diligent and capable students who fulfill the state educational requirements with ease. On average, they spend have less wasted time, so they've told me that they spend 2-3 hours/ day on academics. The materials they choose are usually superior to those utilized in the public schools.
Denelle Christine Bratcher July 27, 2012 at 02:25 PM
Every day is different. Mine are both in middle school now, so the formal coursework has begun in earnest. They probably spend 3-6 hours a day in the books and writing, completing math assignments, and reading, but they sometimes dawdle (and whine) and drag it out. Other days (such as a friend's coming over or they're going swimming "when they finish") they rip through it all in a couple of hours! It depends on their motivation. My oldest (13) is finally learning to pace himself and spread the work out so he doesn't have to get it all done the day before it's due -- just like I had to learn in the typical classroom.

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