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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.

Instead, 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, homeschooling was illegal in 30 states. Now, it is legal in all 50 states with about 1.5 million to 2 million U.S. children being homeschooled. That equates to 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%), then 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 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.

How do you feel about homeschooling? Tell us in the comments.

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S.Schuman September 10, 2012 at 11:08 PM
I enjoyed reading this article. My husband and I both attended public schools all the way through our educations. I never intended to homeschool our children, and had the typical stereotypes of homeschoolers being "weird," and unsocialized. I didn't necessarily think that people shouldn't be allowed to homeschool, but did not understand why anyone would want to. When our oldest daughter was a couple years old, we started attending a church with several homeschooling families. At first, I was afraid that if we didn't homeschool, that we would be judged or that we would feel pressured to homeschool. My experience was quite the opposite. I got to know these families, whose children varied in ages. They were smart, kind, considerate children. They were outgoing, easy to talk to, and willing to help and serve. I began to look at homeschooling in a different light, and felt led to look into homeschooling. It began with a fear, and an attitude of 'I can't do this' or 'I don't want this.' But as I began looking into it, it felt like it would be a good fit for our family. My husband's work is very busy in the Spring and Fall. If our children were in public schools, they would seldom see him during those times of the year. But with homeschooling, we have more flexibility in our schedule, and since he works out of our home some they can see him some during the day. It has also allowed us to work at their pace. Homeschooling has been a major blessing for our family!
Shelli P. September 11, 2012 at 02:06 AM
Thank you for this positive article on homeschooling. When my eldest son was 2, we decided we would homeschool, and now our boys are 6 and 3. I'm very happy with my decision, although I admit I've had little panic attacks along the way. We don't homeschool for religious reasons, and it has taken time to meet and create a homeschooling community for my boys that is diverse, but this past year, we've made some good friends. Community classes and summer camps at the nature center have been a wonderful experience for my son. If anyone takes the time to really research homeschooling, I think they'll find that it's mostly good. Of course, there will be bad examples too. That is with anything. But most parents who homeschool do their homework and want what is best for their children. The numbers are showing that homeschooling isn't a bad thing. www.mamaofletters.com
Melinda Paris September 11, 2012 at 11:26 AM
I homeschooled my youngest after He encountered bullying at public school and many meeting with administrators that gave us the speech, "well kids will be kids", even though bullying is strictly against the rules. We never looked back, and I will forever remember the extra time We had to do fun things, because homeschooling doesn't include standing in lines for lunch, bathroom breaks, and doing "busy" work, we did at least four hours a day, and we were done. My son is now a Senior in College and He played High School football, played in a band, bowled on a homeschool league, and went on field trips, and we never missed public school, as we had so many choices offered to us through homeschooling organizations. This article reminded me how we could go to Starbucks, Ihop and other places have a bite of food and finish up some school work, there was never a dull moment and we didn't have to wear out the kitchen table with 4-5 hours of homework that did NOTHING but frustrate my son. We were able to get through Spanish I, and then had Him tutored for Spanish II, and we finished both in one school year, that's the best part, you set the pace, you can backtrack material that is not clear the first time, I can write pages of positive things about homeschooling, we have NEVER regretted our choice, it was a blessing to spend the extra time with our son.

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