The Pioneer Institute just released a new study entitled, “Homeschooling: The Ultimate School Choice.” According to the study, states should do more to acknowledge the viability of homeschooling as an educational option, and provide direction and information for parents seeking non-traditional schooling.
“While homeschooling may not be the best choice for most families, the assumption that public school is the best option for all students is equally flawed,” William Heuer, co-author of the study, said.
The study notes that an estimated 10,000 American families homeschooled in 1980. By 2012, 1.8 million, or 3.4 percent of all K-12 students, were homeschooled. That number likely topped two million last year, meaning more American students are now homeschooled than enrolled in parochial schools.
Motivations for homeschooling has changed since 1980 as well.
Religion was long thought to be the driving force behind homeschooling, but by 2012, just 17 percent of homeschoolers cited it as their primary motivator.
For some families, homeschooling is a lifestyle choice and can become an integral part of their culture and identity.
For another group, homeschooling represents a stopgap solution to a school-based problem. About half of homeschooling parents also sent at least one child to a private, charter, or traditional public school.
Homeschooling is most common in the South and less so in the Northeast. Otherwise, it’s spread fairly evenly throughout the country.
SAT scores for homeschoolers are above the national average. On the ACT, they score above the public school average but below that for private schools.
Various late-20th century studies found that between 93 and 98 percent of homeschoolers were white. But as the practice has grown more popular in recent years, its practitioners have become more diverse. Today, slightly more than two-thirds are white and 15 percent are Hispanic.
The 8 percent of the homeschooling population that is African-American remains below the 15 percent of African-American students in the general population, but the number doubled between 2007 and 2011. The number of Jewish homeschoolers is also increasing.
Homeschooling is particularly popular among military families. For this group, the rate of homeschooling is more than double the national average.
Heuer and co-author William Donovan find that with the rise of virtual schools, blended learning, and online resources blurring lines between school and homeschool, the definition of homeschooling is a moving target. The National Center for Educational Statistics considers one a homeschooler if their primary place of schooling is at home rather than a public or private school, and they are not enrolled in such school more than 25 hours per week.
By making extensive use of public libraries and online resources, the annual cost of homeschooling can be as little as a few hundred dollars. But with packaged curricula, testing services, travel, museum memberships, and tutors, it can approach the tuition charged by many private schools.
The largest cost to homeschooling families is typically the loss of one parent’s income. In the majority of two-parent homeschooling families, just one parent is in the workforce.
Homeschoolers receive no public funds. Based on their participation numbers, they save American taxpayers an estimated $22 billion annually.
The Trump administration has filed legislation to make homeschoolers eligible for federal funding, but public support is a contentious issue within the homeschooling community. Some reject the government regulations, restrictions, and requirements that would invariably accompany public funding, while those for whom homeschooling is a second choice or last resort may welcome it.
One way to acknowledge the viability of homeschooling and support parental choice would be for state departments of education to include links to statewide homeschooling organizations on their websites.
Heuer also recommends that school superintendents grant homeschoolers access to public school districts’ extracurricular activities.
Download the study here or read it below: