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Opinion: 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 very well-behaved 8-year-old boy flashcards with Chinese characters on them in Panera Bread. 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 narrow-minded 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 percent), the next most popular reason being concerns about the school environment (21 percent), followed by dissatisfaction with academic instruction (17 percent). 

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.

Also see:

Kent Addams July 24, 2012 at 09:05 PM
Thanks for writing this piece. I hope it opens some eyes and changes some opinions about homeschooling. There are lots of perceptions out there about homeschooling and they're almost all wrong. I have experience teaching homeschoolers, public schoolers and private schoolers. If I could, I would ONLY teach homeschoolers! They are more interesting, more inquisitive, and generally more eager to learn. And social?? The characterization of the 'unsocialized homeschooler' is a myth. In many ways, I think they're more socially adept because they're more honest and open. They would be 'eaten alive' in a typical public middle school, but the kids I've worked with that homeschool through high school are more than ready to enter the 'big bad real world'.
Femme July 25, 2012 at 03:04 AM
This is why I tell people to do their research before just believing my words that homeschooling is the BEST option. When they do, they come back changed for the better. Wanting to homeschool of coarse.
Me July 25, 2012 at 11:06 AM
Although I have never personally met a home schooled child and parent who would not in some way qualify for a freak show, I do agree that there are many positive aspects. However, when you start talking about co-ops, isn't that just like setting up a new, informal school?
Mytwicebakedpotato July 25, 2012 at 05:14 PM
I have been a public school teacher for 20 years and didn't see the benefits...until I had my own twice-exceptional son. This year, I plan to work 1/2 time so that he can attend school part of the day and enrich the work at home in the afternoon. Hope it works better ;)
Amy H July 25, 2012 at 05:32 PM
Femme - not to nitpick, but have you taught your children how to spell "course" correctly? Maybe it was just a typo (I hope.)
DunwoodyWorkingMan July 25, 2012 at 05:40 PM
Headline doesn't match content. Was looking for a more in depth of "why"
Susan Schaefer July 25, 2012 at 05:54 PM
I believe the difference is that co-ops are mostly taught by parents on a rotating basis with tutors to suppliment specific areas. In formal schools are primarily taught by teachers and/or tutors. Sue
jimmie July 25, 2012 at 11:03 PM
i know a lot of conservative christians who go to public school. opening paragraph is confusing and a little offensive. my personal belief is sheltering kids from the real world until college is a very dangerous path...they need to meet the morons sooner than later
DunwoodyWorkingMan July 29, 2012 at 05:38 PM
later is better than sooner. Sheltering? I think the better verb is 'avoiding'

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