As of 2012, 1.8 million K-12 students, or 3.4 percent, were homeschooled, compared to an estimate of just 10,000 families in 1980. “Homeschooling: The Ultimate School Choice,” published in June by the Pioneer Institute, finds recent growth places the number of K-12 homeschoolers at more than two million students now.
“In the early days of contemporary homeschooling, homeschooling families were often stereotyped as either right-wing conservative Christians or left-wing progressive hippies,” study coauthors William Heuer and William Donovan write, citing late 20th-century surveys showing the homeschooling population to be more than 90 percent white.
According to 2012 data from the National Center for Education Statistics, whites make up only 68 percent of the homeschooling population. Hispanics account for 15 percent, up from approximately 5 percent in 2003. The proportion of black homeschoolers doubled between 2007 and 2011. The number of Jewish, Muslim, Native American, and Hawaiian native homeschoolers is also growing, according to the report.
The study declares “States should provide parents with more information about homeschooling options and recommends districts and states “acknowledge homeschooling as a viable choice” and “provide information on homeschooling to districts, superintendents, and parents.” The authors criticize the National Education Association teachers’ union for its insistence that parents should be required to get a license and official approval of home curricula, creating a barrier to home education.
Doing What’s Best
Heuer says parents turn to homeschooling because they care about their children’s well-being.
“I think that all families regardless of race, creed, or ethnicity want to do whatever is in the best interest of their children,” Heuer said.
Heuer says one of the intentions of the study was to inform more parents about homeschooling.
“The benefit, in my opinion, is to lend ‘official’ credibility to homeschooling as a viable option for families so they can make educated choices,” Heuer said. “Districts can often intimidate potential homeschoolers or attempt to influence their choice. Eliminating this via information and education is one of my goals.”
Saving Taxpayers’ Money
Informing families about homeschooling may be in school districts’ interests, the study finds. Homeschoolers can reduce public education costs nationwide by about $22 billion per year.
William A. Estrada, director of federal relations at the Home School Legal Defense Association, says supporting homeschooling is a no-brainer.
“It’s quite amazing that there are still policymakers who don’t support homeschooling,” Estrada said.
Hostility to homeschooling is “from a bygone era,” Estrada said, rooted in the education establishment and teachers’ unions, who are “elites.”
Filling in the Gaps
The Pioneer Institute’s study fills a gap in homeschooling statistics, Estrada says, noting the U.S. Department of Education’s latest figures on homeschooling are from 2012, before the recent increase.
“This study shows what those of us on the ground had believed for a while,” Estrada said. “Not a lot of academics dig into the numbers of homeschooling and the reasons behind it.”
Harry Painter ([email protected]) writes from Brooklyn, New York.