The Washington Times
August 4, 2004

Washington Times Op-ed — Four Reasons that Motivate Parents to Homeschool

by J. Michael Smith
HSLDA President

Homeschooling has come a long way since 1983, when two lawyers established Home School Legal Defense Association to make sure that families would have a legal right to teach their children at home.

At that time, it was illegal to teach a child at home in most states unless the instructor was a certified teacher. Since then, more than 30 states have recognized the legality of homeschooling through homeschool legislation. Twelve more states recognize homeschooling through a private school exemption, and the remainder recognize it through some form of instruction equivalent to that offered at the public school.

As homeschooling continues to grow, observers want to know why people choose this form of education. Parents generally express four basic reasons.

Family time. Many parents are recognizing that with Mom and Dad both working outside the home—often more than 40 hours per week—the time needed to properly train a child is being squeezed out.

Religious values. Religiously motivated parents are concerned that the public schools are becoming more hostile to their religious beliefs as they observe things such as the teaching of evolution without creationism and the focus on teaching values that contradict their own.

Academic development. Parents who have high academic goals for their children recognize that a more individualized form of education is in the best interest of their children. Statistics indicate that homeschoolers, on average, score 30-35 percentile points above the national norm on standardized achievement tests, giving these parents confidence that home education is right for their children.

Safe environment. Increasing violence in or near public schools and negative peer influence prompt some parents to give homeschooling a try. Then, as they see their children thriving in a loving, nurturing environment, their primary motivation often switches to the social and academic benefits of teaching their children at home.

In addition to these four basic reasons, families choose to homeschool for other reasons. Some have children with special talent, such as gymnasts, ice skaters, musicians, or artists. As a result of homeschooling's flexibility and efficiency, these highly motivated and gifted children have the abundance of training and practicing time they need to achieve great things in their area of specialty.

We normally think of homeschoolers as parents with compulsory school-age children, beginning at age 5, 6 or 7, depending on the state they live in. As homeschooling participants, curriculum options, support, and information multiply, however, parents of preschoolers now are expressing interest in home education. Internet savvy, well-read, single-income families from an increasingly international background, these parents believe their children are very bright and need the very best form of education.

Realizing that these parents have plenty of options, some public school educators have targeted them as potential consumers of the public school product. Public school advocates are pushing for universal preschool to convince these parents that the public school can accommodate their desire for early education for their children. In California, a publicly funded organization advertises the benefits of a public preschool education to these moms and dads.

Another organization in California is attempting to provide a more balanced perspective. Established to help parents of preschoolers looking for resources to help them make their schooling decisions, Considering Homeschooling is a private nonprofit organization. It encourages and facilitates parents' involvement with homeschool support groups, even before their children reach compulsory attendance age.

Whatever the motivation, homeschooling continues to grow as more and more families are turning to homeschooling earlier and earlier. It will be interesting to see what impact this will have on our nation as these homeschooled children will be prepared to enter college much earlier than the conventional 18 years of age. If history is any predictor, this obstacle will not deter homeschooling parents or students, for whom overcoming challenges by unconventional methods has become a basic way of life.