|The Washington Times||February 2, 2009|
Washington Times Op-ed—Homeschooling Popularity Grows by J. Michael Smith
by J. Michael Smith
Recently, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), part of the Institute of Education Sciences under the U.S. Department of Education, released a study on homeschooling demographics. The first survey from the NCES on homeschooling was conducted in 1999, the next in 2003, and now the current survey, which is based on information compiled in 2007.
The 2007 survey estimates there are 1.5 million homeschooled children in the United States, representing 2.9 percent of the school-age population. This is up from 1.1 million in 2003, which represented 2.2 percent of the school-age population. In 1999, there were an estimated 850,000 homeschooled children, which means homeschooling has grown 74 percent since 1999, and 36 percent since 2003.
The survey also asked parents their reasons for homeschooling. The largest category selected by the parents was a concern about school environment with 88 percent. This compares with 85 percent in 2003. The next largest category was concerns over religious or moral instruction, which was chosen by 83 percent of parents. Seventy-two percent of parents cited this concern in 2003. The third highest category was dissatisfaction with academic instruction at other schools, with 73 percent agreeing with this statement in 2007 compared with 68 percent in 2003.
When the parents were asked which one of the selected reasons for homeschooling was the most important, religious or moral instruction was the highest with 36 percent. For 21 percent of parents, the most important reason was concern about the school environment, and for 17 percent, it was dissatisfaction with the academic instruction available at other schools. Other reasons, including family time, finances, travel and distance, were cited by 14 percent of parents.
The obvious conclusions that can be drawn from the survey is that homeschooling continues to grow at a significant rate. Because it is unlikely there will be any major change in public schools in the near future, it’s reasonable to believe homeschooling will continue to grow.
Because the modern homeschooling movement has been around for more than 25 years, it is becoming a more diverse education movement. Almost everyone knows at least one homeschooling family. Additionally, the outstanding academic and sporting achievements of homeschoolers are widely reported. For example, Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow was homeschooled until he entered college.
Another possible explanation for the rapid increase in homeschooling is that it’s much easier to homeschool now than even five years ago. More and more education programs and curricula are being produced for homeschoolers and are available through DVDs, the Internet, satellite TV, etc.
It is well-known that the average homeschooled child scores well on academic tests. This is because, in part, homeschooling parents can shape their educational program to their child. This contrasts with a school setting where the child has to conform to the educational program that is provided.
Some parents, especially as their children get older, have been concerned their children might miss out on the extracurricular activities available at the public school. Homeschool networks across the country, however, have stepped up their efforts to provide a wide array of extracurricular activities for homeschool students. Sports leagues, band, drama, debate and many other activities are now being provided for homeschoolers. Even football leagues are available for homeschool students.
The bottom line in the continued growth of homeschooling is that every responsible parent wants to see their child succeed, and they realize the upbringing and education of the child will determine, by and large, whether that child will be a successful adult. For more and more parents, homeschooling is being viewed as the best way to raise their children. The success of the homeschooling movement shows they are making the right choice.
Michael Smith is the president of the Home School Legal Defense Association. He may be contacted at (540)338-5600; or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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