December 11, 2001

Public School-Assisted Home Schooling Not Always First Choice

Recently, researchers from Biola University surveyed parents who were home schooling through a California public school "independent study program" (ISP) and found that a significant number of parents would prefer a different educational option.

The study, "Factors That Influence Parents to Homeschool in Southern California" was published in the Home School Researcher, edited by National Home Education Research Institute Director Brian D. Ray, Ph.D.

The survey "confirmed previous studies of general population indicating that economic constraints are prohibiting parents from enrolling their children in their first choice educational alternative." In fact, "by choosing a public independent study program [many] parents were choosing the 'next best thing,' since finances were prohibiting their first choice."

The research team provided survey forms to 871 families teaching their children at home while enrolled in an Independent Study Program with the Orange County Department of Education. Of these, 332 parents (38%) from 40 Southern California school districts responded, disclosing a variety of reasons for their choices.

Half of the respondents in the sample survey answered that they were enrolled in their first-choice educational alternative. But the study shows that financial constraints have kept one-third (33%) of the parents from their first choice in educating their children.

Finally, the study indicated that one third of the parents would have chosen "private home school" (religious or secular) or "private traditional school" (religious or secular) over a public school setting. Twenty-eight percent (28.2%) preferred a religious private educational setting.

Since this 1997 survey, it is interesting to note that the ISP Community Home Education Program population has become Orange County Charter School and has grown from the original 871-family sampling pool to more than 1,500 students.

The burgeoning charter school movement is receiving increasing attention, not only in California but nationwide. These specialized public schools appear to be an up-and-coming alternative to traditional public education. The U.S. Department of Education estimates the current number of charter schools at close to 2,000.

Because government regulations generally follow government money, Home School Legal Defense Association recommends that home schoolers avoid involvement with charter schools or any other public school-sponsored programs. HSLDA does not represent families enrolled in such programs.

"Home schooling through the charter programs, while financially appealing, entangles home schoolers with the government in many ways. Parents who home school for religious reasons should be particularly wary of restraints that can be put on them in this situation," said National Center for Home Education Director Tom Washburne. (For more information on charter schools, click here.)