The Washington Times
March 19, 2004

Washington Times Op-ed — Homeschoolers Invest in Education

Washington Times
March 19, 2004
by J. Michael Smith
HSLDA President

We all hear the cries from the media and the public school establishment about 'investing in education' and 'investing in children.' Behind this demand, the drumbeat for more money can be heard clearly. The financing of education is one place to start when measuring education, because homeschoolers are not exempt from financial considerations when making the choice to homeschool. What does it mean to really invest in children and education? Unfortunately, homeschoolers are typically left out of the equation when people talk about this subject. It may surprise some, but homeschoolers are actually making the largest financial investment in their children.

The proof is in the numbers. A recent report published in The Economist estimates that the homeschool curriculum market is worth about $850 million per year. Because homeschooling is experiencing annual growth of between 7 and 15 percent, according to the National Home Education Research Institute, the homeschool curriculum market is likely to surpass $1 billion in the near future. This is a very large sum since homeschoolers are just 4 percent of the school age population. Most people might assume that if homeschoolers are spending nearly a billion dollars, the public school must be spending multiple billions to provide for the curriculum needs of its students. However, the market for public school textbooks is just $4 billion for 50 million students. That's right, about 4 percent of the school age population is responsible for about 20 percent of curriculum spending. The numbers can be broken down further. A public school spends, on average, $80 per child per year on curriculum ($4 billion divided by 50 million) and the homeschool family spends $425 per year per child ($850 million divided by 2 million).

Most homeschoolers focus their resources on books. Some call this a 'print rich' environment and it's working. Homeschoolers on average score 20 to 30 percentile points above public school students on standardized tests. Homeschool families are way ahead when it comes to investing in education and children.

Homeschoolers have another advantag e, however. They buy their curricula from independent homeschool entrepreneurs. A homeschool parent can walk into a curriculum fair, examine a new product, make a decision, pull out the checkbook, and walk home with a whole new way of teaching. The public school, by contrast, is a one size fits all bureaucracy. Children in traditional classrooms cannot obtain a new textbook without weeks, months, or even years of committee meetings, memos, and bureaucratic red tape.

The freedom found in the homeschool market breeds creativity. Experienced homeschool families create new curriculum products for other homeschoolers. Homeschool parents have chosen to provide the best possible education environment for their children, and it's paying off. Homeschoolers continue to lead in academics, and the predominantly homeschool college - Patrick Henry College in Virginia - is widely reported to be attracting some of the brightest minds in the country. Choice and flexibility are continually present in a free market, and homeschoolers use their independence and freedom to achieve great results. Focusing their resources on the child has transformed the education path of thousands of children. We are seeing a revolution in education in the 21st century. Homeschoolers are leading the way.