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Here's Why Homeschooling Has Gone Mainstream

Studies show homeschooled kids, on average, are better educated than public school children.

A few months ago at 11 a.m. on a Tuesday, I saw a mom showing a well-behaved 8-year-old boy flashcards with Chinese characters on them in Panera. Homeschool alert!

I figured this woman was either a very conservative Christian or a crunchy granola type. Being annoyingly curious and inappropriate, as is my M.O., I struck up a conversation with her. She wasn’t either of those stereotypes. She was very nice and talked to me for a while about her experiences homeschooling her kids. I learned that homeschooling is way more organized than I thought and very in vogue at the moment. 

In 1980, home schooling was illegal in 30 states. Now, it is legal in all 50 states with about 1.5 million to 2 million children being homeschooled in the U.S., roughly 3 percent of school-age children nationwide, according to a study by the National Center for Education Statistics.

In the same study, it was found that between 1999 and 2007, the number of homeschooled children rose 77 percent.The actual number may be even higher because not all parents who homeschool  report information to the government. However, the general consensus is that the stigma associated with homeschooling is gone as it becomes more and more mainstream.

As for why more parents are homeschooling, it is not surprising that the highest percentage listed religious and moral instruction (36%), the next most popular reason being concerns about the school environment (21%), followed by dissatisfaction with academic instruction (17%). 

There is also a trend toward co-op homeschooling where small groups of parents take turns teaching the children and/or hiring tutors to assume some of the responsibility. The image of homeschooled children spending their days sitting at the kitchen table are long gone. Today’s homeschooled are out and about with many museums offering programs to homeschoolers as well as other hands-on activities, such as nature centers. There are endless websites dedicated to non-traditional learning opportunities in addition to websites offering support and resources for homeschooling families

I can teach a classroom of 28 5th graders who, between them, cover every learning and behavioral issue under the sun (note to my former colleagues: I said I could, I didn’t say I was good at it), but the thought of teaching my own boys scares me to death. 

I always believed it was better to leave their academics in the capable hands of those who did not give birth to them, thus eliminating the emotional turmoil involved in getting them to open a book. But statistics indicate that this might not have been the wisest choice. According to the Homeschool Progress Report 2009: Academic Achievement and Demographics, homeschoolers, on average, scored 37 percentile points above their public school counterparts on standardized achievement tests.

Almost every study touches on a few other facts. It seems homeschooled kids are far from isolated from peers, do well in social situations, and are more likely to be involved in their community. The education level of the parents had little effect on the success of their children, as did state regulations, gender of the student, or how much parents spent on education.

Speaking of spending per student, in public school about $10,000 is spent on each student, each year, as opposed the $500 spent on the average homeschooled student. This number sounds a little fishy since the last time I took my kids to the aquarium I spent $74 on three tickets. Bad puns aside, when I began this article I was dead set against homeschooling, as are many certified teachers. But, after doing research, I’m not so sure.  Maybe the public school system could learn something from the homeschool community.

What do you think about homeschooling? Is it a better option than Cobb public schools? Tell us in the comments below.

Valerie Testman September 08, 2012 at 08:09 PM
I'm not a formal educator, but as my 3rd grader has grown, so too have my perspectives on her education. I NEVER thought I would consider homeschooling her (or my preschool aged son), afterall I am not a teacher and have no background training in education. However, I have definitely become, at least, a tutor of sorts for both of them. I've had the opportunity to meet some amazing parents who have taken on the brave task of homeschooling their children. When I encounter these children, I have found they both academic and socially sound beyond anything I could have imagined. Also, the resources available to many homeschoolers, both academic and extracurricular, are not available in the public schools. With some of the public schools options (or lack thereof with zone bound schooling), the idea of homeschooling is now an option to be seriously evaluated.
Anita Norman September 08, 2012 at 08:53 PM
Although I never was able to bring myself to do it for my kids (now grown or almost), I'm a strong proponent of homeschooling as a viable education alternative. The homeschooled children I have met through my work with children's and youth music ministry the past 15 years are very well adjusted, not socially awkward in the least, and as well-informed as their public and private school peers. I am also in favor of governmental oversight of homeschooled children, although I believe it should be kept to a minimum. It is certainly within reason to require parents to demonstrate an ability and commitment to teaching the basic skills of Language Arts, Math, Science, Social Studies, Fine Arts, and Health/Physical Education at a level compatible with the Georgia standards. https://www.georgiastandards.org/Standards/Pages/BrowseStandards/BrowseGPS.aspx I also believe that since homeschool parents pay the same tax rate as those who enroll their children in public school, homeschooled children should be allowed to participate in whatever extracurricular activities their local school provides - theater, sports, various clubs, etc. Such is the case in Nebraska, where we lived prior to moving to Georgia, as well as several other states, but not here.
Andrea Young September 09, 2012 at 04:34 AM
My children attend an online school. My husband and I made the decision to pull them from Cobb public school a little over a year ago. We were worried about the transition and how they would be affected socially. Transition was smooth, and there are 12-13 field trips per month, we attend 2-4 so they are socializing. The workload is heavier, they learn so much more. In addition, our children attend Kumon, kickboxing, 4H, diving team and piano classes. My husband and I do not have degree in education, but we are able to support our 5th and 7th grader with the help of their teachers, unlimited resources and like-minded caring parents.
electric123 September 09, 2012 at 11:32 AM
If we as adult have gone to public or private school why can't the kids of today? we seem to coddle or shelter our kids like they are prone to something new all of the sudden! what is good for the goose is good for the gander.
L A Hays September 09, 2012 at 12:23 PM
I think I got a good education in public schools---in the 1950s! Classes were relatively small; any real discipline problems (and there weren't many) were dealt with by the coaches and a wooden paddle; students failed if they couldn't/wouldn't do the work; many parents were involved in the PTA; and books and most supplies were free. Everybody "looked like me" and moral values were assumed to be homogeneous. Today, schools are being required to meet so many arbitrary, conflicting standards (e.g., No Child Left Behind, administrative tasks) that the teachers have little time to teach. Too many students have too little respect for their responsibility as learners because they know they'll pass regardless of their work. Too few parents don't care or don't have the time because of work to invest in actively supporting their schools. Too many politicians think firing teachers and cutting school budgets will help the economy (and keep them in office). School boards are not being held accountable for where all the money goes that we're paying in taxes. I don't think home schooling is THE answer, but it's certainly becoming one option for parents who don't want their kids sucked down educationally into the mess we've allowed our public school system to become. The system can be fixed, but not by continuing to pay more while settling for less.
Jay Young September 09, 2012 at 01:49 PM
Whether a child attends public, private, charter, home school, public online school or some other authorized form of school, it's really about options. I could offer a diatribe against traditional "brick & mortar" public schools and the seemingly perennial struggles in my zoned schools. However, that doesn't fix anything. Sadly, many parents are disconnected (related to involvement in the schools and their children's education), school administrators & staff are trying to justify their positions, teachers have become "hardened" and lack the soft skills needed to facilitate effective communication and more money is being spent on the same failing practices (i.e. continuing to use Title I funds to primarily fund teaching positions lost due to attrition or budget cuts, instead of alternative programs to develop staff, engage more parents, etc.) Thus, options to traditional public school are much needed. Homeschooling works! For those families it works for... Typically, the families that do well in it have parents who were actively engaged in their public/private school anyway. Their children's education (academic and social) is paramount - and that's much of the reason they migrate to homeschooling. In their minds, it's either the logical or ONLY option available to them.
Jay Young September 09, 2012 at 01:51 PM
@Charles I totally understand where you're coming from. In many cases, you may be accurate; however, just know that an equal (or possibly greater) amount of coddling of overwhelmed and unprepared public/private school administrators, teachers and staff exists. Cheers! Sorry for the break in the message and formatting in the previous post. The Patch character counter isn't working properly so I had to "jam" everything together.
Pam J September 09, 2012 at 02:14 PM
I think that where you live kind of dictates whether or not you homeschool. If you find a great house in an area where the schools aren't that great, homeschooling is a great option. I have always thought that kids need to go to school to learn how to deal with other people. I don't think that any more. I think there are way too many distractions and you are always worried about the kamikaze students. Our next-door neighbors have 13 kids. They homeschooled every one of them (still doing it). The only downside was that one of the boys wanted to go to Georgia Tech and they wouldn't, at the time, accept students who were homeschooled. All of the children are very nice and polite. I know that they have online schooling now. My nephew tried that for awhile and really liked it, until he decided he wanted to sleep until noon and surf the web when he got up (he was 16 at the time). I think he had to do four hours a day of schooling. So they sent his little butt back to public school. Bottom line - I like the idea of homeschooling.
Nannette Wilson September 10, 2012 at 11:03 PM
My opinion: This article is nothing new nor is it a surprise because of the constant change in public school curricula, board and local school personnel. Thus, the consistency of homeschool techniques, etc., tend to be more function and goal-driven as oppose to prime “curriculum-mapping.” They tend to be more relevant to the student. Additionally, time for true multiple intelligences/ownership on behalf of the student is afforded. So, the child can make sense of the world around him/her and perform well when matched up against his/her public school-educated counterparts. With having four children of my own (all of whom were homeschooled prior to beginning public school) I have seen the advantage they have had over some of their peers. A lot of times, the available resources such as class textbooks, lectures, field trips, etc., do not automatically give you the edge. But, the delivery of what a child receives and how can make a world of difference. A great advantage, however, is that homeschoolers can participate in some of thier local school's classes such as exploratory subjects: i.e. P.E., Art, Music, etc. They can also use their library resources. So, if you ask me, it pretty much sounds like the best of both worlds to homeschool! And, I am sure that some of these parents have used much of the information I just discussed to make their own decision on the topic.
General Hafeezah September 12, 2012 at 12:27 PM
@Charles The reason why we dont want our childrenn iinthe schools of today is because they are not like schools 50 years ago. We started schoool with prayer. It wasnt illegal, we didn't have police guards and metal detectors. Children were not beating up their teacher's and calling them out of their names. And prom wasn't a strip tease show. That's WHY we cant send them to these schools of today. and Private school tuition is OUT OF REACH!

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