the practice of students receiving education from a parent or guardian, or instructors acting under the direction of a parent or guardian, rather than from teachers in a formal school setting like a public school. Virtually every area of the United States has local support groups for homeschooling, which often meet in church facilities. Nearly 7% of college-educated parents homeschool their children. In the U.S., an estimated 2.3 million+ students are homeschooled, or nearly one out of every 30 students. Vaccination requirements, safety, dumbing down, indoctrination, bullying, aggressive sex ed programs and many concerns lead parents to consider homeschooling. The home-educated typically score 15 to 30 percentile points above public-school students on standardized academic achievement tests, are more involved in the community as adults, attend and succeed in college at a higher rate, and are more likely to adhere to family values than those who attend public school.
Homeschooling has grown from a small counterculture phenomenon in the 1970’s, when it was illegal in most states, to a vibrant mainstream movement. Homeschooling is now legal in every state, and legal barriers have fallen to varying degrees. Yet opponents of homeschooling continue to push back, and homeschoolers need to remain vigilant of their rights.
General Facts, Statistics, and Trends
- There are about 2.3 million home-educated students in the United States (as of spring 2016). This is up from one estimate that there were about 2 million children (in grades K to 12) home educated during the spring of 2010 in the United States (Ray, 2011). It appears the homeschool population is continuing to grow (at an estimated 2% to 8% per annum over the past few years).
- Homeschooling – that is, parent-led home-based education; home education – is an age-old traditional educational practice that a decade ago appeared to be cutting-edge and “alternative” but is now bordering on “mainstream” in the United States. It may be the fastest-growing form of education in the United States. Home-based education has also been growing around the world in many other nations (e.g., Australia, Canada, France, Hungary, Japan, Kenya, Russia, Mexico, South Korea, Thailand, and the United Kingdom).
- A demographically wide variety of people homeschool – these are atheists, Christians, and Mormons; conservatives, libertarians, and liberals; low-, middle-, and high-income families; black, Hispanic, and white; parents with Ph.D.s, GEDs, and no high-school diplomas. One study shows that 32 percent of homeschool students are Black, Asian, Hispanic, and others (i.e., not White/non-Hispanic) (Noel, Stark, & Redford, 2013).
- Families engaged in home-based education are not dependent on public, tax-funded resources for their children’s education. The finances associated with their homeschooling likely represent over $27 billion that American taxpayers do not have to spend, annually, since these children are not in public schools
- Taxpayers spend an average of $11,732 per pupil in public schools, plus capital expenditures. Taxpayers spend nothing on most homeschool students and homeschool families spend an average of $600 per student for their education.
- Homeschooling is quickly growing in popularity among minorities. About 15% of homeschool families are non-white/non-Hispanic (i.e., not white/Anglo).
- An estimated 3.4 million U.S. adults have been homeschooled for at least one year of their K-12 years, and they were homeschooled an average of 6 to 8 years. If one adds to this number the 2.3 million being homeschooled today, an estimated 5.7 million Americans have experienced being homeschooled. [note 1]
Reasons and Motivations for Home Educating
Most parents and youth decide to homeschool for more than one reason. The most common reasons given for homeschooling are the following:
- customize or individualize the curriculum and learning environment for each child,
- accomplish more academically than in schools,
- use pedagogical approaches other than those typical in institutional schools,
- enhance family relationships between children and parents and among siblings,
- provide guided and reasoned social interactions with youthful peers and adults,
- provide a safer environment for children and youth, because of physical violence, drugs and alcohol, psychological abuse, racism, and improper and unhealthy sexuality associated with institutional schools, and
- teach and impart a particular set of values, beliefs, and worldview to children and youth.
Additional reasons not listed above by the National Home Education Research Institute are:
- required vaccinations
- fake history
- teaching of ‘what to think’, not ‘how to think’
- The home-educated typically score 15 to 30 percentile points above public-school students on standardized academic achievement tests. (The public school average is the 50th percentile; scores range from 1 to 99.) A 2015 study found Black homeschool students to be scoring 23 to 42 percentile points above Black public school students (Ray, 2015).
- Homeschool students score above average on achievement tests regardless of their parents’ level of formal education or their family’s household income.
- Whether homeschool parents were ever certified teachers is not related to their children’s academic achievement.
- Degree of state control and regulation of homeschooling is not related to academic achievement.
- Home-educated students typically score above average on the SAT and ACT tests that colleges consider for admissions.
- Homeschool students are increasingly being actively recruited by colleges.
Success in the “Real World” of Adulthood
The research base on adults who were home educated is growing; thus far it indicates that they:
- participate in local community service more frequently than does the general population,
- vote and attend public meetings more frequently than the general population
- go to and succeed at college at an equal or higher rate than the general population
- by adulthood, internalize the values and beliefs of their parents at a high rate
Social, Emotional, and Psychological Development (Socialization)
- The home-educated are doing well, typically above average, on measures of social, emotional, and psychological development. Research measures include peer interaction, self-concept, leadership skills, family cohesion, participation in community service, and self-esteem.
- Homeschool students are regularly engaged in social and educational activities outside their homes and with people other than their nuclear-family members. They are commonly involved in activities such as field trips, scouting, 4-H, political drives, church ministry, sports teams, and community volunteer work.
- Adults who were home educated are more politically tolerant than the public schooled in the limited research done so far.
Gender Differences in Children and Youth Respected?
- One researcher finds that homeschooling gives young people an unusual chance to ask questions such as, “Who am I?” and “What do I really want?,” and through the process of such asking and gradually answering the questions home-educated girls develop the strengths and the resistance abilities that give them an unusually strong sense of self.
- Some think that boys’ energetic natures and tendency to physical expression can more easily be accommodated in home-based education. Many are concerned that a highly disproportionate number of public school special-education students are boys and that boys are 2.5 times as likely as girls in public schools to be diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Safety is becoming a big issue. High school mass shootings prompting many parents to consider homeschooling. This is hardly surprising, as the misnamed federal “Gun-Free Schools” law leaves schoolchildren defenseless against mass shooters. Removing one’s children from government schools seems a rational response to school shootings. School shootings are not the only form of violence causing more parents to consider homeschooling. Many potential homeschooling parents are concerned about the failure of school administrators to effectively protect children from bullying by other students.
Of course many parents choose homeschooling as a means of protecting their children from federal education “reforms” such as Common Core. Other parents are motivated by a desire to protect their children from the cultural Marxism that has infiltrated many schools.
The spread of cultural Marxism has contributed to the dumbing down of public education. Too many government schools are more concerned with promoting political correctness than ensuring that students receive a good education. Even if cultural Marxism did not dumb down education, concerns that government schools are indoctrinating children with beliefs that conflict with parents’ political, social, and even religious beliefs would motivate many families to homeschool.
Even when government schools are not intentionally promoting cultural Marxism or other left-wing ideologies, they are still implicitly biased toward big government. For example, how many government schools teach the Austrian economics explanation for the Great Depression — much less question the wisdom of central banking — or critically examine the justifications for America’s hyper-interventionist foreign policy?
Parents interested in providing their children with a quality education emphasizing the ideas of liberty should consider looking into the RP homeschooling curriculum. The Ron Paul Curriculum provides students with a well-rounded education that includes rigorous programs in history, mathematics, and the physical and natural sciences. The curriculum also provides instruction in personal finance. Students can develop superior oral and verbal communication skills via intensive writing and public speaking courses. Another feature of the RP curriculum is that it provides students the opportunity to create and run their own internet businesses.
The government and history sections of the curriculum emphasize Austrian economics, libertarian political theory, and the history of liberty. However, unlike government schools, the RP curriculum never puts ideological indoctrination ahead of education.
While government schools — and even many private schools — pretend religion played no significant role in history, the RP curriculum addresses the crucial role religion played in the development of Western civilization. However, the materials are drafted in such a way that any Christian, Jewish, Muslim, or atheist parent can feel comfortable using the curriculum.
Interactive forums allow students to engage with and learn from each other. The forums ensure students are actively engaged in their education as well as give them an opportunity to interact with their peers outside of a formal setting.
Homeschooling grew by almost 75% in the eight years before 2011, and it has continued to grow at a strong pace despite attacks from teachers’ unions and government bureaucrats. In a recent survey, “the average homeschooled student scored at the 88th percentile” in the core subjects of reading, language and math. The most successful mathematician in contests in history, Reid Barton, was homeschooled. The greatest gymnast ever, 2016 Olympic champion Simone Biles, was homeschooled. One of the greatest college football players—the first to win the Heisman Trophy as a sophomore — Tim Tebow, was homeschooled until college. A Wimbledon tennis star, Melanie Oudin, chose homeschooling beginning in 7th grade: “With how much I improved in the first year at home, I knew it was the right choice.” Homeschooled students make up many of the top college and graduate students in mathematics today.
Homeschooling parents have many available options to supplement education at home:
- attending a weekly course provided in many areas by the homeschooling community – a Conservapedian has taught such courses since 2002
- using a correspondence school (or the modern video- or computer-based equivalent)
- taking classes at local museums or nature centers
- joining with other families to share teaching responsibilities in a co-op
- encouraging the student to self-instruct using library books, traditional textbooks or workbooks, knowledgeable mentor’s and/or hands-on experiences
- hiring a tutor for certain difficult topics, like physics
- attending a brick and mortar institution for certain classes and taking other classes at home
Homeschoolers often include local “after school” enrichment programs like scouts, 4-H, sports, music lessons, karate or dance classes, public library programs, and summer camps as part of their educational program. Some areas have extracurricular clubs and activities specifically for homeschoolers, some allow homeschoolers to participate in local public school’s after school activities, and some homeschoolers participate in extracurricular activities independently from their schooling through private organizations. Homeschool graduates vote in higher percentages: in 2003, “76 percent of homeschool graduates surveyed between the ages of 18 to 24 voted within the last five years, compared to only 29 percent of the corresponding U.S. population.”
Homeschooling Begins Again
Between 1979 and 1983, Dr. James Dobson had Dr. Raymond Moore on his radio show a few times to discuss his research on early childhood development. Based on his studies, Dr. Moore advocated for delaying formal schooling for young children, especially boys who were struggling with reading. On the broadcast, he encouraged parents to keep their children at home and let them develop until they were older before sending them to a formal school. He quickly began advocating for home education as a general principle, as he saw the success parents were having in teaching their own children at home.
Because of these broadcasts, thousands of families around the nation began taking their children out of public school (or never sending them in the first place). This was met with legal opposition from local school boards and truancy officers. These families were accused of violating their state compulsory attendance laws by refusing to send their children to government or private schools.
In 1983, Michael Farris and J. Michael Smith founded the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) and were soon joined by a young lawyer named Christopher J. Klicka (formerly of the Rutherford Association). They began to represent families who had decided to home educate but were facing truancy charges from school districts.
That same year, Christian state organizations began to form, and state-wide homeschooling conventions were established. Parents could come and hear speakers teach on home education, and they could buy curricula from vendors in the convention hall.
The Legal Battle
Christian school administrators, many of whom had faced their own legal battles in a fight for exclusively Christian education, began to take notice of these families. Many of them allowed homeschoolers to enroll in their school, as private-school students, but to continue to do the bulk of their teaching at home. The private schools kept all the records and did standardized testing (in many cases) to appease authorities. Because private schools were not mandated by law to hand over the private records of these students, it was almost impossible for these families to be prosecuted, even though the students were not attending a formal school classroom.
HSLDA began working in conjunction with many state homeschooling associations to create legislation that would exempt private home educators from compulsory attendance laws. This created a new category, legally, of “homeschoolers,” rather than the two previous options of “public school” and “private school.” State organizations have provided important legislative work by watching their legislature each year for bills that could adversely impact homeschooling freedoms.
The Early Days
In the 1970s, not only was homeschooling illegal, but there was almost no support. Curriculum companies that sold materials to Christian schools would not sell to parents. Pastors told parishioners who chose to home educate that they were being disobedient to scripture. They said that Romans 13 commands parents to obey all civil laws, and so they were disobeying God by trying to give their children a Christian education at home.
Because of the threat of truancy officers or child protective service workers showing up unexpectedly on our doorstep, families like ours stayed inside during school hours. We kept the curtains closed. We tried not to talk about school with our nosy neighbors (who wondered why the bus never stopped at our house). Grandparents and extended relatives thought we were being deprived and believed the experiment would go totally wrong. They were convinced we would grow up to be social misfits, be unemployed, and have no idea how to relate to others in the “real world.”
The stakes were high because if you were caught homeschooling, your children could be taken away from you. Your parental rights could be terminated, and your children could be placed into foster care (where government schooling was mandated). It was a scary time. Many homeschooled children (like my older sister and me) actually had escape routes planned to hide if social workers came to get them.
It’s hard to believe that we aren’t talking about some communist nation during the Cold War, but the “land of the free and the home of the brave” during the 1970s and ’80s. My own family was in court on several occasions to defend our right to home educate. I remember the fear I had that I would not be able to continue living with my family and would not be allowed to homeschool. On two different occasions, because of run-ins with the courts (my second- and sixth-grade years), we were placed in private Christian schools for a year until the smoke cleared, and then my mother promptly went back to home educating us (after everyone had forgotten about the ordeal).
It is a blessing that such scenes are almost a distant memory in today’s homeschooling climate. It is important, however, for newer homeschoolers to learn the history of the modern-day home-education movement.
Today, homeschooling is not only legal in all 50 states, but it is also flourishing in many countries around the world. Almost everyone knows someone who is being, or was, home educated. Homeschooling is now mainstream, with people from all walks of life choosing to take control of their children’s education. There are now an estimated two million homeschoolers in America, close to four percent of all students.
How Do Homeschoolers Do Academically?
My (Israel Wayne) homeschool experience consisted of being homeschooled in high school by a single-parent mother who didn’t finish ninth grade. Research from Dr. Brian Ray, of the National Home Education Research Institute (NHERI.org), reveals that parents can still give their children a great academic education at home, even with very limited formal schooling themselves.
“A parent’s education background has no substantive effect on their children’s home school academic performance,” Dr. Ray notes. “Home educated students’ test scores remain between the 80th and 90th percentiles, whether their mothers have a college degree or did not complete high school.”
According to Dr. Ray’s research, a child in the government school whose parent has a master’s degree or a teaching certificate will score 25-30 percent lower, on average, than a homeschooled student whose parent has only a high-school diploma or less. In homeschooling, it is the customized context and the parental involvement that make the difference, not the academic pedigree of the parents.
Home-educated students have repeatedly won the National Geographic Bee, the Scripps National Spelling Bee, the Intel International Science & Engineering Fair, the GSN National Vocabulary Championship, the National Mock Trial Championship, National Merit Scholarship awards, and many other honors, as well as scoring top placement at leading universities.
What About “Socialization?”
“Won’t they grow up isolated and socially maladjusted?” Homeschoolers are certainly familiar with questions and comments of this type. However, many studies by researchers at major universities over the past several decades have completely debunked these concerns. In fact, the research shows that homeschoolers tend to score much better on all socialization indices than their public school counterparts, with better self-image, fewer problem behaviors, less peer dependence, better communication skills, and greater ability to interact with adults and students outside their age cohorts. Research shows that much of the socialization in government schools is negative socialization: bullying, ostracism, sexual harassment, profanity, etc. Homeschoolers are spared these negative influences. But far from being isolated, they engage in abundant social activities through church, homeschool co-ops, sports, 4-H, Scouts, Little League, singing groups, neighborhood activities, and much more. Positive socialization is one of the most important benefits of homeschooling.
Not as Difficult as You Think
Taking charge of educating your children may seem a daunting endeavor. However, it is easier now than ever before, with support groups at the national, state, and local levels; a super-abundance of curriculum and teaching options; and millions of homeschool families and students who have pioneered before you. Some homeschool parents choose to put together their own curriculum, but there are many other options. Church-related and commercial programs already exist that cover every subject area and provide testing, grading, and counseling services as well. Many courses are available on video and/or online, including live, interactive classrooms (see article on page 42). Many church schools, private schools, and homeschool co-ops have outreach programs for homeschoolers, particularly in providing options for attending classes in the sciences and higher math, as well as sports and other extracurricular activities.
You might think that you could not possibly be an adequate teacher. But what is it that qualifies someone as a good teacher? It is not IQ. It is not a college degree or state certification. It is not being an expert at knowing random facts and information. A good teacher cares about the student and understands his/her strengths and weaknesses. A good teacher is a good listener and an exemplar of good character, good work habits, and good study habits.
The fact is that no one knows your child, or cares about him, more than you do. God gave your child to you, not to the government or the church or another family. He entrusted that child to you, because He believes that you are the best-equipped person in the world to raise him. And now, thanks to the burgeoning homeschool movement, you have immense resources at your disposal to effectively carry out that immense responsibility.
The Future of Homeschooling
Homeschooling has come a long way since the early days when we were essentially an underground movement — in the catacombs, so to speak. It continues to enjoy phenomenal growth, but there are very real threats not only to its continued progress, but even to its very existence. Big Government — at the local, state, and federal levels — is obviously a perpetual peril. This is due not only to officious bureaucrats grasping for power, but also because government spending consumes more and more of the family’s budget, the family is less and less able financially to avail themselves of educational options outside of the government monopoly. There is another danger. It is that the autonomy and the legal freedoms that were so painfully fought for and won over the past few decades may simply be given away by today’s homeschooling parents, in exchange for “free” government handouts in the form of education vouchers for homeschoolers and other government-funded educational opportunities. Whoever pays for the education controls it.
Homeschooling freedoms will be maintained through eternal vigilance on the part of parents and organizations that are committed to the principles of liberty and parent-directed and parent-controlled education. We have gained so much freedom. Now it is up to us to maintain and preserve that freedom.
GETTING STARTED IN HOMESCHOOL by Andrew Skousen
Good parents everywhere are facing a particularly stark dilemma this year about whether to save their children from wearing a mask for the next nine months and breathing in what should be exhaled for hours each day and be pressured into taking the new Covid-19 vaccine (which are all looking very dangerous in trials), or switch to teaching their kids at home. Even if vaccine waivers are still allowed, imagine the social pressure to be one of the few students still required to wear a mask because you refused the vaccine. The longer this goes on, the worse the situation will be. For those parents struggling to make the switch to homeschool, take heart: there are more resources and curriculum available now than ever before. Here are some resources to help you get started.
Parent resources: Check out and join HSLDA (the Homeschool Legal Defense Association). When a group of Harvard professors recently attacked homeschooling, they specifically mentioned the HSLDA as the foremost bulwark in the of restricting this practice. That was all I needed to hear; I immediately joined donated to support what HSLDA does. Laws and politicians are the biggest threat to the right of choosing what your children learn, and HSLDA is at the front lines of that fight. HSLDA is also an excellent resource for getting started. Their simple 7 steps to getting started includes connecting with other homeschool parents, learning what your state laws are and how to find a curriculum and teaching style that suits you and your kids.
Every state has a homeschool community, and they are another good resource when starting out. This list by Homeschool World has a more in-depth list of these groups in every state, and there are also lists on HSLDA and Homefires.com. State homeschool associations frequently have links to co-ops, hybrid schools, athletic associations, homeschool conventions, and other resources for homeschooling families. As homeschooling has flourished so have the Facebook groups where parents chime in with all kinds of advice and sometimes organize local classes or co-ops.
Foundational books to help parents: The Well-Trained Mind, by Susan Wise-Bauers is the best single training aid for parents to get started right, highlighting the incredible potential of giving your children a real in-depth classical education. Bauers has since branched out into lots of valuable curriculum, including a history series, The Story of the World, that is both readable and generally free from politically correct censorship.
When parents feel overwhelmed, the book Teaching From Rest can help inspire them but don’t ignore deeper fundamentals like a lack of discipline in kids. The book A Thomas Jefferson Education focuses on inspiring young minds through three stages of learning, and illustrates it with (mainstream) stories of famous people, and A Charlotte Mason Education encourages ample use of literature, art and nature walks instead of the typical studied learning. These last two approaches have some value but I object to the theory of “unschooling” instead of rigorous book work. In my opinion there should be some of both. Too many parents are letting their kids go in the first critical years without any real learning, under the idea they just need to foster their curiosity. This is a dangerous concept in the homeschool movement, because it undermines the structure kids need for part of the day that teaches them to focus and train their mind to concentrate and learn when it isn’t all fun and games. Some time should be spent in both methods: rigorous learning and free exploration of interesting subjects.
There are many ways to teach and help children learn from year to year. The key is to create an organized schedule and environment that helps them avoid the typical distractions of being at home and focus on learning on a daily basis. Stay tuned next week for specific recommendations about books and curricula. (source: WAB)