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Homeschooling Sees Dramatic Rise in Popularity

Submitted By: Lindsey Burke

January 28, 2009
Homeschooling Sees Dramatic Rise in Popularity


In December, the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics released new estimates on the number of American families homeschooling their children. The new report shows the growing popularity of homeschooling. In view of this trend, it is important that federal and state policymakers safeguard families' right to educate their children at home.


Growing Homeschooling Movement


The report shows that approximately 1.5 million children (2.9 percent of school-age children) were being homeschooled in the spring of 2007, representing a 36 percent relative increase since 2003 and a 74 percent relative increase since 1999.[1] One private researcher estimates that as many as 2.5 million school-age children were educated at home during the 2007-2008 school year.[2]

The homeschooling survey also reveals the most common reasons cited by families as the basis for their decision to educate their children at home. The most frequently referenced reasons included the ability to provide moral or religious instruction (36 percent), concern about the environment at other schools (21 percent), and dissatisfaction with the academic instruction provided at other schools (17 percent).[3] The number of parents reporting the ability to provide moral or religious instruction as a rationale for homeschooling their children increased by 11 percentage points (from 72 percent in 2003 to 83 percent in 2007).[4]


Additional reasons parents homeschooled their children included "other" reasons (14 percent), desire for nontraditional education (7 percent), special needs (4 percent), and physical or mental health problems (2 percent).[5] There was a 12 percentage point increase in the amount of respondents choosing "other" reasons, from 20 percent in 2003 to 32 percent in 2007. This increase could indicate an expansion in the types of demographic groups homeschooling their children.[6]

Benefits of Homeschooling


The available evidence suggests that homeschooling students perform as well as their non-homeschooled counterparts. In general, homeschooled students perform as well as--and in some cases outperform--their non-homeschooled peers.[7]


Homeschooled students succeed academically regardless of family income or teacher certification of parents.[8] Top-tier colleges and universities also recognize the academic abilities of homeschooled students, with Stanford, Yale, and Harvard among the institutions with the most homeschool-friendly policies.[9]


An additional benefit of homeschooling comes in the form of savings to taxpayers and school systems. Analysts have estimated that homeschooled students save American taxpayers and public schools between $4.4 billion and $9.9 billion annually.[10] Other estimates are as high as $16 billion.[11]


Trends and Anticipated Growth

Homeschooling may be the fastest growing form of education in the U.S.,[12] rivaled only by charter schools.[13] The 74 percent increase in homeschooling since 1999 alone suggests continued future growth. The homeschooling movement has also gained traction among minority students, which represent approximately 15 percent of homeschooling families.[14]


The continued growth in homeschooling is facilitated by organizations that assist families with needs ranging from curriculum and instruction to advancing legislation that ensures the freedom to educate children in the home. These burgeoning networks demonstrate that homeschooling is becoming an increasingly viable option for families.


Homeschooling continues to broaden and grow because of the vast array of education options and flexibility it provides for families. This crucial component of education reform creates an additional alternative for parents and students. It is estimated that more than 1 million children attend charter schools or benefit from voucher programs in the United States--a figure on par with the more than 1.5 million estimated homeschooled students. Economists have found that the competitive effects of school choice programs have prompted improvement in public schools.[15] While more research is needed, the homeschooling movement could be taking part in the same trend.

Protecting Homeschooling

Legal rights to homeschooling have been established nationwide, facilitating the growth of home-based instruction. Presently, homeschooling is legal in every state. Policymakers should protect parents' rights to homeschool their children and enact reforms that remove barriers to homeschooling. In order to provide meaningful protections to homeschooling families, Members of Congress should avoid restrictive regulations at all levels of schooling and offer tax relief to homeschoolers through education tax credits or deductions. Homeschooling families provide a valuable contribution to American education, often while incurring a significant financial burden in addition to their taxes paid toward public education. Policies should recognize the educational contribution of homeschooling and ensure that the freedom to homeschool is permanently protected and fostered.


In view of all the benefits that homeschooling provides to homeschooled children as well as society as a whole, lawmakers should enact policies that give more families the opportunity to participate in homeschooling. Federal and state policymakers should work to guarantee that families have the freedom to educate their children at home in the future.


Lindsey M. Burke is a Research Assistant in the Domestic Policy Studies Department at The Heritage Foundation.

[1]U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, "1.5 Million Homeschooled Students in the United States in 2007," December 2008, at (January 6, 2009).

[2]Brian D. Ray, "Research Facts on Homeschooling," National Home Education Research Institute, July 2, 2008, at
Homeschooling.html (January 6, 2009).

[3]National Center for Education Statistics, "1.5 Million Homeschooled Students."



[6]Janice Lloyd, "Home Schooling Grows," USA Today, January 6, 2009, at
/news/education/2009-01-04-homeschooling_N.htm (January 22, 2009).

[7]A 1998 report by Lawrence Rudner of the University of Maryland found that homeschooled students performed well on tests of academic achievement, typically scoring in the 70th and 80th percentiles. Lawrence M. Rudner, "Scholastic Achievement and Demographic Characteristics of Home School Students in 1998," Education Policy Analysis Archives, Vol. 7, No. 8 (March 23, 1999), at (January 22, 2009). See Dan Lips and Evan Feinberg, "Homeschooling: A Growing Option in American Education," Heritage Foundation Backgrounder No. 2122, April 3, 2008, at

[8]Ray, "Research Facts on Homeschooling."

[9]Home School Legal Defense Association, "Home Schoolers in Ivy League Universities," May 3, 2000, at (January 22, 2009).

[10]Lips and Feinberg, "Homeschooling."

[11]Ray, "Research Facts on Homeschooling."


[13]Forty states and the District of Columbia saw the introduction of 355 new charter schools during the 2008-2009 school year. Center for Education Reform, "Charter School Facts," September 18, 2007, at
/index.cfm?fuseAction=document&documentID=1964 (January 27, 2009).


[15]Caroline Minter Hoxby, "Rising Tide," Education Next, Vol. 1, No. 4 (Spring 2001), at (November 2, 2007), quoted in Lips and Feinberg, "Homeschooling."


Suki Talks About Her First Book

Submitted By: Parmalee Taff

Why do you write?
I write for a variety of reasons. Probably the main reason is that writing is how I process what's going on around me. I feel like I never really know what I think about something until I write it down. In fact, I often have conversations where later I wish I could go back and edit the conversation. The reason I started writing about homeschooling and giftedness was to share the things that I was learning with a larger audience. I felt like there was all this information available... once I knew where to find it. But I only found it because I was searching. A good number of parents and educators really don't understand giftedness (though they often think they do), and in the midst of a very difficult time in their lives, parents get a lot of really bad advice. I sometimes write an article imagining that it would be used by someone in a difficult situation, like a parent who needs to explain something to their child's teacher or a parent who need help to resist a misdiagnosis.

You write about homeschooling. What else is in the pipeline -now, couple of years, way ahead...

I have been writing a lot of magazine articles specifically for gifted and homeschooling markets. I'd love to do more with getting information to a general audience. I also have an agent who is trying to sell my children's fiction. It's not a great time in book publishing, but we'll see if she gets any bites. I'm always planning to get back to my poetry and adult fiction, but somehow I don't see that happening in the near future.


When did you start writing?
I can't remember a time when I didn't like to write, though I trace my actual writing career to third grade, when I wrote an post-apocalyptic novel on purple notebook paper! I pretty much knew I wanted to be a writer, so I made an early decision NOT to do too much literary analysis. I got degrees in Linguistics and Creative Writing while managing never to take a literary analysis class. That was during the time when Derrida and post-modernism was all the rage, and I took offense at being told that authors had no say in what their writing meant! Through my various changes in life circumstances-from being a student to working in the high tech industry to teaching English and writing to graphic design and publishing and then finally to being a mom and a homeschooler-my writing has reflected what I have been doing at the time. When I first started my blog, I wrote a lament about how poetry no longer seemed to fit my life. I couldn't even think about poetry when changing a dirty diaper! But the fun thing is that writing is a profession that can change with your life.

How do you find time to write with a family and homeschooling?
Ah, there's the question. I remember a day when I was sitting at my daughter's class at Santa Cruz Gymnastics working on my computer. I was writing intently, but then I sensed by the change in sounds that the class was ending so I looked up. Apparently it was like someone coming up out of a pool-the mom next to me said, "I have never seen anyone so focused!" I think I developed that focus out of necessity. Over the span of a week, I probably have more 10-20 minute chunks of time than any one solid hour. When I need longer periods of time, I have always made sure to set up some way of getting the time I needed. When my kids were smaller I sent them to my mom's house or hired a babysitter. As they got older I could set up play and homeschooling exchanges. These days they can be self-directed for longer periods of time. But the reality is that I get most of my work done during evenings and weekends, which makes it a bit hard to contact people who work 9 to 5.

What advice would you give to someone who feels an itch to write but doesn't know where to begin?
Modern technology has made such a difference. In the pre-Internet days, you had to develop as a writer without having an audience, which was very hard. Finding a writing group was of great importance at that point, and it can still be a really great way to get started. But a writing group in person can sometimes be hard to set up, and then you have personality stuff-I have to say I got sick of all the interpersonal politics long ago, though I still recommend that beginning writers join a group because that experience can be very important. On top of that, before the Internet if you wanted people you didn't know to read your work, you had to get a publisher to publish you. This was the heyday of cheap 'zines-it was so hard to get something published in a widely distributed magazine that there were tons of little publications. The Internet has changed everything: First of all, you can find endless amounts and types of writing groups, from intimate groups that work by e-mail or in chat rooms to huge forum groups where any passing stranger can comment on your work. Secondly, the 'zines have moved to a cheaper and more widely accessible venue-onto the Web. So there are more places to get published, though you don't get the satisfaction of seeing your name "in print." Finally, I think that every single beginning writer needs to start a blog. The cool thing is, even if you don't tell anyone you know about it, you have this place where your work is being displayed and anyone can see it. It's really very wonderful to be able to practice your craft this way. And if you start getting your friends and their friends to read and comment, you can start seeing how people react to your work, what's successful, what's not.

How do you write? Techincally... Did you picture the entire book or Did you just start?
Did you make an outline? Did you follow it? Or ?

I write differently depending on what it is. This book actually started as a workshop that I gave at the Homeschool Association of California conference in Sacramento. The workshop was called "Taking your gifted learner out of school" and was aimed at new homeschoolers of gifted learners. After I did the workshop, I realized that none of the books I'd read quite got at the subject as I'd like. So I queried James Webb, who is the publisher at Great Potential Press and whom I'd met a few times. I was actually just asking his advice, but his response cc'ed their acquisitions editor and said, "That sounds like a great idea-please send some chapters." Well, I didn't have any chapters! So I just started writing and feeding them chapters as I went. For this book, the writing went very quickly. Much of it was subject matter that I'd written about before, though never all in one place and connected together. Great Potential has a really excellent editorial process: first the acquisitions editor works with you on content, making sure you go over all the material that's needed and making suggestions. I was so gratified that she kept saying, "More, more!' I feared they'd want me to cut it down to the bone, though I'd written a really lean text. Then they have a professional copy editor who goes over the manuscript very carefully with the author. I actually enjoyed this, as well, as I really like the process of editing and have done it for my own press.


Did you lose sleep over it?
I didn't lose any sleep over the writing process-that was all pleasure. But there is a certain vulnerability you feel when your ideas go out into the wider world. I was concerned that when they sent out review copies to get blurbs, no one would want to have their name on it! (That turned out to be misplaced concern, luckily.) And once you put your name on a book that contains advice, it's like you're saying you're an "expert," and that also opens you up to feeling vulnerable and sensitive to criticism. But mostly, I've been trying to remind myself that no one likes everything-heck, I really hated Moby Dick and it's supposed to be one of the greatest novels ever written!

Where do you write? [home office, car, dentist, soccer games...]

Everywhere! I am very mobile-I haul my laptop with me anytime I think I'll have time to work. I do have an office in my house that is all mine (or at least the half of it that IS mine-the other half is my husband's).

Do you carry a notebook with you always for those times when an idea, phrase, sentence crystallizes?
I used to always carry a notebook. Then I got a smartphone and the notebook was history.

When is your best time for writing?

If I could choose, it would be right after my morning walk, which is the only time in the day when I am guaranteed solitude and time to think. I often come home with ideas and sometimes I get around to scribbling them down before someone needs something from me. The blessing and curse of the mother is always being needed!

You blog. Did you use your old blogs?
I actually did a blog about the workshop that I gave which became the backbone of the book. But mostly I use my blog as a place to generate ideas, and I don't necessarily copy directly off it for more polished pieces. I generate the ideas and then work them up in more detail when I find a place to use them.

What would you like to write about next?
I have tons of ideas-books, stories, articles-but the question is which one will catch me to the point that I really start to work on it.

Is there any fiction in mind?

I have three children's books in progress. The way I work, I pick away at a few things until one day, for no special reason, I get fired up about one of them and then I really work on it exclusively. We'll see which one gets my attention next!

One more... what do your family members say about your book!?

My kids haven't read it - it would probably bore them, anyway! No one else in my family is a homeschooler, so I wouldn't expect them to be too interested, except for the fact that I wrote it. But you never know. I think everyone is happy that I got it published and they've been very supportive.


Thanks Suki!


Once upon a time, all children were homeschooled. But around 150 years ago states started making public school mandatory and homeschooling eventually became illegal. It wasn't until the 90's that all states made it legal again. Today, with more than 2 million homeschoolers making up 4% of the school-aged population, it's the fastest growing form of education in the country.




  • 1840: 55% of children attended primary school while the rest were educated in the home or by tutors.
  • 1852: The "Common School" model became popular and Massachusetts became the first state to pass compulsory attendance law. Once compulsory attendance laws became effective, America eventually relied entirely on public and private schools for educating children. Homeschooling then became something only practiced by extremely rural families, and within Amish communities.
  • 1870: All states had free primary schools.
  • 1900: 34 states had compulsory attendance laws.
  • 1910: 72% of children attended primary school.
  • 1960: Educational reformers started questioning public schooling's methods and results.
  • 1977: "Growing Without Schooling" magazine was published, marking a shift from trying to reform public education to abandoning it.
  • 1980: Homeschooling was illegal in 30 states.
  • 1983: Changes in tax law forced many Christian Schools to close which led to soaring homeschooling rates.
  • 1993: Homeschooling become legal in all 50 states and saw annual growth rates of 15-20%.


32 states and Washington D.C. offer Virtual Public Schools - free education over the internet to homeschooling families: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, District of Columbia (DC), Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, New Jersey, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, Wyoming.

4 States offer tax credits for homeschooling families: Iowa, Arizona, Minnesota, Illinois.

10 States don't require notification of homeschooling: Alaska, Idaho, Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, New Jersey, Connecticut.

14 States require notification of homeschooling: California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, New Mexico, Wyoming, Montana, Nebraska, Kansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Kentucky, Wisconsin, Delaware.

20 States and D.C. require notification of homeschooling, test scores and/or professional evaluation of students: Washington, Oregon, Colorado, South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Arkansas, Louisiana, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Ohio, Maryland, New Hampshire, Maine, D.C., Hawaii.

6 States require notification of homeschooling, test scores and/or professional evaluation of students; plus other requirements like curriculum approval, parent qualification, home visits by state officials: North Dakota, Pensilvania, New York, Massachusetts, Vermont, Rode Island.

No Federal help is available to homeschooling families yet. The IRS says that homeschooling costs "are nondeductible personal, living, or family expenses."



Home schooling is the fastest growing form of education in the country.

  • 1999: 850,000 homeschoolers (1.7% of the school-aged population)
  • 2003: 1.1 million homeschoolers (2.2% of the school-aged population)
  • 2007: 1.5 million homeschoolers (2.9% of the school-aged population)
  • 2010: 2.04 million homeschoolers (4% of the school-aged population)
  • From 2007- 2009 home-schoolers increased ate a rate of 7%/year
  • From 2007- 2009 public-schoolers increased at a rate of 1%/year


Education Level of Homeschooling Parents (Fathers/Mothers)

  • No High School Degree: 1.4% / 0.5%
  • High School Degree: 8.4% / 7.5%
  • Some College: 15.4% / 18.7%
  • Associate's Degree: 8.6% / 10.8%
  • Bachelor's Degree: 37.6% / 48.4%
  • Master's Degree: 20% / 11.6%
  • Doctorate Degree: 8.7% / 2.5%

Number of children in homeschooled families:

  • 1 child: 6.6%
  • 2 children: 25.3%
  • 3 children: 26%
  • 4-6 children: 35.9%
  • 7+ children: 6.3%

Most important reasons parents say they homeschool their kids (students, ages 5-17, 2007):

  • 36 %: To provide religious or moral instruction
  • 21 % : Concern about the environment of other schools: safety, drugs, and negative peer pressure
  • 17 %: Dissatisfaction with academic instruction at other schools
  • 14 %: Unique Family Situation such as time, finances, travel, and distances
  • 7 %: Nontraditional approach to child's education
  • 4 %: Child has other special needs
  • 2%: Child has a physical or mental health problem


Standardized achievement tests: On average, homeschoolers rank in at the 87th percentile. (Note: The 87th percentile is not the test score. It is the percent of students that scored lower... so, only 13% of students scored higher.)

  • Boys: 87th
  • Girls: 88th
  • Reading: 89th
  • Language: 84th
  • Math: 84th
  • Science: 86th
  • Social Studies: 84th
  • Core: 88th
  • Parents income <$35,000: 85th
  • Parents income $35,000-$70,000: 86th
  • Parents income >$70,000: 89th
  • Parents spend <$600/child/year: 86th
  • Parents spend >$600/child/year: 89th
  • Neither parent has a college degree: 83rd
  • Either parent has a college degree: 86th
  • Both parents have college degrees: 90th
  • Neither parent has a teaching certificate: 87th
  • Either Parent has a teaching certificate: 88th

Grade Placement compared to public schools:

  • Behind: 5.4%
  • On track: 69.8%
  • Ahead: 24.5%


Homeschooled Adults' Perception of Homeschooling

"I'm glad that I was homeschooled"

  • Strongly Agree: 75.8%
  • Agree: 19.4%
  • Neither: 2.8%
  • Disagree: 1.4%
  • Strongly Disagree: 0.6%

"Homeschool gave me an advantage as an adult"

  • Strongly Agree: 66.0%
  • Agree: 26.4%
  • Neither: 5.7%
  • Disagree: 1.5%
  • Strongly Disagree: 0.4%

"Homeschool limited my educational opportunities"

  • Strongly Agree: 1.0%
  • Agree: 4.2%
  • Neither: 6.6%
  • Disagree: 29.2%
  • Strongly Disagree: 58.9%

"Homeschool limited my career choices"

  • Strongly Agree: 0.9%
  • Agree: 1.2%
  • Neither: 3.9%
  • Disagree: 18.8%
  • Strongly Disagree: 75.3%

"I would homeschool my own children"

  • Strongly Agree: 54.8%
  • Agree: 27.3%
  • Neither: 13.5%
  • Disagree: 2.8%
  • Strongly Disagree: 1.6%

Homeschooled / General Population

  • Participate in an ongoing community service activity (71% / 37%)
  • Consider politics and government too complicated to understand (4.2% / 35%)
  • Read a book in the past six months? (98.5% / 69%)
  • Continue on to college (74% / 49%)

"Taken all together, how would you say things are these days--would you say that you are ..."

  • Very happy (58.9% / 27.6)
  • Pretty happy (39.1% / 63%)
  • Not too happy (2% / 9.4)


Average homeschool family spends $500/child/year.

The average public school spends $9,963 per child per year, not including capital expenditures or research and development.





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