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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.





Spelling Bee

Spelling Bee usually held in March

In partnership with Newspapers in Education/The Sentinel and UCSC, the Santa Cruz County Office of Education coordinates the annual Spelling Bee. Students in grades 4-6 and 7-9 compete locally. Winners from each grade level go to regional and state competitions.

Contact: Curriculum & Instruction Department

Math Contest

Math Contest, usually held in May

Math Contest Awards Ceremony, May 20, Santa Cruz County Office of Education

The Math Contest provides students in grades 5-8 with both a team competition and an individual test format. The team competition requires students work together using problem-solving strategies, showing work and providing clear and detailed explanations. The individual test for all grade levels uses a free response format. The 8th grade test includes questions that reflect state requirements for 8th grade Algebra. Students receive certificates of participation and contest winners receive achievement medals and engraved plaques for posting at your school site.

Contact: Ellen Hickey, (831) 466-5802
Math Contest web page


Students participate in both team and individual tests. The team portion requires students to work together using problem solving strategies to solve a complex problem.


Math competitions are part of the strategies that educators are using to encourage U.S. students to improve their math skills. The National Center for Education Statistics says the average mathematics scores of U.S. students at ages 9 and 13 have risen in the past three decades, and the number of students who take math classes through high school has increased, despite fears among many educators that American students are falling far behind the rest of the world in mathematics. The Santa Cruz County Office of Education is proud to have joined the national efforts over 40 years ago with the Math Contest.


Some students participate in more than one academic competition hosted by the Santa Cruz County Office of Education. 8th grader Abraham Karplus of Georgiana Bruce Kirby Preparatory School won first place both in the Math Individual Contest and also in the Junior Division, Math Category, of the Santa Cruz County Science Fair.

Student Authors' Fair

The Student Authors' Fair is a twenty-nine year old, annual, joint venture of the Santa Cruz County Reading Association and the Santa Cruz County Office of Education. The purpose of the Student Authors' Fair is to encourage students to write and illustrate their own books and to recognize these students by sharing their books with the community.


The Student Authors' Fair is a premier literacy event in the county. Preschool through high school students, representing every district in the county, participate. The Student Authors' Fair is the result of the efforts of countless teachers throughout our schools, culminating in the display of the work of hundreds of children, supported by scores of parents. It is a public celebration of the talents and abilities of both students and teachers, drawing hundreds of students and parents to view the exhibit. An Author's Chair where students may read their books to Fair visitors is a highlight of the event.


Students display books of prose and poetry, fiction and non-fiction that they have written. These books are constructed of a variety of materials and bound in numerous styles. Each school creates an attractive display of their students' handmade books. This is a refreshing, inspirational, and delightful exhibit of the intellectual and creative talents possessed by the students and teachers at work in our schools. Yes, the children can read and write! Literacy is alive in our schools!


Mock Trial Competition

Mock Trial Competition Immerses Students in Law Related Learning

Law Related Education and Prevention Programs, part of the Student Support Services Department at the Santa Cruz County Office of Education (SCCOE), provides students throughout the county with opportunities to engage in law and justice education. Mock Trial is a trial simulation where students form defense and prosecuting teams and compete against each other before a judge in a courtroom. Participants develop critical thinking skills, confidence in public speaking, and knowledge of legal practices and procedures. After receiving the case in early fall, Mock Trial students dedicate a tremendous amount of time and effort preparing for the February competition.


Mock Trial is coordinated by Law Related Education Programs in collaboration with the Santa Cruz County Bar Association, Superior Court of California Santa Cruz, and the Santa Cruz Trial Lawyers Association.


Nearly 8,000 students throughout the state of California participate in local Mock Trial competitions. Through performance-based education, these students further their knowledge of our judicial system, history, content and conduct of our legal system, analytical abilities, communication skills, and team cooperation. Mock Trial teams receive guidance in courtroom procedures and trial preparation from volunteer attorney coaches.

Mock Trial 2010Locally, over 20 attorneys volunteer as competition scorers and are given specific scoring criteria. The students are scored on team sportsmanship, presentation skills, analytic ability, and team cooperation. Approximately 10 local judges and commissioners volunteer to preside over the competition, making decisions regarding the running of the trial, rulings on pretrial arguments, competition violations, and announcing the verdict.


The Santa Cruz Mock Trial competition proceeds over the course of three days.


Mock Trial teams are from: Aptos High, Harbor High, Santa Cruz High, Scotts Valley High, Soquel High, St. Francis High, and Watsonville High.


The winner will compete at the state level against the winning teams from participating counties and that winner can go to the two-day national competition.


The Constitutional Rights Foundation (CRF) manages the California Mock Trial Competition for all 36 participating counties. Each year, CRF creates and produces a new set of Mock Trial materials. The materials include a hypothetical criminal case, summaries of case law, witness statements, official exhibits, simplified rules of evidence, lesson plans on the central issues in the case, and competition rules and guidelines.


Find out more about Law Related Education Programs at the Santa Cruz County Office of Education by contacting Martine Watkins at (831) 466-5705.


Science Fair

The Santa Cruz County Science Fair continues to grow and attract more students.  The Science Fair is held at the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds to accommodate 485 student participants and 145 volunteers and judges.


New science fair categories were also added this year to align our fair with the California State Science Fair and provide more opportunities for students to receive recognition. Product Science, Energy and Power, Cognitive Sciences, and Electronics and Electromagnetics were the new categories featuring student discoveries.


The night before the actual competition, judges preview student projects and begin evaluating the scientific thought, data presentation and analysis. One of the judges said, "These projects continue to amaze me. If I'm not mistaken, I believe that this year's work is a cut above anything I have seen before." We do know that student participation has increased by 300% over the past five years. The increase in student participation allows more of our community to experience the value of this work by supporting and mentoring our students in the classroom.


At the March 22, 2010, Science Fair Awards ceremony, 212 students received over $14,000 in monetary awards from Seagate Technology. Seagate also will donate $100 to each of the 68 students who qualified to attend the 2010 California State Science Fair in Los Angeles.


In addition, seven finalists will be fully funded to attend the International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF). ISEF provides a forum for more than 1500 students from 54 nations to compete for high-stake scholarships and international recognition.


Students at our County Science Fair also received awards from Plantronics, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), the Armed Services, the Association of Women Geoscientists, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. (Find detailed information on award winners.)


Based on our county's high participation rate and award winning status over the years, Santa Cruz County is allotted 40 project entries in the California State Science Fair. Returning to the state science fair are two students who expanded a previous project to validate and mitigate the impact of beach erosion on the Santa Cruz Harbor jetty. The judges were especially impressed with their longitudinal data collection and the potential to help protect the environment. Clearly, the students participating in the Santa Cruz County Science Fair are deeply involved in their research and provide all of us with new ways of thinking and the potential for solving serious societal and environmental problems.


For the tenth year, Santa Cruz County students will attend the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF). One of our students returning again this year previously earned a grand prize award and recognition. Santa Cruz High School student Shamik Mascharak received the county fair "Overall Award Winner of 2010" for his impressive project titled "An Investigative Study on Pigmented Gallstones." His replicable research has important medical implications especially in Asian, Native American and Mexican populations where the disease is prevalent. See more information on the ISEF projects.


Science Fair affirms that when students have the opportunity to apply the scientific method to topics that truly intrigue them, they respond with fresh ideas and innovative research. Students continue to amaze our scientific community with thought-provoking questions and enthusiastic, insightful approaches to investigating hypotheses. Through the support of the research and scientific community, and the partnership with Seagate Technology, the Santa Cruz County Office has been able to grow the science fair program, entice more young people to scientific exploration, and enable them to lead their peers in finding new approaches to solving some of the most pressing problems in society.


The SCCOE celebrates the teachers, students, and community volunteers who are laying the groundwork for new solutions to the challenges of the 21st Century!


Contact Ellen Hickey (831) 466-5802

Popular Fundraisers


  • Donations directly to a school or PTA ensures that 100% of the money is able to be used.  Check with your CPA, as these types of donations are typically tax-deductible, and many companies offer matching funds programs.
  • Party Books are literally books filled with "parties" that cost money to sign up for.  Businesses and school staff donate some or all of what's needed for a themed party or event.  When all the parties have been created, the Party Book is made and gets distributed to all the families.  Families sign up for the parties and pay accordingly.  For example, a teacher may donate her time and money and offer a tea party at her house for 6 students in grades K-2 for $15 per participant.  Or a gym may donate a group workout session on a specific date and time to 20 parents for $20 per participant.   Or a parent may host a margarita party for 5 couples for $50 per participant.  Whatever the "party" is, the idea is that the event cost is covered by business donations and/or the "party" host themselves, and the income generated by the cost of the parties goes to the school or school PTA.
  • Silent/Live Auction Businesses donate items to be used in a silent or live auction.  A silent auction is when the items are displayed on a table with a bid sheet.  If you wish to bid on the item, you enter your bidder number (or your name) and the amount of money you wish to bid.  A starting bid must meet or exceed the starting bid amount listed on the bid sheet.  Each additional bid must respect the minimum raise listed on the bid sheet.  Drinks, appetizers, dinner, and dancing may be included in the event.
  • Jog-a-thon Children collect pledges in advance of the jog-a-thon for donations per lap, and then on the day of the jog-a-thon, they run as much as they can.  (Usually, schools create small "tracks" and have lap limits, time limits, and/or encourage the children to take breaks to prevent overexertion.)  After the event, children collect their donations and turn them in to the school.
  • Wrapping Paper/Candy/Cookie Sales Students sell products and the school or PTA earns a percentage of the sales, usually ranging between 15-40%.
  • Restaurant Nights Per an advance agreement between the restaurant and the school or PTA, families are encouraged to eat at a particular restaurant at a particular day between a particular range of hours and a portion of the sales (10-20%) will be paid to the school/PTA.
  • Scholastic Book Fairs Typically, the Fall Bookfairs generate a percentage of money (30-40%) to the school or PTA, and the Buy-One, Get-One Free Spring Bookfairs do not generate any. 

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