Our story at NextGen Homeschool began in 1984, when Dean & Karen Gotcher began homeschooling their three children (authors Rosanna & Elizabeth, and my husband Kenny) in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Back then, homeschooling was almost unheard of unless you were in very rural areas. Although homeschooling was legal, most people didn’t consider it or even think about it. When my family began homeschooling in 1988, we drove about an hour to connect with a “local” homeschool support group. There were very few homeschool curriculum options and no homeschool enrichment programs or activities designed to complement the homeschool experience.
Thirty years later, the homeschooling landscape has drastically changed. Today, if you tell someone you homeschool, you don’t have to explain to them what that means. You don’t have to keep your kids in the house until after 3pm to avoid being noticed by inquisitive neighbors who may think you’re breaking the law. You don’t have to worry for one second about the quality of resources available to you: We have an overwhelming number of curriculum options, and in more populated areas, outside enrichment options to choose from — even from the public school system. Colleges no longer question homeschool transcripts, and many reach out specifically to attract homeschooled students.
However, the biggest change that I’ve noticed is that people don’t ask me “why” I homeschool as much as they did when I started homeschooling just four years ago, which tells me that not only are people more familiar with it, they understand why parents might choose it. As discontent with the public school system has increased, the economy continues to struggle, and headlines are dominated by reports of school dangers (from bullying to extreme violence), the number of families choosing to homeschool continues to grow. In fact, the number of primary school kids whose parents choose to forgo traditional education is growing seven times faster than the number of kids enrolling in K-12 every year. (Source: Education News, May 21, 2012.)
Recently my sisters and I were reflecting on many of these changes, as well as the attention that homeschooling is attracting in the media. My sister-in-law Rosanna was just interviewed by a national TV news show about homeschooling freedom in Oklahoma, where she lives and was homeschooled, that will be broadcast this week. So we decided to take a look at the raw data and current statistics on homeschooling for ourselves to answer the question: What does homeschooling look like in our country three decades later?
How Many Are Homeschooling?
Source: U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics Report and HSLDA
- Approximately 1,770,000 students are homeschooled in the United States—3.4% of the school-age population. This number has more than doubled since this report was first conducted in 1999.
- In five years (from 2007 to 2013), homeschooling has grown 17% when looking at the total number of students who are homeschooled.
- More homeschooled students live in suburban areas (34%) and cities (28%) than the number that live in rural areas (31%).
- While the distribution of homeschoolers by grade (grouped as K-2nd, 3rd-5th, 6th-8th, 9th-12th) is fairly even across the grade segments, the largest segment of the homeschooling population are in high school (29%).
- Slightly more homeschooled students are female (51%).
Why Are Parents Homeschooling?
Source: U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics Report
- 91 percent of parents said it was because of a concern about the environment of other schools.
- 77 percent of parents said it was because of a desire to provide moral instruction.
- 74 percent of parents said they homeschool because of their dissatisfaction with academic instruction in other schools.
- When asked to select the single most important reason for homeschooling, more parents (25%) said it was because of their concern about the environment of other schools. Dissatisfaction with academic instruction in other schools ranked second, chosen by 19% of parents.
How Are Homeschooled Students Performing Today?
You can find more related statistics and articles about the growth of homeschooling on our new Pinterest Board: Homeschooling Facts & Figures.
Why do you think homeschooling is on the rise? If you homeschool, why did you decide to do it? If you don’t homeschool, what reasons would lead you to consider it? Are you surprised by the changes in the homeschooling landscape? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
16 Replies to “Three Decades Later: Homeschooling in 2014”
My parents homeschooled my siblings but I was public schooled. It is interesting, I am now the homeschooler and my siblings chose to public school their children. However, they support my decision to the fullest. 🙂
I homeschool my biological and step children. I have 4 going on 5. We chose homeschooling because our oldest two were academically behind and the schools did nothing to help. When i went to drop off my kindergartener, there were 5-7 year olds cursing and no adult cared! They were also picked on for their size. So we made the decision to homeschool so our children could get a better education and not fall through the cracks, be raised to make moral and ethical decisions, and for their protection. It was hard at first and still is sometimes. But i no longer fear if they are bullied, falling behind, or what they are learning behaviorally and teaching yo the younger kids. When you take God from the country and schools, this is what we end up with. Just look around and see all the hurt and destruction.
I applaud you for taking action for your children to give them a better educational environment, Sara! Homeschooling is definitely not an easy choice, but I thank the Lord that we have the choice. I hear far too often from parents who are considering homeschooling because their children are facing bullying situations at school where little or nothing is being done. I’m thankful that we still have the option to homeschool given what families are facing in the public schools and that we can provide our children with a better environment!
I think homeschooling is on the rise because the more people see it in action, the more people realize how okay it is, how “normal” the families who opt to do it are, and how perfectly fine the kids turn out. The rise of the homeschooling mom blogs give people the opportunity to see what homeschooling can look like in all its various forms. Social media outlets give the curious a chance to ask the veterans of homeschooling important questions. Networking builds relationships. We are less likely to think negative thoughts of homeschoolers (or any group) if we are in relationship with them.
I agree Sara, the more visible the homeschooling community has become, the more comfortable parents feel about choosing it as a credible, strong option!
My husband and I decided to homeschool before my son went to 1st grade. He is now in 2nd grade. 🙂 We have been following a curriculum and I just feel like I keep getting sucked into that. Like, if we don’t get everything done that the curriculum says he is doomed and won’t do well with testing. That is certainly making our school days less fun….which I don’t want that to be the case at all! 🙁 I also have a 4 and 2 year old and one due in April 2014. I hate sticking to a schedule but I am not experienced with homeschooling enough to do it any other way. Can anyone share with me what method/style of homeschooling you use, have you tried others, do your kids seem to like it, and has testing gone okay? Maybe info on the type of testing that you have done also. For the first year I planned on just doing the Peabody…honestly because it seemed the easiest and this is my sons first year testing. Thank you so very much!! 🙂 Kelle
Kelle, My son is now in 3rd grade and I understand your anxiety. I have not tested yet, we are not required to here but I may do it this year just because. I have a book called “What Your Child Needs to Know When” by Robin Sampson that I follow loosely just to make sure we stay on track. But I do not feel tied to any curriculum’s schedule or scope and sequence. There are so many ways that your child can learn the information they need to know, I try to find the funnest way possible. I would suggest that you find out what learning style your child is and try to find a curriculum that fits that style. My son is auditory so we do a lot of audio books and ditties and he remembers so much that way. It really does make a difference. Also if you are “schooling” a boy give them plenty of breaks and ways to expend energy or they tend to have a hard time focusing. My older two were girls and there is a world of difference so now I feel like I am learning everything all over again. But I am more comfortable now than I was when I started.
Kelle, I had bookmarked this article last month, to read later, and only just got to it now.
I homeschooled my 2 kids, one of them through 9th grade, and then he chose to go to public school for 10th through 12, and my daughter chose to homeschool until college.
We were “unschoolers”. We followed no curriculum at all. My kids’ education was based on their interests, aptitudes, natural development, and learning styles. In our state (GA), they were obligated to take a standardized test – whichever test the parents choose – once every three years, but the state didn’t ask to see the test results. (Homeschoolers here are obligated to keep the test results on file for three years, in case there is ever any reason for the state to question whether they are in compliance with state homeschool laws, but that seldom happens.) So we had no reason to worry about test scores. And we had no reason to try to keep up with public schools.
Sara, who posted here just yesterday, mentioned that she would like to see a comparison of homeschoolers to private-schooled kids. That makes sense to me! When we were homeschooling, I thought of us as being comparable to a small, alternative type of private school, rather than thinking about how we compared to the public schools. The public schools and their curricula and their methods and system of grade-levels, and everything else about them were all but irrelevant to us!
I was heavily influenced by reading a lot about the Sudbury Valley School, in Massachusetts. It is basically an “unschooling school” (private school), where kids are free to choose how to spend their days. The kids help run all aspects of the school, vote on the school rules, and have a weekly meeting, where all important issues are discussed among the staff and students, and voted on. Each student and each staff member has an equal vote. Rules are enforced through the Judicial Committee, in which students who are accused of breaking a rule are given a fair hearing, with the Committee comprised of at least two other students (basically, a jury of their peers), and at least one staff member. Each student is obligated to serve on the Judicial Committee at some point during the school year.
There are about 40 Sudbury schools around the world now. The schools do not have classes unless a class in a particular topic is requested by a group of students. The kids are free to play (indoors or out), read, learn about any topic that interests them, cook, do arts and crafts, play music, chat with their friends, etc. The adult staff members’ job is to facilitate/help the students in whatever way they can, and oversee the administration of the school, The students range in age from 4 or 5 to 18. In order to officially graduate, a student must present a thesis on why s/he is ready to graduate and move on to the next phase of his/her life. (I have read that about 85% of Sudbury graduates go on to college.)
No student at a Sudbury school has EVER been illiterate or unable to write or perform the types of basic calculations necessary to life as an adult in our society, by the age of 16. They ALL know how to learn whatever they need to learn, to accomplish their goals in life! The original Sudbury Valley School has been open since 1968. I consider this, and the fact that every Sudbury graduate who applies to college gets into college, the best evidence there is that kids do NOT need to be FORCED to learn academic subjects!
Although the various unschooling groups, websites, and books are replete with individual anecdotes (like mine) about the success of unschooling, the fact that there is a series of SCHOOLS that give children these freedoms and trust and self-determination, and the success rate of graduates of these schools, is a much better testament to the fact that the trappings of the public school system are entirely unnecessary, than the entire collection of unschooling success stories.
If you’d like more information on how to homeschool joyfully, in fun, engaging, and relevant ways, without any curriculum at all – and not worry about test scores or “keeping up” – I recommend that you start by joining the Yahoo group “Unschooling Dotcom” –
and then look for articles, books, and websites about unschooling. And read articles on the sudval.org website! Especially articles by founder Danny Greenberg.
You’re also welcome to email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org (lindaguitar at Yahoo dot com). I have the advantage and perspective of being on the my-kids-are-in-college end of the homeschooling journey! And we did NOT worry about curriculum sets or “keeping up” We had fun, and my kids learned from such a variety or resources and activities that I could wrote a book on it! 🙂
I am a former public school teacher who now homeschools for quite a number of reasons. The longer I homeschool the happier I am with our decision.
Thank you for all of the data! VERY interesting stats. Going to pin this info!
Hi! I feel like I am just now starting to figure things out (after almost 2 years!). My son has learning disabilities though and it’s been difficult at times! My daughter I just officially started homeschooling this year (Kindergarten but has moved onto to 1st grade already!). Not following exact curriculum’s has been an issue for me, I had trouble getting out of the “classroom”! I have gotten to where I am just using them as guidelines now but I don’t test either….except weekly spelling tests! USA is not even in the top 10 worldwide educationally and that’s what I remind myself! If they are interested in a subject let them learn it, no timelines to jump to the next subject! No math drills, which just stress one kid out and the other panics….what good is it then?! We play math games instead! I totally went off our 1st grade “curriculum” in history and are studying Archaeology and they’re loving it! As we grow as homeschooling mom’s, learn our children’s learning styles, what works for each child individually and our own teaching styles, routines are formed and lots of prayer for guidance, things start falling into place! However, I still have much to learn! Great post! Thanks!
I would love to see a side-by-side comparison with private school rather than public. It has always seemed to me that as homeschoolers we are pretty confident we are doing a better job than public school but are we doing a comparable (or better?) job as compared to private school with their focused instruction, parent participation and smaller class sizes? I would love to see that study!
I have homeschooled now for the past 7 years and while it has it’s challenges, the joy I have had from being with my children is immeasurable. I homeschool through a charter school and have found this very helpful. We chose to homeschool for many reasons. I thought I would teach and put my children into a private school that I taught at. I had the opportunity to do that as a long term substitute and God led me to homeschool. I found that dropping off my children to others and walking down the hall to teach others’ children not really making sense. My first sphere of influence is my family and leaving them to be educated by others when I could do it was bothersome. The other problem was, even though a private Christian school, my daughter was exposed to more than I wanted her to be exposed to at such a young age. Conversations that arose amongst the kids when they thought the teacher could not hear were sometimes shocking. My husband also had a schedule that put his weekends sometimes midweek with hours being 2-10. This meant our family would not be together very often . I found out about homeschooling and God led me down this path. It is one of the best decisions I have made. I have three children and each one is different and unique and watching them grow and learn and make good quality friendships with other fellow homeschoolers is a blessing. We have a Christian homeschool group of over 100 families and love it.
I have loved the idea of homeschooling my kids from the first day they were born. However only recently really considering it with my daughter. She is extremely bright and has always preferred being around adults. She is enrolled in a rated A traditional academy school that I really like. However I have noticed that she is not happy, she cries every morning before school and every Sunday evening when she realizes that the weekend has come to an end. She has begged me to homeschool her with tears in her eyes. I’m afraid all this pressure is turning to anxiety a 5 yr old shouldn’t have to deal with. Although she is doing well academically I don’t want education to be forced or associated negatively. She enjoys learning at home and thrives with it right now and I want to keep it that way. I’m afraid that if things continue to go this way she may resent school or worse her personality may change because of that resentment. I have already noticed some changes in her personality that I don’t think were there before she started school and my husband and I feel that she may be learning some behaviors from her peers. Plz help I have a 3 yr son. If I homeschool one child should I home school both or is it ok to do the same thing and try out traditional academy with him and see how he acclimates. Thanks so much need some direction on this decision with my kids.-anna
The things that parents tend to like about schools are not usually things that children like about a school. You only like what you know about it from the outside. Since you’re not a student there, you have no way of knowing what school is really like for the kids. Listen to your daughter! If she’s crying every Sunday night and every school-day morning, something about that school is very wrong for HER! If you’re considering homeschooling, you might as well start NOW, and not force her to endure another miserable day there!
As for your son, it’s up to you and your husband and your son whether or not to send him there. Some families do homeschool one child and send another one to school. One kid in a family can be very happy at a school, while another one can be miserable in the same place. If you enroll your son at this school and he starts to seem unhappy, then you can decide to homeschool him too!
Since your kids are very young, I’m wondering whether this school you’re talking about is a preschool. If it is, in my opinion (and the opinions of thousands of other homeschool moms), ages 3, 4, and 5 are really too young to be forcing “academics” on children. Children this young should be learning through play and socializing. Any formal instruction should center on art, music, dance, and active games/developing fine and gross motor skills. Some science and social studies (through hands-on activities, stories, videos, field trips, etc) are appropriate for all kids age 6 and under. .
Reading, writing, and calculating, before age 7, should be stress-free and done as introductions and exposure, through story-time, art, puzzles, games, and real-life activities, with no specific expectations that any particular child will be able to read and write (or add or subtract) yet. Those who can will do it because it comes naturally to them, and they will enjoy reading and writing for their own purposes, and can be encouraged individually. Those who are not ready yet can keep learning bit-by-bit, with no demands or “assignments”, until they’re ready. This is one of the great advantages of homeschooling! Learning can be enjoyable and stress-free, always!
Preschools used to teach in the ways I am describing. But the current trend is to force very little children to sit and “do schoolwork”. This style of teaching is really NOT age appropriate, and is detrimental to children’s development.
Many children are not even ready to start reading and writing at age 6! Some learn better at age 7 or 8, or, in strongly right-brain-dominant children, even ages 8-10. (See therightsideofnormal.com )
If you homeschool your kids, you can allow them to learn at their own natural pace, and at ways that suit each individual child. The will retain their natural love of learning and become life-long learners!
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