NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


December 8, 2008

Everybody knows somebody who is teaching a child at home, says Milton Gaither, an associate professor of education at Messiah College and author of "Homeschool: An American History."

Reliable nationwide numbers about home schooling are difficult to obtain.  However:

  • The National Center for Education Statistics estimates that from 1999 to 2003 the number of home-schooled children increased from around 850,000 to roughly 1.1 million, a 29 percent jump in four years.
  • Movement leaders suggest even higher estimates of around 2 to 2.5 million children currently being home schooled.
  • Some states keep their own figures: Virginia had 3,816 registered home schoolers in 1990; by 2007 the number had grown to 20,694; Maryland saw similar growth, from 2,296 in 1990 to 24,227 in 2006.

Survey research has revealed a heterogeneous population of home schoolers and higher rates of minority home schooling than expected:

  • Economist Guillermo Montes's analysis of data from the massive 2001 National Household Education Survey found that 70 percent of respondents cited a nonreligious reason as the top motivator in their decision to home school.
  • Home schoolers whose motivations are primarily religious have certainly not gone away, but they are now joined by those whose reasons range from concerns about special education to bad experiences with teachers or school bullies to time-consuming outside activities to worries over peanut allergies.

Increasing participation in home schooling among African Americans has drawn media attention in recent years, says Gaither.  The U.S. Department of Education estimated that by 2003 there were 103,000 black home schoolers.

"Families are running out of options," says Jennifer James, National African-American Homeschoolers Alliance.  "There's this persistent achievement gap, and a lot of black children are doing so poorly in traditional schools that parents are looking for alternatives." 

Home schooling is becoming the method of choice for many, and as such, the Black homeschool movement is growing at a faster rate than the general homeschool population, according to J. Michael Smith, president and cofounder of the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), the nation's most powerful home-school advocacy organization.

Source: Milton Gaither, "Home Schooling Goes Mainstream," Hoover Institution, Education Next, Vol. 9, No. 1., Winter 2009.


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