NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


December 15, 2008

In the late 1960s and 1970s, home schooling was considered radical and a countercultural critique of the public education system.  Today, however, home schooling is going mainstream, says Milton Gaither, associate professor of education at Messiah College and author of "Homeschool: An American History." 

From 1999 to 2003, the number of home schooled children increased from around 850,000 to roughly 1.1 million; today, around 2.5 million children are current home schooled.  Research has found that 70 percent cite a nonreligious reason as the top motivator in their decision to home school.  But growth can be spotted among religious and ethnic groups, says Gaither:

  • Jews, especially Orthodox Jews, and Muslims have been home schooling in much greater numbers in recent years.
  • The U.S. Department of Education estimated that by 2003 there were 103,000 black home schoolers.
  • Native Americans have founded home school organizations in an effort to escape assimilationist public and preserve their traditional values, and Hawaiian natives have found home schooling to be the solution to the gulf between tribal ways and public education.
  • Parents with children with learning disabilities have been pulling their children from public schools, believing they can do a better job of teaching them at home.
  • An increasing numbers of wealthy Americans are hiring private tutors for their children; in 2003, 21 percent of home schools were being taught this way.
  • An estimated 90 percent of children involved in sports requiring rigorous training, acting and modeling, demanding arts or music programs and other time-intensive activities are home schooled.

However, many of the new breed of home-schooling parents still need help with pedagogical or curricular decisions, playmates for their children, companionship for themselves and opportunities to get out of the house for a while. 

Nevertheless, for a growing number of Americans, home schooling is just one option among many to consider, for a few months or for the entirety of a child's schooling, says Gaither.

Source: Milton Gaither, "Home Schooling Goes Mainstream," Education Next (Hoover Institution), Winter 2009; based upon: Milton Gaither, "Homeschool: An American History," Palgrave Macmillan, June 24, 2008.


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