September 12, 2005

Homeschooling Today in America (2005)

Linda at Christian Home School Teachers' Lounge has tagged me to do a post on homeschooling in America today. The questions of this meme came from a Chinese journalist who is interested in statistics in the United States regarding homeschooling. This is not surprising since I know of someone on one of my homeschool email lists who has already received an offer to go live and work in Korea teaching the people there how to speak English, and how to better educate their kids (including teaching them how to homeschool). Many countries around the globe are looking to the swelling numbers of homeschooling families in America and hoping that we can guide them in their own venture to educate their children at home. What an honor that we have this privilege, and that we can help to show others that homeschooling is a wonderful alternative for those seeking one!

I admit that some of these questions are very factual/statistical type questions in which answers may not vary greatly from blog to blog. I think Linda did well to find the governmental estimates on the numbers of homeschoolers and I agree with all of her responses. She had some wonderful links, as well. I apologize for repeating her in some of my answers.

Here are the questions that were asked by our friends overseas:

1. How many Homeschoolers are there according to the government?

2. How many by your estimate?

3. Why do you see the growth?

4. Is there any age group trend?

5. What is the biggest challenge from a “homeschool expert” perspective?

6. What is the biggest challenge from a parent perspective?

7. Have these perspectives changed over the last three years?

8. Is there any income correlation to the changes?

Here are my answers (please be sure to check Linda’s site for her answers, and also check the next three people I tag for theirs). We’ll see how many interesting answers we get for these important questions.

1. How many Homeschoolers are there according to the government?

According to the National Home Education Research Institute

“There were an estimated 1,700,000 to 2,100,000 children (grades K-12) home educated during 2002-2003 in the United States. Homeschooling appears to still be the fastest-growing form of education.” (this from the fact sheet they link on their website).

2. How many by your estimate?

I would estimate that the number is higher than 2 million. Just in the past two years, three other families in my own family circle (6 children total) have begun to homeschool, or are planning to start soon. That presents a jump from 2 to 8 children in just two years. I suspect that the averages are similar in the state, and even in the country. Many families are not required to register with their state, making tracking very difficult for researchers. In Texas (where we are from), you are NEVER required to register your child with the public education system or government. This means that there is absolutely no way the government can count how many children are homeschooled aside from another Census that specifically asks the question (and not everyone participates in census questionnaires).

I would say probably closer to 2.5 to 3 million in America is where we register on the homeschooling meter (and growing at an amazing rate)! Homeschool laws are different in every American state, so you would have a much better estimate from states where you are required to register than you would in states such as Texas, Alaska, Oklahoma, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Idaho, Michigan, Connecticut and New Jersey (also the territories of Guam and Puerto Rico).

3. Why do you see the growth?

The reason for the growth is personal to each individual homeschool family in America. Some are seeking a better education (academics) from schools that are in less affluent areas where they feel their children are not getting enough one-on-one attention. Some families are wary of the social skills they learn in the public arena (drugs, sex, rock-n-roll), and are afraid that their children are not safe at schools where the teacher ratio is so high and teachers are unable to monitor everything that goes on in the halls and before and after school. Some families are seeing that homeschool has worked so well for so many others that it is tempting them away from the ‘norm’. As the first wave of Homeschool Graduates are showing the world that Homeschoolers are really smart and well-adjusted (and colleges are beginning to recruit homeschoolers by the droves), society at large is waking up to see that this 'movement' really has some wonderful benefits. I can’t tell you how many times in my own personal experience that my children have drawn the praise of people in public. Some seem surprised when I tell them that they are homeschooled (those are the ones who probably misunderstood homeschooling and assumed that homeschool children are somehow “missing out”), and more often now, they say things like: “Oh! That’s why your kids have such a great vocabulary!”

Homeschooling is beginning to have a much better reputation in America. This is great, but also causes concern when the government schools are seeing us as a rival. Over the past few years (in larger Texas cities), there have been many schools that have shut down. Children were transferred to other nearby schools. Some of the reasons for this have to do with lack of funding, but then again, you are forced to wonder why they had a lack of funding? In a poor funded school, you would most likely have a higher desire to choose alternative education for your children! I looked at a number of ISD websites in Texas and found closed schools. This was nearly un-heard of when I was growing up as a public school child a few decades ago.

I wrote about the reasons why I chose to homeschool in a previous post linked here.

4. Is there any age group trend?

I really can’t do a better job of answering this question than Linda herself did in her original post. Here’s what she said:

“4. I don’t have official figures on this. I don’t really think there is an age group trend. Some parents do send their child to school when they reach high school age because they feel they can’t teach more advanced subjects adequately. Others, however, begin homeschooling in high school because of the many negative elements they see in the public school which are often more prevalent for this age group (i.e. drugs, gangs, etc.) As homeschooling increases in popularity, there are more and more options available to help parents teach at home. This may facilitate an increasing trend for homeschooling older (high school) students.”

5. What is the biggest challenge from a “homeschool expert” perspective?

Linda wrote about what the biggest challenge to the homeschooling movement is on her post. Here, I am answering this question in a different way. My statement below covers the biggest challenge homeschooling poses for me as the stay-at-home teacher:

I think the biggest challenge in homeschooling is managing to get all the book-work/sit-down work done while life tends to interrupt. I have been selling a home, keeping it clean for realtor interruptions, dealing with massive paperwork, packing and moving… all while trying to plan for the school year and get started by this past week. It has been a monumental challenge to me. I try and remember that even the children in public school have challenges like these. The lady who bought our home was transferring from out of state, and her daughter was transferring high-schools and was not in school for a week or more during their move. Her younger children had not even begun school (middle and elementary). So, I don’t feel so bad that we had a mediocre week compared to last year when we were not as bogged down with life’s distractions. What is amazing to me is that somehow in your busy lives, even when you skip entire days of school because of pressing duties, the children are reading and learning anyway!

Also a challenge, for a lot of folks, is finances. One of the reasons we have had to move around as much as we have, is because my husband is our primary income source. When he is faced with a possible lay-off or loss of income, we must be willing to move wherever he can find a job. This puts stress on our family, but we would rather “follow his paycheck” to wherever that may lead, than quit homeschooling to join the ranks of two-income families. Giving up our second income was a huge sacrifice. As of yet, I have not found anything profitable that I can do in my spare time to bring in extra money. [Too bad I can’t get paid to blog!]

I think most moms would shy away from calling themselves “homeschool experts”. We as moms are learning as much as our children are. Homeschooling, like parenting, is touch and go. Each day is a new experience. I gather up my wisdom one mistake at a time. I try and learn from other moms as well. One of the best ways to increase your skills in homeschooling is to join co-ops, e-mail groups, and church groups that are supportive and have veteran moms there to help and answer questions. There are city-wide, county-wide, and state-wide email lists that you can join. Some are categorized by titles such as “unschoolers”, “classical homeschoolers”, “Christian homeschoolers”, etc. There are many, many different sects within homeschooling. With a little online research, you can find a perfect group for your own needs. Many homeschool curriculums offer their own ‘e-loop’ (email mailing list) as well. Keeping in contact with other moms is a big boost in your confidence and moral.

6. What is the biggest challenge from a parent perspective?

I think my biggest challenge from a parental perspective is just burn-out. Moms/Dads who are home all day (24-7) with their children (even those who are involved in many extra curricular activities outside the home and with their churches/communities) are likely to need time to re-charge. With a limited income, it’s hard to plan get-aways (especially when your spouse can’t take off work, and you are living far from family who could baby-sit). I like to plan weekends for my husband and I to get away so that we can both re-charge without the children a few times each year. We also enjoy taking months off from schooling, either at Christmas time, or in the summer, to let the children have free time without “Teacher” led activities. Even kids need to re-charge their batteries.

7. Have these perspectives changed over the last three years?

I covered the answers to this in Question #3 above.

8. Is there any income correlation to the changes?

“8. Most Homeschoolers come from two parent families where one parent can afford to stay at home and teach the children. While this isn’t always the case, it probably is the norm.”
I agree completely with Linda, in what she says (quoted above), and feel that my family is one on the lower end of the norm for family incomes related to homeschoolers. Many families that I know of are barely able to squeak by financially each month (living paycheck-to-paycheck), and are still making the choice to sacrifice their second income for the educational, physical and spiritual growth of their children. I think that if worse came to worse, and I was forced to go back to work full time to help make ends meet, I would take an evening job, and continue to homeschool my children in the mornings and early afternoons. I also know of many single parent families in which the mothers have continued to homeschool, even after they have divorced.

I am going to Tag Sheri at Shades of Pink, Rich at Isn't it Rich, and Christina at Routon Family Homeschool... check their sites soon for another set of answers!

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8 comments:

rich glasgow said...

Thanks for tagging me and I hope you can give me a few days...I'm out of town on business and my blogging capabilities are somewhat limited away from homebase. I asked my wife for her input as she is my homeschool expert so ours will be a joint response. Our two kids are seniors in college, so we're not as much in the homeschool loop as some of you "youngin's". Still, we are dedicated homeschool veterans and advocates and will be happy to provide any input we can.

Thanks again for the link and for stopping by "Isn't It Rich" from time to time.

Sprittibee said...

No rush, Rich. I'm just as bad about getting "around to it". I've been promising to review OTS Magazine for the last two months now! I also have a string of homeschooling posts that are on the back-burner regarding our First Grade Year for my son and Kindergarten Year for my daughter (our 2nd year).

It is truly great to know you are a "veteran" homeschooling family! Now I know who to email if I'm in trouble! :)

Christina in GA said...

Are these answers being sent to the Chinese journalist who wanted them? How is it working? I'll be happy to answer the questions later on.

Linda Wakefield Kelley said...

The answers are being sent to the journalist Wed. morning first thing as he has a Thurs. deadline. However, if you can't get them done by then, it's still is a valuable discussion. And, who knows he may do a follow-up article later. Also, if you don't have time to answer all the questions, you can even submit just a quote or two. And, he would like any copyright free photos you'd like to share. Let me know by posting on my blog if you're interested. Or, let Sprittibee know and she'll pass any info. etc. on to me. Thanks, everybody!

P.S. Sprittibee, you did an awesome job answering these questions. Thorough, thoughtful, and insigtful as I knew they would be.

Sprittibee said...

Thanks Linda. I would love to see an English version of the article the reporter writes! I hope that all the links on my article will transfer with the text. I think the link to the HSLDA's state law page would be very beneficial for them.

Also, you may notify them that they are welcome to use any of the public photos posted on my web-page (especially the ones regarding my Konos Indian Unit, which depict us doing homeschooling activities).

Christina in GA said...

Answers posted. I don't have any photos of us doing school, however. I need to start taking some :)

Anselm's Apprentice said...

I'm glad to see your answers! Your estimates of the numbers are higher than mine, I see.

Linda Wakefield Kelley said...

Hey, Sprittibee, I need your full name. You can e-mail me through my contact page on my web site. http://www.Christian-Parenting-Source.com Thanks, again for getting this going.

 

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