While educating children at home has always been an option for parents in America, current trends show it entering the “mainstream” of American life. Hard numbers are hard to come by, but it is possible 1 in every 20 school age child in America is being homeschooled in 2012.
Results compiled from the National Household Education Survey (NHES) conducted in 1999, 2003 and 2007 by the Nation Center for Education Statistics – a division of the U.S. Department of Education – gathered information on homeschooling in the United States. Their analysis shows the estimated number of school age children being educated at home growing from 880,000 in 1999 to 1.1 million in 2003 and approximately 1.5 million in 2007. This represents an increase of 70% over an eight-year period or about a 7% growth rate per year. At this rate, the current number of homeschooled children would be about 2.1 million.
Looking at homeschool enrollment on a state by state level can be confusing. Some state departments of education actually show a decrease in the number of students being homeschooled. One problem is the inconsistent methods used to count homeschooled students.
With some states including homeschooled students along with private school students and other states not counting homeschooled students who are enrolled in some public school extra-curricular activities, there is no clear picture of just how many students are homeschooled.
But this confusion just goes to show how common homeschooling has become in America. The ability in some states for students who receive most of their instruction at home to participate in intramural sports, band or other similar activities in public schools shows the number of homeschooling families has reached a point where they have political clout.
Some states do not include students enrolled in distance learning programs. The growing number of these programs shows homeschooling families present a sizeable market for entrepreneurs. Many traditional education companies also now market to homeschoolers. A variety of major textbook providers publish homeschool editions.
Perhaps the most telling evidence homeschooling is a growing option in American education is everyone knows about someone who is homeschooling. Whether it is a relative, friend, former classmate, or even a friend of a friend everyone has heard of someone who has chosen to homeschool. This is a very different situation from even a decade ago when merely suggesting you were considering homeschooling your children resulted in strange looks from friends and concerned calls from relatives. Now, homeschoolers are often approached by interested parents wanting to learn more.
While no trend lasts for ever, indications are homeschooling is no fad and is no longer consider the exclusive domain of hippies and religious zealots. In fact, the NHES shows the leading factor influencing the decision to homeschool is concern about the school environment. Until that trend changes, parents will demand the option to homeschool.