By Larry Sand
LOS ANGELES – In a recent report, we learn that since 1999, the number of children who are homeschooled has increased by 75 percent.
Though homeschooled children represent only 4 percent (about 2 million) of all school-age children nationwide, they are growing seven times faster than the number of children enrolling in grades K-12.*
A few highlights:
- Data shows that those who are independently educated typically score between 65th and 89th percentile on such exams, while those attending traditional schools average on the 50th percentile.
- The achievement gaps, long plaguing school systems around the country, aren’t present in homeschooling environment. There’s no difference in achievement between sexes, income levels or race/ethnicity.
- Those from non-traditional education environments matriculate in colleges and attain a four-year degree at much higher rates than their counterparts from public and even private schools.
- Recent studies laud homeschoolers’ academic success, noting their significantly higher ACT-Composite scores as high schoolers and higher grade point averages as college students. Yet surprisingly, the average expenditure for the education of a homeschooled child, per year, is $500 to $600, compared to an average expenditure of $10,000 per child, per year, for public school students.
- … Those from non-traditional education environments matriculate in colleges and attain a four-year degree at much higher rates than their counterparts from public and even private schools. Homeschoolers are actively recruited by schools like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard University, Stanford University and Duke.
- Based on recent data, researchers such as Dr. Brian Ray (NHERI.org) “expect to observe a notable surge in the number of children being homeschooled in the next 5 to 10 years. The rise would be in terms of both absolute numbers and percentage of the K to 12 student population. This increase would be in part because . . .  a large number of those individuals who were being home educated in the 1990s may begin to homeschool their own school-age children and  the continued successes of home-educated students.”
With results like these, who could possibly be against homeschooling?
The usual suspects: statists, educrats, and teacher unionistas. They don’t think parents are capable of teaching their little (and not so little) ones. In fact, in February 2008 a California state appellate court ruled that parents who lack teaching credentials could not educate their children at home. Needless to say, this decision sent waves of angst through California’s homeschooling families.
Talk about government overreach! If the state can mandate teaching credentials for parents, maybe the next step will be forcing parents to get a chef’s license to be able to cook for their children? Or maybe a parent should have to become a registered nurse before being allowed to take care of a sick child?
Of course, the decision delighted the teachers unions. Then United Teachers of Los Angeles president A.J. Duffy pontificated, “What’s best for a child is to be taught by a credentialed teacher.” Lloyd Porter, California Teachers Association board member at the time, chimed in, “We’re happy. We always think students should be taught by credentialed teachers, no matter what the setting.”
Additionally, CTA, which never misses an opportunity to bolster its ranks (parents and children be damned), filed a brief claiming that allowing parents to homeschool their children without having a teaching credential will result in “educational anarchy.”
The antipathy toward homeschooling coming from a teachers union in California is especially laughable. As Alan Bonsteel wrote after the initial decision,
The only test that California public schoolteachers have to pass is the CBEST, an 8th-grade level exam. Because they are supposed to be college graduates, would it not make more sense for them to be asked to pass a college-level test? The Graduate Record Exam, for example?
And too many of our science and mathematics teachers have no college degree in their subjects.
As if all that wasn’t enough to produce a crisis of teacher quality in California’s public schools, the weakest teachers are protected by a system of tenure and the California Teachers Association, the most powerful political force in the state.
Also, Chris Klicka, senior counsel for the Home School Legal Defense Association wrote,
Eric Hanushek of the University of Rochester, who surveyed the results of 113 studies on the impact of teachers’ qualifications on their students’ academic achievement. Eighty-five percent of the studies found no positive correlation between the educational performance of the students and the teacher’s educational background. Although 7 percent of the studies did find a positive correlation, 5 percent found a negative impact.
Fortunately for California’s families, sanity prevailed a few months later. In August 2008, a state appellate court ruled that parents may indeed legally home-school their kids in California even if they lack a teaching credential.
It’s important to note that homeschool parents don’t educate their kids in a vacuum. Thanks to the internet, there is much help for parents who need it. For example, the aforementioned Home School Legal Defense Association maintains a terrific website where parents can go to learn about the law in their state, find supplemental resources, exchange curricula, etc.
Californian Diane Flynn Keith, whose homeschooled sons are grown now, runs Click Schooling, an excellent website which specializes in web-based curriculum ideas. She also mentors homeschooling families and teaches a “Homeschool 101” class at the College of San Mateo.
But whatever its successes, homeschooling will always be on the hit list of those threatened by parents who prefer not to send their kids to government-run schools. A recent quote from Louisiana teacher union president Joyce Haynes says it all. Speaking about Louisiana’s voucher program – though it could apply to homeschoolers – she said it would result in “… taking our children from us.”
A union president is complaining about their children being taken from them?! Yes, the teachers union boss thinks that your school kids really belong to her and her union. If that doesn’t scare you, nothing will.
A parent has many responsibilities: feeding their kids, providing shelter, keeping them safe, etc. If you can swing it, you just might want to consider adding “educating them” to that list.
* The numbers I used in the first paragraph are disputed by Joy Pullmann, research fellow at The Heartland Institute. She correctly points to an error in the Education News story. The following is from Pullmann’s soon to be published op-ed in the Orange County Register.
State and federal governments typically do not track homeschool students like they do public and even private school students, making reliable numbers sparse. The most recent federal estimates on homeschooling are from 2007. The report just before that was in 2003, showing a 29 percent increase in homeschooled students since 1999. A 2008 Census Bureau report showed homeschooling increased 8.3 percent per year from 2004 to 2008. So, for the most recent decade in which we have data, homeschooling seems to have been growing between 7 and 8 percent per year. That means homeschooling would approximately double in a decade, which is indeed about what happened between 1999 and 2009. Between 2000 and 2010, the most recent decade of available data, public K-12 enrollment increased 2 percent. So, yes, homeschooling has been growing faster than public schooling, but closer to a rate that is fifty times greater than the rate public enrollment has grown, not seven.
Since there are some 2 million homeschooled students and nearly 50 million public schooled students, it takes a lot more public than homeschool students to get an equal enrollment increase. A 1 percent increase in both, for example, would mean 2,000 more homeschool students but 50,000 more public school students. So to say homeschooling is increasing faster than public schooling exaggerates its growth.
Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues.