ERIC Identifier: ED457539
Publication Date: 2001-09-00
Author: Lines, Patricia M.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Educational Management Eugene OR.
Homeschooling. ERIC Digest.
Homeschooling -- educating children under the supervision of parents instead
of school teachers -- has grown steadily over the past several decades. In an
earlier era, many children studied at home. But by the beginning of the
twentieth century, schools had become commonplace and states had adopted
compulsory school attendance laws. Only a few states allowed homeschooling as an
exception to the attendance requirement. A few more required parents only to
educate their children, without specifying the means.
As a result, homeschoolers risked fines or jail sentences in most states. A
lucky few lived in jurisdictions that would not prosecute homes schoolers. Other
families found protection in public or private schools that allowed children to
enroll in "independent study" and then sent them home. Most families just hoped
to avoid notice. Gradually, state by state, the legislature, a state court, an
attorney general, or a state board made homeschooling legal.
This Digest discusses the extent of contemporary homeschooling and its legal
status, describes available resources, presents evidence on the performance of
homeschoolers, and notes how public opinion regarding the practice has changed
HOW MANY CHILDREN ARE HOMESCHOOLED?
population has grown from some 10,000 to 15,000 children in the late 1960s to
perhaps one million children by 2001 (roughly 2 percent of the school-aged
population). The National Center for Education Statistics, based on a spring
1999 household survey, estimated that from 709,000 to 992,000 children in grades
K-12 were in full- or part-time homeschooling (Bielick and others 2001).
The rate of growth may be slowing. Examination of reports from eighteen
states (Bunday 2001) suggests 11 percent growth per year from fall 1995 through
spring 1998. That's a sharp drop from an annual growth rate of 24 percent for
the same states in the preceding three years. Assuming annual growth of 10
percent, from 923,700 to 1,275,098 children would be homeschooled by the school
Families that elect to educate their children at home come from all major
ethnic, cultural, and religious backgrounds, and all income levels. However,
homeschoolers are more likely to be religious, conservative, white, better
educated, and part of a two-parent family, compared with the average American
family. Homeschooling families tend to have more children and be middle-class
(Bielick and others 2001; Henke and others 2000; Rudner 1999).
Parents who homeschool their children are more likely to vote, contribute
money to political causes, contact elected officials about their views, attend
public meetings or rallies, or join community and volunteer associations (Smith
and Sikkink 1999). This holds true even when researchers compare only families
with similar characteristics, including education, income, age, race, family
structure, geographic region, and number of hours worked per week.
WHAT IS THE LEGAL STATUS OF HOMESCHOOLING?
homeschooling is legal in all states. State law generally requires homeschooling
parents to file basic information with either the state or local education
agency. Over half the states require some kind of evaluation under some or all
of the homeschooling options available under state law. Usually, this evaluation
involves testing of students, but some states accept portfolio evaluations or a
teacher evaluation. Much less frequently, states have education or testing
requirements for parents. Some states require submission of a curricular plan.
Parents do not need teaching certificates.
The United States Supreme Court has not explicitly ruled on homeschooling,
though it is clear that reasonable regulations will be allowed. The Court has
found constitutional problems with compulsory school requirements in Wisconsin
v. Yoder (1972), a limited decision involving the Amish. Yoder has led some
lower courts to extend more protection to homeschooling families with a
religious orientation, compared with those with a secular orientation.
A new source of legal tension has emerged over requests for part-time access
to public school curricular or extracurricular programs. Much depends on the
state's legal and policy environment. Some state statutes mandate that local
districts provide access for homeschoolers desiring to utilize curricular and
extracurricular programs. Maine, for example, broadly mandates such access. Iowa
mandates access to special-education programs for eligible homeschooling
WHAT RESOURCES DO HOMESCHOOLING FAMILIES USE?
of course, the primary resource. Typically, the mother takes the lead, though
fathers usually pitch in. Perhaps as many as one out of ten fathers takes the
Local and state support groups offer advice and assistance. Sometimes,
several families will share instructional duties. Local support groups form
readily if there are a sufficient number of homeschooling families in an area.
There is at least one state-level homeschooling association in every state, and
in some states there are a dozen or more regional associations. Often, parents
may examine instructional materials at a book fair or association meeting.
Other popular resources include libraries, museums, colleges, parks
departments, churches, local businesses, and schools. Many large and small
publishers offer curricular packages, books, periodicals, and other materials
for use in home instruction.
Public programs are growing. Alaska sponsors the Alyeska Central School,
where teachers in Juneau work with students all over the state via mail, the
Internet, telephone, and occasional home visits. In California, children can
enroll in a public school's independent study program. Washington and Iowa laws
require public schools to admit students part-time. Some public schools offer
specialized homeschooling centers where families may obtain resources and
instructional support, or where children may take classes (Hardy 2001; Lines
2000b). An estimated 18 percent of children who are homeschooled enroll in
school part-time; 5 percent enroll for 9 or more hours per week (Bielick and
HOW WELL DO HOMESCHOOLERS PERFORM ACADEMICALLY AND
Researchers cannot tell whether the same children would perform
better or worse academically in a classroom or at home. State testing data do
not necessarily reflect all homeschoolers because not all comply with the
testing requirement. Other testing efforts rely on volunteers.
Keeping that caveat in mind, where testing data are available, homeschoolers
do well. For example, in Alaska, the state's Alyeska Central School has tested
its homeschooling children for several decades. As a group they usually score
above average in any subject area and at all grade levels. The largest study to
date, commissioned by the Home School Legal Defense Association, involved 12,000
students tested through the Bob Jones University testing services. The
homeschooled children placed in the 62nd to the 91st percentile of national
norms, depending on grade level and subject area (Rudner 1999).
At least one intriguing study suggests that student achievement for
homeschoolers is not related to the educational attainment of the parent (Duvall
and others 1997). This is consistent with tutoring studies that suggest the
education level of a tutor has little to do with achievement of a tutored child.
College admission also may suggest success. Homeschoolers have reported
admission to over 1,000 different U.S. colleges and universities (Bunday 2001).
People disagree about whether homeschooling helps or hinders a child's social
development. Homeschooling children spend less time with peers and more time
with people of different ages. Most participate in scouting, church groups, and
other associations. Many volunteer in their communities. Some operate a
business. There is no conclusive research suggesting that additional time with
same-aged peers is preferable to more time with individuals of varying ages.
HAVE PUBLIC ATTITUDES ABOUT HOMESCHOOLING CHANGED?
annual Gallup poll indicates public opinion is mixed. Respondents who regard
homeschooling as a "bad thing" dropped from 73 percent in 1985 to 57 percent in
1997 (Rose and others 1997). In 1988, when asked whether parents should have a
right to choose homeschooling, 53 percent thought they should (Gallup and Elam
Eighty-two percent of respondents in 1988 agreed that those providing
instruction at home should "be required to meet the same teacher certification
standards as the public schools." In 1997, 88 percent agreed that homeschools
should "be required to guarantee a minimum level of educational quality." And in
1999, 92 percent said that children educated at home should take all the state
and national assessments required of public school students (Rose and Gallup
The 1999 Gallup survey asked, for the first time, about publicly supported
services for homeschooled children. Access to special education courses in
public schools was favored by 92 percent of respondents; 80 percent would allow
homeschooling teachers to participate in teacher development activities; 74
percent would allow participation in school extracurricular activities; 73
percent would allow children to enroll in driver's education; and 53 percent
would provide transportation services.
In sum, the growth rate in home instruction is slowing. Legal issues now
focus narrowly on specific regulations or access to resources. Public programs
for homeschoolers are on the rise. Where test data are available, children
educated at home continue to do well. Acceptance of this option is growing,
though the public would like to see the practice regulated.
Bielick, Stacey; Kathryn Chandler; and Stephen
Broughman. "Homeschooling in the United States: 1999." NCES Technical Report,
2001-033. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for
Education Statistics, 2001.
Bunday, Karl. Learn in Freedom (online site). http://learninfreedom.org/%20
(online resource). Cited material includes the following: Colleges that admit
growing worldwide. http://learninfreedom.org/homeschool_growth.html.%20
Duvall, Steven F.; D. Lawrence Ward; Joseph C. Delquadri; and Charles R.
Greenwood. "An Exploratory Study of Home School Instructional Environments and
Their Effects on the Basic Skills of Students with Learning Disabilities."
Education and Treatment of Children 20, 2 (August 1997): 150-72.
Gallup, Alec M., and Stanley M. Elam. "The 20th Annual Gallup Poll of the
Public's Attitudes Toward the Public Schools." Phi Delta Kappan 70, 1 (1988):
Hardy, Lawrence. "Learning without School." American School Board Journal
188, 8 (August 2001): 14-19.
Henke, Robin R.; Phillip Kaufman; Stephen P. Broughman; and Kathryn Chandler.
Issues Related to Estimating the Home Schooled Population in the United States.
NCES Technical Report, 2000-311, Washington D.C.: U.S. Department of Education,
National Center for Education Statistics, 2000.
Lines, Patricia. "Homeschooling Comes of Age." The Public Interest 140
(2000a): 74-85. EJ 609 191. http:
_____. "When Home Schoolers Go to School: A Partnership Between Families and
Schools." Peabody Journal of Education 75, 1/2 (2000b): 159-86.
McDowell, Susan, and Brian Ray. "The Home Education Movement in Context,
Practice, and Theory." Peabody Journal of Education 75, 1/2 (2000): 8-300.
Rose, Lowell C., and Alec M. Gallup. "The 31st Annual Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup
Poll of the Public's Attitudes Toward the Public Schools." Phi Delta Kappan 81,
1 (September 1999): 41-56. EJ 592 905.
Rose, Lowell C.; Alec M. Gallup; and Stanley M. Elam (1997). "The 29th Annual
Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll of the Public's Attitudes Toward the Public
Schools." Phi Delta Kappan 79, 1 (September 1997): 41-56. EJ 550 560.
Rudner, Lawrence. "Scholastic Achievement and Demographic Characteristics of
Home School Students in 1998." Education Policy Analysis Archives 7, 8 (March
23, 1999) (an online publication). http://epaa.asu.edu/epaa/v7n8/%20
Smith, Christian, and David Sikkink. "Is Private Schooling Privatizing?"
First Things 92 (April 1999): 16-20.