ERIC Identifier: ED282348
Publication Date: 1986-00-00
Author: Nelson, Erik
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Educational Management Eugene OR.

Home Schooling. ERIC Digest, Number Fifteen.

Increasing numbers of parents are choosing to educate their children at home for reasons of security, morality, and educational quality. Public school officials are concerned about the lack of accreditation of home schools and the loss to their districts of enrollment-based state aid. Nevertheless, legal authorities generally advise school officials to cooperate with home-schooling families.


Although estimates vary, most experts generally agree that home schooling is on the rise. The late John Holt, of the Boston-based home instruction support organization Holt Associates, estimated that l0,000 to 20,000 families in the United States are teaching their children at home. Raymond Moore, president of the Hewitt Research Center, estimated a quarter to a half million students attend home schools.

Parents' reasons for educating children at home appear quite clear: safety, security, morality, and educational quality. Feeling that today's public schools place undue pressures on students because of drug abuse, crime, and a general lack of discipline and control, some parents embrace the immediate positive aspects of home schooling.

Many educators, however, fear that a marked increase in home schooling will add to the economic plight of school districts nationwide. But it seems highly unlikely, even if present rates of growth continue for a generation, that more than 2 or 3 percent of the families in the United States will choose to teach their own children. In comparison, private schools now enroll about 12 percent of the nation's children.

A factor often overlooked is that families who opt for home schooling tend to weave back and forth between home schooling and regular schooling every few years. It is not a permanent choice. These families each year seem to be trying to find the best possible education for their children.


Accreditation and money are the major concerns linked to the home schooling issue. Some superintendents are genuinely concerned that students in unaccredited programs may not acquire the essential skills for good citizenship and further learning.

Many state officials recognize that the trend toward home schooling will siphon off students and thus enrollment-based state aid from public schools. Because of this threat of diminished state aid, some superintendents engage parents in lawsuits in an attempt to stop the flow of students from their school districts.

John Holt has listed three assumptions made by public school administrators that may be at the heart of home school growth:

--Children are not much interested in learning

--Children are not very good at learning

--Children are unlikely to learn anything of substance unless it taught to them by adults

Home school advocates think these points are false and base their approach to education on that fact.


Detractors of home schooling point to several potential problems:

--Lack of opportunity for socialization

--Parent's inability to cover all intellectual areas

--Absence of sufficient equipment, particularly in science

--Inattention to the basic skills

Proponents, on the other hand, claim that many children in home schools have experienced dramatic improvement in reading and other basic skills. When children in home schools are instructed only to read what they like, and given great amounts of uninterrupted time devoid of checking and testing, their reading skills rise significantly (Holt 1983). Proponents point out that many public school systems in the United States devote only a short time to such "sustained silent reading."

The flexibility of curriculum and schedule, the closeness and emotional unity of the home, and the security possible in the home environment enhance educational learning and growth (Holt 1983, Divoky 1983). The absence of professional distance also is cited as a plus for home schooling. Proponents of home schools also stress the possibilities for testing new theories and formulas for teaching. They point out that, due to numerous legal strictures and cost and time inflexibility, new theories are difficult to implement in public school systems.


Laws applying to home instruction vary considerably from state to state. The three basic types of state compulsory education statutes (and the number of states that have adopted them) are as follows:

--Those that provide no exception beyond the alternatives to public and private schools (14 states)

--Those that provide an implied exception for home schooling by broadly interpreting phrases in the law such as "equivalent education elsewhere" or like phrases (20 states)

--Those that provide an explicit exception for home schooling (20 states)

Furthermore, the laws governing home schooling usually concern themselves with three issues: whether or not home instruction qualifies as equivalent to the institutional, group-learning experience; whether home instruction constitutes and can fall under the precepts of a "private" school; and whether First Amendment considerations focusing on separation of church and state apply to home schooling.


Patricial M. Lines, director of the Law and Education Center, Education Commission of the States (ECS), points out that litigation occurs most frequently in states that make no allowance for the home schooling option, or when parents fail to meet state requirements (1983). But public school adminstrators would be wise to refrain from prosecuting home-schooling families.

The school districts lose in the majority of such cases. It costs a lot of time and money to take such cases through the courts; the school districts receive a great deal of unfavorable publicity; the school districts lose many more cases than they win; and, when school districts do win cases, families usually exercise their option of moving from the district or state and making the same case elsewhere.

Lines stresses the need for school districts and school administrators to work with, and not against, home-schooling families. She points out that such cooperation requires new laws and regulations. Lines also suggests that such cooperation "demands new relationships between state and local education officials and between public and private educational systems."


Arons, Stephen. "Value Conflict Between American Families and American Schools." FINAL REPORT TO NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF EDUCATION (l98l). ED 210 786.

Carrerre, Thomas A. "Legal Aspects of Home Instruction." SOUTHERN REGIONAL COUNCIL ON EDUCATIONAL ADMINISTRATION (November l983). ED 248 580.

Divoky, Diane. "The New Pioneers of the Home-Schooling Movement. PHI DELTA KAPPAN 64 (February l983):395-98.

Holt, John. "Schools and Home Schoolers: A Fruitful Partnership." PHI DELTA KAPPAN 64 (February l983):39l-94.

Lines, Patricia M. "Private Education Alternatives and State Regulation." JOURNAL OF LAW AND EDUCATION 12 (April l983):l89-234.

Tobak, James. "The Law of Home Instruction." THE SCHOOL ADMINISTRATOR 40 (February l983):22-23.

Zirkel, Perry A., and Ivan B. Gluckman. "Home Instruction: When It's Legal." PRINCIPAL 62 (January l983):37-38.

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