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
HOW PREVALENT IS HOME SCHOOLING?
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.
WHY IS HOME SCHOOLING CONTROVERSIAL?
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
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.
IS HOME SCHOOLING EDUCATIONALLY SOUND?
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
WHAT ARE THE LAWS GOVERNING HOME SCHOOLING?
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.
WHAT SHOULD PUBLIC SCHOOL ADMINSTRATORS DO ABOUT 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."
FOR MORE INFORMATION
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
Zirkel, Perry A., and Ivan B. Gluckman. "Home Instruction: When It's Legal."
PRINCIPAL 62 (January l983):37-38.