WASHINGTON, D.C. – Homeschooling is an increasingly popular form of education in the U.S, with an estimated 1.8 million students now being educated at home, according to a detailed report that was released last week.
The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) is the branch of the U.S. Department of Education that is responsible for collecting and analyzing schooling data and educational trends across the country. Their most recent report, “Homeschooling in the United States: 2012,” provides a detailed glimpse into the modern homeschool movement.
“This report provides estimates of the number, percentage, and characteristics of homeschooled students in the United States in 2012 and provides historical context by showing overall estimates of homeschooling in the United States since 1999,” the report’s executive summary explains.
Data for the report came from questionnaires that were completed by the parents of 17,563 students. After collecting the questionnaires and extrapolating the data to represent the entire nation, the NCES estimated that 1,773,000 students were homeschooled in the U.S. in 2012. Compared to 1999, when 850,000 students were homeschooled, that is a significant increase.
“The percentage of students ages 5–17 with a grade equivalent of kindergarten through grade 12 who are homeschooled—the homeschooling rate—has increased over time,” the report states. “The homeschooling rate increased from 1.7 percent in 1999 to 3.4 percent in 2012.”
Homeschooling grew most rapidly between 1999 and 2007, with the growth rate tapering off between 2007 and 2012.
The report sheds light on why a growing number of parents in the U.S. are choosing to educate their children at home.
“Nine in 10 homeschooled students’ parents reported that concern about schools’ environments was an important reason for their decision to homeschool,” the NCES says. Many parents also mentioned a desire to provide moral or religious instruction, a dissatisfaction with the academic instruction at other schools, and a desire to provide a nontraditional approach to child’s education as reasons they chose to homeschool their kids.
The report shows that most homeschooled students learn a variety of science subjects at home.
“Among science subjects, about 7 in 10 high-school level homeschooled students had earth sciences or geology and biology included in their home instruction (69 percent each); about half had home instruction in scientific inquiry (47 percent), and about a third had home instruction in chemistry or physics (34 percent) and computer science (32 percent),” the NCES explains.
To teach these and other subjects, a growing number of parents are turning to online courses.
“About a third of middle school-level homeschooled students (35 percent), a third of high school-level homeschooled students (34 percent), and 11 percent of elementary-level homeschooled students took online courses,” the report notes. “A quarter of homeschooled students who took online courses took them through their local public school or another public school (13 and 12 percent, respectively).”
In addition to these characteristics, research suggests that children who are homeschooled in Christian homes are less likely to leave the faith when they grow up. As previously reported, a study last year found that Millennials who are homeschooled tend to continue in the faith more than individuals who attend private or public schools.
“Having a strong relationship with the child’s mother and father, attending church as a child, and years homeschooled were all clearly positively associated with Millennials’ basic Christian orthodoxy, broader biblical beliefs, Christian behaviors (e.g., attending church, keeping sex in marriage, prayer, not using pornography), satisfaction in life, civic and community involvement, and having beliefs similar to one’s parents,” said Dr. Brian Ray, the lead researcher behind the study.