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Friday, October 31, 2014

Homeschooling grows as parents' satisfaction with public schools continues to fall

Next step will be for parents resistance to paying school taxes.

October 31, 2014

Bob Kellogg

Bob Kellogg is a freelance journalist. His work regularly appears on

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Because of the growing problems within public schools that the federal and local governments can’t seem to solve, a steadily growing number of parents are opting for homeschooling as a solution.

Ninety-one percent of parents listed negative government-run school environments as their number one concern. With the rise of school shootings, terrorism, sexual experimentation and bullying, a growing number of parents are making the sacrifices necessary to homeschool their children.

According to the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), there were 850,000 students schooled at home in 1999, the year they first conducted a survey. Today that number has grown to about two million, according to J. Michael Smith, president of the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA). Smith says the growth rate is about five to 10 percent a year, even during tough economic times.

Other reasons given in the NCES reports: 77 percent expressed a desire to give their children better moral instruction, 74 percent expressed dissatisfaction with the academics at government-run schools.

One of the more unusual reasons that he’s seeing more of, Smith says, is that there are more of a specialty group of kids that have some sort of gift.

“Maybe it’s an Olympic-type event they can compete in, something to that extent. And they see that homeschooling provides them the flexibility so they can really develop their gifts and talents.”

It’s also on the rise because more people are realizing the advantages of homeschooling. He says 20 years ago people just weren’t aware of homeschooling. Or if they did know about it, they would have thought it was a crazy idea and wonder why anyone would want to do that. Some even considered it child abuse.

Among homeschooled students, 68 percent are white, 15 percent are Hispanic, 8 percent are black and 4 percent are Asian or Pacific Islander. But the number of minority parents choosing to homeschool is rising.

Smith says he knows that from surveys that have not yet been published. And he says it’s for many of the same reasons as for white parents. He says many minority parents believe they have been let down by public schools and they’re trying to create a better atmosphere for their children at home.

Another reason parents are pulling their children out of public schools is because of the growing controversy surrounding implementation of the Common Core national standards initiative. Smith says they don’t want a top-down program from the federal government  basically telling state legislators and local school districts how they are to teach children.

Critics argue that homeschooled children will be socially handicapped and unable to adapt to real-life situations. In ‘Growing without Schooling,’ Pat Farenga, a leading advocate in the homeschooling movement, writes:

Certainly group experiences are a big part of education, and homeschoolers have plenty of them. Homeschoolers write to us about how they form or join writing clubs, book discussion groups, and local homeschooling support groups. Homeschoolers also take part in school sports teams and music groups, as well as the many public and private group activities our communities provide…. Homeschoolers can and do experience other people and cultures without going to school (1993).

Those who believe in homeschooling believe six to eight hours of extra social and community activities after school and on the weekends is too much. And, as reported in Educational Leadership, science proves them right. Behavioral psychologist Urie Brofenbrenner concludes that ‘meaningful human contact’ is best accomplished in environments where there are few people around.

Smith says there are very few parents today who were homeschooled. So those who choose to homeschool can be thought of as ‘pioneers’ because they are entering uncharted territory. He says that can be intimidating. Often, parents don’t feel they’re qualified.

“We like to say that anybody that is somewhat educated, had a fairly decent education or has educated themselves, has an interest in education and has an interest in seeing that their child excel in education would be a good candidate for homeschooling,” Smith said, “because essentially mom and dad have to learn as they go also just like teachers do unless they teach the same subject every year.”

Smith says another argument from critics is the shrinking enrollment at public schools. He says one of the biggest complaints among parents and teachers is that classrooms are overcrowded. He says you’d think that if there are fewer students in public schools, that would help solve the problem of overcrowding. In reality, he says, the biggest objectors are the teachers’ unions, especially the National Education Association. He says one of their main responsibilities is to see that those graduating with a degree in education and a teaching certificate find jobs.

“So if you have less children then there’s less need for teachers. There’s, therefore, less need for the NEA. So this is really a power thing. I don’t think most really honest-minded people who would express themselves in the public school system would complain [because] of less students. It doesn’t make sense.”

One of HSLDA’s biggest concerns is the governmental efforts to increasingly control homeschooling through regulations and legislation. They have lawyers monitoring regulations and proposed legislation in all 50 states that might negatively impact homeschooling.

“Where there appears to be liberty and freedom so children can get an individualized education, tutorial education if you will, students seem to do better. And the test scores indicate that. We believe that’s something we should defend and continue to support. And so that’s what we do.”

HSLDA also works with families that are having specific problems with school districts and officials. The organization has 10 lawyers working full time to help families overcome legal issues and violations of their rights.

Homeschooling may not be for everyone. But Smith says parents who are even thinking about it should check into it because it’s not as overpowering as it seems. Plus, there is a lot of support in the homeschooling community where there wasn’t 20 years ago. Every state has an organization that can provide resources and answers.

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