Homeschool Growth in the United States
Below this are later figures that I have gathered through on-line research and discussion, and with help from officials of various state governments in the United States.
Homeschooling is growing rapidly in the United States, with hundreds of thousands of children now being taught by their parents at home instead of in public or private classroom schools. The private, decentralized nature of homeschooling makes accurate estimates of the numbers of homeschoolers difficult; moreover, some persons estimating numbers of homeschoolers purposely err on the low side, while others prefer to err on the high side. Alfie Kohn, an editor of Psychology Today magazine, reported estimates of the homeschooling population that ranged from an intentionally low estimate "in the low five figures" before 1985, as well as an estimate erring "on the side of hyperbole" from 1988 of one million children being taught in home schools. Alfie Kohn, "Home Schooling," Atlantic, April 1988, pp. 20, 21. Kohn concluded in 1988 that a good estimate current to early 1988 would be 200,000 to 300,000 children taught at home. Michael P. Farris, president of the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), estimated the homeschooling population in the United States at the beginning of 1990, describing a figure of 300,000 children educated at home as one based on "the most conservative estimates," and pointing out that that figure exceeds the number of public school pupils in the states of Vermont, Delaware, and Wyoming combined. Michael P. Farris, "The Berlin Wall and American Education," Teaching Home, February-March 1990, p. 56. The National Home Education Research Institute published data late in 1990 suggesting the number of school age children educated at home may be as high as 470,000. "How Many Home-Schooled Children Are There?," Home School Court Report, Christmas 1990, p. 5. Several earlier writers have suggested that homeschooling would grow even faster in the United States if states had more liberal homeschooling laws; observers generally agree that the number of parents involved in homeschooling is growing, uncertain, and limited at present by fear of legal sanctions. Stephen Arons, Compelling Belief: The Culture of American Schooling (1983), p. 125 (reporting parental fears of prison terms or losing custody of children); John Naisbitt, Megatrends: Ten New Directions Transforming Our Lives (1982), pp. 142-45; John Whitehead & Wendell R. Bird, Home Education and Constitutional Liberties (1984), pp. 18-19; Alfie Kohn, "Home Schooling," Atlantic, April 1988, pp. 20, 21.
Patricia Lines, a former Education Commission of the States staff member and now a federal Department of Education official, has estimated the homeschooled population from time to time. Her article "Estimating the Home Schooled Population," a working paper of the Department of Education published in October 1991, is the most thorough available on this subject. Her abstract said, "Curriculum suppliers, state departments of education, and home school leaders, are the sources used to estimate that between 248,500 and 353,500 school-aged children (K-12) were educated at home in the 1990-91 school year." Ms. Lines's working paper (OR 91-537) should be easily found in any library that subscribes to the ERIC microfiche series. The paper notes that many states have no official reporting requirement, leaving sales of homeschooling curricula or membership in homeschooling organizations as the main data for deriving estimates in those states. Ms. Lines has been researching other issues in recent years. She has published other government documents about homeschooling but has yet to publish a fresh set of numbers to update her path-breaking working paper, which is now rather old data in the fast-growing world of homeschooling. I have recently heard Ms. Lines has gathered much data for a new working paper on the number of homeschoolers in the United States.
Homeschooling in Other Places
A reader of this page tells me by E-mail that Norway had its first national conference on homeschooling from June 28 to June 30, 1996 in Ullvik, Hardanger. About 50 participants from all parts of the country, including a member of Norway's parliament, a lawyer, and others were expected to speak at the conference as of the time he wrote. In 1993 and 1994 two "entrepreneur" families had much trouble with local governments because they homeschooled. For the moment the legal right to homeschool is acknowledged by Norway's national department of education. According to the reader who wrote to me, only twenty families in Norway are homeschooling now. But the numbers are fast increasing, and are expected to increase more rapidly since Norway lowered its compulsory school attendance age from seven to six in 1997. That change is unpopular with the Norwegian public and thus prompts interest in homeschooling. The Social Democratic party spokeswoman for education in the parliament said on 17 June 1996 that she wants a change in the law so that the general right to homeschool will be eliminated, replaced by a narrow possibility to homeschool if the government finds it necessary! My thanks to the reader who reported this news from the homeland of many of my ancestors.
Homeschooling Can Be Expected to Continue to Grow
The issue of homeschooling is "hot" in Norway. I would appreciate hearing from people in other places what the local trends are where they live. I would especially like to see more year-by-year series of official counts of homeschoolers, from places where those are available. As Roland Meighan aptly wrote, "The basic question of 'will the families cope?' has given way to 'why do they usually cope so easily and so well?' Home-based education effectiveness research demonstrates that children are usually superior to their school-attending peers in social skills, social maturity, emotional stability, academic achievement, personal confidence, communication skills and other aspects. The lessons of this research, as to how the schooling system could be regenerated, are only just beginning to be appreciated. It questions all the fundamental assumptions underpinning schooling, as well as pointing to ways of regenerating and reconstructing education systems in general and schools in particular, in the direction of more flexibility, suitable for the post-modernist scene."
I would be delighted to hear from any reader, anywhere in the world, who has comments on how homeschooling fits into other cultures and other places. One sign of growing Homeschool interest is the number of visits the School is Dead, Learn in Freedom! TM Web site gets from from people around the world interested in education reform and learning in freedom. This site has been visited by people logging on to the Internet from countries all over the world, including the United Arab Emirates, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bahrain, Bermuda, Brunei, Brazil, Canada, Switzerland, Chile, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Germany, Denmark, Ecuador, Estonia, Egypt, Spain, Finland, France, Georgia, Greece, Croatia, Hungary, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, India, Iceland, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Kuwait, St. Lucia, Latvia, Macau, Mexico, Malaysia, Nicaragua, the Netherlands, Norway, New Zealand, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Russia, Sweden, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Thailand, Turkey, Taiwan, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, Venezuela, and South Africa. Of course this site has also been visited by people from all over the United States of America, which is where I'm from and where the server for this site is located. Please let me know if you are visiting from another country or territory.