January 25, 2019

The Rapid Growth of Homeschooling

It’s School Choice Week, which provides a good opportunity to highlight an available choice.

It’s School Choice Week in America.

Unfortunately, many children are trapped in schools where they’re not only unsafe, but also unable to access a quality education. Sure, there are plenty of great public and private schools, but shouldn’t parents have more say in where and how their children are educated than to be stuck in the public school they’re zoned for?

Today there are plenty of stereotypical arguments against homeschooling, but the stigma that homeschooled children are introverted, narrow-minded, politically intolerant, or ill-prepared for college is being turned upside down by the facts.

Studies show that homeschooled children score higher on the SAT and ACT, the two standardized tests that most colleges and universities require for admission. At the same time, the scores of public-school students are dropping. As a result, colleges are more eager than ever to admit homeschooled students and in many cases actively seek them out.

Not only is homeschooling producing students ready to take on a college education, but these students are also arriving on campus as engaged and open-minded citizens. As Albert Cheng concludes in the Journal of School Choice, “Some have claimed that private schooling and homeschooling are institutions that propagate political intolerance by fostering separatism and an unwillingness to consider alternative viewpoints.” However, Cheng’s research reveals that “homeschooling is associated with more political tolerance.”

But what about the notion that homeschooled children are mainly from Christian families? The Pacific Standard reminds us, “Today’s homeschool advocates aren’t the Christian Right, trying to dismantle public education. Rather, they’re parents who don’t believe that the current school model is best, or enough, for their children.”

Of course, homeschooling simply isn’t a viable alternative for all families.

Mike McShane writes at Forbes, “For many families, the costs and obligations related to homeschooling are simply too burdensome. Some parents don’t have the confidence in their own abilities to teach every subject to their children. Others cannot devote themselves to homeschooling full-time. Perhaps most of all, many homeschooling families want their children to socialize with other children to learn how to share, cooperate and get along with others.”

Homeschooling may not be the best option for every student, and no one is suggesting that traditional methods of educating children don’t have merit. In fact, that’s just the point: Each child and family is different and deserves the opportunity for the right education model. The key is to make sure parents have the freedom and the flexibility to make choices that are best for their kids instead of being forced into a one-size-fits-all system.

One option that seems to be making its mark is known as hybrid schooling, a system in which children spend part of their time being educated in the home and the other part in a traditional classroom. This innovative idea is just one example of what great options parents could have if school choice initiatives were expanded across the country.

Despite some of the obstacles that parents face in deciding how and where to educate their children, the homeschooled numbers are increasing steadily. According to EdChoice’s Schooling in America survey, around 3% of students are currently homeschooled, while another 7% of parents would consider it for their children. Overall, the number of homeschooled students has more than doubled since 1999 to nearly two million.

One of the factors making it easier for parents to choose homeschooling is the implementation of education savings accounts. The Daily Signal’s Lindsey Burke writes, “Not only have the number of schooling options swelled in recent years, but so has innovation within the education sector. Education savings accounts, also established in 2011, enable families to direct the funds that would have been spent by the state on their child in the public system.”

Burke adds, “State funds for each pupil are deposited directly into a parent-controlled account, and families can then use those funds to pay for private school tuition, online learning, special education services and therapies, private tutoring, and a host of other education-related services, products, and providers. The innovation afforded through education savings accounts can put children on an entirely different educational trajectory.” Five states currently have these account systems in place, says Burke, while others are considering it as an option for parents.

All in all, these are good days for the homeschooling movement in America. And as we recognize School Choice Week, let’s hope our political leaders continue to work toward giving parents a greater say in how their children are educated.

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