The burgeoning popularity of home schooling has not necessarily been matched by preparation for the parents who are doing it, suggest new federal data on home-schooled students.
Some 1.8 million American students were taught at home in 2012, representing only 3.4 percent of all K-12 students. That’s small, but it’s twice the rate of home schooling in 1999, according to the most comprehensive home schooling data to date from the National Center for Education Statistics.
While large majorities of parents cited the desire to include religious or moral teaching, the deciding factor for nearly all parents was concern over students’ safety at school. As my colleague Arianna Prothero notes over at the Charters & Choice blog:
A large majority of home schooling parents said they chose to home school their children because of concerns over the environment in their original schools. Ninety-one percent said factors such as safety, drugs, or negative peer pressure helped drive them to home school their children.
Yet it’s uncertain how prepared parents are to instruct their children across a wide array of grades and subjects.
A little less than half of parents who home-schooled held at least a four-year degree of their own: NCES estimated 26 percent of home schooling parents in 2012 had a bachelor’s degree, and another 18 percent had a master’s degree. Close to a third had a high school diploma or less.
The report found 3 out of 4 parents of home schoolers had no training before beginning to teach their children. About 11 percent took a class in person, while another 14 percent of home schooling parents took an online or hybrid training course.
As the chart to the left shows, parents most frequently relied on websites, libraries, and home schooling publishers for instructional materials. The report did not include information about the content or quality of any particular material, though it did find most home-schooled secondary students had covered basic algebra and earth sciences.
States have begun to consider more regulations on home schooling in recent years, as the practice has grown in popularity. Still, states differ considerably in their requirements for home schooling parents, and more families are also looking to cooperative arrangements with other families and charter schools.
Chart: National Center for Education Statistics data finds the majority of home schooled students get curriculum from online and print sources. Source: NCES
A version of this news article first appeared in the Inside School Research blog.