Thursday, May 28, 2009

Homeschooling on the rise

According to a new report from the US Department of Education (discussed by USA Today here), 1.5 million US children are now being homeschooled. This is up from less than a million in 1999, and puts the homeschooling rate at just shy of 3%. The homeschooling rate is much higher among college-educated parents; indeed, nearly 7% of college-educated parents now homeschool their children. Also, though American incomes haven't risen very much since 1999, homeschooling is now more popular among higher-income families. In 1999, 63.6% of homeschooling families earned less than $50,000 per year; now this figure is only 40%, with 60% earning more than $50,000.

That last stat is interesting to me because it's generally been assumed that homeschooling families are 1-income households, with one parent forgoing a paying job in order to teach. Naturally, 1-income households are going to be lower income than 2-income households, even if the breadwinner is highly likely to be college educated. But I suspect that the rise of "free agency" (self-employment, contract work, small business ownership, etc.) is enabling at least some 2-income households to homeschool. After all, if dad does freelance graphic design, for instance, he can work at his home office while a child is taking an online geometry course in the next room. I wrote about this issue some for USA Today last fall (with several Gifted Exchange reader families participating). In other words, free agent parents are deciding to educate free agent children!

Since homeschooling is quite common among families with gifted children, I think it's good to see it rising, overall, as a potential option. When more families consider this option, school districts wind up developing processes that make it easier for everyone (and there tend to be more support groups as well).


Character Education said...

Home schooling for special children is the best as compared to other private school. I had seen Good character education delivering over there.

Crimson Wife said...

I suspect that most homeschooling families still are single-income ones, and the rise in income is due to the rise in popularity of HS among yuppies. As much as I cringe at the label, it's not an inaccurate description of my family and many of the other families in my local HS support group.

A decade or two ago, folks like us typically would have chosen private school or moving to a nicer neighborhood. But the dramatic increase in tuition and housing costs in recent years have led many of us to decide to HS instead.

Dan said...

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I would appreciate your reviewing SpellQuizzer in Gifted Exchange. You can learn more about the program at There's a video demo you can watch at Finally, there's a page targeted to homeschooling families at I'd be happy to send you a complimentary license for the software. Please let me know if you are interested.

Thank you very much!

Dan Hite
TedCo Software

Angie said...

I'm betting that there is a significant rise in the number parents of gifted children are choosing to homeschool in many states. I wonder how many teachers with training/background in teaching the gifted are leaving the public and private sector to become independent teachers for the homeschooling sector? Flexible hours, less paperwork, more creativity, more parental involvement (benefits and income provided by my husband) it's worth exploring for me this fall.

Anonymous said...

I see the rise in income as reflecting the reality that just being middle class or upper middle class is no longer a guarantee of access to a public school that will meet your child's needs. I see the rising income as a flag that public schools are failing more and more children.

In our area the fastest growing segment of the homeschooling community are families with children with disabilities especially autism spectrum disorders. Some of the rise in homeschooling may reflect the increase in neurologically damaged children that don't fit easily in public schools.

Anonymous said...

The Dept of Ed actual brief report notes that the number include about 20% of kids that are in school part time.

Also, the median household income in the US in 2007 was about $50,000, while in 1999 it was about $43,000. Thus, it makes sense that there would be a rise in the income level of homeschoolers. I don't think this reflects a rise in upper income parents homeschooling, but more a rise in income of parents already homeschooling.

The Brief report notes that most homeschoolers still cite religious or moral reasons for homeschooling their children, followed by school environment. Only 17% cite academics as the main reason.

Thus, homeschooling, while growing, is still mostly done for religious reasons and most gifted kids still go to school.

Anonymous said...

I will have you know that I am not neurologically damaged. Yes, many autistics do not fit in traditional public schooling. I found that a self-contained gifted school concentrating on math did meet my need because many of the traits of my autism were present in a lot of visually-oriented highly-gifted children, just to a different degree.

Anonymous said...

"I will have you know that I am not neurologically damaged."


For whatever reason, and this is probably not the place to debate that, there is a huge rise in kids with neurological differences including autism spectrum, sensory integration, ADHD, etc. Public school can be a challenging place for some of these kids. In our local community the fastest growing group of homeschoolers is not religious, it is kids with special needs.

J. said...

Anonymous, I liked your comment and until this part: "Some of the rise in homeschooling may reflect the increase in neurologically damaged children that don't fit easily in public schools." I agree with your premise, but your choice of wording is misguided.

Neurologically damaged children? Eeeek! I might expect that from an ill informed public school educator, but please, let's not cast children with autism spectrum disorders in this light.

My only child is not autistic, she is not Aspergers. She is profoundly gifted and was so introverted as a small child, her teachers must have thought she was AS. I privately called it aspergers-like qualities.

She is not damaged, although as said, she is also not Aspergers. She is, in fact, the coolest kid on the planet and I just love spending time with her.

She is smart as a whip, equisitively sensitive, funny, and has such an off-beat outside the box way of looking at the world, I kick myself we only homeschooled one year. What an adventure it would have been.

People who didn't get to really know my daughter when she was little might have thought she was "neurologically damaged" too. I prefer non-neuro TYPICAL. Damaged? This is a kid who would read for hours (still does, of course), engage us in endless literary and intellectual discussions, showed very early math aptitude, is an amazing artist, a dancer, a gymnast, ice skater. Hardly damaged.

But never mind all that. She is ethical, environmentally conscious, and deeply curious and intellectual. Again, hardly damaged.

The schools see twice exceptional children as "damaged." We know better here, that they are flowers in need of watering.

J. said...

Arggh, I hate making mistakes. I was rushing to pick up my husband and only hastily proofed before clicking SUBMIT.

I wrote previously:

Anonymous, I liked your comment and until this part:

>>>>>>>>>>> delete AND. I was trying to insert another phrase and changed my mind but failed to remove that extra word.

>>>>> She is smart as a whip, equisitively sensitive, funny

>>>>>> That would be EXQUISITELY sensitive. I know that. I use that phrase often when describing her, it really sums up a lot of PG kids.

I feel so much better now :).


Anonymous said...

You seem to have read something in my post that wasn't there. I don't know you or your child and wasn't commenting on her neurological status.

I would be very, very careful not to generalize from your experience of a child who might maybe look to someone who didn't understand like she had neuro problems to a broader population. There remains a reality that there is an increasingly large number of severely affected kids - who may be feeling miserable with chronic digestive problems, head banging, limited ability to communicate, etc.

It would be impossible for anyone to look at our local homeschooling population and fail to note the very high number of kids with disabilities. I know very few families where every is neurologically typical and I believe that change, for whatever reason it occurs, is part of the increase in the number of homeschoolers.

J. said...

Anonymous, as said, I agree with your premise. I KNOW large numbers of children with disabilities, learning chief among them, are homeschooled. I noted that when we homeschooled.

I just didn't like the word "damaged" as it applied to children on the autistic spectrum.

Years ago I told my friend with a tremor in my voice, "the preschool teacher said there was something wrong with her." To which my friend replied, there are no wrong children.

Anonymous said...

we have started homeschooling our 12 y/o gifted daughter because she was not challenged at school, but at the same time bullied.
Both my husband and I work outside the home but are not self-employed; we have some flexibility in our schedules and make it work. Even if that means that our daughter has to spend a few hours at the office and work there.
I would love to send her to a good school - but living in a small town means there is no school choice.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, congratulations on choosing homeschooling. I homeschooled my daughter for year at age 13. She too had was highly gifted and had dealt with teasing and bullying, especially in the younger years.

Anonymous said...

A small portion of the rise in home schooling may be from parents (like myself) who were older when they have their children. We are a one income family by choice, but having a financial nest egg does help. Also, as my children became more independent this year (6th grade), I took a part-time job that allows for a flexible, work at home schedule.

The thing that I love about home schooling is that we have so many options. Our gifted sons attended a school GT program one day per week from 2nd through 6th grades. Now, at 7th grade, they will attend a classical Christian academy that allows part-time students. We will have three "off" days during the school week to do homework, math, science and all that lovely enrichment that schools cannot afford to do--museums, environmental education trips, extended educational vacations, etc.

Students that are talented in several areas need time to focus on those areas (writing & art for one boys, science & math for the other and music for both, in our case). It is almost impossible to do those things well if you must conform to a school schedule.