- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 4, 2001

A detailed government profile of home-schooled children reveals that most live in cities and have well-educated parents who are rearing a handful of children on one income.
About 850,000 of the nation's 50 million schoolchildren are being taught at home rather than in schools, according to a study released this week by the Education Department. It calculates that 1.7 percent of American children were home-schooled in 1999, resulting in a total estimate higher than in the past.
The new figures come from a telephone survey of 57,278 households conducted from January through May 1999.
Previous attempts to count the number of home-schoolers, both by the Education Department and the U.S. Census Bureau, have produced widely different results. In 1994, the Census Bureau estimated that 360,000 children were home-schooled, and in 1996 the Education Department put the number at 640,000.
The new report says the number of home-schoolers could be as high as 992,000 or as low as 709,000. The 850,000 takes the approximate average of the two.
It also paints a clear portrait of the average home-schooler, finding that they are more likely than other students to live with two or more siblings in a two-parent family, with only one parent working outside the home.
Parents of home-schoolers are, on average, better-educated than other parents — a greater percentage have college degrees — though their incomes are about the same. Like most parents, the majority of those who home school their children earn less than $50,000, and many earn less than $25,000.
"These are families that have one income and have sacrificed to live on one income," said Laura Derrick, of Austin, Texas, the parent of two home-schoolers and president of the Home Education Network.
Home-schoolers have been in the news in recent years, taking top honors at events such as the National Spelling Bee and National Geographic Geography Bee.
Most parents say they home school their children to give them a better education and not necessarily because of religious beliefs, although religion was second on a list of reasons.
"The primary reason is that it's a great way to raise kids," said Mark Hegener, publisher of Home Education Magazine. "Any way you slice the American pie, you're going to find home-schoolers sticking out of it."
Based in Tonasket, Wash., Mr. Hegener's bimonthly magazine has a circulation of about 12,000. He has published it for 18 years while home schooling his five children.
"Collectively, they spent about six weeks in a conventional school system," he said.
Mr. Hegener's grandchildren are now being taught by their parents, with grandpa's help.
The survey found that about 18 percent of home-schoolers were enrolled in schools part time, with about 11 percent saying they used books or materials from public schools. About 8 percent said they used public-school curriculums, and about 6 percent participated in extracurricular activities.
Mrs. Derrick said relationships between home-schoolers and public schools vary.
Most, she said, have begun accepting that home-schoolers are here to stay.
"Today, it's the rule, rather than the exception that there's a good relationship between the public-school students and home-schoolers," she said.

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