- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 14, 2009

From 1999 to 2007, the number of home-schoolers nearly doubled, from about 1.7 percent of school-aged children to 2.9 percent in 2007. The National Center for Education Statistics’ National Household Education Surveys Program (NHES) estimates that home-schoolers numbered about 1.5 million in 2007.

As for the primary reason parents choose to home-school, in the 2007 NHES survey, 36 percent listed “providing moral or religious instruction,” followed by 21 percent citing concerns about school environments and 17 percent citing dissatisfaction with academic instruction. Seven percent said they wished to provide a nontraditional approach to education, 4 percent home-school because a child has a special need, 2 percent because their children had a mental health issue, and a 14 percent list “other reasons,” including family time, finances, travel or distance.

Clearly, home-schooling is expanding rapidly, and families are finding that it helps them cope with a wide variety of issues, ranging from the ability to teach morals to supporting children’s learning under a number of unique learning goals and circumstances.

The number one reason for home-schooling, a wish to provide moral instruction, may be the direct result of public policies that promote a secular outlook. At home-schooling conventions, one sees Muslim women wearing burqas, Christians of all kinds, Hindus, Buddhists and members of other belief communities. Home-schoolers are from all ethnic groups as well, and include every geographic area. This is a richly diverse population, and yet, all agree that children’s education is best provided within the home and family environment.

Nearly 90 percent of home-schooling families are two-parent families, according to NHES, which contrasts with the situation of most institutional schools, where divorces or single parenting account for about half of the students’ home situations. Of all students in the U.S. with a two-parent family, 7 percent are home-schooled, as compared to children in other family circumstances, of which 1 percent to 2 percent are home-schooled.

In other words, home-schoolers tend to take their commitment to marriage and family seriously, as well as their commitment to their faith and moral principles. They also tend to care deeply about the nature and quality of the educational experience.

As the data mounts, it becomes clear that home-schooling is being chosen by more and more parents as a way to provide their children a better education, both academically and in terms of ethical and moral development.

With parents overseeing the instruction and an ever-expanding array of choices in textbooks, learning software, Internet courses and life-learning opportunities, home-schooling offers a far greater set of choices than the typical school. Students can set their own hours and their own pace, and can choose to graduate early, travel abroad and take college-level classes if they wish.

And, home-schooling is affordable. Many families can do it for less than a few hundred dollars a year per student. That doesn’t, of course, count the “lost income” of the schooling parent, but many home-schoolers prefer to live simply, at a lower household income, but with the freedom to learn and grow free from demands and interruptions from a school system.

As schools increasingly become the playground of social theorists, parents are more likely to remove their children to raise them according to what they feel is right and best for the child. Policies compelling practices that do not reflect parental values may prove to be Pyrrhic victories for special-interest groups, as families choose to home-school rather than put children in harm’s way.

Kate Tsubata, a home-schooling mother of three, is a freelance writer who lives in Maryland.

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