Wednesday, June 03, 2009

The Rise of Homeschooling

A new report from the U. S. Department of Education National Center for Education Statistics shows a dramatic rise in the number of students that are being educated at home. Dr. Albert Mohler provides some details from the report:

Homeschooling was the choice of families for 2.9 percent of all school-age children in the United States in 2007, involving 1.5 million students. By comparison, in 1999 only 850,000 children were homeschooled. By 2003, that number was up to 1.1 million. This report indicates significant jumps in homeschooling as compared to other educational options. In fact, the report reveals that the actual number of American children whose parents choose homeschooling for at least part of their education exceeds 3 million. According to the report, 1.5 million children are exclusively homeschooled while another 1.5 million are homeschooled for at least part of the school week.

At this point, the picture grows even more interesting. When parents were asked why they chose to homeschool their children, 36 percent cited a desire to provide children specifically religious or moral instruction. After that, 21 percent of parents pointed to concerns about the environment of schools, 17 percent cited dissatisfaction with educational quality in the schools, and 14 percent cited "other reasons." Among those "other reasons" was a concern for more family time together.

Higher numbers of parents with college educations and greater family incomes are now homeschooling. This trend points to the fact that homeschooling is increasingly the option of first choice for many parents. This pattern is also revealed in increasing numbers of college students, primarily young women, who indicate that they desire a college education so that they will be better equipped in years ahead to be homeschooling parents.

It's no great surprise to me that there has been such a tremendous rise in the number of families choosing to homeschool. In the nine years we've been homeschooling we've seen exponential growth among our homeschool community.

But the most crucial points in Dr. Mohler's essay come at the end of the post:

Homeschooling is now a major force in American education, and Christian parents have been in the vanguard of this movement. For many Christian parents, homeschooling represents the fulfillment of the biblical mandate for parents to teach their children. These parents deserve our respect, our support, our advocacy, and our prayers. This movement is a sign of hope on our educational horizon, and a phenomenon that can no longer be dismissed as a fringe movement.

As president of a seminary and college, I can attest to the fact that questions about the educational aptitude of homeschooled students are now settled. These students can hold their own as compared to students from all other educational backgrounds. One other fact speaks loudly to me concerning their education. Most of the homeschooled students I meet at the college and graduate levels indicate an eager determination to homeschool their own children when that time comes.

Education cannot be reduced to statistics, but the trends revealed in this new report from the Department of Education deserve close attention. In our day, education represents a clash of worldviews. Increasingly toxic approaches to education (or what is called education) drive many schools and many school systems. In that light, the fact that so many Christian parents are taking education into their own hands is a sign of hope. As this new report makes clear, we should expect homeschooling to be a growth industry in years ahead.

It's encouraging as a homeschool parent and as a Christian to see a prominent pastor and seminary president embrace the choice that thousands of families make. Homeschooling is not easy and families who make this choice often face derision and ridicule from both friends and families. Those who make the choice to educate their children at home (either full-time or part-time) should be applauded and respected for making this choice. While not everyone will agree that it is the best choice for their own family it's important that those who don't homeschool respect those who do and vice versa.

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