Homeschooling Is Here To Stay

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In the first detailed profile of homeschooled children, a government report reveals that most live in cities and have well-educated parents 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 by the Education Department. It calculates that 1.7 percent of American children were homeschooled 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.

Homeschooling Families
PROFILES

Profiles of homeschooling families
(Figures are from 1999.)

Number of
Homeschooled Students
Total..............850,000

Grade K-5..... 428,000
Grades 6-8.... 186,000
Grades 9-12... 235,000

Race/ethnicity
White, non-Hispanic....
.........................640,000
Black, non-Hispanic....
...........................84,000
Hispanic................77,000
Other....................49,000


Number of Children
In Household

One child............120,000
Two children........207,000
Three or more children...523,000


Number of Parents
In Household

Two parents.......683,000
One parent........142,000
Guardians............. 25,000


Parents' Participation
In The Labor Force
Two parents, one in labor force..............444,000
Two parents, both in labor force..............237,000
One parent in labor force................98,000
No parent in labor force................71,000


Household Income

$25,000 or less: 262,000
25,001-50,000: 278,000
50,001-75,000: 162,000
75,001 or more: 148,000


Parents' Highest
Educational Attainment

High school diploma or less..................160,000
Voc/tech degree or some college..............287,000
Bachelor's degree..............213,000
Graduate/professional school...............190,000


Where They Live
City.......455,000
Town......120,000
Rural......275,000

Top Five Reasons
For Homeschooling


1. Can give child better education at home

2. Religious reasons

3. Poor learning environment at school

4. Family reasons

5. To develop character/morality


Source: Department of Education
Previous attempts to count the number of homeschoolers, 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 homeschooled, while in 1996 the Education Department put the number at 640,000 homeschoolers.

The new report says the number of homeschoolers could be as high as 992,000 or as low as 709,000. The 850,000 takes the average of the two.

It also paints a clear portrait of the average homeschooler, 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 homeschoolers 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 vast majority of those who homeschool 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 homeschoolers and president of the Home Education Network.

Homeschoolers have been in the news in recent years, taking top honors at events such as the National Spelling Bee and National Geographic Bee. Most parents say they homeschool 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 homeschoolers sticking out of it."

Based in Tonasket, Wash., Hegener's bimonthly magazine has a circulation of about 12,000. He has published it for 18 years while homeschooling his five children.

"Collectively, they spent about six weeks in a conventional school system," he said.

Hegener's grandchildren are now being taught by their parents, with grandpa's help.

The survey found that about 18 percent of homeschoolers 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.

Derrick said relationships between homeschoolers and public schools vary widely, with some states and districts opening their arms wide while others ignore them. Most, she said, have begun accepting that homeschoolers 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 homeschoolers," she said.
Read the full text of the report; visit Home Education magazine, or find out more about the National Home Education Network.


Written by Greg Toppo
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  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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