Home Schooling Demographics

The increasing acceptance and popularity of home schooling has to be acutely embarrassing to the educational establishment. To make matters worse for them, the stereotype of home schooling families as religious fanatics who don’t want their children to learn about evolution is no longer true, if indeed it ever was. The other day, I read an article in USA Today noting the changing demographics of people who decide to home school their children. An increasing number of parents who are opting for home schooling are secular minded.

There was a time when Heather Kirchner thought mothers who home-schooled their children were only the types “who wore long skirts and praised Jesus and all that.”

That was before the New Jersey resident decided to home-school her own daughter, Anya.

Kirchner favors jeans, and like the two dozen other families that are part of the year-old Homeschool Village Co-op in central New Jersey, she doesn’t consider herself to be particularly religious. “I was definitely not ready to hand over to anybody my 5-year-old, my baby,” she says. “I would hate to miss this. They grow too quickly.”

The New Jersey co-op is among hundreds of secular and inclusive home-schooling groups in the USA aimed at providing opportunities for parents to network and for children to socialize, conduct science experiments, play sports and games and more, according to Homeschool World, the website of Practical Homeschooling Magazine.

Secular organizations across the country report their numbers are growing. Though government records indicate religion is still the driving force in home schooling, members of these organizations say the face of home schooling is changing, not because of faith, but because of what parents see as shortcomings in public and private schools.

She says her area near Baton Rouge has some of the lowest-scoring schools in the nation. “A lot of the children are just falling through the cracks,” Burges says. Her five children, ages 16 to 35, were home-schooled, says Burges, a Democrat running for City Council in Baker City, La. “Parents are struggling, trying to see what they can do.”

One obvious reason for the increase in home schooling is a concern over the quality of the education that students in public schools are receiving. Parents trapped in substandard school districts have long since become frustrated in making any improvements. But I think a more fundamental reason for the growth of home schooling is that many parents perceive that the schools are teaching values different from and even contrary to the values they would like their children to learn.

The 2007 survey showed 83.3% of home-schooling parents named “a desire to provide religious or moral instruction” as an important reason to home-school.

Susan Beatty, co-founder and general manager of the Christian Home Educators Association of California, who home-schooled three now-grown children, says most of her group’s members are looking to offer “a distinctly Christian education.”

Amy Wilson, 42, on the board of the Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers, says the government statistics don’t paint a complete picture.

Wilson is an atheist and former senior research analyst for a nonprofit group. She home-schools her 12-year-old son and 10-year-old daughter in a state where home-school numbers are up from about 18,800 a decade ago to about 32,000 last year, according to the Virginia Department of Education.

“There are a lot of folks who choose home schooling, in part at least, because they’re concerned about transmitting their values,” Wilson said. “If someone answers (a survey question about morals) in the affirmative, it doesn’t mean they fit the stereotype of the evangelical Christian home-schooler.”

You don’t have to be very religious in order to believe that kindergarten is too early for children to learn about using condoms or that any age is inappropriate to learn about fisting.

The growth of the home schooling movement is a sign of our times. More than ever before people like choices and reject one size fits all institutions. Since every child in unique, shouldn’t each child have an education tailored to his or her needs. It seems to me that having twenty or thirty children in a classroom  all expected to learn at the same pace really isn’t a system that would work very well, even under the best of circumstances. When we have an educational system as consistently resistant to reform as our public school system is, the result can only be a disaster.

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