Homeschooling has grown 62 percent in the past decade, and in the era of Common Core and transgender bathroom dictates, that growth has only accelerated. This past school year, homeschooling grew in Florida at its biggest rate in a decade: “We see all the emails from parents: ‘I just don’t want my kids exposed to Common Core,’ ” Karen Harmon, chairwoman of a Florida homeschool support group, told The Florida Times-Union. “Their thought process is that it’s dumbing down the school systems and making all students average, but a lot of parents want their child to excel.”
That trend is playing out across the country. Local newspapers and homeschool leaders from West Virginia to Alabama and North Carolina to Texas report a surge in homeschooling interest and enrollment in just the past year or two.
One major reason families homeschool is for academic quality. The United States spends roughly $12,000 per student on education, which is more than every other country in the world except Lichtenstein. While our math and science scores have improved slightly over the last few years, we still rank in the middle of the global pack.
In addition, LGBTQ activists have successfully inundated schools with their approved ideology inside sex education that starts now as early as kindergarten. With these problems in public schools and many families unwilling or unable to afford the cost of private schooling, more and more families are choosing homeschooling as an alternative. This ensures they can avoid educational indolence and moral apathy while picking and choosing what learning method, curriculum, and schedule works best for their family.
Every year my own homeschool circle increases and there are waiting lists for the cooperative classes we participate in—and I live in a state that boasts some of the wealthiest counties and highest-praised public school systems in the country. Data released last year from the U.S. Department of Education shows that “between 2003-2012, the number of American children between ages 5 to 17 who are homeschooled has risen 61.8 percent, and that the percentage homeschooled in that age range has increased from 2.2 to 3.4 percent.” Parents are pursuing a style of education they can control that will enrich their children, now with very little fear of the stigma that used to surround it.
One of the Nation’s Biggest Homeschool Conventions
A look inside one of the many homeschool conventions that take place over the summer shows just how much the homeschool movement has grown in the last several years. I attended the Home Educators of Virginia’s (HEAV) annual homeschool convention this summer. It’s the second-largest state homeschool convention and the largest in Virginia, boasting 14,000 home educators, speakers, and students from the area.
The first things I notice, almost simultaneously, are how huge the event is and how normal everyone looks. Homeschooling families have long been stigmatized as unsocialized, nerdy, and awkward. Sure, you’ll find your denim-wearing crowd nowadays, but they are a minority. Much of the 14,000 attendees appeared, if I do say so myself, like typical, even hip-looking, Americans.
Indeed, homeschooling parents are better educated than your average American—nearly 50 percent of homeschooling moms have bachelor’s degrees and 20 percent of dads have master’s degrees, compared to a third of the American population with a bachelor’s currently and just 8 percent with a master’s. After discarding outdated notions of what kind of people these are, you can breathe easier and enjoy the benefits of the convention, which are three-fold: hundreds of curriculum choices, 150 workshops, and community.
For three days, HEAV hosted 150 workshops, on everything from parenting to math, to marriage encouragement and money management. A sample: “Ten Ways to Stop Defiance, Disrespect and Meltdowns” (host Kirk Martin), “Teaching Mathematics with Art” (Tom Clark), and “When You Have a Child Who Is Not Driven” (Sherri Seligson).
One of the biggest demonstrations of what a large phenomenon homeschooling has become is the sheer amount of curriculum now available. Two decades ago, parents had only a few options; this summer the exhibit hall at HEAV was filled with hundreds of booths for vendors and groups. Here, parents can touch and see myriad curricula to determine which is right for their family.
Why Homeschooling Matters
At a recent forum at The Heritage Foundation to promote her new book, “They’re Your Kids,” homeschooler, radio host, and actress Sam Sorbo said, “Education is the beginning and end of everything.” She said the United States spends $600 billion on public K-12 education each year and the system has experienced nine major reforms in 27 years, yet still our student achievement has stagnated, at best. Many fed-up parents who desire academic challenges for their children are choosing homeschooling.
I spoke to Wanda McMahon, a representative of Virginia’s National Black Home Educators, who said their group of about 200 members exists to support and encourage the African American parents who have chosen to homeschool for very specific reasons. According to the National Home Education Research Institute, about 220,000 African American kids are being homeschooled, and “Black families have become one of the fastest-growing demographics in homeschooling, with black students making up an estimated 10 percent of the homeschooling population.”
McMahon said African Americans homeschool to avoid “social promotion, to avoid the ‘school to prison pipeline,’ and to avoid stereotypes that might keep their kids from progressing in public school,” but this doesn’t come without a price. “Minorities have fought so much to be integrated the system, now that they’re trying to be successful outside of it they can be frowned upon.” Still, McMahon said, “people love homeschooling because there is so much failure within the African American community—it’s a way they can succeed.”
In a way, it’s unfortunate that our educational and societal decline has contributed to homeschooling becoming increasingly mainstream. That said, it was a classic education technique for centuries, and the return to it only proves once again that government handles very few tasks well.
In an article on homeschooling a few years ago, National Review’s Kevin Williamson summed up the social power of homeschooling: “There is exactly one authentically radical social movement of any real significance in the United States, and it is not Occupy, the Tea Party, or the Ron Paul faction. It is homeschoolers, who, by the simple act of instructing their children at home, pose an intellectual, moral, and political challenge to the government-monopoly schools, which are one of our most fundamental institutions and one of our most dysfunctional. Like all radical movements, homeschoolers drive the establishment bats.”