04.30.2010 0

The homeschooling trend

  • On: 05/17/2010 06:48:22
  • In: School Choice
  • By Rebekah Rast

    Today, about 2 million students are homeschooled.

    In 2003, that number was 1.1 million. The home school population continues to grow at a rate of 5 to 12 percent each year, according to a report by Brian D. Ray, Ph.D., President of the National Home Education Research Institute (NHERI).

    Many factors are involved when the decision to home school a child is made. Academic concerns and religious motivation are the top reasons for homeschooling, says Nathan Mehrens, currently a Counsel for Americans for Limited Government (ALG) and previously a legal and legislative assistant for the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA). Another key reason for parents choosing homeschooling is concern over unspecified current problems within some public schools.

    Parents feel that by homeschooling their child, the child can accomplish more academically than if he/she was in a public school system. And they are right. Homeschooled students typically score 15 to 30 percent higher on standardized academic achievement tests than their public schooled counterparts.

    However convincing and solid the reasoning is for homeschooling, there are always those against it. One big opposing party is public schools themselves. Every one homeschooled child equals one less child in the public school system. That equals less funding for public schools.

    “Homeschooling has become much more accepted,” says Jeremiah Lorrig, deputy director of federal relations for the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA). “However, there are still battles across the nation.”

    Many school districts are trying to require more and more paperwork that is above and beyond the state law making things difficult to home school.

    “Very few want to outlaw homeschooling,” Lorrig says, “but they will place more regulations on it.”

    Battles against homeschooling ensue outside of the school district as well. HSLDA is in litigation with California over a case where a police officer arrested two homeschooled children in the middle of day as they were walking into a community college to register for classes. The officer charged them as delinquents for breaking the curfew law, which bans students from being out in the middle of the day, even though that law does not apply to homeschooled students.

    Despite the opposition, the homeschooling trend continues—though some states have more restrictive laws than others on homeschooled children.

    In 2007, Tim Tebow was awarded the Heisman Trophy. He might have never had a chance to play football, launching his now-career with the Denver Broncos, if Florida hasn’t passed a law in 1996 allowing homeschooled children to compete on local high school sporting events. Yes, Tim Tebow was homeschooled, as well as New York Jets linebacker Jason Taylor and tennis champions Venus and Serena Williams.

    At last report, less than half of the states currently allow homeschooled children to play on high school teams. This doesn’t make sense considering parents who home school and live in a public school district pay the same taxes as those parents whose children sit in a classroom.
    “Home school parents pay for their own child’s education as well as other children’s who are in the public school system,” says Lorrig.

    Though a few states offer tax breaks for those parents who home school their children, the federal tax code does not allow parents to write off those education expenses.

    Obviously for some, the benefits of homeschooling far outweigh the costs. Whether the reason to home school is academic, religious, dissatisfaction with public schools or the opportunity to enjoy extra family time and closeness, children thrive in a positive environment with parental involvement.

    “Those students who do well, whether they are in a public school, home school or private school, do so due to parent involvement,” says Lorrig. “Parental involvement is at the core.”

    ALG Editor’s Note: For part I of the public school series, click here.

    Rebekah Rast is a contributing editor to the ALG News Bureau

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