Is Homeschooling Right for Your Family?

Approximately 2 million American students get most or all of their primary and secondary education at home. Homeschooling—also known as home-based, parent-led education—is gaining in popularity at a rate of about 2 to 8 percent per year. Instead of attending class at local public or private schools, students make their home and community their classroom with parents as primary teachers.

The Homeschool Trend

Homeschooling is gaining traction as parents look for solutions to what they see as impersonal, test-driven and one-size-fits all curriculums, overcrowded classrooms and distracting social environments. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the reasons why parents chose to homeschool in 2007 were:

  • 36 percent had a desire to provide religious or moral instruction.
  • 21 percent had a concern about the school environment (such as safety, drugs, or negative peer pressure).
  • 17 percent had a dissatisfaction with academic instruction.
  • 14 percent had "other reasons" including family time, finances, travel, and distance.
  • 7 percent had the desire to provide their child with a nontraditional approach to education.
  • 6 percent had to cater to a child's health problems or special needs.

As numbers of homeschoolers continue to rise the reasons parents give for choosing this education model are evolving. The National Home Education Research Institute says that currently, the most common reasons given for homeschooling include a desire to:

  • Customize or individualize the curriculum and learning environment for each child.
  • Accomplish more academically than in schools.
  • Use pedagogical approaches other than those typical in institutional schools.
  • Enhance family relationships between children, parents, and siblings.
  • Provide a safer environment because of physical violence, drugs and alcohol, psychological abuse, and improper and unhealthy sexuality associated with institutional schools.
  • Teach and impart a particular set of values, beliefs, and worldview.

Homeschooling How-To's

Interested in homeschooling your child? Here's some information to help you get started:

Check your state's education laws. Find out what education and testing requirements you have to fulfill and what documents you have to provide. They vary from state to state with some having minimal requirements and others mandating standardized testing, portfolio or work sample reviews, periodic progress reports or check in's with school personnel. You can find that information by contacting your city/state's Board of Education.

Find the right curriculum to meet your child's individual needs. While it can be daunting, you have resources: Your local school might be able to provide sample curriculums and guidelines per grade level or you can choose from hundreds available online. Some curriculums come as total packages with all the books, links and work materials included. Others provide more of a framework for parents to fill in on their own. Many parents who are new to homeschooling simply use word of mouth from other homeschooling families.

Create a schedule and structure. Ideally, you want a schedule that allows enough time for your child to complete all her assignments. Most homeschoolers find that without the distractions of other kids in a classroom, they can finish their schoolwork in much less time than in traditional schools.

Seek social opportunities for your student. Your child will still need to have his social needs met. Many home-school families create their own communities and organizations where kids share schoolwork, parents host field trips, and families get together for the same kind of fun they'd otherwise find at a traditional school. Kids can also get their social needs met by joining sports teams, extracurricular classes like arts and languages or by attending clubs like scouts and church groups.

To find out more about how to home-school your child, check out The Homeschooling Book of Answers by Linda Dobson or Homeschool Your Child for Free by LauraMaery Gold and Joan M. Zielinski.

David Levine, MD, reviewed this article.


National Home Education Research Institute

National Center for Education Statistics