Two Million Home Schooled, New Study Estimates


A new study from the National Home Education Research Institute (NHERI) estimates that there are over two million children currently being home schooled in the United States. The author of the study, NHERI’s president Dr. Brian D. Ray, analyzed data from both state and federal education agencies as well as private home-school groups, concluding that there are as many as 2.346 million home-schooled students across the nation.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2010 there were about 54 million children between the ages of five and 17 in the U.S., meaning that nearly four percent of school-aged kids – or one in 25 – are being home schooled.

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Factored into the study was Ray’s calculation that an estimated ten percent of home-schooled families are “underground,” meaning that parents have chosen not to register their children with the state because of compulsory attendance laws and other concerns.

“Today, home schoolers can be found in all walks of life,” noted a press release from the NHERI, “and with … a proven record of academic as well as social success, home schooling is rapidly becoming a mainstream education alternative.”

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Michael Smith, president of the Home School Legal Defense Association, called the latest numbers “remarkable,” noting that “just 30 years ago there were only an estimated 20,000 home schooled children.”

Ray predicts another “notable surge” in home schooling numbers in the next five to ten years, as those who were home schooled in the 1990s choose that education option for their own children as well.

A 2006 study by the Department of Education found that 31 percent of parents who taught their kids at home did so out of concern for the public school environment, citing such issues as “safety, drugs or negative peer pressure.” Another 30 percent said that home schooling offered them the ability to “provide their children with religious or moral instruction.” An additional 16.5 percent of parents cited dissatisfaction with “the academic instruction available” in the public schools, while about 14 percent said they chose home schooling because of special needs of their children.

While public school officials and education “experts” have tried to denigrate the home schooling option as inferior to the tax-funded marvel of public education, both research and anecdotal evidence has demonstrated that children taught at home perform better than their public school counterparts.

For example, a 2009 study by the NHERI found that home schoolers score an average of 34 to 39 percentile points higher than the norm on standardized achievement tests. According to Dr. Ray, who headed up the research, the national average for home-schooled students ranged from the 84th percentile for language, math, and social studies to the 89th percentile for reading.

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The study also found that achievement gaps common among public school students do not exist among home schoolers. Among the findings:

  • Home-schooled boys (87th percentile) and girls (88th percentile) scored equally well on standardized tests.
  • The income level of parents was not an appreciable factor in how home-schooled students performed, with children from poorer households (incomes under $35,000) scoring in the 85th percentile, and those from wealthier homes (income over $70,000) scoring in the 89th percentile.
  • Although the education level of parents did have somewhat of an impact on the results, even home schoolers whose parents did not have college degrees scored in the 83rd percentile, well above the national average for public school students.

Research also confirms that the high performance of home-schooled students continues when they reach college. The Journal of College Admission cited a recent report showing that “home school students possess higher ACT scores, grade point averages (GPAs) and graduation rates when compared to traditionally educated students.”

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January 11, 2011