Although prior to the introduction of compulsory school attendance laws, most childhood education occurred within the family or community, homeschooling in the modern sense is an alternative in developed countries to formal education.
In many places homeschooling is a legal option for parents who wish to provide their children with a different learning environment than exists in nearby schools. These motivations range from a dissatisfaction with the schools in their area to the dissatisfaction of modern schools in general. It is also an alternative for families living in isolated rural locations and those who choose, for practical or personal reasons, not to have their children attend school.
Homeschooling may also refer to instruction in the home under the supervision of correspondence schools or umbrella schools. In some places, an approved curriculum is legally required if children are to be home-schooled. A curriculum-free philosophy of homeschooling may be called unschooling, a term coined in 1977 by American educator John Holt in his magazine Growing Without Schooling.
For much of history and in many cultures, enlisting professional teachers (whether as tutors or in a formal academic setting) was an option available only to a small elite. Thus, until relatively recently, the vast majority of people were educated by parents (especially during early childhood) and in the context of a specific type labor that they would pursue in adult life, such as working in the fields or learning a trade.
The earliest compulsory education in the West began in the late 17th century and early 18th century in the German states of Gotha, Calemberg and, particularly, Prussia. However, even in the 18th century, the vast majority of people in Europe lacked formal schooling, which means they were homeschooled or received no education at all. Formal schooling in a classroom setting has been the most common means of schooling throughout the world, especially in developed countries, since the early and mid 19th century.
In 1964, John Caldwell Holt, published a book entitled How Children Fail which criticized traditional schools. The book was based on a theory he had developed as a teacher — that the academic failure of schoolchildren was caused by pressure placed on children in schools. Holt began making appearances on major TV talk shows and writing book reviews for Life magazine. In his follow-up work, How Children Learn, 1967, he tried to demonstrate the learning process of children and why he believed school short circuits this process.
During this time, the American educational professionals Raymond and Dorothy Moore began to research the academic validity of the rapidly growing Early Childhood Education movement. This research included independent studies by other researchers and a review of over 8,000 studies bearing on Early Childhood Education and the physical and mental development of children.
They asserted that formal schooling before ages 8—12 not only lacked the anticipated effectiveness, but was actually harmful to children. The Moores began to publish their view that formal schooling was damaging young children academically, socially, mentally, and even physiologically. They presented evidence that childhood problems such as juvenile delinquency, nearsightedness increased enrollment of students in special education classes, and behavioral problems were the result of increasingly earlier enrollment of students. The Moores cited studies demonstrating that orphans who were given surrogate mothers were measurably more intelligent, with superior long term effects – even though the mothers were mentally retarded teenagers – and that illiterate tribal mothers in Africa produced children who were socially and emotionally more advanced than typical western children, by western standards of measurement.
Their primary assertion was that the bonds and emotional development made at home with parents during these years produced critical long term results that were cut short by enrollment in schools, and could neither be replaced nor afterward corrected in an institutional setting. Recognizing a necessity for early out-of-home care for some children — particularly special needs and starkly impoverished children, and children from exceptionally inferior homes — they maintained that the vast majority of children are far better situated at home — even with mediocre parents — than with the most gifted and motivated teachers in a school setting (assuming that the child has a gifted and motivated teacher). They described the difference as follows: "This is like saying, if you can help a child by taking him off the cold street and housing him in a warm tent, then warm tents should be provided for all children — when obviously most children already have even more secure housing.
Similar to Holt, the Moores embraced homeschooling after the publication of their first work, Better Late Than Early, 1975, and went on to become important homeschool advocates and consultants with the publication of books like Home Grown Kids, 1981, Home School Burnout, and others.
In these books, Holt had not suggested any alternative to institutional schooling; he had hoped to initiate a profound rethinking of education to make schools friendlier toward children. As the years passed he became convinced that the way schools were was what society wanted, and that a serious re-examination was not going to happen in his lifetime.
The books by other authors questioning the premises and efficacy of compulsory schooling at the time included Deschooling Society by Ivan Illich, 1970, and No More Public School by Harold Bennet, 1972.
In 1976, he published Instead of Education; Ways to Help People Do Things Better. In its conclusion he called for a "Children's Underground Railroad" to help children escape compulsory schooling. In response, Holt was contacted by families from around the U.S. to tell him that they were educating their children at home. In 1977, after corresponding with a number of these families, Holt began producing a magazine dedicated to home education: Growing Without Schooling.
In 1980, Holt said, "I want to make it clear that I don’t see homeschooling as some kind of answer to badness of schools. I think that the home is the proper base for the exploration of the world which we call learning or education. Home would be the best base no matter how good the schools were."
Holt later wrote a book about homeschooling, Teach Your Own, in 1981.
One common theme in the homeschool philosophies of both Holt and the Moores is that home education should not be an attempt to bring the school construct into the home, or a view of education as an academic preliminary to life. They viewed it as a natural, experiential aspect of life that occurs as the members of the family are involved with one another in daily living.
It is not uncommon for the student to experience more than one approach as the family discovers what works best for them. Most families do choose an eclectic (mixed) approach. For sources of curricula and books, "Homeschooling in the United States: 2003" found that 78 percent utilized "a public library"; 77 percent used "a homeschooling catalog, publisher, or individual specialist"; 68 percent used "retail bookstore or other store"; 60 percent used "an education publisher that was not affiliated with homeschooling." "Approximately half" used curriculum or books from "a homeschooling organization", 37 percent from a "church, synagogue or other religious institution" and 23 percent from "their local public school or district." 41 percent in 2003 utilized some sort of distance learning, approximately 20 percent by "television, video or radio"; 19 percent via "Internet, e-mail, or the World Wide Web"; and 15 percent taking a "correspondence course by mail designed specifically for homeschoolers."
Individual governmental units, e,g, states and local districts, vary in official curriculum and attendance requirements.
Unit studies are particularly helpful for teaching multiple grade levels simultaneously, as the topic can easily be adjusted (i.e. from an 8th grader detailing and labeling a spider’s anatomy to an elementary student drawing a picture of a spider on its web). As it is generally the case that in a given "homeschool" very few students are spread out among the grade levels, the unit study approach is an attractive option.
Unit study advocates assert that children retain 45% more information following this approach.
Typically, these materials recreate the school environment in the home and are based on the same subject-area expectations as publicly run schools, allowing an easy transition into school. They are among the more expensive options, but are easy to use and require minimal preparation. The guides are usually extensive, with step-by-step instructions. These programs may include standardized tests and remote examinations to yield an accredited school diploma.
Online schools and educational resources can improve the quality of homeschooling and make it more accessible. Online resources for homeschooling include courses of study, educational games, online tests, online tutoring, and occupational training. Online learning potentially allows students and families access to specialized teachers and materials and greater flexibility in scheduling. Parents can be with their children during online tutoring session. Finally, online tutoring is useful for students who are disabled or otherwise limited in their ability to travel.
Groups of homeschooling families often join together to create Homeschool co-ops. These groups typically meet once a week and provide a classroom environment. These are family-centered support groups whose members seek to pool their talents and resources in a collective effort to broaden the scope of their children's education. They provide a classroom environment where students can do hands-on and group learning such as performing, science experiments, art projects, foreign language study, spelling bees, discussions, etc. Parents whose children take classes serve in volunteer roles to keep costs low and make the program a success.
Certain states, such as Maine, have laws that permit homeschooling families to take advantage of public school resources. In such cases, children can be members of sports teams, be members of the school band, can take art classes, and utilize services such as speech therapy while maintaining their homeschooled lifestyle.
Some people use the term "unschooling" to describe all methods of education that do not resemble schools.
“Natural learning” refers to a type of learning-on-demand where children pursue knowledge based on their interests and parents take an active part in facilitating activities and experiences conducive to learning but do not rely heavily on textbooks or spend much time “teaching”, looking instead for “learning moments” throughout their daily activities. Parents see their role as that of affirming through positive feedback and modeling the necessary skills, and the child’s role as being responsible for asking and learning.
The term "unschooling" as coined by John Holt describes an approach in which parents do not authoritatively direct the child's education, but interact with the child following the child's own interests, leaving them free to explore and learn as their interests lead. "Unschooling" does not indicate that the child is not being educated, but that the child is not being "schooled", or educated in a rigid school-type manner. Holt asserted that children learn through the experiences of life, and he encouraged parents to live their lives with their child. Also known as interest-led or child-led learning, unschooling attempts to follow opportunities as they arise in real life, through which a child will learn without coercion. An unschooled child may utilize texts or classroom instruction, but these are not considered central to education. Holt asserted that there is no specific body of knowledge that is, or should be, required of a child.
"Unschooling" should not be confused with "deschooling," which may be used to indicate an anti-"institutional school" philosophy, or a period or form of deprogramming for children or parents who have previously been schooled.
Both unschooling and natural learning advocates believe that children learn best by doing; a child may learn reading to further an interest about history or other cultures, or math skills by operating a small business or sharing in family finances. They may learn animal husbandry keeping dairy goats or meat rabbits, botany tending a kitchen garden, chemistry to understand the operation of firearms or the internal combustion engine, or politics and local history by following a zoning or historical-status dispute. While any type of homeschoolers may also use these methods, the unschooled child initiates these learning activities. The natural learner participates with parents and others in learning together.
In the last several decades, US colleges and universities are becoming increasingly open to accepting students from diverse backgrounds, including home-schooled students. According to one source, homeschoolers have now matriculated at over 900 different colleges and universities, including institutions with highly selective standards of admission such as Harvard University, Stanford University, Cornell University, Brown University, Dartmouth College, and Princeton University.
Patrick Henry College in Purcellville, Virginia, which was established specifically for higher education of students who have received their earlier education at home, emphasizes civic engagement of its students. However, this college also requires strict religious and political tests for admission and does not tolerate students with disparate viewpoints (see Wikipedia article, Patrick Henry College for discussion).
|Reason for homeschooling|| Number of|
|Can give child better education at home||415,000||48.9||3.79|
|Poor learning environment at school||218,000||25.6||3.44|
|To develop character/morality||128,000||15.1||3.39|
|Object to what school teaches||103,000||12.1||2.11|
|School does not challenge child||98,000||11.6||2.39|
|Other problems with available schools||76,000||9.0||2.40|
|Child has special needs/disability||69,000||8.2||1.89|
|Child not old enough to enter school||15,000||1.8||1.13|
|Could not get into desired school||12,000||1.5||0.99|
According to a 2003 U.S. Census survey, 33% of homeschooling households cited religion as a factor in their choice. The same study found that 30% felt school had a poor learning environment, 14% objected to what the school teaches, 11% felt their children were not being challenged at school, and 9% cited morality.
According to the U.S. DOE's "Homeschooling in the United States: 2003", 85 percent of homeschooling parents cited "the social environments of other forms of schooling" (including safety, drugs, bullying and negative peer-pressure) as an important reason why they homeschool. 72 percent cited "to provide religious or moral instruction" as an important reason, and 68 percent cited "dissatisfaction with academic instruction at other schools." 7 percent cited "Child has physical or mental health problem", 7 percent cited "Child has other special needs", 9 percent cited "Other reasons" (including "child's choice," "allows parents more control of learning" and "flexibility").
Other reasons include more flexibility in educational practices for children with learning disabilities or illnesses, or for children of missionaries, military families, or otherwise traveling parents. Homeschooling is sometimes opted for the gifted student who is accelerated, when a child has a significant career hobby (such as acting, circus performance, dancing or music), or for families who wish to abstain from mandatory immunizations.
Homeschooling is legal in many countries. Countries with the most prevalent home education movements include Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Some countries have highly regulated home education programs as an extension of the compulsory school system; others, such as Germany and Brazil, have outlawed it entirely. In other countries, while not restricted by law, homeschooling is not socially acceptable or considered undesirable and is virtually non-existent.
The inspection involves written tests in both French and Mathematics, the first of which is used as a benchmark to check what level the child is. The tests are carried out with the anticipation that the child will progress in ability as she/he ages, thus they are designed to measure development with age, rather than as a comparison to say a school child of a similar age.
Roland Meighan's 1995 estimate of home educators in the United Kingdom was "almost 10,000", and in 1996 the London Evening Standard stated that 15,000 families home-educating in Britain was a 50 percent increase from the previous year. One home-education advocate estimated 50,000 children being home-educated in 2005.
In 2006, Victoria passed legislation requiring the registration of children up to the age of 16 and increasing the school leaving age to 16 from the previous 15, undertaking home education (registration is optional for those age of 16-17 but highly recommended). The Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority (VRQA) is the registering body.
Prior to the introduction of public schools, many children were educated in private schools or in the home. During this period illiteracy was common and many children were never properly educated. It was common for literate parents to use books dedicated to educating children such as Fireside Education, Griswold, 1828, Warren Burton's Helps to Education in the Homes of Our Country, 1863, and the popular McGuffey Readers, sometimes bolstered by local or itinerant teachers, as means and opportunity allowed. Raymond Moore, among others, asserted that the United States was at the height of its national literacy under this informal system of tutelage, but such claims are difficult to prove.
After the establishment of the Massachusetts system, other states and localities gradually began to provide public schools and to make attendance mandatory. In 1912 A.A. Berle of Tufts University, (not to be confused with the Adolf Berle who was a delegate to the Paris Peace Conference) asserted in his book The School in Your Home that the previous 20 years of mass education had been a failure and that he had been asked by hundreds of parents how they could teach their children at home.
Since the beginning of public school systems in the United States, members of the Catholic Church have been practicing homeschooling or supporting private parochial schools, as they do not entirely agree with some what is taught in many public schools.
Statistically, the typical American homeschooling parents are married, homeschool their children primarily for religious or moral reasons, and are almost twice as likely to be Evangelical than the national average. They average three or more children, and typically the mother stays home to care for them.
Atypical homeschools may even be found in single parent homes, also known as single parent homeschooling. According to the peer review journal Education Policy Analysis, based on the findings of the National Household Education Survey, of the National Center of Educational Statistics, as early as 1994, 11% of United States homeschools were being led by a single parent, and by 1999, 20.6% were so being led. However, this phenomenon seems to be flying under the radar as the movement does not seem to have significant advocacy from any national agency or organization and the statistics tracking single parent homeschools have currently not yet been posted on the websites of the DOE, the NHERI, or The Barna Group. There is online advocacy at The Single Parent Home School Website. The website is sponsored by Morningstar Educational Network.
According to United States Department of Education report NCES 2003-42, "Homeschooling in the United States: 2003", there was an increase in homeschooled students in the U.S. from 850,000 students in 1999 (1.7 percent of the total student population) to 1.1 million students in 2003 (2.2 percent of the total student population).
According to an unsourced National Home Education Research Institute statement, an estimated 1.9 to 2.4 million children were home educated during 2005-2006.
During this time, homeschooling rates increased among students whose parents have high school or lower education, 1.6 to 2.4 percent among student in grades 6-8; and 0.7 to 1.4 percent among students with only one parent.
As in 1999, rates were highest in families with three or more children (3.1 percent), and higher in families with two children (1.5 percent) than only one child (1.4 percent). There were more homeschool students from families with two parents (2.5 percent) than only one parent (1.5 percent), and students from two parent families where only one parent worked were more than twice as likely to be homeschooled (5.6 percent).
According to a 2000-2001 Barna survey, home school parents are 39 percent less likely to be college graduates, 21 percent more likely to be married, 28 percent less likely to have experienced a divorce, and that the household income is 10% below the national average. Barna found that homeschoolers in the U.S. live predominantly in the Mid-Atlantic, the South-Atlantic, and the Pacific states. It found that homeschoolers are almost twice as likely to be evangelical as the national average (15 percent vs 8 percent), and that 91 percent describe themselves as Christian, although only 49 percent can be classified as "born again Christians." It found they were five times more likely to describe themselves as "mostly conservative" on political matters than as "mostly liberal," although only about 37 percent chose "mostly conservative", and were "notably" more likely than the national average to have a high view of the Bible and hold orthodox Christian beliefs.
|Did not finish high school||High school graduate only||Some college, no degree||Associate degree||Bachelors degree||Masters degree||Doctorate|
|Home school fathers||1.2%||9.3%||16.4%||6.9%||37.6%||19.8%||8.8%|
|Home school mothers||0.5||11.3||21.8||9.7||47.2||8.8||0.7|
In contrast, Lawrence Rudner's (University of Maryland) 1998 study shows that homeschool parents have a higher income than average (1.4 times by one estimate), and are more likely to have an advanced education. Rudner found that homeschooling parents tend to have more formal education than parents in the general population; that the median income for homeschooling families ($52,000) is significantly higher than that of all families with children in the United States ($36,000); that 98% of homeschooled children live in "married couple families"; that 77% of home school mothers do not participate in the labour force, whereas 98% of homeschooling fathers do participate in the labour force; and that median annual expenses for educational materials are approximately $400 per home school student.
By 2001, according to the Canadian based Fraser Institute, Muslim Americans were the fastest growing subgroup in the American homeschool movement, and were predicted to double in number every year for the following eight years after.
A 2001 study by Dr. Clive Belfield states that the average homeschooling parent is a woman with a college degree. Belfield estimates annual homeschooling costs to be approximately $2,500 per child
Numerous studies have found that homeschooled students on average outperform their peers on standardized tests. Home Schooling Achievement, a study conducted by National Home Education Research Institute (NHERI), supported the academic integrity of homeschooling. Among the homeschooled students who took the tests, the average homeschooled student outperformed his public school peers by 30 to 37 percentile points across all subjects. The study also indicates that public school performance gaps between minorities and genders were virtually non-existent among the homeschooled students who took the tests.
New evidence has been found that home schooled children are learning more and are getting higher scores on the ACT and SAT tests. A study at Wheaton College in Illinois showed that the freshmen that were home schooled for high school scored fifty-eight points higher on their SAT scores than those of kids that went to a normal school. Most colleges look at the ACT and SAT scores of home schooled children when considering them for acceptance to a college. On average, home schooled children scores eighty-one points higher than the national average on the SAT scores. Home schooled children also scored twenty-two point eight on the ACT which is higher than the national average of twenty-one.
Their reason was that children, "are not mature enough for formal school programs until their senses, coordination, neurological development and cognition are ready." They concluded that the outcome of forcing children into formal schooling is a sequence of "1) uncertainty as the child leaves the family nest early for a less secure environment, 2) puzzlement at the new pressures and restrictions of the classroom, 3) frustration because unready learning tools — senses, cognition, brain hemispheres, coordination — cannot handle the regimentation of formal lessons and the pressures they bring, 4) hyperactivity growing out of nerves and jitter, from frustration, 5) failure which quite naturally flows from the four experiences above, and 6) delinquency which is failure’s twin and apparently for the same reason." According to the Moores, "early formal schooling is burning out our children. Teachers who attempt to cope with these youngsters also are burning out." Aside from academic performance, they think early formal schooling also destroys "positive sociability", encourages peer dependence, and discourages self worth, optimism, respect for parents, and trust in peers. They believe this situation is particularly acute for boys because of their delay in maturity. The Moore's cited a Smithsonian Report on the development of genius, indicating a requirement for "1) much time spent with warm, responsive parents and other adults, 2) very little time spent with peers, and 3) a great deal of free exploration under parental guidance." Their analysis suggested that children need "more of home and less of formal school" "more free exploration with...parents, and fewer limits of classroom and books," and "more old fashioned chores – children working with parents – and less attention to rivalry sports and amusements."
John Taylor later found, using the Piers-Harris Children's Self-Concept Scale, "while half of the conventionally schooled children scored at or below the 50th percentile (in self-concept), only 10.3% of the home-schooling children did so." He further stated that "the self-concept of home-schooling children is significantly higher (and very much so statistically) than that of children attending the conventional school. This has implications in the areas of academic achievement and socialization, to mention only two. These areas have been found to parallel self-concept. Regarding socialization, Taylor's results would mean that very few home-schooling children are socially deprived. He claims that critics who speak out against home schooling on the basis of social deprivation are actually addressing an area which favors home schoolers.
In 2003, the National Home Education Research Institute conducted a survey of 7,300 U.S. adults who had been homeschooled (5,000 for more than seven years). Their findings included:
Numerous historical and current public figures were home-educated. Some examples include:
Opponents of homeschooling state several categories of concerns relating to homeschooling or its potential effects on society:
For example political scientist Rob Reich wrote in The Civic Perils of Homeschooling (2002) that homeschooling can potentially give students a one-sided point of view, as their parents may, even unwittingly, block or diminish all points of view but their own in teaching. He also argues that homeschooling, by reducing students' contact with peers, reduces their sense of civic engagement with their community.
Gallup polls of American voters have shown a significant change in attitude in the last twenty years, from 73% opposed to home education in 1985 to 54% opposed in 2001.
A Washington, D.C. mother who had withdrawn her four children from public school has been charged with their murder. It has been claimed that the homeschooling exemption in the District of Columbia allowed the abuse of the children to occur undetected. However, a lapse in the DC child-welfare system also received blame, and six child-welfare workers were fired as a result. Increased regulation of homeschooling in DC has been enacted in response to these events.