A growing number of parents are choosing to turn away from public and private schools and instead educate their children in their own homes. In 1999, the most recent year for which NCES has figures, some 850,000 students between the ages of 5 and 17 were being schooled at home. Approximately 697,000 of these children are schooled completely in their homes; the remaining 153,000 are schooled primarily in their homes but also go part-time to a traditional school.
In general, the makeup of a home-schooling family is fairly traditional. Most of these families (80 percent) are two-parent families, and most of them have three or more children. Typically, one parent works while the other assumes the primary role of teacher, although the other parent may also be involved in the education process as well.
The most common reason parents give for home-schooling (a reason voiced by nearly all of them) is that they feel they can provide a better education for their children at home than the schools can. They may feel that the local school’s curriculum is inadequate, or that it focuses on the wrong areas. Some parents feel that traditional schools fail to teach values to children; they school their children at home to provide a strong moral education. Or they may school their children at home for religious reasons; they may feel that the public school system is too secular for their tastes. A small number of parents turn to home schooling because they cannot afford to send their children to a private school.
In some cases, parents who home-school their children seek and receive a degree of public school support in the form of supplies, curricular assistance, and allowing home-schoolers to participate in the school’s extracurricular programs. Frequently, the parents of home-schoolers do not avail themselves of these resources, preferring to keep the education centered around the home classroom. Home-schooled children are of course required to demonstrate that they are learning at the proper educational level, and parents are expected to provide structured classes, homework, tests, and projects.