U.S. Homeschool Population Size and Growth: Comments

U.S. Homeschool Population Size and Growth: Comments

Brian D. Ray, Ph.D.

December 23, 2008

Many people ask about the size and growth of the homeschool population in the United States. It is difficult to measure and estimate for several reasons. Brian Ray of the National Home Education Research Institute (NHERI) has estimated that there were more than 2.0 million K-12 homeschool students in the U.S. during the spring of 2008 (see fact sheet ). The U.S. Department of Education (USDE; National Center for Education Statistics, NCES) released in December 2008 a report entitled “1.5 Million Homeschooled Students in the United States in 2007 .” Stacey Bielick, the researcher, using methods different from Ray’s, estimated the number of homeschool students in the United States (i.e., homeschool population size) to be 1.28 to 1.74 million in spring 2007.

Consistent with Dr. Ray’s estimates in the past, the NCES researcher found that the homeschool population has grown about 8% per year during the 4 years since the NCES’s previous study.

Some of the main points of the 2008 USDE report are as follow:

•    Parents’ three main reasons for homeschooling were “concern about the school environment,” “to provide religious or moral instruction,” and “dissatisfaction with the  academic instruction available at other schools.”

•    The reasons reported by the highest percentage of homeschool parents as being “most important” were to provide religious or moral instruction (36 percent of parents), concern about the school environment (21%), and dissatisfaction with the academic instruction available at other schools (17%).

•    Homeschooling grew from the USDE’s estimated .85 million K-12 students in 1999 to their estimated 1.51 million in 2007.

•    Homeschooling grew from 1.7% of the school-age population in 1999 to 2.9% in 2007, a 74% relative increase over 8 years.

To compare how these findings match those of other researchers, one can read research summaries like Brian Ray’s Worldwide Guide to Homeschooling

It appears that the USDE’s 2008 study followed methods similar to those used by the USDE in 2003. It should be noted, however, that it is not clear from the USDE’s “Issue Brief” how nonrespondents to the telephone survey and noncoverage might affect the homeschool population estimate and other conclusions based on demographic data. For example, based on research on homeschool parents and experience with them, this author hypothesizes that homeschool parents would be less likely than parents in general to respond to a telephone survey by the government. Readers of the report should also keep in mind that the findings are based on extrapolations from the responses of the parents of 290 homeschool students (out of an estimated 1.5 million students).

For more research and other information on homeschooling (i.e., home schooling, home education, home-based education), click here.

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