DESPITE ALL of these efforts to reform schools, a significant minority of parents have concluded that our schools are not fit for educating their children. This frustration has led to a surge in the movement known as homeschooling. Homeschool families educate their children as they see fit, either basing their education on curriculum available for private purchase or developing their own curriculum. For many years homeschoolers were seen as conservative, religious families who did not accept the notion of secular public education. Even today, a significant number of homeschool families educate their children for religious reasons. But as more families have become exasperated by public schools, hundreds of thousands of children have left school and begun secular homeschool studies. According to the Home School Legal Defense Association, 225,000 students were homeschooled in 1988; by 1998 that number had blossomed to over 1.5 million, a six-fold increase.
One of the attractions to homeschooling has been research that suggests homeschooled students outperform their public school peers. In a survey of test scores conducted by the National Center for Home Education, homeschool students outperformed public school students by an average of 30 to 37 percentile points in math and reading. The survey also noted that the income and education level of homeschool parents did not effect the success of their children. While there was a direct correlation between public school children's' scores with parents education and income (students with well educated and wealthier parents achieved higher scores than children of poorly educated, low-income parents), homeschool students performed equally well no matter whether their parents were well educated or not, high income or low income. For example, homeschoolers from $100,000+ income families average a 92 percentile in national standardized tests, while homeschoolers from families making less than $15,000 a year scored at the 87th percentile, much higher than their public school counterparts.
Some homeschooling critics have argued that students educated at home do not receive the significant socialization opportunities afforded to students who attend schools. A guide to homeschooling published by the ERIC Clearinghouse on Disabilities and Gifted Education cited several studies which concluded that homeschooling is not detrimental to a student's social skills:
Studies of social adjustment and self-esteem indicate that home-educated students are likely to be socially and psychologically healthy (Montgomery, 1989; Shyers, 1992; Taylor, 1986). Homeschooled students tend to have a broader age-range of friends than their schooled peers, which may encourage maturity and leadership skills (Montgomery, 1989). Homeschoolers are not necessarily isolated from others of their age; they meet and socialize with peers in their neighborhood and at community classes and activities.
With the recent growth of the Internet, even more families have become attracted to homeschooling. The Internet allows for communication between homeschool families as well as exchanges in online lesson plans without affecting the independence of parent teachers. Eighty five percent of homeschoolers currently use computers in their education.
I'd like to examine other reform styles.