Homeschooling in the US

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Research Question: What factors have caused an increase in elementary and secondary level homeschooling in the United States from 1970 to today, and why has this practice become more appealing to students of various intellectual abilities, artistic talents, and religious beliefs?

Significance: Homeschooling in the United States is estimated to be at approximately 2 million students today. While this is a small percentage (~2 %) of the total estimated 86,000,000 students in the country, it is still a significant number of people, and that number is increasing 7-15% each year. The average cost per student in the public schools is about $10,000 per year, while for homeschooling done within the family, the cost is much lower. The move toward homeschooling started here around 1970, so it is a fairly recent alternative to conventional education.

There are several reasons that people choose homeschooling. One is the desire to include religious content in the curriculum. Another is dissatisfaction with the public school system, both in environment (safety, including violence and drug use) and results (comparison with other countries in literacy and math/science skills). Still another reason is to accommodate special needs children, or exceptionally bright children.

Research Strategy:  My intent is to examine these factors as to their relative importance, and gather data on the effectiveness of the homeschooling process vs. the existing public school system. I will attempt to determine which groups are most active in homeschooling (socioeconomic group, ethnicity, gender, religious affiliation, etc). I will also look for measures of effectiveness, such as test scores, comparison rankings against other countries in literacy, knowledge of history, and math and science skills. Other possible measures of success might be employment percentages, salary levels, marriage stability, criminal records, and continuing religious participation if these data are available. Also included will be a discussion of how modern technology (computers and the internet) has contributed to homeschooling. I will address some of the possible disadvantages, such as the cost and time commitment involving the family, and dealing with the need for peer group social interaction. I will check federal and state laws regarding homeschooling requirements, such as the courses required, curriculum content, examination requirements, and hours and days per year. I will look into the places from which one can buy course materials. I will look into situations with parents teaching their own children, the use of online courses, and the use of hired tutors.

My research will include scholarly sources and a personal interview. A brief literature search turned up significant material on the subject, ranging from articles by professionals in the field to users of the products. Also several institutional sources were found, including the National Center for Education Statistics.

Primary Sources: I will contact the Stanford University online high school homeschooling program, which is a program for academically superior students. I will also interview one person who has a young child who is currently taking part in homeschooling. The person I will interview is a family member with an autistic child.

Secondary Sources: I will include JStore, from the Trinity College website, Google Scholar, and several scholarly sources found through Google. I also plan to use WorldCat to order some books through the Trinity Library, and will speak with a Librarian for additional sources if needed.

Reason for doing this research: Many people do not know much about homeschooling, and may even have misconceptions about it. Homeschooling is a growing phenomenon in the United States. I am doing this research because public schools, and often private schools, are unable to meet the needs of certain students. This research will provide a better understanding of the educational needs of this group and how homeschooling meets these needs. It is important for US citizens to understand their educational options and this is one worth considering for many.

With more understanding of homeschooling, more positive cooperative programs with public schools might be put in place to accommodate the homeschoolers. This way, the homeschoolers can still partake in certain public school courses or activities.


1.Lyman, Elizabeth  “Homeschooling: Back to the Future” Cato Institute – Cato Policy Analysis No. 924.  January 7, 1998

2.     Romanowski, M. H. (2001). Common Arguments about the Strengths and Limitations of Home Schooling. The Clearing House, 75(2), 79-83.

3.     Nemer, M. Kariane. “Undergraduate ERducation: Toward Building A Homeschooling Research Agenda.” 2002.

4.     Gaither, M. (2008). Why Homeschooling Happened. Educational Horizons, 86(4), 226-237.

5.    Pearson, R. C. (1996). Homeschooling: What Educators Should Know. Retrieved from

6.     Knowles, J. G., Marlow, S. E., & Muchmore, J. A. (1992). From Pedagogy to Ideology: Origins and Phases of Home Education in the United States, 1970-1990. American Journal of Education, 100(2), 195-235.

7.     HSLDA | Home School Research. (n.d.). Retrieved April 4, 2012, from

8.  National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) Home Page, part of the U.S. Department of Education. (n.d.). Retrieved April 4, 2012, from

9.    Nichols, J. (2005). Music Education in Homeschooling: A Preliminary Inquiry. Bulletin of the Council for Research in Music Education, (166), 27-42.

10. Farris, M. P., & Woodruff, S. A. (2000). The Future of Home Schooling. Peabody Journal of Education, 75(1/2), 233-255.

2 thoughts on “Homeschooling in the US”

  1. This is a thoughtful research question that addresses change over time. The first half is very straightforward and will be the heart of your study. The second half on why it has become more appealing to groups X, Y, and Z assumes that these are the only major groups. Other more flexible (or alternative) ways to frame this latter part could be:
    a) . . . and what demographic groups have become more attracted to this option over this period of time?
    b) . . . and have motivations of the families participating shifted more from religion to academic interests over this period of time?

    Previous students who have examined this topic found it to encapsulate a wide variety of interests which at times defied easy classification. In other words, if your essay tries to explain every type of home school supporter, you may run out of space. But if you can address major trends in the supporters over time, that would allow you to discuss general findings with some degree of specificity.

    Background: While there may be a larger trend toward homeschooling that began in the 1970s, the practice is not as new as your proposal suggests. But it definitely has grown to be larger on the radar screen.

    Sources: Be sure to focus on secondary sources and reports that help to paint national-level trends. Interviews with individual families or centers are welcome, but since those are not part of a systematic representative study, do not let them drive your thesis. Find the most appropriate sources on national trends first.

    As we discussed, your unstated search strategy so far has been to focus on Google Scholar and JStor for articles, plus WorldCat for books, plus the NCES federal data site for current data. But look closely at sources that are discussing historical trends (such as Knowles et al 1992) rather than those which are merely topical (Nichols 2005 on music ed).

  2. Together, we used your first-level search to dig further and yielded relevant historical works such as:

    Milton Gaither, “Homeschooling in the US: Past, Present, and Future,” Theory and Research in Education, v7 n3 (2009 11 01): 331-346

    J Gary Knowles, “Home Education as an Alternative to Institutionalized Education,” Educational Forum, v58 n3 p238-43 Spr 1994.

    Also, see how a relevant database (such as America: History and Life) catalogues one of your prior hits, to find others under the search search terms (“home schooling” with a space), which yields:

    Winters, Donald K.
    American Educational History Journal; Mar2001, Vol. 28, p143-150

    and also “homeschool” (not -ing), which yields this book:

    Homeschool : an American history
    by Milton Gaither
    Language: English
    Publisher: New York, NY : Palgrave Macmillan, ©2008.
    at Trinity Library LC40 .G34 2008

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