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.
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