Homeschooling the Numbers

By Annette M. Hall

We've grown used to seeing homeschool stories on the nightly news. Ratings must be good for homeschooling stories judging from the list of advertisers supporting the recent CBS story, which outraged many homeschooling families.

The homeschool issue has found it's way to CNN-fn. Lou Dobbs, known for his financial, news is hosting a segment entitled, "Wasted Minds: Our failing schools".

In the Monday evening segment, Michael Thompson, Dean of Admissions, University of Southern California (USC), stated they find no difference in the homeschool students entering the college than those who attended traditional schools.

He also stated that while the numbers are small, they have seen homeschool enrollment triple in the past year.

What I find disturbing was the old and tired line being quoted that there are over a million homeschoolers, which comprises about 2% of the number of students in the country, while at the same time the numbers are growing at a rate of 15% per year.

Do they honestly think homeschoolers can't do the math. We know that public schooled children have problems in that area, but come on now. Let's look at this a little more closely.

According to Patricia M. Lines, through her research at the U.S. Department of Education, National Institute on Student Achievement, Curriculum and Assessment, she estimated the number of homeschoolers to be around 700,000 during 1995-96, possibly growing to 1 million by 1997-98

Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) estimated number of homeschooled children (grades K-12) for the 2001-2002 school year was between 1.725 million and 2.185 million.*

Why all the concern over the numbers?

The public schools are on a campaign to save their schools - but, more importantly, their jobs.

If you factor into all of this the number of students enrolled in charter schools, distance learning, and those enrolled in public-school independant-study programs, you'll see that the true number of homeschoolers climbs dramatically. The true numbers may never be known but it is not rocket science to figure out there are more than are commonly quoted.

If an intelligent person really wanted to know how many homeschoolers are roaming the public at-large, they would simply take the number of children reported by the U.S. Census Bureau, subtract the number of students enrolled in public school, the numbers are readily available online for each state. The tricky part is figuring out how many are enrolled in private schools but the Department of Education in each state keep pretty close tabs on the numbers, so that too wouldn't be difficult.

Why hasn't this been done?

Perhaps school officials and the media do not want the general public to know the true numbers.

As more and more parents throw up their hands and flee from the public schools in frustration, the quality of the education will continue to decline because mass education must teach to the lowest common denominator. As the brightest students seek better alternatives, what remains is the bottom of the barrel. The cream of the crop is being skimmed.

Read the Grand Illusions by George Grant for a perfect illustration of what we are facing. It's all perception. For many years prior to Roe v. Wade, the news bantered about false and misleading reports of the thousands of women who maimed themselves during botched abortion attempts. Many years later we learn that the reports were all lies.

Our public schools have become very savvy over the years at using the media for their purposes. They have used it for fund-raising, to pass mileage levies against taxpayers, to influence public opinion and now to discredit homeschooling.

It took abortion rights activists many years to change the laws regarding abortion but they did not give up. They were persistent and, as a result, today we have very liberal federal abortion laws on the books.

Each year we face the introduction of federal legislation concerning homeschooling. If we are not diligent on our watch, we could find restrictions creeping in little by little to condemn an entire generation of children to an inferior education.

*Home education has constantly grown over the last two decades. The growth rate is 7% to 15% per year. According to Dr. Brian Ray, president of the National Home Education Research Institute, there were approximately 1.5 to 1.9 million children (grades K-12) home educated in the United States during the 2000-2001 school year. If you take this range and multiply it by 15% growth you will get the estimated number for the 2001-2002 school year.

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Posted: November 4, 2003