There was a time when parents that homeschooled their children overwhelmingly did so for religious reasons. Recent studies, however, indicated a noticeable shift in the demographics of homeschooling.
Homeschoolers typically have come from one of two groups: religious conservatives or people striving to live off the grid. As late as October of 2010, the International Electronic Journal of Elementary Education published a study showing that nearly 80 percent of parents who homeschool their children do so for religious reasons. More recent studies paint a different picture.
Homeschooler demographics are changing. Linda Pearlstein of Newsweek reports, “There are an estimated 300,000 homeschooled children in America’s cities, many of them children of secular, highly educated professionals who always figured they’d send their kids to school.”
A 2007 US Department of Education study contradicts the International Electronic Journal of Elementary Education completely. It revealed that a minority of parent’s homeschool for religious or moral reasons. Thirty-eight percent of parents homeschool because of concerns with the school environment or dissatisfaction with the school system.
Parents who homeschool are increasingly white, wealthy, and well-educated. And, their numbers doubled in a decade, a new federal government report says. Home schooling has risen the fastest among higher-income families. In 1999, 63.6% of home-schooling families earned less than $50,000. Today, 60.0% earn more than $50,000.
Another change in the demographics of homeschoolers is the ratio of boys to girls being educated by their parents. The ratio of homeschooled boys to girls has shifted appreciably. In 1999, it was 49% boys, 51% girls. Now boys account for only 42%; 58% are girls.
Henry Cate, who writes a blog called Why Homeschool, believes the rise in homeschooled girls has to do with discipline in public schools. It may be, he says, a result of parents who are fed up with mean-girl behavior in schools. “It’s just pushing some parents over the edge,” said Cate. Cate and his wife homeschool their three daughters in Santa Clara, Calif.
An estimated 1.5 million children were homeschooled in the USA in 2007, or 2.9% of all school-age children in the country. That figured represented a doubling of those of homeschooled in 1999.
The U.S. Department of Education says that 36% of parents said their most important reason for homeschooling was to provide “religious or moral instruction”; 21% cited concerns about school environment. Only 17% cited “dissatisfaction with academic instruction.” Other findings show that 6.8% of college-educated parents homeschool, up from 4.9% in 1999.
Michelle Blimes homeschools her three daughters in Orem, Utah. Initially it was for academics, and now she sees social benefits. “They should be able to enjoy playing and being kids before being thrown into the teen culture,” Blimes says.
More and more parents are homeschooling for cultural reasons. As Blime said of her three daughters, parents don’t want the prevailing culture to shape their children’s’ lives before they can make responsible decisions.