Number of Homeschooled Students Has Doubled Since 1999

Michael McGrady

The number of homeschooled students in the United States more than doubled between 1999 and 2012, according to U.S. Department of Education (DOE) estimates.

“The percentage of students ages 5–17 with a grade equivalent of kindergarten through grade 12 who are homeschooled—the homeschooling rate—has increased over time,” states the study, titled “Homeschooling in the United States: 2012,” released in November 2016. “The homeschooling rate increased from 1.7 percent in 1999 to 3.4 percent in 2012. … In 2012, there were an estimated 1.8 million homeschooled students in the United States, which is an increase from 850,000 in 1999, when estimates were first reported.”

The National Center for Education Statistics, a division of DOE, collected data on the number, percentage, and characteristics of homeschooled students through telephone and mail surveys conducted with parents and students from 1999 until 2012 as part of the National Household Education Surveys Program (NHES).

“The 2012 survey was administered from January through August of 2012, by mail,” the study states. “Questionnaires were completed by the parents of 17,563 students, including 397 homeschooled students reported in the [Parent and Family Involvement in Education Survey] Homeschool questionnaire.”  

Numbers ‘No Different’

The study is out of date in its report of the number of homeschoolers because it reuses old data, says Brian D. Ray, president of the National Home Education Research Institute (NHERI). 

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“What is interesting about this report is that they are reporting on data they reported three years ago,” Ray said. “The Department of Education does its report based on the NHES survey. In it, they get some data on education and on homeschooling from the spring of 2012. Then in 2013, they put out a report on education, including homeschooling data. However, here is the big deal: The numbers are no different than they were three years ago, as far as I can see.”

In a March 2016 report, NHERI announced, “There are about 2.3 million home-educated students in the United States.”

Homeschool ‘Explosion’ After Common Core

William Estrada, an attorney and director of federal relations at the Home School Legal Defense Association, says the years the study neglects were important ones for the homeschooling movement.

“The one caveat I would add is that this study goes up through 2012,” Estrada said. “As we all know, in 2013 and 2014, [the Common Core State Standards] went into full effect in public schools, including a rise in high-stakes testing. We just saw an explosion around the popularity in homeschooling [then].

“This is significant growth in homeschooling,” Estrada said. “However, I do believe the number is much higher.”

Michael McGrady (mmcgrady@uccs.edu) writes from Colorado Springs, Colorado.

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