Several contributors here at ARL are homeschooling their children. Not surprisingly, they have taken on this “burden” for a variety of reasons. The first and foremost among them, however, is the ability to control and ensure the quality of education that their children receive.
Check back here in the future for more articles and resources useful to the home-schooling parent.
Why Home School?
The many shortfalls of mainstream public education are well known: it’s inefficiency, watered down ciriculum, over-crowding, exposure to violence and many other cultural problems. Most important to many homeschooling parents is the fact that the the public schools are actively programming their children in a secular value system that is contrary to their beliefs.
For any parent who really cares about both the quality of their children’s education and the preservation of their values and beliefs in the schooling process, homeschooling is the only real effective choice. The days of the “little red school house”, when parents had more immediate and local control over their children’s education, have passed us by.
According to a 2008 “Issue Brief” published by the National Center for Education Statistics, the top (88%) concern of homeschooling parents is their “concern about the school environment”. This catch-all would encompass the next highest (78%) concern to ensure their children receive proper religious and/or moral instruction. Little wonder, when one considers the anti-religion bias of the public-secular ciriculum.
Still, making the decision to homeschool can be quite difficult. While the ranks of homeschoolers is growing (est. 1.5 million in 2007), their numbers represent a relatively small 2.9% share of total students nationwide.
The Private Education Alternative
While many private schools are available to meet many parents concerns, the average private school tuition costs for primary students was approximately $6,700 per year in 2008, according to the Council for American Private Education (CAPE). Subsidized Catholic schools were able to reduce costs to roughly $4,900 per student per year, but even this is beyond the reach of many parents. Naturally, the more children in the home the higher the cumulative cost.
In a world where most households need two wage earners just to make ends meet, it’s little wonder that the majority of parents opt for the public school route, having already paid a contributory share of those costs.
According to a recent CATO institute study the real public school expense per student averaged near $18,000 per student, although the officially “stated costs” reported by the schools in the study was “only” $12,550 per student. With actual costs running at 93% above the estimated average private school cost of $9,173 per student, tax payers ought to really question the viability and efficacy of the status quo.
The average cost of homeschooling? Naturally, it can vary widely, depending on your own approach. Some studies have found that $2,500 per student per year isn’t unusual, especially when purchasing established program materials. And, as it happens, this amount is nominally equivalent to that required for materials and other physical resources in more traditional educational settings. (More here.) Some parents are able to save quite a lot through shopping eBay for used books, etc.
Vouchers, Charter and Umbrella Schools
This issue, of course, is the crux of the problem for homeschoolers and the basis for the school voucher movement. Parents make a pretty good case for rebate “vouchers” that might be applied to private or homeschooling costs, since they are relieving the state of the burden of education their children. (Of course, taxpayers with no children can rightfully make the very same argument, but that would strike at the heart of the whole socialized education system.)
Efforts to “rebate” some portion of those state sponsored costs to homeschooling parents have, in some states, been made available, which can be of some help. Usually, such aids are only available under the auspices of so-called “virtual charter” or “umbrella” schools.
In Washington State, for instance, homeschooling parents can participate with an affiliate umbrella school. Such programs can, indeed, augment the homeschooling parents efforts. However, many are concerned that this option will tend to undermine and/or otherwise compromise the independence of the homeshooling family.
How it Really Works
The first thing you need to understand is that, depending on the state in which you reside, your homeschooling venture may be greatly burdened by a wide range of regulatory requirements. While homeschooling is now generally sanctioned in most states, the efforts to control the “movement” have never really ceased. (See a list of the regulations applicable in Washington State, for example, provided by the Washington Homeschool Organization.)
There are parents, of course, who “fly under the radar” and never report their children to the state, as is typically required. Those parents risk a punitive response by the state, of course, but face such risks in order to preserve their independence. So long as they use accredited instructional programs, however, there is likely to be little in the way of long-term repercussions from “opting out”, as transcripts and GED testing would provide the credentials necessary for higher education.
The End Result
The recent winning of the National Spelling Bee by a homeschooled student jarred many preconceptions about the quality of this alternative approach to education. Significantly, a variety of studies have tended to indicate superior performance by homeschooled students. (citations needed.)
All we might add is that, by any reasonable measurement and independent observation, most homeschooled children tend to exhibit higher achievement levels, along with greater personality development, confidence, and effective moral instruction.