The New York Times today has a good article on the trend towards home schooling. The number of children being taught at home has more than doubled in past ten years, now numbering at least 850,000, but still a small part of the total number of K12 students in the US. The reasons why people make this choice for their children’s education is varied but largely boil down to the parent’s disatisfaction with the local schools – poor learning environment, no religious training or the belief they can do a better job.
Before I rant any further on this topic (and risk another email flame :-), I need to make the point that I have no problem with a family making this choice for their kids. My sister home schools her three children and seems to be doing a good job. They are all elementary age, however, and I disagree with parents who continue to home school their high school-age kids. Not because I think American high schools are uniformly great but because most parents aren’t equipped to teach many high school topics. But it’s still their choice as long as they fully understand the positives and negatives.
Many home school advocates also claim that students do better in that environment than they would at a public school and I believe them. However, look at the demographics of the families making this choice (primarily white, two-parent, one-income according to this article). But there’s also the fact that children from almost any home with parents who actively participate in their education do much better than those who don’t – no matter where they go to school. If we could just persuade all parents to get involved with their kid’s schools (and get schools to uniformly welcome such involvement), the quality of education in this country would improve tremendously almost overnight.