The growth of homeschooling

Nicole M. King
02 July 2014
Reproduced with Permission
Family Edge

The News Story - Common Core upsets homeschooling parents

Recent repeal of the Common Core educational standards in Oklahoma was largely backed by support from homeschool advocates. An ABCNews article explains how the Common Core requires standardised testing in math and English, aimed to better prepare students for college and future careers. While homeschool and private school curriculum do not need to abide by the Common Core standards, such standards will nonetheless influence the feasibility of using different kinds and sources of instruction and learning.

Home-school advocates expressed concern, and in particular, some "home-schoolers fear that as textbook publishers incorporate the standards, it will lead to a smaller number of non-Common Core based-textbooks." Additionally, many worry that "the ACT and the College Board, which owns the SAT, are moving toward aligning with the standards…[which] would leave home-schooling parents no choice other than to follow the standards if they want their kids to do well on the college entrance exams."

Oklahoma homeschool advocates have currently won the battle to freely educate their children; not all home-school families are so lucky. But recent research indicates that this educational trend is still on the rise, in spite of such efforts to quash the very reasons that parents choose to homeschool.

The New Research - Dramatic growth of homeschooling

Most have noted the exponential growth that has occurred in the homeschooling movement in the last several years. What began as something of a fringe group has developed into one of the leading competitors in the educational marketplace. But what accounts for such a dramatic shift? Why have so many decided to take education back into the home? Joseph F. Murphy of Vanderbilt University's Peabody College seeks to answer just this question by examining transitions in America's "social, economic, and political fabric."

In an overview of homeschooling that covers the span 1970-2010, Murphy posits that the usual reasons cited for the growth of homeschooling - biblical mandates for parental authority, coupled with "visible shortcomings of schools" - certainly have something to do with homeschooling's growth, but also suggests that "homeschooling is thriving because the essential pillars of society that made it anathema for over a century are being torn down . . . ."

First, Murphy highlights, the growth in homeschooling was made possible by changes in the social landscape. In the transition to a new market economy, "schools could help socialize workers into accepting the emerging changes associated with the industrial revolution." Murphy also highlights research demonstrating a "plummeting support for government," which includes government-run schools, and also "a reassessment of the interests of public employees."

Along with this dismantling of ideas crucial to the continuance of government schooling, however, the past 40 years have also seen what Murphy calls "the evolution of a new social context supporting homeschooling," a context that favors personal choice and democratic impulses. Murphy also outlines transitions in economic thinking, most important of which is the concept of "privatization" - "the transfer of activities from the public sector to the private sector [including] contracting out as well as reducing or discontinuing the provision of some goods and services by government." Homeschooling, with its focus on individual freedom of choice, is among the more radical types of privatization.

Murphy points out that an estimated two million U.S. children are homeschooled today, and that there are far more children being homeschooled than are schooled in either charter schools or private Christian schools. Given the social benefits and family strengthening that this important, historic mode of education represents, let us hope for 40 more years of homeschool growth.