Bulletin #38   Statistical Reports                                                  10/24/2004
 
Did you know? In July 2004 a report was released by the National Center for Education Statistics regarding homeschooling.  The report stated that there were 1.1 million homeschooled children in the United States.  Some very interesting questions and observations have emerged since that report was released.  Just about every major newspaper had something to say about the findings of that study.
 
If you’d like to read the report in it’s entirety it is located at http://www.nces.ed.gov/pubs2004/2004115.pdf


The very first thing that may come to mind when reading these kinds of reports is that home schooling seems to be on the rise, and that it tends to have favorable outcomes in terms of how children do academically.  But what might be more of a concern to the home schooling community at large regarding these types of studies, is how the statistical information was obtained, and whether or not the conclusions drawn are valid.  It is necessary to understand what the purpose was for doing a particular study, who is doing the study, and who is paying any attention to the findings. One must also understand how statistics can be manipulated to bring about a certain outcome. It is important to understand the population being studied, and who is being included or excluded from the sample population.  
 
When reading any particular study it is also necessary to understand the definitions that are used.  For example, here are some studies and how they have some interesting ways of defining homeschooling:
 
In the 1998 paper http://www.ed.gov/offices/OERI/SAI/homeschool/index.html

“Homeschooling is the education of school-aged children under their parents' general monitoring, and it replaces full-time attendance at a campus school. Some homeschooling children enroll part time at a campus-based school, or share instruction with other families, but most of their educational program is under the direct oversight of parents. While many activities take place in the home, parents often draw on their community, neighboring institutions, and travel opportunities to complete the program. The definition used for this paper includes families who self-identify as homeschoolers, even if they utilize part-time school enrollment.”
 
In the 1999 and 2004 NCES report: http://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2001033

“Students were considered to be homeschooled if their parents reported them being schooled at home instead of a public or private school, if their enrollment in public or private schools did not exceed 25 hours a week, and if they were not being homeschooled solely because of a temporary illness.”
 
The issue of "self identifying" in these studies is interesting in that even families who engage in “public school at home” (also known as some types of charter schooling, or e-schooling, or cyber schooling) can define themselves as homeschoolers for purposes of this study.  One can see that this could be quite problematic and may produce higher numbers of homeschoolers, and may of course impact the true results.
 
In the 1999 and 2004 study cited above it mentions enrollment in public or private school 25 hours a week, or less.  It would seem that anyone enrolled in a program for 25 hours a week would be considered a full time enrolled student, and not a homeschooler.  That seems pretty suspect to us, in terms of a true definition of a homeschooler for purposes of any study. 
 
One might wonder what would be gained by the results of these reports.  For starters, if the numbers of homeschoolers in the country are shown to be rising, then many conclusions can be drawn as to why and what (if anything) should be done about it, as is discussed in this quote from this particular study:

"If home schooling continues to grow, demand will grow for the types of services that are starting to be offered by public schools and distance education providers. A result will be pressure on schools to design school curricula that allow students and parents to pick and choose what they like. According to some observers, another result will be  the creation of new schools and school-like institutions built around the common needs and concerns of home- schooling families (Hill 2000) and the growth of public school programs designed specifically for home schoolers (Lines 2000b)." http://epaa.asu.edu/epaa/v10n26


So one can see that the results can be used to justify reforms in education, the need for the state to monitor growing numbers of homeschoolers, demonstrate that public schools are losing too many students to other forms of education, and so on.  These studies may also be used by people to try to determine what kind of demographic, if any, is represented by the typical homeschooler.  The most recent study even discussed the homeschooling family’s propensity for civic involvement.  State legislatures and Departments of Education always seem to have a need to know who we are and what we are doing.  While the studies are interesting, they can be misleading and they can be misused.
 
Here is an excellent article Does Homeschooling Research Help Homeschooling?  by Larry & Susan Kaseman -  Home Education Magazine – They see this kind of research as a real threat to the homeschooling community. http://www.homeedmag.com/INF/FREE/free_rsrch.html


There is a sentiment in national homeschool circles that some of these studies are intended/designed to show a big growth in the numbers of homeschoolers by intentionally counting those students who are really enrolled in public/private schools to inflate the numbers. Although it is quite true that the number of homeschooling families is rising, the sense is that the purpose of showing a faster growth may be to create "advocacy statistics" to be used by people like Patricia Lines to support their advice that public schools form partnership programs with homeschoolers. One only has to look at the conclusions drawn by some of these studies to see what suggested ideas may arise as a result of the studies. This draws homeschoolers in as a part of the larger school reform process which includes voucher and charter "choices".  Those choices of course may ultimately decentralize and corporatize public schooling, while making national standards and assessments a major part those new reforms.  This is where we must keep an eye on how school reforms proceed and how they will ultimately affect the homeschool community at large. 
An example of articles which use those statistics is this one: The New Face of Homeschooling, which opens with this line: “As their ranks increase, homeschoolers are tapping public schools for curriculum, part-time classes, extracurricular services, and online learning” Harvard Education Letter Mar/Apr 2001

 http://www.edletter.org/past/issues/2001-ma/homeschool.shtml

Charter Choice advocates also use the studies to their advantage as in this article put out by the Friedman Foundation http://www.friedmanfoundation.org/news/2004-08-20.html and http://www.friedmanfoundation.org/quorum.pdf

The Friedman Foundation website is at : http://www.friedmanfoundation.org/index2.html


Now, bearing all of this in mind, we might also be concerned about any definitions used in government studies, however any definition regarding homeschooling used in a government study is not very meaningful. The only place it is meaningful is in federal statute (from a federal standpoint). For any "definition" to become the "government" definition, it must appear in the federal statutes, not just in a "study".  NHELD does agree it is troubling.  A definition will come, of that we have no doubt.  We need to develop a strategy and backup plans.  We need to inform everyone, as we have been.  We need to call what we do "sovereign".  We need to be prepared to fight a "government" definition in the federal court.  We need to inform our state legislators, now, most importantly.  It is imperative that each state retains its own definition of "home schooling".  We need to gather political support from powerful people and interests.  We need to do fundraising to hire researchers to get the evidence to prove the unconstitutionality of any "federal" "definition" if it comes to that.  We need to do all of this now.
 
For the type of surveys that the NCES does here is a sample 2003 survey questionnaire:  Parent and Family Involvement in Education http://nces.ed.gov/nhes/pdf/quex/pfi/pfi03.pdf

It is interesting to see the kinds of questions that are asked, as well as how those questions are asked.
 
Here are a list of several studies regarding homeschooling which have been done over the years.  They make interesting reading.
 
1998 Lawrence Rudner study – “Scholastic Achievement and Demographic Characteristics
of Home School Students in 1998”.  ERIC Clearinghouse on Assessment and Evaluation
College of Library and Information Services, University of Maryland, College Park.  Many people find this study flawed as it had pre-selected participants (convenience sample).
http://epaa.asu.edu/epaa/v7n8/ 
 
Homeschoolers: Estimating Numbers and Growth - National Institute on Student Achievement, Curriculum, and Assessment Office of Educational Research and Improvement
U.S. Department of Education  Web Edition, Spring 1999 (paper written in 1998)
http://www.ed.gov/offices/OERI/SAI/homeschool/index.html


Homeschooling in the United States (NCES report) 1999
http://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2001033 and http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2001/HomeSchool/

see also Homeschooling - ERIC Digest 151, September 2001 http://www.discovery.org/scripts/viewDB/index.php?command=view&id=1068

Sept 2000 - Issues Related to Estimating the Home-Schooled Population in the United States with National Household Survey Data http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2000/2000311.pdf

Description:     This report compares two studies that have yielded disparate estimates of the rate of home schooling in the United States. The analysis focuses on the methodology used in the 1996 National Household Education Survey and the 1994 Current Population Survey, with particular emphasis on potential sources of error in estimating the home-schooled population.
 
The Cato Institute, 2001 - Homeschooling: From the Extreme to Mainstream
http://oldfraser.lexi.net/publications/pps/51/homeschool.pdf


Education Policy Analysis Archives, Volume 10 Number 26,     
May 16, 2002, Home Schooling in the United States: Trends and Characteristics
http://epaa.asu.edu/epaa/v10n26.html


CT Office of Legislative Research -
HOME SCHOOLING IN CONNECTICUT AND OTHER STATES (This is a flawed report in our opinion, the information is not entirely correct) report 2002-R-0036.HTM search on OLR web page:  http://search.cga.state.ct.us/dtsearch_olr.html


Karl Bundy’s website offers statistical information by state as well as other interesting commentary http://learninfreedom.org/homeschool_growth.html#LocalStats


“Support for Home-Based Education: Pioneering Partnerships Between Public Schools and Families Who Instruct Their Children at Home "  Is a book used as a Guide for State Policymakers, Local Boards of Education, and School Administrators and here is a snippet of information: http://eric.uoregon.edu/pdf/homeschool.pdf  P. Lines also demonstrates some of the advantages to school districts of provision of support for homeschooling. As a concrete reminder of the fact that they are "all our children," she informs us that the average tenure of homeschooling is probably about two years, meaning that, de facto, the public schools share educational responsibilities with most, though not all, homeschooling families.
 
The Journal of College Admission, Fall 2004, had a special homeschool issue which contained some interesting studies regarding homeschoolers and college. 


For further clarification or information regarding any of the NCES surveys feel free to contact:
Chris Chapman, Statistician, Early Childhood and Household Studies (ECICSD)
Chris.Chapman@ed.gov Telephone:  (202) 502-7414
National Center for Education Statistics
1990 K Street, NW
Room 9020
Washington, DC 20006
Specialties and Functions: National Household Education Survey (NHES)
  
Attorney Deborah Stevenson - Executive Director of National Home Education Legal Defense. –

 www.nheld.com or email : info@nheld.com

Judy Aron - Director of Research, NHELD – imjfaron@sbcglobal.net