DOE Report: School Environment, Poor Instruction Top Reasons for Homeschooling

The main reasons parents homeschooled their children in the United States in the past year are concern about the environment of other schools and dissatisfaction with academic instruction at other schools, according to a newly released Department of Education report.

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the primary federal entity for collecting, analyzing, and reporting data related to education in the United States and other nations, conducted a study focused on parent and family involvement in education. The 2011-2012 survey included two topics pertaining to homeschooled children: the number of children aged 5-17 who were homeschooled and the reasons parents gave as important for homeschooling.

The study found that approximately 1,770,000 students are now homeschooled in the United States, an increase of nearly 300,000 since the 2007 NCES study, which found that 1.5 million were homeschooled. 

The homeschooling rate in the U.S., according to the study, is now 3.4%. The highest rate for homeschooling was found in the 9th-12th grade equivalent group, at 3.7%, with, 6th-8th grade at 3.5%, 3rd-5th grade at 3.4%, and K-2 at 3.1%.

Regarding reasons for homeschooling, 91% of parents who participated in the survey said “a concern about the environment of other schools” was one important reason, while 25% said that was the most important reason they homeschooled. Parents were asked to respond to the question, “You are concerned about the school environment, such as safety, drugs, or negative peer pressure?”

Of the homeschooling parents surveyed, 74% responded that “a dissatisfaction with academic instruction at other schools” was one important reason for homeschooling, while 19% said this was the most important reason.

Almost two thirds, or 64% of parents said one important reason for homeschooling homeschooling was a desire to provide religious instruction, while 16% responded that this was the most important reason. In addition, 77% of parents stated that “a desire to provide moral instruction” was one important reason for homeschooling, while 5% said that was the most important reason.

According to the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA):

This is an exciting report. It shows that parents continue to choose to homeschool their children, even during a time of economic difficulty. It is especially noteworthy that homeschooling continues to grow, even though another recent NCES report showed that the number of students in private schools continues to fall.

It is important to point out that NCES’ previous reports used a random digit dial (RDD) sample of landline telephones. Due to declining response rates for telephone surveys, NCES switched to a mail survey for this latest report. NCES notes in the report that “[d]ue to this mode change, readers should use caution when comparing estimates to prior [National Household Education Surveys] administrations.”

HSLDA also observes, “The most significant developments since the last report in 2007 (and again, we must approach this cautiously since the report methodology has changed) is that in 5 years, homeschooling has grown 17% when looking at the total number of students who are homeschooled, and 0.5% of the total number of K-12 students.”

“Two key differences from the 2007 report are that more parents are concerned about the environment of other schools, and fewer parents stated that their number one reason for homeschooling was because of their desire for religious or moral instruction,” noted HSLDA.


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