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Homeschooling: Not So Eccentric Anymore

| April 26, 2016

homeschooling florida

The definition of education is broader in home schooling. (Madaise)

By Nancy Smith

Homeschooling, once considered by academia the best way to make sure a child couldn’t get into college, has grown in student number and in stature during the early 21st century, as more and more parents look for an alternative to enrolling their children in failing government schools.

According to the most recent data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the number of American K–12 children educated at home increased from 1.09 million in 2003 to 1.77 million in 2012. That means they make up 3.4 percent of the nation’s school population.

The homeschooling organization HSLDA says college admissions personnel who used to view homeschooled applicants with skepticism are now scrambling to recruit and enroll students who collectively score better on the SAT than their peers.

In fact, there are now so many homeschooled college applicants that colleges and universities are adapting their admissions processes to accommodate homeschooled children’s unique backgrounds and skills.

Andy Torbett has written a comprehensive story on academia’s increasing interest in recruiting homeschooled students in Heartlander Magazine. Much of my information here comes from that story.

Lennie Jarratt, the education transformation project manager at The Heartland Institute, which publishes School Reform News, says home education generally prepares children for college better than government schools do.

What a change from the perception of homeschooled children 50 years ago.

One of the first newspaper stories I wrote during the 1960s, as a college intern, was a piece on the disadvantages of homeschooling, as seen through the eyes of academics. I remember one Boston College professor telling me parents with no teaching credentials who keep their children out of school and tied to a kitchen table “should be locked up.”

No one is saying that now.

parents want to give their kids something more creative, flexible, and engaging than a school day they see as factory-made.

With federal and state education policy placing ever-greater emphasis on core standards and standardized tests, many parents want to give their kids something more creative, flexible, and engaging than a school day they see as factory-made.

A story in New York Magazine says the one-size-fits-all model is “especially unappealing to parents of children who are ‘special’ in some way: unevenly intelligent, intensely shy, immature, or in need of a flexible schedule to accommodate their professional acting or dancing or musical careers.” According to the Department of Education, nearly 88 percent of U.S. homeschool parents express concern about the school environment, citing drugs, negative peer pressure, and general safety.

“For the most part, homeschoolers are better prepared (for college), the Heartland’s Jarratt said. “They have already learned how to study independently and are very self-directed. According to the National Home Education Research Institute, homeschooled students achieve a higher [American College Testing] score, 26.5 compared to 25 for the overall population. They also have higher retention and graduation rates.”

Jarratt says colleges and universities are now seeking out homeschooled children. “There are colleges actively recruiting homeschooled students,” he said. “Just one decade ago, this didn’t happen.”

Not that the road to college for homeschooling families is entirely smooth going.


It fosters independence. (Woodleywonderworks)

“The biggest item parents need to do is to maintain a transcript of courses taken and their grades,” Jarratt said. “In some instances, parents and students just have to ask questions of the college, including the willingness to ask for supervisors, when necessary. Scholarships are the one area where I see the most bias remaining. This is typical with scholarship-granting local organizations, such as a chamber of commerce.”

William Estrada, director of federal relations at the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), a nonprofit “advocacy organization established to defend and advance the constitutional right of parents to direct the upbringing and education of their children,” says the boom in homeschoolers heading off to college is the result of significant growth in homeschooling nationwide.

“There is absolutely an increase in the number of homeschooled students applying to college for one simple reason: The number of homeschoolers is continuing to grow, and homeschool graduates are graduating from high school and heading to college,” Estrada said. “HSLDA’s research has shown that homeschool students are better prepared for higher education than their traditionally educated peers. In addition, homeschoolers, due to their unique flexibility in learning, often have more diverse life experiences, including volunteering, politics, and community service.

“As homeschooling has become more popular, colleges and universities have gone from skeptical of homeschooled graduates to welcoming them with open arms,” Estrada said. “The system is working and does not need to be changed.”

nancy smith sunshine state news columnistNancy Smith is the editor of Sunshine State News. She started her career at the Daily Mirror and The Observer in London before spending 28 years at The Stuart News/Port St. Lucie News as managing editor and associate editor. She was president of the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors in the mid-1990s. Reach her by email here, or follow her on twitter at @NancyLBSmith.

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12 Responses for “Homeschooling: Not So Eccentric Anymore”

  1. PCer says:

    And with more options available to students in middle and high school, you will continue to see that increase. Programs like FLVS continue to grow and improve.

  2. Fredrick says:

    Today’s public schools have become nothing more than a form of welfare to feed and babysit peoples kids.

  3. Keeping It Real says:

    If I had a child of school age I would NEVER send it to public schools, they are absolutely horrible.

  4. Longman says:

    Yeah, i would hate for my kids to actually interact with people other then my family

  5. Nancy N. says:

    Thirteen years ago when my daughter was born, I could never have imagined that I would end up homeschooling her. To homeschool was the bastion of religious extremists back then. But when my daughter was diagnosed with autism, and it became apparent over a number of years that the local schools were not going to serve her appropriately, I felt I had no other choice but to remove her for her own safety. We first spent a year with FLVS in 6th grade before moving to full homeschool this year for 7th grade.

    Homeschooling gives us the flexibility to adapt her lessons to her developmental level, which is quite significantly lower than the level of her peers. With the use of a PLSA scholarship, she can still get the therapy services that she needs. Since she is no longer subjected to the stresses of the school environment, she is an infinitely happier, healthier child. She also no longer loses learning time due to her medical treatments for her juvenile arthritis, which was a serious obstacle as well previously.

    While it was something we never imagined seeking out, there became a point that it was the obvious necessary solution for our family. Now that we are doing it, our only regret is that we didn’t do it sooner for our daughter, and that we subjected her to the stress of the classroom for so long.

  6. Nancy N. says:

    Longman – When you have a special needs child who is at best being isolated by their peers, and at worst being made fun of and teased (or worse), having your child in a classroom to “interact with people” isn’t necessarily a benefit. My child did not understand the way her classmates were beginning to treat her as they started to turn into teenagers and she remained essentially a 4 year old in an 11 or 12 year old’s body. She lacked the ability to protect herself, or to understand and communicate to an adult if she was being bullied, abused, or threatened. Yet the school district’s response to this situation was to plan to place her in a regular 6th grade classroom with no assistance or supervision (and then of course the next year in a junior high building completely independent moving from room to room).

    This was done to all autism students in Flagler Schools who were on “regular testing” status, and lead to a mass exodus from the school system of autism families, and the formation of a local autism academy. Although some of this happened after her retirement, Dr Middleton – a current school board candidate – has a lot to answer for in my mind for laying the groundwork for these events, for the fact they were implemented by what I understand is her hand picked successor, and for other situations where she failed to advocate for the special needs kids that her ESE department was responsible for (such as when the school board felt it was a perfectly acceptable solution during the school uniform implementation to effectively put neon signs on the special needs kids as being different by just exempting them from the policy if it caused them issues).

    She also needs to answer for the fact that a teacher with a documented history of repeatedly using potentially fatal restraint holds on special needs kids was shuffled to a regular classroom assignment instead of terminated. After waiting out the furor for a couple of school years while the people involved in the fight moved on to other buildings, that teacher is now back in a special needs classroom is my understanding. But I’m sure she’ll be able to hide behind the “I can’t talk about HR issues” thing to avoid discussing that.

    Couple all of that with the increasing presence of deputies in schools – and the fact those deputies are increasingly being used by school staff as a first means of control against special needs kids – and school buildings become very scary places for special needs parents, especially as your kid gets older.

    For a lot of us it’s not about keeping our kids away from influences outside the family. It’s about a concern that the schools can no longer ensure even the basic physical safety of our kids, or might even try to turn them into criminals because of their challenges.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I’ve been homeschooling for 11 years now. Graduated out my oldest son with 32 credits instead of public education’s 24 credits that some kids even find hard to get. My youngest is 14 and is almost finished with 10th grade. When I first started homeschooling 11 years ago, I was ridiculed by family and friends, I was told my kids wouldn’t be their version of “normal”, now the same family and friends have concluded homeschooling is a far superior method of learning and now they feel the need to homeschool their own children.
    For anyone who’s thinking of homeschooling…do it! Kids DON’T need other kids to be social butterflies. My kids are living proof. My oldest is 19 with 2 jobs and works 6 days a week while saving for college. Never done drugs and isn’t into the “social networking scene” he sees now the kids and the parties and the mundane same old same old of today’s youth is temporary at best. He’s looking ahead and I thank my homeschooling network and all of my homeschooling friends for bolstering me when I felt I couldn’t do it!
    If you don’t have children but want to, plan on actually being a mom and dad don’t use public education to raise your kids. Children are our future, so where’s your investment?

  8. Marvelous says:

    I agree with a lot of the problems in the public school here. Especially forcing children that have data to say they need self contained classroom into a general education classroom without even a parapro as support. But being it is being paid for by my taxes I feel it should be changed and not escaped. The only way to change it is to force the issue in the iep meetings and school board meetings. Be an advocate or they will continue doing things the way they feel instead of what the data supports.

  9. Nancy N. says:

    Marvelous – “force the issue in iep meetings” will only get you so far, unfortunately. In reality the school district holds all of the cards and can just say no to whatever you are pushing for. The only way to force them is to sue, and then that creates an adversarial environment where nothing gets done. Believe me, over the years that my daughter was in Flagler Schools, the staff learned to NOT look forward to IEP meetings with me. I held their feet to the fire on many issues in those meetings, but in the end, the district staff are judge, jury, and executioner when it comes to what is in those documents. You can only advocate and hope it doesn’t fall on deaf ears.

    The last straw that pushed us out of Flagler Schools is the perfect example. Our daughter’s IEP was written to require two staff members be in her classroom. The week before school started in the fall of 2014 (when the school system was implementing forced regular classroom integration for the special needs children), we got a phone call from the school office. We were told that an emergency IEP meeting was being called to remove that clause from our daughter’s IEP “because those services are no longer being offered.” We were literally flat-out told that her IEP had to be rewritten to be in line with the services that were being offered by the school. These services had been renewed in her IEP only a few months earlier and no major changes had taken place to make them unnecessary in the months since. No matter, we were told by school officials. The district no longer offered those services so she couldn’t have them. They were going to take our daughter, considered so vulnerable by staff that she was not allowed to walk in the building by herself and so terrified of loud noises that she wet herself and hid every time the fire alarm went off, and put her in a mainstream 6th grade classroom with no assistance. And they said that under district guidelines for placement for special needs kids no other options were available.

    Unilaterally demanding that we change our daughter’s IEP to contain whatever services they were willing to offer, instead of actually providing the services that professionals had determined she needed, was a blatant violation of the law governing special needs education. But the district was hell bent on their course of action. We realized we had only two courses of action in front of us: sue the district to enforce our daughter’s IEP (and meanwhile our daughter would be caught in a dangerous and stressful situation everyday while litigation took months or even years) or pull her out of the district. We were fortunate to be in a situation where we could exercise the option to leave. Many other families in the same situation at that time could not and were trapped.

  10. SanitySpeaks says:


    I believe you mean “‘other THAN my family”?

    The misinformation regarding home education on a social level amazes me. The socialization may differ from family to family, however most are engaged with co-op classes, group field trips, sports, community service programs, church events, musical instruction, special events and support groups. The list is as limited or open as the family desires in order to meet the needs of the students. Students are not confined to certain social groups in a classroom, rather they socialize with students of all ages much like the real world. They learn to adapt and cooperate with others of various backgrounds, ages, and abilities.

  11. Longman says:

    thanks for correcting me-
    your kids, do what you want, cant keep them in a bubble their whole life

  12. Brian says:

    I dont blame anyone in this county if u wanna have your child home schooled! The elementary schools seem ok,my child went to old kings elm. which was a wonderful school.But unfortunately it was time for her to go to buddy taylor ms.I have nothing good to say about this school!Every week has been horrible!The bullying,the drugs the bad teachers and staff!Its like they just let thr kids beat each other up everyday!My child has been bullied 3 different times this year!Shes a quiet and very good student,she also has a heart problem so she tends to stay on the calm side!She told me a boys been calling her a hoe everyday in class,she didnt even know what that was!I guess today she had enough,she said no more and slapped him the face and said im not a hoe im only 13 years old and im here to learn!I did tell her to stand up for herself since the school is no help!Now she gets a week detention.The boy got nothing!Too me thats messed up!People need to wake up or watch out.You cant push people that much and think there not gonna do something crazy!I just cant believe how bad this school is!And funny thing i went to btms when it was good ol belle terre ms and it was great.but that was way before our city was full of out of towners or northerners!

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