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Lesson 5.12

Home Schools:
How Do They Work?

Is “homeschooling” a scam?

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A small fraction of California students do not attend school at all, in a conventional sense.

“Homeschooled” children participate in an educational program that is coordinated by their parents. Like anything that involves a small fraction of children, when you multiply that fraction by the population of California you end up with a big number.

Because school attendance is compulsory, families must meet some requirements to legally pull their children out of school. The Homeschooling Association of California advises families about how to establish their own private school or how to affiliate with a Private Satellite Program (PSP).

Homeschool was for
religious kids
but now it's a way
to learn from vids

Religious concerns play heavily in some families' desire to separate from public schools. Until recently, religious concerns dominated the demand for home schooling. In a 2011-12 survey, 16% of parents of homeschooled children cited religion as their top reason for choosing to teach their child at home.

But the internet has made it significantly easier for families to learn about home schooling options, and "homeschooling" is a growing movement. Computer-based instruction and online resources are making learning at home an increasingly realistic option for more families and into higher grades.

The top reason parents cite for choosing homeschooling is "a concern about the environment" of other schools.

The US Department of Education estimates that nationwide homeschooling has grown rapidly to about 3.4% of students. The Department of Education survey suggests that homeschoolers are students for whom traditional school is not working for a variety of reasons, including commute distances, bullying, or other safety concerns. The number one reason that parents cite for choosing homeschooling is "a concern about the environment" of other schools.

A rapidly increasing number of these new homeschool students are enrolling in “virtual schools” that make heavy use of computing and telecommunication. There are some reasons to worry about the appropriateness of this approach to home schooling for students who are far behind. In 2013 the largest virtual school operator, K-12, a for-profit company using charter school laws, came under intense criticism. California outlawed some activities of for profit management companies in 2018, in large part because of financial and academic performance issues.

But we are getting ahead of ourselves. The role of computers in learning is a far larger topic than home-based learning. The technology angle of this topic will be explored further in Lesson 6.6, in the section “the Right Stuff.”

The next lesson steps away from anything remotely "virtual." What does it take to hold a class together, in terms of discipline?

Updated July 2017, December 2018


Some kids are homeschooled. What is the main reason families cite for choosing to homeschool?

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Questions & Comments

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user avatar
Jamie Kiffel-Alcheh November 8, 2019 at 9:04 am
I’d like to hear more about parents of kids with special needs turning to homeschooling. Many of us are frightened of putting our kids into a school that may not be able to handle the kids’ needs. That said, homeschooling means losing income for the family, and for special needs parents, it also means losing the tiny bit of separation time we need to avoid burnout.
user avatar
Susannah Baxendale January 25, 2019 at 4:44 pm
Parents are a child's first teachers as Head Start notes over and over, but that doesn't mean parents do well as the only teachers. Many don't know the material (I've seen way too many pictures of home schooled kids with grammatical errors in what the parent has written up on a board), or pick a poor curriculum, or lack the skills to keep their children on task. And the socializing aspect that is lost is notable. I am aware that parents who homeschool do get their children together with other children (usually homeschooled) so they are trying, but it is a self-selected group which isn't the same as what you get when you go to a public school!
user avatar
Albert Stroberg May 1, 2016 at 7:50 pm
Other than a few special situations this has become an actively bad thing. So much of a school education happens in addition to the teacher's direction. Standing in line, waiting your turn, having class responsibilities (window monitor!), dealing with buffoons, - these are all very important components of education for a future member of society.
user avatar
Veli Waller April 8, 2015 at 4:49 pm
Two families pulled their 1st graders out of my son's school earlier this year. Home schooling seems to be growing in our area.
user avatar
Mamabear March 20, 2015 at 5:02 pm
Yes, I know several home schoolers and they are required to meet with a representative from the Department of Ed to confirm progress and lesson plans. Most of the families need this option because there is inadequate support for dyslexic or mildly autistic children. I was actually told by a Unified School District employee "if we tried to help all the kids with dyslexia, we couldn't help anyone" since my daughter doesn't fall into the "special education" parameters, I have to spend many extra hours working with her after each regular school day to stay on track. Homeschool is not an option for me as a single mother.
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