It is estimated that more than 1 million children under the age of eighteen are receiving their education at home. It is impossible to know the exact number of families that choose to keep their children at home instead of sending them to traditional classroom settings. Part of the reason for this is that most states do not have an accurate count of these children.
Families may choose to home school their children for many different reasons. Sometime it is only temporary due to an illness or a cross country move. There are four reasons that children are being educated at home by their families:
- They are deeply religious and want the children to be educated with fundamentalist beliefs. Many of these families use the Bible as their main text and use it to teach reading, math, social studies, health, geography and science. Older siblings may help teach the younger children. Consistent beliefs and values are maintained throughout the family. The parents of these children want to ensure that no ideas from outside of the family are introduced to their children without their approval. In years past this group accounted for the largest number of home schoolers.
- The family may live in a remote area where schools are not easily accessible. There are quite a few sections of the United States and Canada where this is the case. It may be a two hour or longer ride to a school and some families do not want their children to be on the road for that long, especially when the weather is bad. Many of these children do not attend school until they are in high school.
- Children who have survived a traumatic event, those who are going through a serious illness, or a child who has experienced a catastrophic event either at school or at home may be taken out of school for an extended period of time and educated at home by family members. Some of these children return to school within a few months and others continue to be home schooled until they reach the age of majority.
- They believe that what they can offer their children is superior to what any formal institution has available. The children in these families may receive professional music or dance classes, sometimes travel throughout the world with their families, or may have a connection with one of the many private universities across North America that offer programs for young people. Many of these children go on to attend universities successfully before they are eighteen years old.
Many states require that you register your home as a home school, while other states require no such identification or registration. At one time it was typical for one adult family member to hold at least some type of teaching credential, but that is now a thing of the past. Textbooks are easily available to anyone who wants to use them in their home teachings. Resources such as libraries, local colleges and universities, and reliable internet information can now make teaching children at home an adventure rather than a chore. While the academic education of a home-schooled child may be enriched, many are concerned that the socialization of these children may be negatively impacted. However, according to the recent studies conducted by a variety of statisticians, the home-schooled child may have a higher level of self-esteem, have a highly developed set of social values and mores, and be more well- adjusted than children who attend regular day classes. Home-schooled children typically spend morning with academics and have afternoons available for organized sports, classes in music, dance, or art, and activities at their place of worship.
Choosing how and where to educate a child can be a decision with far reaching consequences. Much of this decision will be based on the needs and beliefs of the family, the individual child, and the educational system available to the family. By researching all of these factors, families can come to an intelligent decision that will be beneficial to all involved.