Also called home education or home school – is the education of children at home rather than in
a public or private school. Prior to the introduction of compulsory school attendance laws in the
19th century, most childhood education worldwide occurred within the family or community, with
only a small portion of the population attending schools or employing tutors. Today most children
are institutionally schooled.
Especially in the English-speaking nations, homeschooling can be an option for parents who
wish to provide their children with a quality of education or social environment that they believe is
unattainable in schools. Homeschooling may refer to instruction in the home under the
supervision of correspondence schools or umbrella schools. A curriculum-free philosophy of
homeschooling may be called unschooling, a term coined in 1977 by American educator John
Holt in his magazine Growing Without Schooling.
Rise of compulsory education
The earliest compulsory schooling in the West began in the late 17th century and early 18th
century in the German states of Gotha, Calemberg and, particularly, Prussia. In the United States,
the first state to issue a compulsory education law was Massachusetts, in 1789, 1863, and the
popular McGuffey Readers, sometimes bolstered by local or itinerant teachers, as means and
opportunity allowed. The United States has been asserted to have been at the height of its
national literacy under this informal system of tutelage.
After the establishment of the Massachusetts system, other states and localities began to make
school attendance mandatory. In 1912 A.A. Berle of Tufts University, later delegate to the Paris
Peace Conference, asserted in his book The School in Your Home that the previous 20 years of
mass education had been a failure and that he'd been asked by hundreds of parents how they
could teach their children at home. In his follow-up work, How Children Learn, 1967, he tried to
demonstrate the learning process of children and why he believed school short circuits this
In neither book had he suggested any alternative to institutional schooling; he'd hoped to initiate
a profound rethinking of education to make schools friendlier toward children. As the years
passed he became convinced that the way schools were was what society wanted, and that a
serious re-examination wasn't going to happen in his lifetime.
Leaving teaching to publicise his ideas about education full time, he encountered books by other
authors questioning the premises and efficacy of compulsory schooling, like De-schooling
Society by Ivan Illich, 1970, and No More Public School by Harold Bennet, 1972 (which went so far
as to offer advice to parents on how to keep their children out of school illegally). Then, in 1976,
he published Instead of Education; Ways to Help People Do Things Better. In it, he called for an
"underground railroad" to help children escape compulsory schooling. After the book's
publication Holt was contacted by families from around the U.S. to tell him that they were
educating their children at home. In 1977, after corresponding with a number of these families,
Holt began producing a magazine dedicated to home education: Growing Without Schooling. The
Moore's cited studies demonstrating that orphans who were given surrogate mothers were
measurably more intelligent, with superior long term effects – even though the mothers were
mentally retarded teenagers – and that illiterate tribal mothers in Africa produced children who
were socially and emotionally more advanced than typical western children, by western
standards of measurement. Similar to Holt, the Moore's embraced homeschooling after the
publication of their first work, Better Late Than Early, 1975, and went on to become important
homeschool advocates and consultants with the publication of books like Home Grown Kids,
1981, Home School Burnout, and others. In 1995, Roland Meighan of Nottingham School of
Education estimated some 20,000 families homeschooling in Australia.
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- Meighan estimated the total number of homeschoolers, in 1995, to be 10,000 official and 20,000 unofficial.
- In April 2005, the total number of registered homeschool students in British Columbia was 3,068.
- In Manitoba, homeschoolers are required to register with Manitoba Education, Citizenship and Youth. The number of
homeschoolers is noted at over 1,500 in 2006; 0.5% of students enrolled in the public system.
Karl M. Bunday cites the New Zealand TV program "Sixty Minutes" (unrelated to the U.S. program), as stating in 1996 that there were
7,000 school-age children being homeschooled. Philip Strange of the Australian Home Education Association Inc. quotes "5274
registered home educated students in 3001 families" in 1998 from the New Zealand Ministry of Education.
Republic of Ireland
From 2004 to 2006 225 children had been officially registered with Ireland's National Education Welfare Board, which estimated
there may be as many as 1500 - 2000 more unregistered. The right to a home education is guaranteed in the constitution of Ireland.
Roland Meighan's 1995 estimate was "almost 10,000", One home-education advocate estimated 50,000 children being home-
educated in 2005.
According to United States Department of Education report NCES 2003-42, "Homeschooling in the United States: 2003", there was
an increase in homeschooled stu U.S. from 850,000 students in (1.7 percent of the total student population) to 1.1 million students in
2003 (2.2 percent of the total student population).
During this time, homeschooling rates increased among students whose parents have high school or lower education, from 2.0 to
2.7 percent among White students; 1.6 to 2.4 percent among student in grades 6-8; and 0.7 to 1.4 percent among students with only
Race and ethnicity ratios remained "fairly consistent" in this time period, with 2.7 percent of White students homeschooling, 1.3
percent of Black students, and 0.7 percent of Hispanic students.
As in 1999, homeschooling rates were highest in families with three or more children (3.1 percent), and higher in families with two
children (1.5 percent) than only one child (1.4 percent). There were more homeschool students from families with two parents (2.5
percent) than only one parent (1.5 percent), and students from two parent families where only one parent worked were more than
twice as likely to be homeschooled (5.6 percent).
By 2001, according to the Canadian based Fraser Institute, Muslim Americans were the fastest growing subgroup in the American
homeschool movement, and were predicted to double in number every year for the following eight years after.
According to a 2003 U.S. Census survey, 33% of homeschooling households cited religion as a factor in their choice. The same
study found that 30% felt school had a poor learning environment, 14% objected to what the school teaches, 11% felt their children
were not being challenged at school, and 9% cited morality.
According to the U.S. DOE's "Homeschooling in the United States: 2003", 85 percent of homeschooling parents cited "the social
environments of other forms of schooling" (including safety, drugs, bullying and negative peer-pressure) as an important reason why
they homeschool. 72 percent cited their " to provide religious or moral instruction" as an important reason, and 68 percent cited
"dissatisfaction with academic instruction at other schools."
The unit study method incorporates several subjects — such as art, history, math, science, geography and Bible or theology —
around the context of one topical theme – like water, animals, American slavery, or ancient Rome.(Link 1) For example, a unit study of
Native Americans could combine age-appropriate lessons in: social studies, how different tribes lived prior to colonization vs. today;
art, making Native American clothing; history (of Native Americans in the U.S.); reading from a special reading list; and the science of
plants used by Native Americans. The next unit study subject could change to some other broad topic.
Unit study advocates assert that children retain 45% more information following this approach.
"All-in-one" curricula, sometimes called "school in a box", are comprehensive packages covering many subjects; usually an entire
year's worth. They contain all needed books and materials, including pencils and writing paper. Most such curricula were developed
for isolated families who lack access to public schools, libraries and shops.
Typically, these materials recreate the school environment in the home and are based on the same subject-area expectations as
publicly run schools, allowing an easy transition into school. They are among the more expensive options, but are easy to use and
require minimal preparation. The guides are usually extensive, with step-by-step instructions. These programs may include
standardized tests and remote examinations to yield an accredited school diploma.
Similar to All-in-one curricula are learner paced curriculum packages. Often called "paces", these workbooks allow the student to
progress at their own speed. Prices vary depending upon the publisher.
Homeschoolers often take advantage of educational opportunities at museums, community centers, athletic clubs, after-school
programs, churches, science preserves, parks, and other community resources. Secondary school level students may take classes
at community colleges, which typically have open admission policies.
"Unschooling" is a term that can be used with two distinct meanings.
Some use the term "unschooling" to describe methods of education that don't resemble schools, primarily indicating that they don't
rely heavily on textbooks or spend much time at desks. The parents actively conduct the children's education, using a variety of
The term "unschooling" as coined by John Holt indicates that parents don't authoritatively direct the child's education, but interact with
the child following the child's own interests, leaving them free to explore and learn as their interests lead. "Unschooling" doesn't
indicate that the child isn't being educated, but that the child isn't being "schooled", or educated in a rigid school-type manner.
"Unschooling" is distinct from "deschooling," which may be used to indicate an anti-"institutional school" philosophy, or a period or
form of deprogramming for children or parents who have previously been schooled.
Holt's unschooling assumption was that children learn through the experiences of life, and he encouraged parents to live their lives
with their child. Also known as interest-led or child-led learning, unschooling attempts to follow opportunities as they arise in real life,
through which a child will learn without coercion. An unschooled child may utilize texts or classroom instruction, but these are not
considered central to education. Holt asserted that there's no specific body of knowledge that is, or should be, required of a child.
Unschooling advocates claim that children learn best by doing; a child may learn reading to further an interest about primitive
peoples, or math skills by operating a small business or sharing in family finances. They may learn animal husbandry keeping dairy
goats or meat rabbits, botany tending a kitchen garden, chemistry to understand the operation of firearms or the internal combustion
engine, or politics and local history by following a zoning or historical-status dispute. While any type of homeschoolers may also use
these methods, the unschooled child initiates these learning activities.
Cost to families
There may be a financial impact on families in addition to the purchase of school supplies and curriculum materials, as one parent
(typically the mother) usually refrains from employment outside the home in order to supervise the child's education. Some
compensate by running a business as a family, working from home, or enlisting the help of friends or relatives during the hours in
which the adults are working. According to a Businessweek study, however, a second income outside the home is at least as likely
to be a financial drain as a benefit, especially for younger families with children.
The tangible costs associated with homeschooling are as variable as the reasons and philosophical approaches. Scholastic
Achievement and Demographic Characteristics of Home School Students in 1998, Lawrence M. Rudner, Table 2.12, tracked
expenditures running from less than $200 to greater than $2000, per student. Notably, the three largest categories were the lowest
three levels of expenditure. Students in the $200 or less category were in third – 17.9% of all students – $400-$599 was second –
with 21.5% – the largest single category, at 33.8%, was the $200-$399 range. The highest 5 expenditure categories combined –
ranging from $600 to $2000 per student – amount to 25.1% of the total, and only 2% of homeschool students lived in households
that spent $2000 and over.
All of these levels were well below the U.S. national average expenditure for public school students in 1998; $6200-$6500 per
student. The majority utilized less than 10% of public school expenditures.
The study also indicated a relationship between the amount of money spent on homeschool students and their academic
Opposition comes from varied sources, including organizations of teachers and school districts. The National Education Association
– a teachers' union, and the largest labor union in the United States – is on record as opposing homeschooling outright, though in
recent years they've not been as outspoken.
Opponents state concerns falling into several categories: academic quality and completeness; reduced government money for the
publicly run schools; lack of socialization with peers of different ethnic and religious backgrounds; fear of religious or social
extremism; that homeschool curricula often exclude critical subjects; that parents are sheltering their children, or denying them
opportunities that are their right, or providing an unfair advantage over students whose parents lack the time or money to
Some argue that while homeschooled students generally do extremely well on standardized tests, such students are a self-selected
group whose parents care strongly about their education and would also do well in a conventional school.
Gallup polls of American voters have shown a significant change in attitude in the last twenty years, from 73% opposed to home
education in 1985 to 54% opposed in 2001.
Homeschooling exists legally in many parts of the world. Countries with the most prevalent home education movements include
Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Some countries have highly regulated home education
programs as an extension of the compulsory school system; others, such as Germany, have outlawed it entirely. In other countries,
while not restricted by law, homeschooling isn't socially acceptable or considered desirable and is virtually non-existent.
In many countries where home education doesn't exist legally, underground movements keep children out of the compulsory school
system and educated them at, sometimes considerable, risk. In other countries, while the practice is illegal, the governments don't
have the resources to police and prosecute offenders.
Home Schooling Achievement, a study conducted by National Home Education Research Institute (NHERI), indicates the academic
integrity of homeschooling; the average homeschooled student outperforms their public school peers by 30 to 37 percentile points
across all subjects. The study also indicates that public school performance gaps between minorities and genders are virtually non-
existent among homeschooled students.
In the 1970s Dr. Raymond S. and Dorothy N. Moore conducted 4 federally funded analyses of more than 8,000 early childhood studies,
from which they published their original findings in Better Late Than Early, 1975. This was followed by School Can Wait, a repackaging
of these same findings designed specifically for educational professionals. This analysis concluded that, "where possible, children
should be withheld from formal schooling until at least ages eight – ten.". Their reason was that children, "are not mature enough for
formal school programs until their senses, coordination, neurological development and cognition are ready." They concluded that the
outcome of forcing children into formal schooling is a sequence of "1) uncertainty as the child leaves the family nest early for a less
secure environment, 2) puzzlement at the new pressures and restrictions of the classroom, 3) frustration because unready learning
tools — senses, cognition, brain hemispheres, coordination — can't handle the regimentation of formal lessons and the pressures
they bring, 4) hyperactivity growing out of nerves and jitter, from frustration, 5) failure which quite naturally flows from the four
experiences above, and 6) delinquency which is failure’s twin and apparently for the same reason." According to the Moores, "early
formal schooling is burning out our children. Teachers who attempt to cope with these youngsters also are burning out." He further
stated that "the self-concept of home-schooling children is significantly higher (and very much so statistically) than that of children
attending the conventional school. This of course has important implications in the areas of academic achievement and socialization,
to mention only two. These two areas have been found to parallel self-concept very closely. Regarding socialization, it appears that very
few home-schooling children are socially deprived. Critics who speak out against home schooling on the basis of social deprivation
are actually addressing an area which favors home schoolers. Apparently, the research data indicates that it's the conventionally
schooled child who is actually deprived."
Homeschool unless otherwise stipulated.