When the idea of homeschooling my kids was first introduced to me, I totally balked. Images of socially backwards children with big glasses and crooked teeth flooded my mind.
So you can imagine my surprise to learn that in 2007, homeschooling was on the rise, and there were more than 1.5 million children being homeschooled in America. In fact, from 2001 to 2009, a U.S. Department of Education study found that homeschooling had grown by 77 percent! Today, homeschooling has become a mainstream educational alternative.
According to Strengths of Their Own: Home Schoolers Across America, a study by the National Home School Research Institute, “Regardless of race, gender, socioeconomic status, parent education level, teacher certification, or the degree of government regulation, the academic achievement scores of home educated students significantly exceed those of public school students.” The study showed that:
- On average, homeschoolers out-perform their public school peers by 30 to 37 percentile points—across all subjects.
- The size of a family’s income doesn’t matter, as homeschool students score between the 82nd and 92nd percentiles across the board.
- The average homeschooling family spends around $546 per student each year, and yields an average 85th percentile ranking on test scores. By comparison, the average annual expenditure of $5,325 per public school student yields on average a 50th percentile ranking.
The Institute collected data on 5,402 homeschool students from 1,657 families for the 1994-95 and 1995-96 academic years. The study was conducted in collaboration with the Home School Legal Defense Association, a non-profit advocacy organization for homeschooling parents.
Latinos account for only a small percentage—1.5%—of all homeschoolers, according to The National Center for Education Statistics. A number of factors may contribute to this small number. For starters, many Latinos aren’t aware of homeschooling as an option to tradition public education. Also, many Latino married couples often both work outside the home, making homeschooling impractical. The majority or 89% of homeschoolers are from two-parent households, and mothers account for 87% of homeschool instructors, staying home full-time to teach their children. Not surprising, given that it would be difficult for a single-parent to find the time to homeschool a child—which is not to say that it can’t be done; it’s just rare.
For some Latino families, especially immigrants, the language barrier can be a major challenge. It’s difficult to find a Spanish curriculum, though the growing number of bilingual parents who are determined to raise bilingual children may soon change this. I have received countless requests from parents who have found my website, Mommy Maestra, asking for advice on how to teach their children to read in Spanish, and whether or not to teach their children the Spanish alphabet first…or at the same time as English.
Some parents of homeschoolers worry about socialization. However, the data on homeschool students’ activities and community involvement has shown that, “on average, these children are engaged in 5.2 activities outside the home, with 98% involved in two or more.”
The activities are as diverse as the students themselves, with everything from ballet to 4-H clubs to volunteer work.
Interestingly, race or ethnicity has little impact on student achievement in the homeschooling arena. In fact, the Strengths of Their Own study shows that “math and reading scores for minority homeschoolers show no significant difference when compared to whites.” And both rank higher than their public school counterparts. In reading, both white and minority homeschoolers score at the 87th percentile—38% higher than minority students in public school. In math, homeschooled minority students score in the 77th percentile; public school students averaged at the 50th percentile.
Latina mom and blogger, Marta Verdes Darby My Big Fat Cuban Family, knows a lot about homeschooling. She’s been doing it for 10 years. When she and her husband, Eric, made the difficult decision to homeschool, they were met with a lot of opposition.
“I can’t remember one positive comment about our decision,” Marta says. “In fact, we faced quite a bit of hostility. We felt we were constantly being judged and my kids were scrutinized.”
But despite the lack of support, the mother of four was determined to educate her children at home. Doing so has allowed her to reconnect with her kids and to teach them according to their needs.
When her first-grader didn’t show any interest in learning to read on his own, Marta and her husband did a lot of research and discovered that the hemispheres in his young brain were not making the cross-over connections needed for decoding to happen. Strange as it may seem, they bought a trampoline, signed him up for gymnastics, and stopped most formal schooling. Within weeks, her son was reading on his own.
Today, most of Marta’s children are grown, and she has only one child left in homeschool. He’ll graduate in 2014. When asked how things have changed, Marta says that people who know them now are impressed by how articulate and charming her children are.
“We have raised four wonderful, independent thinkers,” Marta says. “They are comfortable in just about every situation. And we, as their parents, really know them. They are not dependent upon their peers, and we have never, ever heard them utter the words, ‘I’m bored.’ ”
You can read more about Marta’s life and her homeschooling experience on her blog, My Big Fat Cuban Family.