Homeschooling Elementary

Statistics for Homeschooling Elementary-school-age Children

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES)  homeschool statistics tell us that in 2003, this is how things broke down:

  • There were 24,428,000 K-5 students in total.
  • 472,000 K-5 students (1.9%) were homeschooled.
  • These homeschooling statistics are up from 428,000 K-5 students (1.8%) in 1999.
  • Of all homeschooled students (including down to Pre-K and up to grade 12), 82% received only homeschooling instruction in both 1999 and 2003.
  • In both years, 18% of students were enrolled in school part time, most of those (around 12.5% in both years) for less than 9 hours each week. Nevertheless, nearly 200,000 homeschooled students in 2003 spent some time in a public or private school setting, up from around 150,000 in 1999.

These data show us a couple of things. First, homeschooling elementary students is becoming more popular, but only slightly. Second, combining homeschooling and other forms of schooling is also becoming more popular. Why is this important?

Ways of Homeschooling

Elementary school is a time during which the essentials of some of the most basic academic subjects are established: literacy, numeracy, the observation skills on which the sciences and social sciences rely, basic understandings in the arts (such as primary colors in visual arts and beginning to read music notation in music). And for basic elements of most disciplines, most homeschooling parents may feel fairly confident. The question for many is: what happens if I hit a dead-end somewhere?

Trouble spots can come up for several main reasons. One is if the homeschooling instructor is not completely familiar with the subject matter and therefore doesn’t feel confident in teaching it. Another is if the way the child learns is quite different from the way in which the homeschooling instructor is comfortable teaching (or knows how to teach). And a third is if the child is not learning the subject matter, whether from an undiagnosed or diagnosed learning disability or for some other reason.

What the homeschool statistics tell us is that homeschooling doesn’t (always) have to be conceived as an us versus them choice: it can – when it is in the child’s best interest to do so – be conceived of as a joint work of home and school instruction. This knowledge may make the choice to homeschool children when you’re not certain of the outcome an easier one to make, because the solution if something does go wrong may not have to be a total change in one’s agenda and approach.

More Advice For Homeschooling Elementary Students

In state curricula, reading, adding and subtracting, and observing the world (including measuring, etc.) are some of the crucial learning elements of this time because later learning builds directly on them. So it’s important to help students master these basics.

Starting in fourth grade, in many places, being able to read entire chapters or books on one’s own underpins a great deal of learning. Students are expected to produce book reports and process information in areas such as social studies and science through their reading. At the same time, students are advancing in working with multiplication, division, fractions, and perhaps beginning percents, all of which depend on a firm grasp of adding and subtracting.

So however you decide to deliver your homeschool curriculum – through textbooks, online courses, a Great Books program, etc. – unless you are unschooling, these are some of the crucial elements that you will want to be sure your elementary student grasps. And if you find that things aren’t going as smoothly as planned, consider the option of a joint venture in your child’s schooling – perhaps only temporary, perhaps lasting – to help your child receive the best education for him or her. Besides joining up with a school, you can also consider joining a homeschool support group,homeschool co-op with another family, and hiring a tutor of your own choosing.


National Center for Education Statistics: