About Homeschooling

About Homeschooling – Part One

Once upon a time, there were no schools, and homeschooling was the norm for children who were not apprenticed. Sometimes that teaching at home might have been conducted by a tutor or a governess, but in many cases, schooling was a private affair, taken care of by each family, rather than a communal and public affair.  This kind of schooling probably wasn’t referred to by a special name: it was just the way things were in, for example, the earliest times in the Colonies. Formal schooling was not an alternative concept: it wasn’t even a consideration.

In 1647, an act of Massachusetts initiated the change toward public schooling. It required that towns having at least fifty families hire a schoolmaster to teach children to read and write. Towns of at least 100 families must hire a grammar master to prepare children for attendance at Harvard College.

But it wasn’t until 1852 that Massachusetts passed a compulsory education law, requiring children to go to school. It was the first state to do so. By 1918, every state had a compulsory school attendance law.

About Homeschooling – Part Two

The re-emergence of homeschooling in the late twentieth century is often credited to the work of three people. John Caldwell Holt, who had taught public school published his book How Children Fail in 1964. In it, he talked about the pressures on children and the relationship of these pressures to school failure. At the same time Raymond Moore, a former Department of Education employee, and Dorothy Moore, a public school teacher, reading specialist, and Raymond’s wife, began researching the effects of institutionalization on children and the best time for the beginning of public school.

People have also identified two strong movements within the homeschooling community: one is followers of Holt; the other is conservative Christians. And wanting to introduce religious or moral elements into their child’s curriculum remains among the top reasons why families choose to homeschool.

About Homeschooling – The Growth

The growth of homeschooling has continued from that time. The National Center for Education Statistics report from December 2008, give us this information:

Year # of Homeschooled Students % of Homeschooled Students
1999 850,000 1.7 %
2003 1.1 million 2.2 %
2007 1.5 million 2.9 %

This is an increase of 74% in eight years.

According to homeschool statistics, other changes that have occurred over this time period include the following:

  • There has been a slight increase in the number of children whose only education is at home and a corresponding decrease in the number of children whose education takes place partly at home and partly in a school setting.
  • In 2003 and 2007, the three top reasons for homeschooling – concerns about the school environment, including safety; the desire to integrate religious or moral education into a child’s education; and concern with the academic quality of the education children were receiving – remained the same. What changed is that the number of parents who were, among other things, concerned about their child’s religious or moral education rose from 72 % to 83 %.
  • In 2003, the most important reason for homeschooling was chosen as environmental concerns by 31.2% of parents. In 2007, the reason given by parents as the most important for choosing homeschooling was to provide religious or moral instruction, chosen by 36% of parents.
  • The second and third choices in 2003 for the most important reason for homeschooling, were religious and moral instruction for 29.8% of parents, and concerns about the quality of academics at the school for 16.5%. In 2007, the second and third choices were concern about the environment (21% of parents) and dissatisfaction with the academics 17%.


History of American Education Web Project – nd.edu
National Conference of State Legislatures – ncsl.org
Cato Institute: Policy Analysis – Homeschooling: Back to the Future? – cato.org
National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) – nces.ed.gov