Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Yet Another Set of Homeschool Statistics Put Out By The Government And The Media

The U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education, came out with their report on homeschooling. It's been all the talk on websites and blogs and Facebook. I have been sitting back and just trying to sort it all out. The bean counting continues and it is a tad annoying especially because it is inaccurate and misinterpreted.

USAToday - The "McPaper" of the United States, posted a report online trying to summarize the NCES report and they claimed that
Parents who homeschool their children are increasingly white, wealthy and well-educated — and their numbers have nearly doubled in less than a decade, according to findings out today from the federal government.
Actually, I didn't see such a huge spike in numbers,at least not to claim a "big shift", and I agree with this blogger that much in the USA Today piece was just for sensationalization purposes.
Even the title of the report, “Profound shift in kind of families who are home schooling their children,” is somewhat deceptive. The report offers little or no proof of the “profound shift,” and at times actually offers evidence that is anything but profound.

For instance, as evidence of the “wealth” of these families, the report states, “Home schooling has grown most sharply for higher-income families” (emphasis added). The author bases this assertion on the fact that, “In 1999, 63.6% of home-schooling families earned less than $50,000. Now 60.0% earn more than $50,000.” What the report doesn’t tell you is that their definition of “higher-income” is a complete farce. According to the Census Bureau, median income in 2008 was $50,233 (the mean was over $67,000 the year before). In other words, sixty percent of homeschool families are at median income level (and well below the mean). I’m no mathematician (remember, I’m a product of government schools), but I’m pretty sure that there is a big difference between ‘median’ income and “higher-income”.
Actually the NCES report regarding homeschoolers showed the percentage in the race category "white" moving up slightly from 75.3% in 1999 to 76.8% in 2007 (after dropping from 77.0% in 2003). That is hardly a "profound shift" nor is it "increasingly white" as described in the headline and text of the USA Today article. But statistics can always be made to sound more provocative, if that's what is intended.

The USAToday analysis is simplistic and ignores basic economic facts, while trying to create a sense that homeschoolers are somehow whiter and richer. They are misleading, and neglected to mention the more impressive growth in numbers of non-white children who homeschool. If I am to believe the numbers cited, those numbers went from 253,000 in 2003 to 349,000 in 2007. That's close to 100,000 kids and almost 38% growth! (I did a post about the rise in homeschooling in the black community)

USAToday continued by saying:
As of the spring of 2007, an estimated 1.5 million, or 2.9% of all school-age children in the USA, were homeschooled, up from 850,000 (or 1.7%) in 1999.

Of the 1.5 million, just under 1.3 million are homeschooled "entirely," not attending public or private school classes of any type.
They stated that their figures came compliments of the latest Condition of Education, a massive compilation of statistics which were released in Washington by the U.S. Education Department.

I have to question the validity of their numbers overall, since there are many homeschoolers in this country that aren't even counted or tracked (nor should they be!) since we all don't report to the government (thank goodness). I believe these numbers to be low as compared to reality. Some states do not require any form of notification, so it would be very difficult to have a real count of numbers of homeschoolers nationally.

Quite frankly, I think that homeschoolers do not need to be counted and labeled and bean sorted. The statistics are usually wrong anyway, or are skewed in some manner to try to push some sort of agenda. In this case, the media would like you all to believe that we are white and rich so it can be hinted at that we are somehow segregationist, and that non white families are somehow too poor or too uneducated themselves to homeschool their children. They would like you to believe that homeschooling is only for the privileged white folk in this country. They can then claim we aren't diverse enough, and as a result we need some sort of government intervention.

Suffice it to say most homeschool group leaders can tell you that homeschooling is growing, and anecdotally we are seeing higher numbers in special needs children and non-white families turning to homeschooling as the government schools continue to be unable and often times unwilling to provide a decent education for those families. It might be noted too that schools have a nasty habit of keeping kids on their enrollment list even after they have left the school system. They get more funding as a result of this fraud. I happen to know families who kids got report cards even when their kids had been withdrawn from school! It is especially lucrative for special needs kids if the child has been withdrawn and the school continues to show them enrolled in their school! Yes, it happens. You don't see USA Today doing an expose on that though.

The truth is that what all homeschooling families seek is to provide their kids with a good well rounded education; one that provides deeper study and scrutiny into their coursework; one that provides flexibility and does not hold a child back; and one that is tailored to the needs of the individual. Most families coming to homeschooling have indicated that they were fed up with the bureaucracy and restrictions of a government school education, the bullying of students by students and teachers, and the bullying of parents by administrators. They have had it with the crime and unsafe environment and the monopolization of their child's time with homework, busy work and other school related activity.

But you don't see that in the statistical tables - do you?

It doesn't much matter really how many are homeschooled or why - what matters most of all is that homeschooling remains a free and unfettered choice over government and private schooling.

What matters is that homeschooled kids are excelling and getting into good colleges and that they are learning to navigate the real world while staying connected to their family. While the media would like you to be suspicious of what families are teaching their homeschooled kids, we think you ought to be more concerned about what the government schools are NOT teaching your government schooled kids.

We should all be vigilant and make sure that homeschooling is kept free from government interference and that a parent's right to withdraw their child unconditionally from government schooling is protected and maintained. Your child should not be held prisoner in a failing school or any other government school for that matter.

Homeschooling continues to be mocked, criticized, and assaulted by the powerful teacher lobbying organizations and statist zealots that exist in this country. We know the reason why; because homeschooling families are a threat. We have proven that you don't need an advanced degree to teach anything and that kids can be educated for far less money than government schools require of taxpayers. We are teaching our children to be independent thinkers and self reliant individuals.

Homeschooling works.
It works for families of all walks of life - all ethnicities and all socio-economic means.
It may not be for everyone - but it certainly should continue to be a choice and a parent's unalienable right to choose as part of raising and nurturing their child(ren).
Homeschoolers, for the most part, don't want or need federal or state money or the regulation that comes with tax breaks or whatever other enticements government can dream up. Thank you very, much but we would like to maintain our autonomy, at least those of us who still have autonomy.

Homeschooling is doing just fine, and it is continually growing. Those of us in the homeschooling community don't need anyone's statistics to tell us that.

"Statistics are like bikinis. What they reveal is suggestive, but what they conceal is vital." ~Aaron Levenstein

"Not everything that can be counted counts; and not everything that counts can be counted." ~ George Gallup

"Definition of Statistics: The science of producing unreliable facts from reliable figures." ~ Evan Esar