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Demographics of home schoolers: a regional analysis within the national parameters.

School days, school days, good old golden rule days


The schools ain't what they used to be and never was

--Will Rogers


This manuscript addresses the relative congruence that a (self-selected) sample of families which home-school their children from one area of the country shares with the larger national sample of families which also home-schools their children. In addition to the demographics, the primary motivations to choose home-schooling were also examined between the regional sample and the national sample.

Although the notion that children learn about their environs, in part, from their home-life is hardly new, an up-surge wherein home-schooling is actualized in lieu of non-residential (public or private) schooling is relatively recent (Ray 2000). In the 1970's, home-schooling was nearly extinct (Ray, 2000). There were only about 15,000 children being home-schooled (Grossman 2001) or only .03% of the total number of students (Bureau of the Census 1976).

Although current estimates do vary, a generally accepted figure is that just over a million children--or about 2.2% of all student ages 5 through 17 years--were being home-schooled in 2003 (Bureau of the Census 2007, National Center for Education Statistics 2003). The trajectory of the number and percentages of such home-schooled students appears to continue to be upward. In addition to addressing the relative congruence of a regional sample of home-schooled families with a national sample of home-schooled children, this article also discusses a comparison of similar demographics between America's home-schooled children and those children who are non-home-schooled.

The 7 to 12 percent growth in home-schooling since 1972 has been variously attributed to an increase in violence in schools and an overall parental dissatisfaction with public schools, inter alia (Grossman, 2001). Aligned with parental dissatisfaction, a good benchmark to understand this up-surge would begin with the works of Holt (1964, 1967) and Illich (1971). John Holt has been considered the father of the modern home-schooling movement (Solomon 2002). Holt was aware that few people inside or out of the school system would support or even tolerate allowing children more freedom, choice, and self-direction (Dobson 1998). Holt began to change his own ideas about schooling when he started communicating with Ivan Illich, the author of Deschooling Society (1971). Illich's ideas both challenged and complemented Holt's perspective. Holt, himself, challenged the belief that the current school-system was not merely a good idea gone wrong; instead, the entire concept may have been a bad idea from the start (Dobson, 1998). He began meeting with parents that had already taken their children out of public school to learn at home. Holt (1972) analyzed the free school movement in his book titled Freedom and Beyond. In 1977, Holt founded the magazine Growing Without Schooling, to lend support to these families that had decided to home-school (Dobson 1998). It should be noted that, although Holt was a supporter of home-schooling, he never stopped trying to change the public schooling system through reform (Fargena, 1999). For an extensive history of "tutoring"--which would include home-schooling--see Gordon & Gordon (1990).


The sample for this study was composed of self-selected volunteers from the total population of families who are members of the local Home School Association which was in a large southwestern metropolitan area. Participants in this study were those members who returned an on-line questionnaire which was posted on the Association's web-site. The sample size consisted of 130 families with a wide range of diverse demographics, backgrounds, and educational experiences.

Data Collection

The questionnaire was emailed to the site manager of the website for the local Home School Association. The manager of the site then forwarded the questionnaire to the 700 member families of the organization. The questionnaire included an informed consent form that insured anonymity. In addition, an explanation of the questionnaire and full instructions for filling out the questionnaire were provided for the participants. Questionnaires were collected on-line for one month. The questionnaire, upon request or preference, could have also been mailed to the researcher by the participants during the one month time span. For those families who did not respond to the first questionnaire within two weeks, a follow-up email and the same questionnaire were sent to them. A total of 130 questionnaires were returned and were usable or 18.6% of the 700 potential subjects.

The data from this Home School Association were then compared with data from a national sample of home-schooled children and data from a national sample of non-home-schooled children (US. Bureau of the Census 2008, U.S. Department of Education 2003).


See Table 1 for the (available) demographic data for the three samples: (1) the regional sample from the surveyed Home School Association, (2) a national sample of home-schooled children, and (3) a national sample of non-home-schooled children.

With the regional sample as the frame of reference, the following results occurred (Table 2.):

In terms of the gender of student, the regional sample did not differ from either of the two other samples.

In terms of ethnicity, White (non-Hispanic) was over-represented in the regional home-schooled sample--compared to the national non-home-schooled sample. However, the regional home-schooled sample did not differ from the national home-schooled sample.

The percentage of one-child families was higher in the regional sample than both of the other two samples.

In terms of percentages of two parent families, the regional sample was higher than the national non-home-schooled sample, but did not differ from the national home-schooled sample.

In terms of having a college degree (or higher), the percentage of parents from the regional sample was higher than both the national home-schooled sample and the national non-home-schooled sample.

In terms of religious affiliation, the families of the regional sample were more likely to be Christian than the national nonhome-schooled sample, but not different from the national home-schooled sample. See Table 2.

Reasons to home-school

In terms of why the decision was made to home-school, the five most frequently mentioned reasons to home-school are given in Table 3 for the regional and national samples. A comparison of the over-lapping reasons indicated that the regional sample had prioritized moral values and academics more so than did the national sample; however the national sample prioritized discipline more so than did the regional sample. There was no difference between the two samples along the religious dimension. See Table 4.


Although the regional sample is self-selected and may not be totally congruent with the rest of the Association's families, the sample itself is instructive. The sample tended to stress a strong moral code, academic achievement, and social skills. The families tended to have two parents in residence, to be well-educated, to be White (non-Hispanic) and to be Christian. Measured against the Department of Education's list of factors which increase/decrease school achievement, these children would be predicted to perform with success as adjudged by typical barometers of academic achievement. Examples of such risk factors include poverty, single-parent family, lack of English spoken in the home, teen-age pregnancy, low level of mother's education, and chronic medical problems (Flinn 1993; Principal Magazine, 2004; NCES 2000).

While standardized test results were not available for the Regional sample, there are results from the national sample of home-schooled children. For all twelve grades tested and for all of the seven scaled scores, the home-schooled students outscored their private/public school counter-parts. The seven scores were composite, reading, language, math, social studies, science, and national median. The percentiles ranged from 62nd to the 91st percentile (Rudner 1999).


Parents who decide to home-school do not represent a random assortment of individuals. In the U.S., ethnicity, religion, family structure, parent's educational levels (and probably educational expectations for their children) form a core set of demographics which are over-represented in the home-schooled students. Available evidence indicates that enhanced achievement by the home-schooled students is a consequence of this core set of demographics.


Dobson, L. (1998). The Home-schooling Book of Answers: The 88 Most Important Questions Answered by Home-schooling's Most Respected Voices. Rocklin, CA: Prima Publishing.

Gordon, E. E. & Gordon, E. H. (1990) Centuries of Tutoring: A history of alternative education in America and Western Europe. NY: University Press of America

Farenga, P. (1999). John Holt and the origins of contemporary home-schooling. Massachusetts Home Learning Association. Retrieved on 2003 March 11 from

Grossman, R. (2001). Home is where the school is: The number of home-schooled children has tripled over the past decade, leading to workplace changes as these children make their way into the workforce. HR Magazine. Retrieved on 2003

Holt, J. (1964). How Children Fail. New York: Pitman Publishing Company.

Holt, J. (1967). How Children Learn. New York: Pitman Publishing Company.

Holt, J. (1969). The Underachieving School. New York: Pitman Publishing Company.

Holt, J. (1970). What Do I Do Monday? Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook Publishers.

Holt, J. (1972). Freedom and Beyond. Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook Publishers.

Illich, I. (1971). Deschooling Society. Great Britain: Calder and Boyars Ltd.

Joyce, B., Weil, M., and Calhoun, E. (2000). Models of Teaching. Massachusetts: A Pearson Education Company.

National Center for Education Statistics (2000) Special Analysis 2000. Entering Kindergarten: A portrait of American children when they begin school. << 00/essay/e07.asp>>

Principal Magazine, The Turnaround Principal (2004) Trends in Education--Sept. 2004. 84(1): 50-52.

Ray, B. (2000). Home-schooling for individuals' gain and society's common good. Peabody Journal of Education 75 (1/2) 272-93. Retrieved on 2003 March 11 from esults_single.jhtml?nn=29

Rudner, L. (1999). The Scholastic Achievement of Home-School Students. ERIC Digest. Retrieved on 2003 February 10 from

Solomon, J. (2002). John Holt's How Children Learn. Retrieved on 2003 March 11 from << arn.htm >>

U.S. Bureau of the Census (2008) Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2008 (129nd ed.) Washington, D. C.: U. S. Government Printing Office.

U. S. Department of Education (2003) Parent and Family Involvement in Education survey of the 2003 NHES.


School Of Education

University Of Houston- Clear Lake

Houston, Texas


Aldine Independent School District

Aldine, Texas


Department Of Criminal Justice

Jacksonville State University

Jacksonville, Alabama
Table 1.
Comparisons of demographics of three categories of schooling for
American children: home schooling from a region, home schooling
in the nation, and non-home schooling in the nation.

Demographic                            Category of schooling:

                            Regional    National    National
                             home-       home-      non-home
                            schooled    schooled    schooled
Grade equivalent
  K-5                            na         43.3%      48.0%
  Kindergarten                   na          9.0%       7.2%
  Grades 1 to 3                  na         19.7%      24.0%
  Grades 4 to 5                  na         14.7%      16.9%
  Grades 6 to 8                  na         27.8%      24.5%
  Grades 9 to 12                 na         28.9%      27.5%

Gender of student
  Male                         48.9%        51.9%      50.9%
  Female                       51.1%        48.1%      49.1%

  White: Non-Hispanic          83.1%        77.0%      62.0%
  Black: Non-Hispanic           2.2%         9.4%      15.9%
  Hispanic                      7.4%         5.3%      16.2%
  Other                         4.3%         8.3%       6.0%

Number of children
in the household
  One child                    24.6%        10.1%      16.0%
  Two children                 30.0%        28.0%      40.8%
  Three or more                45.4%       62.0%       43.3%

Number of parents in
the household
  Two parents                  86.1%        80.8%      70.7%
  One parent                    4.7%        17.9%      26.3%
  Non-parental guardians         na          1.3%       3.0%

Parents' participation
in the labor force:
  Two parents"
   one in labor force                       54.2%      20.1%
   both in labor force                      25.0%      50.1%
  One parent in labor                       15.9%      23.9%

Highest parental
educational level
  High school diploma          22.1%        24.5%      32.9%
   or less
  Vo-tech/degree or            17.9%        30.8%      31.7%
   some college
  Bachelor's degree            37.9%        25.0%      19.2%
   professional school         22.1%        19.6%      17.2%

Religious affiliation:
  Christian                    92.0%        93.8%      76.0%
  Other                         2.0%         6.2%      10.8%
  None                          6.0%          na       13.2%

Analysis of demographics (through proportions) across the three
samples: Regional home-schooling, National home-schooling,
National non-home-schooled.

                       Regional   National       National
Demographic:           home-      home-          non-home-
                       schooled   schooled       schooled
Gender of student:
  Male                 48.9%      51.9%          50.9%
  Female               51.1%      48.1%          49.1%
White; non-Hispanic    83.1%      77.0%          62.0%
One-child families     24.6%      10.1% **       16.0%
Two parent families    86.1%      80.8%          70.7% **
College degree         60.0%      44.6% **       36.4% **
 or more
Christian              92.0%      93.8%          76.0% **

* differs from Regional home-schooled: z-scores; p < .05

** differs from Regional home-schooled: z-scores; p < .001

Ranked mentioned reasons (in percentages) that influence
the decision to home-school: regional and national.

                        REGIONAL: *

Rank   Category                            %

1      Moral values                        90%

2      Academic content                    89%

3      Religious concerns                  65%
4      Social skills                       63%
5      Discipline                          30%


Rank   Category                            %

1      Environment in other              85.4%
2      Religious or moral instruction    72.3%
3      Concern over academic             68.2%
       instruction in other schools
4      Child has special needs           44.8%
5      Other reasons                     20.1%

e.g. safety, drugs, or negative peer pressure.

Analysis of the mentioned priorities (through proportions)
in choosing to home-school children for Regional and
National samples.

                Regional   National
Priority         sample     sample     z-score

Moral values     90.0%      72.3%     6.73 *
Academics        89.0%      68.2%     7.58 *
Religion         65.0%      72.3%     1.745 n.s.
Discipline       30.0%      85.4%     13.78 *

p < .001
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Author:Mackey, Bonnie W.; Reese, Kasha; Mackey, Wade C.
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 22, 2011
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