Recently I was surprised to read that the number of homeschoolers here in Wisconsin has decreased. Since I’m accustomed to the homeschooling movement growing like a weed, that was news to me.
And it’s likely to be accurate, because we have to submit a form every fall stating the sex and grade level of each of our children. So the state should have a pretty good idea of how many homeschoolers there are here.
I realize that Wisconsin has a virtual academy, a program where kids learn at home using a state program. They are counted as public school students, and rightly so. Some homeschoolers have switched over to that program and thus reduce the headcount of homeschooled. But nationally, the annual increases in the rate of homeschooling are shrinking, so I don’t think the virtual academy gets all of the blame (or credit, depending on which side of the fence you’re on).
I think this decline was inevitable. For one thing, my generation has not replaced itself. Even parochial schools are seeing decreases in enrollment, and many small local public schools long ago disappeared in favor of larger consolidated schools. So there has not been as high of an increase in the birth rate as one would expect. (The millions aborted since 1973 represent a good portion of the missing.)
Also, the economic difficulties of the past few years have sent some stay-at-home moms back into the work force. I’ve known some parents who could work and homeschool, but it’s certainly not easy, and many parents don’t feel up to it.
Last but not least, the homeschooling movement could not continue the exponential growth rate it saw over the last 25 years. Few movements do. Sooner or later, it was inevitable that things would start to taper off. I know many people don’t want to hear that, especially those who earn a living off of homeschooling (full disclosure: I’m one of them.) But it couldn’t go on expanding like it did.
And that’s a good thing, really, because there are plenty of parents who should not homeschool their kids. I remember a woman I used to know who told me, right in front of her child, that she was an accident whose arrival ruined her parents’ carefree lifestyle. They put her in daycare as soon as she was old enough to be allowed in (six weeks old). When she was five, they put cable television in her room so she’d stay upstairs. To make a long story short, she grew up to be a drug-using, promiscuous mess. But had she spent every day being homeschooled by her hostile mother (I can’t even picture that!), she would likely be even worse off now.
So I don’t think homeschooling could (or should) ever expand to include all parents. Thus its growth had to slow down sooner or later.