Homeschooling on the Decline?

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.

9 thoughts on “Homeschooling on the Decline?

  1. I have a cousin that could be your friend. She too was an accident, and only child. She didn’t get married until she was too old to have children. She teaches P.E. to other people children. What a sad life, no one to be there for you when you get older. No one to be best friends with from birth.

    I’m glad my mother didn’t homeschool us, she wasn’t cut out to do it. But I’m blessed to have been able to teach not only my own children, but to keep going with 2 of my granddaughters. There are some “issues” with the oldest, but we are getting through it.

    Thanks for your blogs! I love them.

  2. There’s also been some improvement in the quality of government-run schools at least in certain places. Families who never even would’ve considered enrolling their children in a government-run school 5 or 10 years ago are now willing to give it a try. Granted most of those families would’ve gone the private school route, but some of them might’ve ended up homeschooling.

    In our district, there’s a new Mandarin immersion program being started. If they had done this a couple years ago before we began HS, there’s a good chance we would’ve enrolled our oldest. At the time we started HS, we were pretty much doing it by default because we didn’t like our other options. It didn’t take long for me to become “sold” on the benefits of HS and now I wouldn’t send my younger ones to that Mandarin program. But at first, I was definitely a bit skeptical about HS.

  3. My dd1 is like that. Not abusive just not homeschool material. She didn’t like it when I started and she was 15 and pg. She doesn’t have the patients to do it. I also think she is lazy. Thankfully she is in a good school. They want to in that school district.

  4. Jan, I know my mom wasn’t cut out for it!

    CW, where I come from the schools were on the decline. However, here in WI the virtual academy is making a dent, though I doubt that’s so among the diehard homeschoolers. Re: Mandarin, I hear that’s really big now.

    Barbaralee, at least you tried with your dd.

  5. Although one of my children would love to be homeschooled, I have never thought I was up to the challenge. He has always done OK in public school. I actually am a public school teacher — on a long term leave of absence. Now that he is 8th grade, his grades have taken a nose dive, his depressive moods are high, and I don’t know which end is up. Since I am at hime right now, I could home school, but I don’t even know where to begin. That, and the ever increasing pressure of my husband for me to go back to work to keep us from financial ruin. If only I knew for certain what is best for all. Any advice?

  6. In my state (WA), between the virtual online schools (there are 3), and the “parent partnership” schools, they are recruiting large numbers of homeschoolers… even the diehard ones… What we are beginning to see where I live, however, is that families are wising up and pulling OUT of these programs. Here in my city, anyway. Still, these programs are gaining a huge foothold in Washington and they recruit heavily from among the homeschool population, as well as gaining first-timers who “heard about a homeschool program” and decided to do that rather than full time public school.

  7. Mel, your son’s at a tough age, and it could be that he will come around before long. But if not, homeschooling could definitely be an option for you, if your husband becomes supportive. Have you read anything by John Taylor Gatto? He was chosen teacher of the year in New York state a while back but quit the job after 30 years and became a homeschool advocate. Try Dumbing Us Down or A Different Kind of Teacher.

    As for financial ruin, assuming you don’t live in a hideously expensive area like NYC where two high incomes are a necessity, have you done the math? You might find that between taxes and expenses, that second income won’t be much help. I wish you the best whatever you decide!

    Dawn, that’s too bad. What happens if they won’t let you just pull out of these programs? I think some of those people will regret that choice. Thanks for filling me in!

  8. I agree that the growth couldn’t just continue at the high rate it had over the last 20+ years. There will likely continue to be some growth, although it might not occur across the board. What I’m hoping is that homeschooling signals a reform of looking at education as something that should be parent directed, even if the parent isn’t the one delivering every lesson. Breaking the monopoly of public schools would be a good thing in my mind.
    I use cooking analogies a lot. We all agree that food is a necessity. But we don’t expect that we will go to a government kitchen or state run restaurant for our meals. We value the variety made possible through competition and the control that we have in our own homes. In my mind, education should flow through a similar pattern.

  9. You make some great points, Sebastian. I wonder if people will be forced to look as education as more parent-directed as the public school are affected by drops in funding because of our bad economic situation….

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