Homeschooling is an increasingly popular educational alternative in which children learn outside of conventional schools under the general supervision of their parents.
Some homeschooling families operate like small-scale versions of conventional schools, with textbooks and tests and traditional grades. Other families freely adapt ideas from other alternative educational philosophies such as Waldorf, Montessori, Reggio Emilia, or the Sudbury model, while still more give their children considerable control over what is learned and how learning takes place.
Occasionally, some parents choose to supplement their children’s school experience, calling such enrichment "homeschooling." While such an approach can be useful, it is qualitatively different from what we call homeschooling, which is a substitute for, rather than an adjunct to, the conventional school experience.
Homeschoolers are a microcosm of the larger society. We live in large cities and small towns, on remote homesteads and in suburbia. We are families both large and small, with two parents and with one, households with two incomes, with one full-time income or with several part-time incomes. We are religious and agnostic and atheist, conservative and liberal and libertarian and progressive. We are your neighbors.
How many homeschoolers are there?
The exact number of homeschooled students in California is unknown. Many families choose public homeschooling options such as home study programs and charter schools, and so are not counted by the California Department of Education (CDE) as homeschoolers. Other homeschooling families file the private school affidavit, or enroll in private schools which offer homeschooling programs. Although the CDE assumes that private schools with 5 or fewer students are homeschooling families, it has no way to determine how many of the students enrolled in larger private schools are actually homeschoolers. In addition, there may be considerable numbers of homeschooling families who do not bother with compliance with the state’s compulsory attendance law.
Estimates of the number of homeschoolers nationally are no more solid. Patricia Lines, a researcher with the Office of Educational Research and Improvement of the U.S. Department of Education, estimates that there are at least 500,000 homeschooled students in the U.S., comprising around one percent of the school-age population. Other researchers put the total as high as 1 to 2 million.
For California, this means there may be anywhere from 60,000 to 200,000 school-age children learning outside conventional school settings.