Practically Speaking

Kyle and her husband moved to Brookfield in 1986. She became active in local politics and started blogging in 2004. Her focus is primarily on local issues but often includes state and national topics, too. Kyle looks at things from the taxpayers' perspective in a creative, yet down to earth way, addressing them from a practical point of view.

Home schooling movement growing, so is "unschooling"

Education, Homeschooling Homeschooling Grows Rapidly, HSLDA Jan. 6, 2009

Purcellville, VA—The National Center for Education Statistics, which is part of the Department of Education estimates that homeschooling grew 36% between 2003 and 2007. “Homeschoolers can now be found in all walks of life,” said Michael Smith, HSLDA President.

The NCES estimates 1.5 million homeschooled children, or 2.9% of the school age population in 2007. This is a significant increase from 1.1 million in 2003, or 2.2% of the school aged population.

The NCES survey also considered the reasons parents are turning to homeschooling. Parents continued to cite the negative peer influences of public school, the desire to provide religious or moral instruction as well as concern about the academic quality of public school as their reasons for homeschooling.

The greatest change from 2003 was an 11 point increase in the desire to provide religious and moral instruction which went from 72% in 2003 to 83% in 2007. Concerns about the school environment, however, remained the top reason with 88%.

“Homeschooling is a mainstream educational alternative. It will continue to flourish as parents and children continue to experience the social and academic benefits of a home based education,” said Smith.

Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) is a 25-year-old, 85,000 member non-profit organization and the preeminent national association advocating the legal right of parents to homeschool their children. Home schooling grows

The ranks of America's home-schooled children have continued a steady climb over the past five years, and new research suggests broader reasons for the appeal.

The number of home-schooled kids hit 1.5 million in 2007, up 74% from when the Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics started keeping track in 1999, and up 36% since 2003. The percentage of the school-age population that was home-schooled increased from 2.2% in 2003 to 2.9% in 2007. "There's no reason to believe it would not keep going up," says Gail Mulligan, a statistician at the center.

Traditionally, the biggest motivations for parents to teach their children at home have been moral or religious reasons, and that remains a top pick when parents are asked to explain their choice.

The 2003 survey gave parents six reasons to pick as their motivation. (They could choose more than one.) The 2007 survey added a seventh: an interest in a "non-traditional approach," a reference to parents dubbed "unschoolers," who regard standard curriculum methods and standardized testing as counterproductive to a quality education.

"We wanted to identify the parents who are part of the 'unschooling' movement," Mulligan says. The "unschooling" group is viewed by educators as a subset of home-schoolers, who generally follow standard curriculum and grading systems. "Unschoolers" create their own systems.


The category of "other reasons" rose to 32% in 2007 from 20% in 2003 and included family time and finances. That suggests the demographics are expanding beyond conservative Christian groups, says Robert Kunzman, an associate professor at Indiana University's School of Education. Anecdotal evidence indicates many parents want their kids to learn at their own pace, he says.

Fewer home-schoolers were enrolled part time in traditional schools to study subjects their parents lack knowledge to teach. Eighteen percent were enrolled part time in 1999 and 2003, compared with 16% in 2007. Kunzman says this might be because of the availability of online instruction.

The 2007 estimates are based on data from the Parent and Family Involvement in Education Survey of the National Household Education Surveys. Brian Ray, president of the National Home Education Research Institute, says the estimates are low because home-schooling parents "are significantly less likely to answer government-sponsored surveys."


It's wonderful to see the term "unschooling" in the news. Few know what it is. This article mentions that "unschoolers" create their own system instead of following a standard curriculum or grading system. This is true, but I would like to add a few additional points about unschooling.

Unschoolers believe that learning can take place at any time, anywhere. They also feel that standard subjects taught in school, such as math, reading, science, history, geography, etc., can (and should) be learned not just when sitting down for a learning "session", but during everyday life tasks.

For example, while baking cookies a child can be taught much more than simply how to bake. She can learn how to measure, add and multiply. By going to the store with her parent to buy the ingredients for the cookies she can learn how to find the lowest prices by dividing the price by the ounces or grams and comparing the unit price with other brands. She can learn how to count change when paying for items at the check-out counter. Scheduling can be learned as her parent explains how much time they can spend baking while considering other things they have to get done during the day.

That is just one example. Nature walks, balancing the checkbook, leisurely reading accompanied by enjoyable discussion of what was read, games, sports, and Internet browsing are all opportunities to learn.

Unit studies, in which one topic (such as automobiles) is studied in depth are highly useful in homeschooling as children learn how science and math relates to everyday life.

Unschooling is not about pulling a kid out of school so he can watch TV and play video games all day. It's not about not learning. To the contrary, it's about integrating education and the real world.

kbroccoli, Author of the Homeschooling ADD Kids blog at

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