North Carolina has one of the largest homeschool populations in the nation, according to a new Ed NC analysis.
The report comes amid marked jumps in the state’s homeschool population since 2003, coinciding with the growing visibility of the school choice movement in North Carolina.
From Ed NC:
In the 2016-2017 school year, an estimated 127,847 children were homeschooled. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the number of homeschooled students in the U.S. has increased from 1,096,000 in 2003 to 1,773,000 in 2012 – an increase from 2.2 percent of the student population to 3.4 percent.
If homeschooled students in North Carolina were grouped in a school district, it would be the third largest district in the state behind Wake County and Charlotte-Mecklenburg.
In the 2003-04 school year, the North Carolina Division of Non-Public Education reported 28,746 homeschools and an estimated 54,501 homeschooled students. In the 2016-17 school year, those numbers jumped to 80,973 homeschools and an estimated 127,847 homeschooled students — an increase from 3.9 percent of students homeschooled in 2004 to 8.4 percent in 2016-2017.
The number of new homeschools opening each year is also growing again. In 1987-1988, the first year for which the Division of Non-Public Education has data, 460 new homeschools opened. From then until 2000-2001, the number of new homeschools opening each year grew rapidly, plateauing at about 6,200 homeschools opening in 2000-2001.
As evident in the graph below, the number of new homeschools opening each year decreased slightly in 2002-2003 and then grew slowly until 2010-2011. Since then, it has grown rapidly over the past six years.
The Ed NC report goes on to offer some perspective on the context, pointing out some parents are looking for a more individualized learning experience.
More from Ed NC:
In North Carolina, religious affiliated homeschools still outnumber independent homeschools, but not by much (60 percent are classified as religious; 40 percent are independent).
During my research on homeschools last year, I talked with a number of parents who homeschool. Each cited a different reason for wanting to homeschool, but a common theme emerged: parents and students want a more individualized learning experience.
Jessica, a mom of 10, said she chose to homeschool all of her children because of her own experience being homeschooled as a teenager.
“I was always very bored in school, always waiting on the other kids,” she said. “I would often be put in gifted or accelerated learning classes that were only supplemental. Those were the only times there was anything in school that really challenged me.”
Once she started homeschooling, Jessica completed her junior and senior years of high school in one year and had time to pursue other interests.
Another parent, Karen, said, “Even though her [daughter’s] private school was excellent, there were certain things they wanted mastered before other things. I understood why they did that, but it can’t always work for everyone. Now I have a lot more freedom to tailor the experience to my kids’ strengths.”
While there are many more reasons parents choose to homeschool their children, it is clear that a growing number of families see it as a viable alternative to public or private schools — a trend that shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon.