Reasons Parents Homeschool

Every four years, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) conducts its National Household Education Survey (NHES). This survey provides the most comprehensive data we have on parents’ motivations for homeschooling.

Analysis: In the 2016 NHES, most common reason parents gave for homeschooling was a concern about the environment of other schools (80%). Almost two-thirds of homeschooling parents cited dissatisfaction with academic instruction at other schools (61%). Large numbers of parents also indicated that they were homeschooling to provide to provide moral (67%) or religious (51%) instruction or in order to provide a nontraditional approach to a child’s education (39%). Comparatively fewer parents cited physical or mental health problems (14%), special needs (20%), or temporary illness (4%). 

Analysis: Roughly one-third of parents (34%) surveyed in the 2016 NHES selected concern about the environment of other schools as their most important reason for homeschooling. This was in response to the question “You are concerned about the school environment, such as safety, drugs, or negative peer pressure?” This would include concerns about bullying. After concerns about the environment of other schools, the next highest reasons parents selected as their most important reason for homeschooling were dissatisfaction with academic instruction (17%) and a desire to provide religious instruction (16%). 

Change Over Time

Analysis: Parents were asked to select all that apply. The declines in each of the categories above for 2016 reflect a smaller number of parents citing each reason (in 2016 each parent selected an average of 3.5 reasons as compared with 4.2 reasons in 2012). It is possible that parents’ reasons for homeschooling are becoming more focused; it is also possible that parents will again select more categories in the next survey.  

Other Reasons

In a smaller number of cases, abusive parents homeschool in order to isolate their children and conceal their maltreatment. In many cases this homeschooling occurs after a report is made to a child abuse hotline or after a child services case is closed. For documentation, see the Homeschooling’s Invisible Children database and “Child Torture as a Form of Abuse,” by Barbara Knox, et al., published in the Journal of Child and Adolescent Trauma in 2014.

Analysis: Because of the nature of the issue, there is no data that will tell us the overall number of parents who homeschool in part or in whole to conceal abuse. The data we do have suggests that among parents who abuse school-age children so severely that their abuse can be deemed torture, homeschooling is a popular choice. 

Further Reading:

How Have Scholars Divided Homeschoolers into Groups?

Page last updated in November 2017.

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