Fifteen years ago, the homeschooling movement seemed small, obscure, and, frankly, a bit scary. As a group, they seemed to be running away from the “immoral” public school system, and you were as likely to find them on a ramshackle farm in the middle of nowhere as doing seventh-grade Algebra at a kitchen table (and in some extreme cases, featured in publications like Slate using it as a front to neglect and abuse their kids).
In short, the homeschooling movement was brushed off as too quirky and fringe to be taken seriously. But fast forward, and the movement is burgeoning: It represents much of what is great about American democracy, and simultaneously shows what is good and what’s going wrong with education in America today.
Homeschooling Is Growing Ridiculously Fast
Last year, USA Today reported that in 1999, homeschoolers made up a tiny sect of the American population. “An estimated 850,000 students nationwide were being homeschooled. By 2011-12, that number had more than doubled to 1.77 million.” According to a recently released Florida Department of Education report, “The number of homeschooled children in Florida saw its biggest increase in five years during 2014-15. Last year, the state counted 84,096 children in home schooling, up 9.6 percent from a year earlier.”
The reasons? According to the U.S. Department of Education, roughly nine out of ten parents who homeschooled their children during the 2011-12 school year said school environment, meaning safety, drugs, and peer pressure, contributed to their decision.