(iStock)

Home schooling was once a rising trend in the United States, with the percentage of students from kindergarten through high school learning at home going from 1.7 percent in 1999 to 3.4 percent in 2012. New data just released by the Department of Education shows that enrollment has stopped growing since then.

A report on parent and family involvement in education released Tuesday by the department’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) says that for the year 2015-16, the latest data available, 3.3 percent of students ages 5 to 17 were home-schooled, meaning that there has been a slight decrease since 2012. Home schooling accounted for about 4 percent of these students in rural areas, compared to 3 percent in both cities and suburban areas, and around 4 percent in towns.

The vast majority of U.S. schoolchildren attend traditional public schools. The percentage of students in charter schools, which are publicly funded but privately operated, depends upon whom you ask. The latest Education Department figures show that between fall 2004 and fall 2014, charter enrollment jumped from just a million to 2.7 million, increasing the percentage of students in the sector from 2 to 5 percent. The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools said in a recent report that nearly 2.9 million, or more than 6 percent of students, now go to charter schools. NCES says that about 10 percent of students attend private schools.

The top reasons why parents wind up home-schooling their children have remained the same for years.

A recent NCES report on home schooling in 2012 found that the most commonly selected reason among parents in that school year was school environment, including factors such as “safety, drugs, or negative peer pressure.” Other commonly reported reasons in 2012 included “a desire to provide moral instruction,” 77 percent; “a dissatisfaction with academic instruction at other schools,” 74 percent; and “a desire to provide religious instruction,”  64 percent.

The newly released report said:

When asked to select the reasons parents decided to home-school their child, the highest percentage of home-schooled students had parents who said that a concern about the environment of other schools, such as safety, drugs, or negative peer pressure was one reason to home-school (80 percent). The highest percentage of students’ parents reported that among all reasons, a concern about the environment of other schools was the most important reason for home-schooling (34 percent). Seventeen percent of home-schooled
students had parents who reported dissatisfaction with academic instruction at other schools as the most important reason for home-schooling, while 16 percent reported a desire to provide religious instruction as the most important reason for home-schooling.

The data shows  that in 1999, 850,000 students were home-schooled, with that number rising to 1.8 million in 2012.

The report disclosed other information too from parent surveys, including:

  • The most common school-related activity that parents reported participating in during the school year was attending a general school or a parent teacher organization or association meeting (89 percent). Seventy-eight percent of students had parents who reported attending a regularly scheduled parent-teacher conference; 79 percent had parents who attended a school or class event; 43 percent had parents who volunteered or served on a school committee; 59 percent had parents who participated in school fundraising; and 33 percent had parents who met with a guidance counselor. Parents reported attending an average of 7.5 meetings or activities at their children’s school during the 2015-16 school year.
  • Eighty-three percent of students in kindergarten through grade 2 had parents who felt that the amount of homework their child is assigned is “about right.” This percentage was significantly higher than the percentage for students in grades 3 through 5 (75 percent), students in grades 6 through 8 (73 percent), and students in grades 9 through 12 (70 percent).
  • One percent of students in grades 6 through 12 had parents who said that they did not expect their child to complete high school; 9 percent were not expected to pursue education after high school completion; 8 percent were expected to attend vocational or technical school after high school; 15 percent were expected to attend two or more years of college; 29 percent were expected to earn a bachelor’s degree; and 39 percent were
    expected to earn a graduate or professional degree.
  • According to parents, a higher percentage of students attended a community, religious, or ethnic event (54 percent) in the past month than visited a library (34 percent); visited a bookstore (34 percent); went to a play, concert, or other live show (34 percent); visited an art gallery, a museum, or a historical site (25 percent); visited a zoo or an aquarium (24 percent); or attended an athletic or sporting event (42 percent) (table 6).

(National Center for Education Statistics)