I haven't been blogging much about the Carnival of Homeschooling lately. That is, in part, because I haven't been blogging about much of anything lately. But it's also because I haven't had too many submissions of my own, so I haven't been participating as much as I'd like.
Well, this week I submitted my post on Southerners and Phonics. That was fun. I think I got a rise out of my Georgia-based doppelganger on that one, as I knew I would. :-) Lo and behold, this week's host decided to accept it.
There was another post that caught my eye: Barbara Frank posted an entry entitled Homeschooling on the Decline? noting that, for the first time since the founding of the modern homeschooling movement, the number of officially registered homeschoolers in the state of Wisconsin has declined from the previous year.
She notes a couple of reasons why. First, Wisconsin has instituted a "Virtual Academy" program, which allows public school students to learn at home. That is, the school system provides the curriculum and the monitoring (testing and grading, etc...), but the actual instruction is provided at home. This is not technically considered homeschooling by many in the movement, since the parents and students are accountable to the state school system, but this option is attractive to many of the same people who would otherwise be homeschooling. The popularity of this option may well be making a dent in the homeschooling population. I would, of course, be interested to see statistics on the trend of all students being taught at home, whether through pure homeschooling or through the Virtual Academy, to see if this aggregated number is still on the rise....
Second, the economy has taken a hit, and this has put pressure on a lot of stay-at-home-mothers to return to the workforce. It's a big enough job for my own wife to homeschool our oldest, without any outside employment; it would be much tougher if she had to hold down a part-time job, and it would be next to impossible if she had to hold down a full-time job (although some mothers do actually make it work!). If this theory is true, we could see a dip in the growth rate (or even total headcount) of the homeschooling movement during economic down-times.
But she also muses on the idea of whether homeschooling is starting to approach its natural limit in the general population. After all, it takes a special kind of family to homeschool--one where (usually) the mother has enough time, energy, confidence, support, and talent to put into what is a huge commitment. Families where both parents work, and families with single parents, tend not to go the homeschooling route for obvious reasons (although there are a few stalwart souls out there who can make it work. My hat is off to them). By the time you factor them out, and then figure that a big chunk of the remaining families would be against homeschooling for one personal reason or another, it may be that only a few percent of all families are both willing and able to take on the homeschooling lifestyle. Perhaps Wisconsin is nearing this limit?
Anyway, it's food for thought. I think that the homeschooling movement does have a natural upper limit, and there may be a few places in the country where we could be reaching this saturation point. It may be that Wisconsin is one of them. And the fortunes of the homeschooling movement are also inversely tied to the quality of the public schools, as commenter Crimson Wife points out:
There’s also been some improvement in the quality of government-run schools at least in certain places. Families who never even would’ve considered enrolling their children in a government-run school 5 or 10 years ago are now willing to give it a try. Granted most of those families would’ve gone the private school route, but some of them might’ve ended up homeschooling.As I said, food for thought. I suspect that, nationwide, the movement still has some way to go before it hits its upper limit. For one thing, for better or worse, the movement is driven at least in part by suspicion of the public schools. This is especially--though not exclusively--true on the cultural right in this country. There is a suspicion, right or wrong, that the schools have a social agenda they are trying to push, which involves investing values in the children that the parents themselves disagree with. The more that people--the cultural right especially--distrust the government, the more they are likely to pull their kids out of public school and teach them at home. (And incidentally, the news that speeches by Obama are already starting to show up in textbooks in various public schools isn't going to help the cultural right's distrust of the schools one bit.)
Anyway, it's an interesting post. Take a look.