Monday, March 04, 2013

Homeschooling, Race, Income and Family Structure

I recently watched a news segment on a homeschooling family. 

Family of 7 kids finds a way to homeschool, attend college

I was happy to see a focus on a black homeschooling family.

I have to say upfront, that it is a little uncomfortable talking about race and racial differences.  Even the terms, White, Black and Non-white Hispanic, I find a little offensive. But it is a lot easier to type the word "White" or "Black" as apposed to "Americans with pale skin pigmentation predominantly of European descent" or "Americans with dark skin pigmentation predominately of African decent."  So, I hope you will bear with me and not take offense.

While homeschoolers are predominately white, homeschooling is drawing families from an increasingly diverse ethnic background.  At my local homeschool support group, I'm noticing a wider variety of faces.

However, homeschoolers are often perceived by the media and others as only "white, wealthy and well-educate."

From the National Center for Educational Statistics:

More White students were homeschooled than Black or Hispanic students or students from other racial/ethnic groups, and White students constituted the majority of homeschooled students (77 percent). White students (3.9 percent) had a higher homeschooling rate than Blacks (0.8 percent) and Hispanics (1.5 percent), but were not measurably different from students from other racial/ethnic groups (3.4 percent). 

I wonder if the difference in homeschooling rates between various racial/ethnic groups is partially a function of the family structure.  The higher the rate of two parent households, the higher the homeschooling rates.

Again, from the Nation Center for Educational Statistics:

Students in two-parent households made up 89 percent of the homeschooled population, and those in two-parent households with one parent in the labor force made up 54 percent of the homeschooled population.

This difference in two-parent households between ethnic groups does not entirely explain the difference in homeschooling rates, but it can account for much of the difference.

Some claim that homeschooling rates are also tied to income. [I had to laugh here.  While researching income and homeschooling, I stumbled across a USA Today article, More higher-income families are home schooling their children, that quoted Henry].

While the title of the article makes the claim of homeschooling attracting higher income families, another study finds that the affluence rates are similar between homeschoolers and families who send their children to public school.

[T]here is virtually no difference between home schoolers and their peers in terms of income. In its 2001 study, the Department of Education found that an equal share—64 percent—of home-schooled students and those in schools live in households with incomes of $50,000 or less

The educational level of the parents also makes a difference. The USA Today article states that 6.8% of college-educated parents home-school, up from 4.9% in 1999. Remember that the overall homeschool rate is estimated to be about 3% of all school age children. So college educated parents have double the rate of homeschooling.

I'm glad to see more attention to homeschoolers that fall out side of the "white, wealthy and well-educated" stereotype. The family featured above has a father that works 3 jobs and a mother who had worked nights while still homeschooling her children and who was only now pursuing her own college education. 

I hope to see more news stories that promote the idea that homeschooling is an option for a wider circle of families with a variety of educational backgrounds, income levels, and ethnic backgrounds.


Happy Elf Mom said...

I wish this family could just be a regular homeschooling family that is doing a great job. I agree that it's nice to see the focus on a black family that is homeschooling, but there is far too much emphasis on race just about everywhere.

I mean, if I did a great or horrible job and it were reported, it would just be about me doing a great or horrible job. It wouldn't be about me being black AND somehow doing a wonderful job (as if that's not usual) or being black AND doing a horrible job (and by consequence, it's implied all black people are horrible).

That's a really heavy burden for anyone, you know??

Anyway, wow. You know, I think the dad is a real unsung hero in this story. None of this would be possible without him. :)

Ahermitt said...

Happy Elf Mom always finds a unique way of looking at these issues and making me think.

I was delighted by this blog post, as a black homeschooling mom. I especially loved the paragraph where you discussed addressing the races. Too funny. FYI. It seems to me that people are letting African American and similar monikers go and migrating back to black and white, so that makes you oh-so-hip and with-it.

Anyhow, even after 10 years of homeschooling, it seems my family is an enigma. We are pretty well off, and black, and homeschooling, and rarely run into a homeschooling family with the same stats that we have. We have loved it. We have embraced it. We have spent some time grinning-and-bearing it. There have even been times that we have hated it.

As much as I wish things were the way that HEM wished, it isn't, and it is hard watching your kid stand out in a crowd, year after year, and sometimes being singled out in a bad way.

It blows my mind how people make assumptions about us and our financial status and such, and are shocked to find out that we have the same living conditions, if not better than they have. We all homeschool in the same circles, why wouldn't we have the same socioeconomic status?

But I didn't comment to complain. Just to point out that this post is insightful and enjoyable, and until we get past the fear of discussing these things, they will always need discussing.

Janine Cate said...


Thanks for your comments. It is nice to hear from people on the inside of an issue, as opposed to an observer on the outside.

I wish people would see a person, not a race/ethnicity. It is easier here in California. People mix and mingles and intermarry pretty frequently, so it becomes less of an issue in many circles (except for in government institutions).

At the public school where our adopted son receives speech therapy, I was horrified to discover that the school will receive more funding if they indicate he is "Hispanic."

Why should that have anything do with anything? It still is the same child receiving the same services.