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Homeschooling Trends in Metro Atlanta

Judy A. Walker

Reinhardt College

August 2004

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Homeschooling Trends in Northern Metro Atlanta

The mere mention of homeschooling elicits emotions from both ends of the spectrum.

There seems to be no middle of the road. People are either in favor or not in favor of this

growing trend to homeschool their children. Has this always been the case? Actually, before

the mid-1800s homeschooling was the norm and not the exception! History tells us that public

schools came into existence as a result of political and religious influences. Besides teaching

academics, the public school was an ideal forum to promote patriotism and moral values

(1998 Kleist-Tesch). Then, a hundred years later in the 1960s and 1970s, protesters of social

and religious values formed communes and once again homeschooling was revived. The

founder of this homeschooling movement, John Holt, objected to the quality of education and

emphasized child-centered education. In the 1970s and 1980s, with the impact of

fundamentalist Christianity and the revival of conservatism, homeschooling again gained

popularity. This time it was as an objection to what was being taught in the public schools

(Kleist-Tesch 1998). Is that still the reason people choose to homeschool today?

The purpose of this study was to discover not only the reason people homeschool,

but also the homeschooling trends in

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the northern counties of the Metro Atlanta area. Specifically, this researcher set out to

determine the following: 1) the demographics of Metro Atlanta homeschooling families; 2)the

reasons families make the choice to homeschool; 3) the different teaching methods used by

homeschoolers along with the rewards and challenges; and 4) how the primary educator

creates balance in his/her life.

Nationwide there have been few reported studies on the demographics of

homeschooling families (2002 Bauman). Of those studies, the statistical report published in

1999 by Patricia Lines, a former Department of Education researcher, and the National

Center for Education Statistics (2001 Bielick) are the largest and most inclusive to date. It is

clear that more and more people are homeschooling and it seems that the demographics are

changing. This study added to the body of knowledge by collecting demographic information

specific to the Northern Metro Atlanta area.

Nationwide, accurate statistics have been difficult to obtain on homeschooling.

Possible reasons for this difficulty are that some families are not trusting and/or willing to

provide information (2000 Lines). This bias might be decreased by specifically targeting

known groups and networks of

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homeschoolers. This method increased the likelihood of collecting data from a

diverse group of homeschoolers.

In the National Center for Education Statistics technical report published in 2001, it

was reported that a greater number of homeschoolers as compared to nonhomeschoolers

are white and non-Hispanic. Though no significant difference in household annual income,

the parents of homeschoolers have a higher level of education (2001 Bielick). Furthermore,

homeschoolers are more likely to be from religious, conservative, and two-parent families,

with usually two children being homeschooled and another younger, non-school-age child in

the family (Lines 2000).

In Georgia, there is a paucity of demographic data on homeschooling families. The

Georgia Department of Education keeps statistics only on the number of children being

homeschooled in each county of the state. As of the end of the 2002-2003 school year,

31,732 children were being homeschooled in Georgia, representing a 67% increase over the

1998-1999 figure of 21,132 homeschooled children (Ga. Dept. of Education 2004). No

further demographic data are available.

Although there are several reasons for homeschooling, dissatisfaction with the

academic quality of public schools appears to be the number one reason (2000 Anderson;

Lines 2000).

Encountering different standards when moving from one state to another state has

been an incentive for initiating homeschooling. Aileen Dodd, in her August 2003 article in The

Atlanta Journal-Constitution, relayed the story of a family moving from Virginia to Gwinnett

County in Georgia. They had no choice but to homeschool because Gwinnett County, one of

the most advanced school systems in the state (2003 Dodd), was not equipped to deal with

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their children who were multiple grades ahead. Another example of dissatisfaction with the

academic quality of public schools is the case of third-grader Myles M. who begged his

parents not to send him to school and wanted instead “just to read” (Anderson 2000). Myles’

teacher was pleased when his parents removed him from public school to begin

homeschooling. Because the school curriculum was structured to teach to the 40
th

percentile,

Myles was not being challenged enough to keep his attention. This situation occurred in

Massachusetts (2000 Anderson) but it is not unique to that state.

As the trend to homeschool continues to rise, the public education system remains

under attack (Anderson 2000). The 2002-2003 SAT scores released in August of 2003

showed Georgia, for the second year in a row, has the lowest scores among all states (Tofig

2003). This study helped to determine the proportion of families that are choosing to

homeschool because of their belief that the Georgia school system is below par.

Today, families choose to homeschool for one of several reasons, not only because of

an objection to the quality of education or the content of what is being taught. Other reasons

for homeschooling include special needs or disability, behavioral problems, unsuitable

learning environment (i.e., trailer classrooms), unsafe learning environment (i.e., drugs and

violence) or because of the parents’ career choices. This study revealed the most common

reasons Metro Atlantans choose homeschooling.

Most people are not aware of the resources available to homeschooling families to

assist in teaching and learning. Times have changed since the days of sitting at the kitchen

table. Homeschooling methods today include, besides the traditional parent-child instruction,

study groups, field trips, tutors, and Internet interaction, among others (Anderson 2000; Kleist-

Tesch 1998; Lines 2000). There are several avenues available for homeschooling families.

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Preset curriculums are available and can be strictly followed. A parent may also choose to

use a mixed design, using the preset curriculum part of the day and adding study groups,

tutoring, Internet interaction, or field trips to supplement the remainder of the day. An alternate

method called “unschooling” is also popular among some homeschoolers. Unschooling is a

method of learning in which there is little adult direction. The child is open to explore his own

interests. The present study characterized the teaching methods used by parents in the

Northern Metro Atlanta area.

Lastly, burnout among homeschoolers happens quite often. Fatigue and

discouragement can set in rapidly when the desired results are not there. Some

homeschoolers have found that teaching for six weeks and then taking a week off helps to

beat the fatigue. Also, common-sense health habits are necessary for the body to work

efficiently. Besides physical needs, some homeschoolers find time alone for spiritual renewing

to keep their balance. (Miller 1999). Metro Atlanta homeschool educators are not immune

from burnout. This study sought the methods used to create balance in the parent-

homeschooler’s life.

Method

Participants and Design

There were 40 participants in this study, each of which was the primary home educator

in the family.
1
All participants were from one of the northern Metro Atlanta counties. Race,

education level, religious affiliation, political party, county of residence, and family income

level were relevant to this study, but age and gender were not relevant.

1
One participant reported that she, another female, and one male were life partnered and shared equally in

homeschooling.

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The study employed a questionnaire designed to obtain demographic information on

the participants, the reasons homeschooling was chosen, the preferred teaching method,

rewards and challenges of both the teaching method and of homeschooling overall, and how

balance was achieved. Distribution was accomplished by hand and via e-mail. Procedure

A two-page questionnaire was constructed (see Appendix A). In lieu of a consent

form, a preamble at the top of the survey stated the purpose of the survey. Further, to deter

any participant from feeling threatened about the intent of the survey, the participants were

informed that the study was being performed under the direction of the researcher’s college

professor, herself a homeschooling parent, thus setting a nonthreatening stage. The

preamble also stated that the study was voluntary and anonymous.

The first section of the questionnaire asked for demographic information: gender,

marital status, race, years of college for adults, county of residence, religious affiliation,

political party, ages of children being homeschooled, grade equivalent for each child, and the

family’s annual household income. It was emphasized to participants that the question

seeking household income was optional; however, any and all questions were optional.

The next section of the questionnaire listed fifteen (15) common reasons for

homeschooling.
2
(See Appendix A.) The participants were asked to check the reason or

reasons that applied to their family and were asked to rate the reasons as 1st, 2nd, or 3rd if

more than one. A space was also provided to explain any reason not included in the list.

The next section of the survey inquired into teaching methods. The participants

were asked to choose the method typically used: 1) mix of preset curriculum and own

design; 2) strictly preset curriculum; or 3) “unschooling” method, and were then asked to

comment on the rewards and challenges of the method. This section also asked the

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participant to list any groups, activities, or classes the homeschooled child attends;

however, this information was later determined not to be relevant for this study and

therefore not analyzed.

The last set of questions asked for the participant’s opinion regarding the overall

rewards and challenges of homeschooling and asked how the primary homeschooling

parent kept balance in his/her life.

2
The list of common reasons was obtained from a study by Kurt J. Bauman of the U. S. Census Bureau

titled “Home Schooling in the United States: Trends

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To reduce the risk of any emotional upset, the participants were also given a

contact phone number for questions. They were also given the opportunity to obtain

the results by requesting the results on the completed questionnaire. Further,

debriefing was offered through an invitation to attend a presentation of the results.

Participants were solicited by posting messages on three homeschooling networks in

North Atlanta and by handing them out at two homeschooling events attended by the

assisting professor. Being a member of AAEN (Atlanta Alternative Education

Network), the assisting professor posted a message on that website’s message

board. A list of Georgia’s homeschooling groups found at the Georgia Home

Educator’s Association Web site (www.ghea.org) provided the contacts for the other

two networks, GHEIN (Georgia Home Education Inclusive Network) and C.H.E.E.R.

(Christian Homeschooling Encouragement and Education Resource). The message

posted sought volunteers to participate in this survey of homeschooling trends. Those

interested sent an e-mail to the researcher expressing an interest. The researcher e-

mailed the two-page questionnaire the same day to the participant. The participant

then had the opportunity to either

and Characteristics” (Bauman 2002). The format was altered to include a ranking column and the table
format of the chart was adjusted for clarity.

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fax the completed survey back to the researcher or mail it to the researcher’s home.

For those questionnaires handed out at the homeschooling events, a preaddressed

envelope, including the college’s return mail address, was provided. No postage was paid, but

anonymity was a priority.

The cutoff date for receiving completed questionnaires was five weeks from

commencement. As the completed surveys were received, they were assigned an

identification number. Each response field on the survey was then given an 8-letter code

name and a chart was created to code the data. For open-ended questions, the answers were

analyzed for trends in response and categories for the responses were determined.

Descriptive statistics, including frequencies, means, and standard deviations, were obtained.

The only fields analyzed further than obtaining the frequency of occurrence were the number

of children homeschooled, the oldest child being homeschooled, and the highest grade level.

These fields also were analyzed for the mean and standard deviation. A copy of the code

sheet with response choices is attached as Appendix B and the open-ended category

responses are attached as Appendix C.

Discussion

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The present findings strongly show that the number one reason families in Northern

Metro Atlanta choose to homeschool is a belief that they can give their child a better

education at home. Similarly, the desire for quality in education and child-centered education

is also the number one reason among the homeschooling families nationwide. In analyzing

the data related to reasons, there was a concern that the improper use of the word “rate”

instead of “rank” in the instructions for ranking the reasons in order of importance may have

caused confusion. Because the percentage ranking “better education at home” was so high,

this concern was dismissed. For those who may have been confused or did not follow

directions, the answers were coded as invalid and not analyzed.

Further, the remaining descriptive statistical findings indicate that these homeschooling

families fall right in line demographically with the national trends—white, religious,

conservative, educated, married, with no significance difference in annual income and on

average, homeschooling two children. Even though the demographics of the subject area are

similar, given that this was a very narrow study, with only 40 participants out of thousands in

the pool and the participants self-selecting to participate in the study, the results cannot be

generalized to the whole Northern Metro Atlanta area.

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Although the idea that targeting networks of homeschoolers would decrease the lack

of trust and unwillingness to participate found in previous studies was a valid thought,

for this study the number of participants was disappointing. Perhaps the timing of the

study, end of spring, and typically the end of the school year, was not ideal for

soliciting participation. There may have been an air of “burnout” and uninterest at that

time of year and for that reason this researcher would recommend distributing future

surveys at a different time of year. It can also be said that given the choice to

participate or not is not a random sampling of the homeschooling population. Indeed,

the optimistic, passionate expressions revealed on the surveys are hopefully typical of

all homeschooling families, but this researcher believes only the passionate would

elect to participate. The qualitative analysis of the responses to the open-ended

questions (rewards/challenges/balance) was a huge task for a novice researcher. A

seasoned researcher may have been better able to categorize the responses more

succinctly. However, with this study as a guide, a recommendation for future studies

would be to list suggested rewards, challenges, and ways of creating balance so that

descriptive statistics could be obtained for that data as well.

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All in all, although small in size, this research study was helpful in realizing the

characteristics and trends of some homeschoolers in Northern Metro Atlanta and, more

importantly, relayed the passion and commitment of these parents. A new respect for this

sector of society is deservedly earned.

Statistical Findings

Demographics

To analyze the results of the demographic section of the survey, the frequency was

calculated for each response. The marital status of the participants was married for 37 out of

40, or 92.5%. The other categories of separated, divorced, or life partnered were equally split

at 2.5%.

The ethnic group for 36 participants, or 90%, was Caucasian. Blacks and

Hispanics were represented by one participant in each ethnic group, or 2.5% of the total.

The remaining 5% was classified as “other.”

Most frequently the home educator’s own education level was that of a college

graduate. Forty-seven and a half percent (47.5%) of the participants were college graduates.

Thirty percent (30%) had some college and 22.5% had years of education beyond a 4-year

degree.

The participants were widely scattered among the northern Atlanta counties with

23.1% in Gwinnett County, 20.5% in DeKalb

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County, 17.9% in Cobb County, 12.8% in Forsyth County, 7.7% in Fulton, 5.1% in

Cherokee, and 12.8% from other nearby counties. One participant did not list a county of

residence.

Religious affiliation was split with 62.5% Protestant, 7.5% Catholic, and 30%

categorized as “other.” It should be noted that “other” included no religious affiliation as well

as Eastern religions.

The political affiliation of the participants was heavily Republican. Sixty-two and a half

percent (62.5%) reported that they were Republican, while only 10% reported being

Democrats. Five participants (12.5%) were Libertarian, one participant (2.5%) was an

Independent, and five (12.5%) reported being nonpartisan.

The number of children being homeschooled ranged from 1 to 4, with the largest

percentage, 42.5% teaching two children at home. The next frequent number of children

being homeschooled was one. Thirty-five percent (35%) were homeschooling a single child.

Remarkably, 20% were homeschooling three children and one participant (2.5%) was

homeschooling four children. The average number of children being homeschooled was 1.9

and the standard deviation was .810.

The survey asked for the ages of the children being homeschooled but for

this study only the oldest child was analyzed. The ages ranged from 4 to 17, with

the most frequent age being 11. The average age of the oldest child was 9.55 and

the standard deviation was 3.146. Fifteen percent of the oldest child category were

11 years old. In descending order according to frequency, the remaining results

were as follows: 12.5%, 9 years old; 12.5%, 6 years old; 10%, 7 years old; 10% 6

years old; 7.5%, 13 years old; 7.5%, 12 years old; 7.5%, 10 years old, 5%, 5 years

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old; and 2.5%, 4, 14, 15, 16, or 17 years old.

Likewise, although the survey asked for the grade level of the children, for purposes

of this study only the oldest grade was analyzed. The average highest grade level was

fourth grade and the standard deviation was 3.108. The frequency results were as follows:

5% were at the kindergarten level; 20% were at the first grade level; 7.5% were at the

second grade level; 12.5% were at the third grade level; 12.5% were at the fourth grade

level; 7.5% were at the fifth grade level; 12.5% were at the sixth grade level; 7.5% were at

the seventh grade level; 7.5% were at the eighth grade level; 5% were at the eleventh grade

level; and 2.5% was at the twelfth grade level.

The annual family income was an optional question. Thirty-eight of the 40 participants

responded to that question. Those responses were quite evenly split with 25% being between

$25,000–$49,000; 22.5% being between $50,000–$74,000; 22.5% being between $75,000–

$99,000; and 25% being over $100,000. Reasons

To analyze the results of the reasons for choosing homeschooling section of the

survey, the frequency was calculated for each of the 15 given reasons. Of those given

reasons, the 40 participants selected reasons with the following frequency:

REASONS FREQUENCY
Can give better education at home 33
Religious reasons 13
Poor learning environment fourteen
Object to what school teaches 14
School does not challenge child twelve
Family reasons 9
Child has special needs/disability six
To develop character/morality 28
Other problem w/available school five
Student behavioral problems two
Want private school/cannot afford it 6
Child has temporary illness zero
Parent’s career zero

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Transportation/distance/convenience 2
Could not get into desired school one

The given reasons were ranked as first, second, or third choice. If the participant chose

not to rank the reasons, the answer was coded with 999. If the participant used first, second,

or third more than once, the answer was coded as invalid and 998 was entered. Thirty percent

(30%) of the responses ranking the reasons listed Can give child better education at home as

the number one reason for choosing homeschooling. The number two reason for choosing

homeschooling was the same response, and the third place ranking was Poor learning

environment at school. See Appendix D.

Only 9 participants listed an additional/different reason with no two answers the same.

The different reasons listed were safety, family, food allergies, gifted child, children should be

with parents, school hours too long, not a second choice, grew up wanting to homeschool,

and freedom.

Teaching Method and Rewards/Challenges

There was no question that the mixed teaching method was the favorite method with

90% of the participants choosing that method. Seven and one-half percent (7.5%) of the

participants chose the preset method and just one or 2.5% of the participants used the

unschooling method.

The rewards and challenges were asked for both the method used and also

homeschooling overall. The most popular method being the mixed design, it was not

unexpected that the reward most often cited was “flexibility” (44%). Next in line was

“variety” with 13.9% and “seeing the child’s ability to learn increase” was third with 11%.

The most challenging aspects of the chosen method were equally divided among three

challenges all relating to time: time element, time to prepare, and

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designing curriculum. Each were given as a response 13.6% of the time.

The most prevalent overall reward was a tie at 17.5% for both “time together” and

“raising own child.” And, the most cited challenge of homeschooling as a whole was—

patience! Balance

Maintaining balance in the homeschooler’s life was not only difficult to categorize but

also difficult for most homeschoolers to achieve. Thirty two and a half percent (32.5%) of the

participants could not give a valid method of relaxing or breaking away from the

parent/teacher role. However, a larger total percentage found balance in support from friends

(25%) and in involvement in outside interests (25%).

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References

Anderson, B.C. 2000. An A for home schooling. City Journal. Retrieved March 12,

2004, from http://www.cityjournal.org/html/10_3_an_a_for_home.html

Bauman, K. J. (2002, May 16). Home schooling in the United States: Trends and

Characteristics. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 10/26). Retrieved March 12, 2004

from http://epaa.asu.edu/epaa/v10n26.html

Bielick, S., Chandler, K. and Broughman, S. “Homeschooling in the United States: 1999.”

NCES Technical Report, 2001-033. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of

Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2001. http://nces.ed.gov/

pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2001033

dodd, d. a. (2003, August 22). The rise of homeschooling: thousands take the

opportunity to tailor their children’s education. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution,

Gwinnett Section, p. JJ1.

Georgia Department of Education (2004). Untitled. Atlanta, Georgia. Received

March 15, 2004.

Kleist-Tesch, J. M. (1998). Homeschoolers and the Public Library.

Journal of Youth Services in Libraries.

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Lines, P. “Homeschooling Comes of Age.” The Public Interest 140 (2000a): 74-85. EJ 609

191. http://www.discovery.org/viewDB/

index.php3?program=Misc%26command=view%26id=2

Lines, P. (1999). “Homeschoolers: Estimating Numbers and Growth.” Web edition.

Washington, D.C.: Office of Education Research and Improvement, U. S.

Department of Education.

Miller, C. (1999. “Beating Homeschool Burnout.” Classical Christian Homeschooling.

http://www.classicalhomeschooling.org /homeschooling/burnout.html

Tofig, Dana (2003, August 26). Georgia ranks 50
th

in SAT scores for second straight year. The

Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

http://www.ajc.com/metro/content/metro/0803/26satga.html

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