Josh Verges reports that home-schooling is growing in the U.S. Natinowide, home school enrollment grew from 1.7% of K-12 students in 1999 to 2.9% (1.5 million kids) in 2007.
Now my assumption would have been that, given South Dakota's conservatism and strong religious persuasions, our fair state would meet or beat the national rate for home schooling. My assumption would be wrong. Home schooling is growing here, from 2311 students in academic year (AY) 2006 to 2484 in AY 2007. However, those 2484 kids only made up 1.8% of the K-12-aged population in AY 2007. Another 12% of South Dakota students went to non-public schools, a rate that appears to be slightly ahead of the national average for private school enrollment... but be careful with that comparison, as the SD numbers include Indian schools, which could be more than enough to skew our percentage up.
Why the lag in South Dakota? According to Verges and the federal Department of Education study he cites, home school appears to be the choice of more upper-income families: 60% of home-school families make more than $50K... but that shouldn't hold us back, as South Dakota's median family income is $53,910.
Maybe South Dakota's home school enrollment is depressed by availability of home school teachers—i.e., moms and dads who can stay home and teach. South Dakota has the highest percentage of kids with both parents in the workforce. On that score, my wife and I have lucked out: for the past couple years, we've both had work that we can do in large part from home on the computer. That means our three-year-old has had a lot more stories from Mom and Dad and (thanks to Grandma!) not one minute in daycare. We hope we can keep that up with flexible schedules through Erin's seminary program. But once she finishes that, we wonder just how much time we'll be able to finagle from her pastoring and my professing to teach our young one algebra, modern media literacy, and prairie ecology.
We are lucky: we both have the education and skills to win work that can pay the bills. When Erin becomes the Reverend E, I may be more than happy to stay home, be Dr. Dad, and write books between home school lessons. We're also cheapskates; we've lived on a single teacher income, and we don't need much more than that (though we won't turn down more, if you're offering!). And it's worth skimping and saving for the chance to teach our daughter in ways the assembly-line public schools can't, away from the environment of bullying and other bad behavior that we see rising in our local school district.
Home school is a good educational opportunity. We wish every South Dakota family had the freedom we do to pursue it.
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