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The rise of the home schools

You can’t miss the newspaper headlines about charter schools and vouchers.

With the cap lifted on charter schools, they have begun to surge as an alternative to traditional public schools.

The fight over opportunity scholarships is being waged in the North Carolina Supreme Court, while proponents in the General Assembly continue to try to expand the program. 

Meanwhile, in quiet living rooms and kitchens across the state, home schools are thriving. 

Terry Stoops of the John Locke Foundation writes about the boom, noting that it’s been 30 years since the state Supreme Court upheld the legality of this education alternative. He writes that a year after that decision, only 1,500 students availed themselves of this option. 

This week, the N.C. Division of Non-Public Education published 2014-15 statistics that show the most recent figures for homeschooled students: 106,853. Well, maybe. That’s an estimate drawn from a random sample of schools operating that year. 

Stoops also notes a number of interesting points, including the fact that homeschooled students outnumber private school pupils; and collectively the homeschooled population would be the third largest school district in the state if it were a district.

Whatever your position on homeschooling, these numbers tell a powerful story. Since the dawn of the movement 30 years ago, more and more parents are opting to teach their children at home. Whether you consider that a battle cry or a victory chant depends on your point of view. 

This summer, EdNC begins an in-depth research project on home schools.

The numbers.  We are going to try and get a better handle on the numbers of students that are homeschooled statewide.

Why? We are going to ask parents that choose to home school why and what changes public schools would need to make to be a choice for their family.

A look at what public schools offer the homeschooling community. What opportunities within the public K-12 system are available to homeschoolers? What are other states doing, including permitting homeschoolers’ participation on athletic teams through so-called “Tebow laws” or enrollment in public school classes or extracurriculars? 

The many faces of the homeschooling movement statewide. How has the movement broadened from its early days and entrenched stereotypes to encompass a much more diverse group―one that features families from a range of socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds, parents who balance both work and homeschooling, and families who incorporate a blend of outside enrichment classes and tutoring with classes taught at home? 

Homeschooling’s surging popularity as the now-favored non-public option. For the first time ever in 2013-14, state estimates showed that homeschooling surpassed private schooling as the most popular non-public option in North Carolina. Why are homeschooling enrollments booming even as private school enrollments are declining? 

An updated look at homeschooling and college admissions. How do homeschooled students stack up in the competitive college admissions process? Are once-skeptical admissions officers changing their minds about homeschooled students? 

Let’s us know what you would like us to study.



Alex Granados

Alex Granados was the senior reporter for EducationNC from December 2014-March 2023.