Homeschooling Increases in the United States, Parents Cite School Environments as a Concern

Washington, D.C.—Homeschooling in the United States increased between 1999 and 2012, although nearly 97 percent of the nation’s 56 million students from kindergarten through high school attend public or private schools, according to a new report by the American Institutes for Research (AIR) and the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).

The homeschooling rate increased from 1.7 percent in 1999 to 3.4 percent in 2012, the report finds. Nine in 10 of these students’ parents reported that concern about schools’ environments was an important reason for their decision to homeschool.

Students from all educational, racial and ethnic, and geographical backgrounds have become part of this growing educational movement.

The report provides data on homeschooled students and their parents, parents’ reasons and preparation for homeschooling, and what resources they use to teach. It does not address questions of instruction quality, the cultural and political context for the rise of homeschooling during the last generation, or student outcomes.

Key findings include:

Who homeschools their children?

  • 1.8 million 5- to 17-year-olds were homeschooled in 2012, up from 850,000 in 1999, with the percentage of all U.S. children who were homeschooled rising from 1.7 in 1999, 2.9 in 2007, and 3.4 in 2012.
  • 83 percent of homeschooled students were White, 5 percent were Black, 7 percent were Hispanic and 2 percent were Asian or Pacific Islander.
  • 41 percent of homeschooled students lived in rural areas, 28 percent in suburbs, 21 percent in cities, and 10 percent in towns.
  • 32 percent of parents of homeschooled children had either a vocational degree or some college, 26 percent had bachelor’s degrees, 23 percent had a high school education or the equivalent, 18 percent had graduate or professional degrees, and 2 percent had less than a high school education.
  • 89 percent of homeschoolers were in households above the federal poverty level.
  • Among homeschoolers, 29 percent were in grades 6-8 and 32 percent were in grades 9-12, compared to 18 percent for K-2, and 22 percent for grades 3-5.
  • 54 percent of homeschooled students were girls and 46 percent were boys.

Why do parents choose to homeschool their children?

  • 91 percent of homeschoolers’ parents were concerned about the environment of schools, including “safety, drugs, or negative peer pressure,” and 74 percent were dissatisfied with the academic environment.
  • 77 percent expressed a desire to provide moral instruction and 64 percent said they wanted to provide religious instruction.
  • Students’ physical or mental health problems (15 percent) and special needs (16 percent) were also given as reasons for homeschooling.

How do parents prepare to homeschool and what do their children learn?

  • 25 percent of homeschoolers’ parents took at least one course to prepare them to teach, with about half of those taking an in-person course and the other half an online course.  
  • Homeschoolers received their curricula from websites and homeschooling catalogs (77 percent each), public libraries (70 percent), and bookstores (69 percent), while only 17 percent used materials from local or public school districts and 13 percent used materials from private schools
  • 88 percent of homeschooled high school-age students studied basic algebra; 69 percent studied earth sciences or geology; 69 percent studied biology; 34 percent studied chemistry or physics; 32 percent studied computer science; and 10 percent studied calculus.
  • Over one-third of middle and high school students took online courses.

The findings are based on data from NCES’s Parent and Family Involvement in Education survey (Enrolled and Homeschool), which is part of the 2012 National Household Education Survey (NHES). Students are considered to be homeschooled if their parents reported that their children were being taught at home instead of at a public or private school for at least part of their education. The analyses exclude students enrolled in a public or private school for more than 25 hours per week and those homeschooled due to temporary illness.

Read Homeschooling in the United States: 2012 on NCES’s website.

About AIR
Established in 1946, with headquarters in Washington, D.C., the American Institutes for Research (AIR) is a nonpartisan, not-for-profit organization that conducts behavioral and social science research and delivers technical assistance both domestically and internationally in the areas of health, education and workforce productivity. For more information, visit


Media Contact

Dana Tofig

Managing Director, Corporate Communications
News and Events