Homeschooling trends are changing. New reasons to homeschool are emerging, and along with them, new faces and families that are influencing the shape of homeschooling as we know it. If you are a business owner looking to capitalize on products that will be beneficial and marketable to homeschool families, or just curious about the motives, you need to understand the depth of reasons that families may choose to homeschool. There are many, but the top five stand out above the others.
The “oldest” reason for homeschooling has been the idea that homeschoolers are doing what they are doing in order to support and reinforce their religious convictions or Judeo-Christian worldview. This still remains a primary reason for motivating some families to homeschool, although it is clearly not the only reason any longer. But, it is not possible to group the denomination or religious perspective into any single category any longer. The beliefs and worldviews that motivate homeschoolers are expanding all the time.
Another common reason for homeschooling is when families live the “wanderer” lifestyle. This can be as a result of many things. For instance, some families have chosen to homeschool because the primary breadwinner may have a job that requires frequent relocations. That can be difficult to accommodate from public school to public school, so families in this situation opt for homeschooling. This is the case for missionary families, oil-industry families, military families, etc.
In many cases, families are led into homeschooling, not by choice, but by necessity due to health issues or limitations that have made going to a traditional brick and mortar public or private school impossible. Most traditional schools are subject to attendance standards set by state or local governments. Therefore, a student with too many absences will cost the school district a loss in tax revenues, so they require minimum attendance days. If health issues cause a student to miss too many days, they are resigned to repeating that grade level by their district’s standards. Homeschooling allows families to work around these health restrictions and make forward progress academically at the same time.
Private School Mentality
Other families choose homeschooling because they would like to have a private school type education – small classes, customized curricula, mastery learning, etc. – but they cannot afford private school tuition. Homeschooling can be done on a variety of budgets, but in most cases, a diligent, well-planned homeschool program can be done much cheaper than a private school, especially when you also consider the costs of uniforms, travel expenses, sporting event fees, fundraisers, and other fees that get added into a typical private school education.
Another primary reason for homeschooling is in the ability to approach the curricula like a menu. If a student excels in English, but needs more work in Algebra, a homeschool student can work above grade level in one subject, such as English, but at or even below grade level in another area. This allows homeschooling families to ensure that their children are getting a solid academic foundation in all subjects by meeting the student where they are and working forward from there. Many, many homeschool students find that they are in a variety of “grades” based on the curricula being used, but they are growing in knowledge, not frustration, because of their choice to homeschool.
Knowing their reasons for homeschooling will help to determine how and where to interact with homeschoolers around you. If you sell curricula, know their motives. If you offer athletic memberships, be sure to consider a variety of needs. Thinking about offering classes in your area or niche? The homeschoolers in your area may need you, but don’t assume – do the research in your area. If you are considering homeschooling yourself, be sure to understand your motivation. You will need to “hang on to it” when those around you challenge your methods.
No matter how you interact with homeschooling families, it is safe to say that you can no longer make any assumptions about their motives until you have gotten to know them individually. Homeschoolers are an ever-growing component of the educational marketplace, and knowing their needs will help you to better fit this market as a conscientious business owner or homeschooler.