A viable and popular educational choice, homeschooling is now embraced by tens of thousands of families in North Carolina. Recognized by the state as non-public schools, home schools operate with a great deal of flexibility and freedom.
Homeschooling represents the epitome of educational choice because it allows parents to take responsibility for their child’s education and implement the best educational pathway for academic success. More than 118,000 students are taught at home in North Carolina, according to estimates from the NC Division of Non-Public Education, the state agency tasked with providing oversight for homeschooling. Homeschooling is so popular in North Carolina that the number of students taught at home now even exceeds―by more than 20,000 students―the number of students enrolled in private schools.
Most families (60 percent) in North Carolina choose to register their home schools as religious schools. However, the number of independent home schools has been rising, and now accounts for 40 percent of all registered home schools statewide.
Why do families choose homeschooling? According to federal data from the National Household Education Surveys Program, the three most frequently cited reasons parents give for homeschooling their children are:
- Concerns about the environment of other K-12 schools
- A desire to provide moral instruction for their children
- Dissatisfaction with the academic instruction at other schools
Homeschooling growth: It’s exponential
In the two decades since homeschooling was legalized in North Carolina, the movement has experienced exponential growth: The number of homeschooled students has exploded from 809 students in 1985-86 to more than 118,000 in 2015-16.
Take a look at this trend line of homeschooling growth―measured by student enrollment―over the past 20 years.
Source: North Carolina Division of Non-Public Education
More than one-quarter of the state’s homeschooling population comes from just five counties. According to state data, the five North Carolina counties with the highest numbers of homeschooled students are:
- Wake County: 11,356 students
- Mecklenburg County: 8,773 students
- Union County: 4,299 students
- Guilford County: 4,239 students
- Buncombe County: 4,121 students
Parental Flexibility Expands
The North Carolina General Assembly passed legislation in 1988 defining home schools and setting forth homeschooling requirements. In 2013 the General Assembly redefined home schools, providing parents with additional flexibility in their teaching. Statute now defines a home school as “a nonpublic school consisting of the children of not more than two families or households, where the parents or legal guardians or members of either household determine the scope and sequence of academic instruction, provide academic instruction, and determine additional sources of academic instruction.”
Parents are no longer obligated to teach core academic subjects themselves and instead may choose other sources of instruction, including online classes, tutors, outside enrichment classes targeting homeschoolers, or even home school co-ops.