Homeschooling and Educational Freedom: Why School Choice Is Good for Homeschoolers

8 Pages Posted: 31 Dec 2019

Date Written: September 4, 2019


Over the past 50 years, homeschooling has grown from a fringe act to a widely accepted education model reflective of a diverse American population. Many parents choose homeschooling to avoid the constraints of the conventional classroom and to embrace education in a broader, often more pluralistic way. Increasingly, homeschooling is driving education innovation, as entrepreneurial parents and educators create hybrid learning models that redefine and expand the homeschooling paradigm.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the U.S. homeschooling population more than doubled between 1999 and 2012, from 850,000 to 1.8 million children, or 3.4 percent of the K–12 student population. Federal data show that the homeschooling population dipped slightly between 2012 and 2016, but state-level data reveal that some states with robust education choice programs saw rising numbers of homeschoolers during that time. Fluctuation in the homeschooling population is likely due to many factors, including regulatory changes that could make homeschooling either easier or more difficult for parents, but some homeschooling families may be taking advantage of school choice mechanisms, like education savings accounts (ESAs) and tax-credit scholarships. Even if they are not, an environment that supports educational freedom may encourage homeschooling growth.

This paper offers an overview of homeschooling trends and a glimpse at the current homeschooling population while arguing that educational freedom creates momentum for families to seek alternatives to conventional mass schooling. By expanding the definition of education and placing families in charge, education choice programs can empower parents, provide varied learning opportunities for young people, and stimulate education innovation and entrepreneurship. Despite legitimate fears of regulation, homeschoolers should generally support school choice proposals.

Keywords: homeschooling, homeschool, homeschoolers, National Center for Education Statistics, school choice, education policy, economics of schooling, tax-credit scholarships, education savings accounts, ESAs, conventional schooling

JEL Classification: H4, H40, H41, H42, H44, H5, H52, H7, H75, I2, I20, I21, I22, I25, I29

Suggested Citation

McDonald, Kerry, Homeschooling and Educational Freedom: Why School Choice Is Good for Homeschoolers (September 4, 2019). Cato Institute Briefing Paper No. 124, 2019, Available at SSRN:

Kerry McDonald (Contact Author)

Cato Institute

1000 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20001-5403
United States

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