Introduction to Distance Education: Homeschooling

December 15, 2013

Dr. Fred Saba

Dr. Fred Saba

Dr. Farhad (Fred) Saba, Ph. D.

Homeschooling is not necessarily a form of distance education; however, many students and parents rely on resources and formal courses that are presented on the Internet. Also, the distance education movement in united states has had the tradition of catering to the needs of non-traditional students. In that respect, homeschooled children are non-traditional learners and to the extent that their parents rely on resources and formal courses on the Internet, they are partaking in distance leaning.

Hana (2012) in a longitudinal study of methods, materials, and curricula of homeschoolers said:

“The data suggested that homeschoolers today are choosing very specific methods and carefully selected materials for their children’s instruction and most are conducting their business on a much larger stage than in the mid- 1990s. Using the computer alone provides (a) an extensive variety of resources, (b) a wide range of curricula from which to choose, and (c) a much larger and readily accessible support base than existed in the 1970s, 1980s, or 1990s. Some concern may exist for the families who are not permitting their children to use the computer. “

In 1999, at the turn of the century,  an estimated 850,000 students were being home schooled throughout the country (Bielick, Chandler, & Broughman, 2001) . This amounted to 1.7 per cent of U.S. students, ages 5 to 17, with a grade equivalent of kindergarten through 12. In the 2011-2012 school year, approximately 3 percent of the school-age population was homeschooled. This would put the total number of homeschooled children at 1,770,000.  Ninety-one percent of homeschooled students had parents who said that a concern about the environment of other schools was an important reason for homeschooling their child. (Noel, Stark, and Redford, 2013).

While homeschooling started by parents who wanted a rigorous religious education for their children, today many urban professionals  homeschool their children because of the poor educational experience that are offered in public schools. Linda Perlstein’s  article titled Why Urban Educated Parents Are Turning to DIY Education presents the opportunities and limitations for parents who decide to craft a personal  educational experience for their children.  Also, The Atlantic article titled The Homeschool Diaries provides further insights into the homeschooling experience.

The story of Josh Powell, a teenager  growing up in rural Virginia, however, is interesting. As reported by the Washington Post “By the time he was 16, he had never written an essay. He didn’t know South Africa was a country. He couldn’t solve basic algebra problems,” thus casting doubt on the quality of education and students receive from their parents. Such substandard, and uneven education may jeopardize the ability of homeschooled students to enter college or pursue a professional of their interest (Student’s home-schooling highlights debate over Va. religious exemption law)

Nevertheless, Collom (2005)  in a study of the determinants of parental motivations and student achievement in homeschooling found that:

“Minority students and those from low-income families have consistently been found to be at a disadvantage in the public education system. Homeschooling apparently levels the playing field, ameliorating the negative affects that race and class subordination have shown in the public schools.”

Further, he asserted that

“One finding in particular deserves further attention by future researchers. Students of parents who homeschool because of their criticism of the public schools were found to have higher reading and language scores.”

In a study of the transitional experiences of first college students who were home schooled, Bolle, Wessel, and Mulvihill (2007) concluded that:

“The many transitional issues encountered by these first-year students who were homeschooled in high school were closely related to those experienced by traditionally educated students. Nearly all participants had to adjust to living away from home, making new friends, and encountering others who were different from themselves. Unique issues included adjusting to traditional academics, starting school after a period of absence, and balancing academics with work and the demands of a child at home.”

Homeschooling laws differ in various states. Home School Legal Defense Association, a nonprofit advocacy organization offers information about laws that apply to homeschoolers in each state as well as recent news and developments. Ann Zeise’s webiste a2z Home’s Cool recently asked questions (FAQ) page offers a wealth of information ranging from ow to start in homeschooling to amiable resources and other key information.


Bielick, S., Chandler, K.  & Broughman, S. (2001). Homeschooling in the United States: 1999. National Center for Education Statistics, US. Department of Education (NCES 2001-033).

Bolle, M. B., Wessel R. D., , and Mulvihill, T. M.  (2007). Transitional experience of first-year college students who were homeschooled. Journal of College Student Development, 48 (6), 637-654.

Collom, E. (2005). The ins and outs of homeschooling: The determinants of parental motivations and student achieve. Education and urban society. Retrieved from

Hana, L. G. (2012). Homeschooling education: Longitudinal study of methods, materials, and curricula. Education and Urban Society.  44 (5),  609–631.

Noel, A., Stark, P., and Redford, J. (2013). Parent and family involvement in education, from the national household education survey program of 2012. National Center for Education Statistics, US. Department of Education (NCES 2013-028).