The Changing Face of Homeschoolers
Singer Taylor Swift may be a record-breaking pop star, but many can still relate to her memories of school—it seems she had to deal with her fair share of mean girls. “Junior high was actually sort of hard because I got dumped by this group of popular girls,” she told Teen Vogue in March of 2009. “They didn’t think I was cool or pretty enough, so they stopped talking to me.” Though she began to find solace in her music, it only made the teasing worse. She recalls playing the guitar so much that her fingers would bleed, “… my mom had to tape them up,” she told Rolling Stone in a 2009 interview. “And you can imagine how popular that made me: ‘Look at her fingers, so weird.'”
But Taylor Swift’s school days became a little less familiar to the average student when she switched to homeschooling her junior year. Like many young singers, actors, and athletes, Swift chose the option of learning from home so she could continue to practice and pursue her music career. She called her years as a homeschooler a “great experience.” While still in her senior year of high school she told CMT News “I feel like I’ve had the best senior year possible. It’s awesome that I’ve been able to stay on the same path to graduating that I would’ve been on if I’d stayed in high school.” Continuing in a traditional school environment would have meant missing classes and tests when she’d be on the road with her music. “My education was always a big deal to me, and I’m so glad homeschooling allowed me to keep it up,” she said.
Few would accuse Taylor Swift of being antisocial, radically religious, or lacking fashion sense—but those are some of the prevailing stereotypes that have been connected with homeschoolers. Now those old labels are changing as homeschooling is gradually becoming more mainstream.
According to the National Home Education Research Institute (NHERI), the number of kids who are homeschooled is growing by two to eight percent each year, and there are now nearly “2.3 million home-educated students in the United States.” In fact, the number of children who were homeschooled in 2012 was nearly double the number reported in 1999.
While many parents choose to homeschool their children to provide religious instruction, other reasons include concern over the school environment, lack of academic challenge in the local school, and the need for schedule flexibility.
In the past, homeschoolers were often labeled as loners who spent their days isolated from their peers. And while it’s true that homeschoolers must work a little harder at creating opportunities to socialize and be around other kids, it’s not as hard as it once was. With the connections that technology and social media provide, along with extracurricular clubs, activities, and sports, most are able to easily fill that void.
In fact, studies show that homeschooled children may even be better off socially than those attending traditional schools. According to the Peabody Journal of Education, research has shown that parents of homeschoolers “provide their children with a variety of social opportunities outside the family.” As a result, “compared to children attending conventional schools … [homeschoolers] have higher quality friendships and better relationships with their parents and other adults.”
And studies indicate that kids who are homeschooled are doing well academically, too, with the majority rating above brick-and-mortar school students in standardized tests and on the SAT and ACT exams. “They’re doing just as well or better,” Brian Ray, with the National Home Education Research Institute, told Business Insider.
Because she soon became a popular and award-winning singer/songwriter, Taylor Swift probably did not have to confront homeschooling stereotypes, and the schoolyard teasing she experienced at her brick-in-mortar school is now far behind her. She even had the opportunity to perform in her hometown, where she discovered those popular girls were now just part of her fan base. “They showed up, wearing my T-shirts and asking me to sign their CDs,” she told Teen Vogue in 2009. “It was bittersweet because it made me realize that they didn’t remember being mean to me and that I needed to forget about it, too.”
Maybe finding success on your own path is the best way to combat mean labels!
Homeschooling is just one of the many options parents have when choosing the best education for their children. Many homeschooling parents choose to switch to online learning, which provides the added benefits of an engaging curriculum and certified teachers while still allowing students to learn in a home setting. Because finding and teaching a challenging curriculum can be a concern for homeschooling parents, many discover that their students can achieve more at an online school. For more information about online schools and the rigorous curriculum available to homeschoolers, visit K12.com, the leader in online education.
Please note that this article and the statistics noted refer to the traditional concept of parent-led homeschooling, which is home-based education led and taught by a parent using a curriculum outside of the conventional/traditional public school setting. The last paragraph, in italics, identifies a different option for students to learn at home; teacher-led learning via an online virtual school. This form of schooling is also usually home-based, but differs from parent-led homeschooling in that parents have the role of Learning Coach while state-certified teachers educate students online using a provided school-based, state-aligned curriculum.
Elizabeth Street is a writer for Learning Liftoff. For the past 20 years, she has written newsletter and website content for nonprofit and corporate organizations on such topics as the plight of children of prisoners worldwide, the lack of prenatal care for mothers in developing countries, and child mentoring programs. She has a particular interest in the importance of providing all children with a quality education regardless of their family’s financial status or background. A native of Virginia, Elizabeth is a graduate of James Madison University and loves animals, with particular fondness for her two cats, Oscar and Emmy.