STATE OF OPPORTUNITY. Can Kids in Michigan Get Ahead?
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Some parents may be underprepared for the demands of homeschooling, study suggests

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Nearly 2 million kids in the U.S. -- 3.4% of all K-12 students -- were home-schooled in 2012, according to a new report from National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).

Parents choose to break away from the traditional school system for a variety of reasons.

Some want to incorporate religion into their children's education. Others believe formal school settings are not conducive to lifelong learning. And the deciding factor for many parents are concerns over students' safety at school, according to Education Week.

Whatever a parent's reason for home-schooling, a growing number are choosing to do so. But parents may be underprepared to instruct their children across a wide array of grades and subjects, NCES suggests.

The report found 26% of home-schooling parents had a bachelor’s degree, while 18% had a master’s. And about one-third had a high school diploma or less.

Requirements for home-school instructors, whether it's a parent or someone else, vary widely by state. Many states require instructors to obtain a teaching certificate, teaching permit, or bachelor's degree. And some require instructors to maintain attendance records, submit quarterly reports, and conduct standardized tests.

NCES found 3 out of 4 home-schooling parents had no training before beginning to teach their children. And of those who were trained, 11% took a class in person, while another 14% took an online or hybrid training course, according to Education Week:

Parents most frequently relied on websites, libraries, and homeschooling publishers for instructional materials. The report did not include information about the content or quality of any particular material, though it did find most home-schooled secondary students had covered basic algebra and earth sciences.

Race and homeschooling

One of the fastest growing demographics of home-schoolers has been African-American families. Black students make up 10% of the home-schooling population, according to The Atlantic.

However, black families' reasons for home-schooling seem to be markedly different than their white counterparts. Research suggests their decision is often based on factors like protecting their children from the ill effects of school-related racism, low expectations of black kids in public schools, and mistreatment.

Detroit mom Camille Kirksey decided to start home-schooling when her now 8-year-old son was attending a private preschool.

She told NPR:

It was a mostly black school with mostly white teachers, which didn't really bother me until I saw the difference in how they treated certain kids — especially boys. They seemed to be very harsh, kinda barking at them, ordering them around.

Kirksey said she also wanted to teach her three children history that featured their own ancestors:

As black people, I really want my children to understand that we are a huge part of history that is not always told.

It's estimated that the number of home-schooled students in the U.S. doubled between 1999 and 2012. And as it continues to grow in popularity, states have begun reexamining their home-schooling regulations.

Paulette is a blogger for Michigan Radio's State of Opportunity project, which looks at kids from low-income families and what it takes to get them ahead. She previously interned as a reporter in the Michigan Radio newsroom.