The problem with homeschooling

The practice is barely tracked or regulated in the US and can easily conceal abuse

Two kids sitting on the couch at home studying school papers
Eleven states do not even require parents to report that they are homeschooling their child
(Image credit: Richard Drury / Getty Images)

Jokes about homeschooled kids are a well-worn cliché: They are weird; they are geniuses; they are improperly socialized. But in the U.S., homeschooling also happens to be an unchecked practice. It is impossible to know how many kids are participating because "home­school­ing is barely tracked or regulated in the U.S.," said Scientific American. Other countries have stricter requirements, including mandated curriculums or required home visits for children learning at home. But "many of America's new homeschooled children have entered a world where no government official will ever check on what, or how well, they are being taught," said The Washington Post.

Homeschooling was legal in all 50 states by 1993, though rules vary by state. While the practice was once associated with left-leaning parents aligned with '60s and '70s counterculture, it became part of a conservative movement in the '80s and '90s, with many families pulling kids out of school in order to give them a religious education at home. This trend has continued: Nearly 60% of parents in a National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) 2019 survey responded that "religious instruction was a motivation in their ­decision to educate at home," said Scientific American. 

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Anya Jaremko-Greenwold has worked as a story editor at The Week since 2024. She previously worked at FLOOD Magazine, Woman's World, First for Women, DGO Magazine and BOMB Magazine. Anya's culture writing has appeared in The Atlantic, Jezebel, Vice and the Los Angeles Review of Books, among others.