Surprising Census Statistics on Working and Homeschooling

Did you know that more homeschool families have both parents in the work force than have a stay-at-home parent?  Neither did I until I read about it in the comments on this post at Wandering Scientist, but it’s true.  According to Census Bureau data from 2007 (and I confirmed this with a friend who is a mathematician at Census):

  • 808,000 families homeschool with both parents in the work force,
  • 509,000 families homeschool with one parent in the work force and one at home,
  • 127,000 families homeschool with a single parent who works, and
  • 64,000 families homeschool without a parent in the work force.

I was a little surprised that the majority of homeschool families have two working parents, but upon further consideration I wonder if the number is actually higher.  The statistics cited in the Census report are from 2007 data, and more women have probably gone back to work in some fashion since then because of the economy.  Moreover I think lots of women who homeschool probably self-report as being SAHMs when really they work part-time or from home (that’s what I did for several years).

What does this really mean?  Who cares if people are working and homeschooling?

  • It reinforces a new norm of flexibility.  I think more and more people are figuring out ways to work flexibly, and are unwilling to take an all or nothing view toward work or parenting.  Whether you’re juggling work with homeschooling, juggling work with parenting, or juggling two other totally unrelated commitments, it’s great to see evidence that others are doing this too. It also helps to change the work, parenting, and education cultures around us, and that is a good thing.
  • It challenges popular stereotypes.  Homeschooling is kind of a second front in the mommy wars.  As in the working mom versus SAHM debates, when it comes to homeschooling people have a lot of misconceptions, base their opinion on one-off random horrible people they knew once, and take it as a personal judgment when someone makes a different choice than they have.  I won’t go into the tired cliches about homeschooling because you already know them.  But I love that this data challenges a number of the stereotypes.  A family with two parents in the workforce is probably not hyper-helicopter parenting, only wearing ankle-length denim skirts, or opposed to interaction with the outside world.
  • It puts “I don’t have time” into perspective.  I would say that nearly half the homeschool moms I know work in some way.  They are writers and midwives, entrepreneurs and computer scientists, nurses, farmers, dentists, librarians, and freelancers.  They make it happen and they do a great job.  I’m not saying that people who “just” homeschool or who “just” work are slackers.  We all spend our 168 hours differently according to what’s important to us.  But as Laura Vanderkam pointed out in her book, it’s much more honest to say “That’s not a priority” rather than “I don’t have time.”  Work and/or homeschooling may not be a priority (or a necessity) for you right now.  And either or both may not be for me in the future.  But in any case, I think we do ourselves a favor when we’re honest about our choices and take responsibility for the decisions we make.

Are you surprised by the Census statistics?  

9 thoughts on “Surprising Census Statistics on Working and Homeschooling

  1. It does surprise me a little bit, but I think that’s probably just that the stereotype is engrained more than I’d realized. Because when I think about it, several of the homeschoolers I know personally have both parents working (maybe not full-time, but at least part-time).

    I guess what surprises me more is that even with numbers like these, why are the stereotypes so strong?

  2. My mom (still) homeschools in California and most of the moms in her group work at least part time. It is too expensive there for many families to not have a second income. Those women are amazing–especially one lady who is a night nurse and homeschools when she gets home in the morning.

  3. Very interesting indeed. It’s good to know that there are other moms out there like us:) I’d be curious as time goes on how those homeschooled kids with working moms perceive working outside of the home.

    1. Do you think they would see it differently than kids whose moms work but who go to public or private schools?

      I think how kids perceive moms working has a lot to do with the mom’s attitude and how she communicates to her kids. But I think that’s true of being a SAHM too.

      1. Homeschool kids (or at least mine) who are old enough are left at home with responsibilities and care of younger children instead of being supervised in a school setting. Although I’m usually only gone one afternoon a week (I try to work the majority of my hours on Saturday when dad is home), I wonder if my kids will grow up and say, “I’d never do that” or if they’ll free freed up to pursue work outside the home also.

        1. It will be interesting to see how it turns out, but it seems like in your case, from my way outside perspective, that you have a real sense of calling about your job, and you also really pour into your kids. Personally, I find that very inspirational and I would bet that ultimately your kids will too.

  4. Hello! This post couldn’t be written any better! Reading through this post reminds me of my previous room mate! He always kept chatting about this. I will forward this post to him. Pretty sure he will have a good read. Thanks for sharing!

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