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Utah homeschooling is on the rise. What does that say about education in Utah?

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SALT LAKE CITY — Homeschooling is more popular in Utah today than it has ever been in the state.

According to statistics from the Utah State School Board, there were 652,348 students enrolled in public schools during the 2017 school year. In the 2015-2016 school year, the last year for which the state collected homeschool statistics, 16,085 students were homeschooled.

That number means over about the last ten years, the number of students being homeschooled in Utah has doubled. Growth in public schools during the same time frame has been steady, but not as steep.

Homeschooling demographics

Students who are homeschooled tend to fall outside the statistical norm compared to other public school students. According to the Census Bureau, parents who homeschool their children are more likely to be married, white, have a four-year degree and at least three children.

Homeschooled students are also disproportionately male (58%). Nationwide, boys make up just less than half of the public school population.

In the state of Utah, the Davis and Alpine school districts have the most homeschooled students, with 4,761 and 2,697, respectively.

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Data from Utah State Board of Education

Utah has the highest birthrate in the country, which can help explain why a chart showing the population growth of school attendance over time is steady. However, a similar chart showing growth among the homeschooling population demonstrates a much more exponential climb.

homeschooling

Data from Utah State Board of Education

homeschooling

Data from Utah State Board of Education

What does this say about education in Utah?

“The explosion in homeschooling has shocked me,” Amy Donaldson said on Wednesday’s Dave and Dujanovic show. “I have many really good friends who have chosen to homeschool their kids …  sometimes it’s because the kid has a social or a learning disability, or sometimes it’s because they want to base their teachings around their own personal family philosophy.”

Todd Fooks is looking forward to the not-too-distant-future day when his son, age 3-and-a-half, will be able to head off to his first day of Kindergarten, but Amy said he’d better hold on before he gets too excited.

Amy began her career at the Deseret News covering education in Utah and is still a fan of public education, but she told Todd after her daughter had gone to two years of public school, she and her husband decided to scrimp and save to send her to a private school.

“Here was my problem. My daughter would be done with her work early and the teachers would then ask her to help other students and that’s fine, I’m glad she could learn to be helpful to others,” she said. “I was afraid that she would learn that she didn’t have to work very hard to get an A or be successful, and I’d rather have her continue working throughout the class.”

Another problem the Donaldsons ran into was playing the lottery on what type of teacher their children would get.

Some years she said, “we’d get a teacher that we loved, that was amazing and everything was great, [and other years] there’d be a teacher that was counting the days till they retired.”

Those issues, among others she talked about, led them to decide to send her children to a private school that fit with her families philosophy.

“I think the start you give your kids matters,” she concluded.

Hear the rest of the conversation

You can hear the rest of the conversation that Todd and Amy had while filling in on Wednesday’s Dave and Dujanovic show, including their discussion about whether or not the Bible should be taught in school as sparked by the Presidents tweets on the subject, below.