HYBRID HOMESCHOOLS: Why Parents Choose Them

Record: Eric Wearne, “A Descriptive Survey of Why Parents Choose Hybrid Homeschools.” Journal of School Choice, 10, No. 3 (2016): 364-380. [Abstract / Modified Version Available Here]

SummaryEric Wearne is Assistant Professor of Education at Georgia Gwinnett College. In this article he investigates the phenomenon of hybrid (part-time) homeschooling.

In a hybrid homeschooling program, students attend school with other students for 2 or 3 days a week and then are homeschooled for the remainder. Thus they might be considered more formal versions of homeschool co-ops. Most homeschool hybrids are private schools, though homeschool hybrid programs exist in the public sector as well. Hybrid homeschools are sometimes called “University Model Schools” because the schedule resembles a collegiate schedule.

To discover the reasons that parents choose hybrid schools, Wearne sent an electronic survey to the parents of four private, hybrid homeschools in a metropolitan area of Georgia. The schools charged an average yearly tuition of approximately $3,000 at the K-8 level and $3,500 at the high school level. There were four additional homeschool hybrids in the area that chose not to participate in the survey. Three of the participating schools were non-denominational Christian schools, and the fourth was Catholic. Out of the approximately 700 families contacted, 136 surveys were completed.

Approximately 70% of respondents reported a family income above $100,000. Respondents tended to be White (92.6%), married (96.7%), live in a suburb (91.8%), and have at least an undergraduate degree (84.4%). 81.7% chose a homeschool hybrid in part because of the religious education offered at the schools. However, other popular reasons mentioned were a better learning environment (79.4%), smaller class sizes (79.4%), better preparation for college (54.8%), greater respect for parental rights (53.2%), and improved student safety (38.9%). As far as the most important reason for enrolling in a hybrid homeschool, the most common response was “Other” (16.7%). Most of these “other” reasons were family related (i.e. spending more time with children), education-specific (i.e. promoting enjoyment in learning), and related to general flexibility (i.e. more time for field trips). This option was followed by a better learning environment (13%), better education (13%), religious education (13%), and more individual attention for the child (8.7%).

When asked about the information they would seek out when deciding on a hybrid homeschool, the most common answers were the curriculum (80.8%), the student to teacher ratio (72.8%), the school’s accreditation status (71.2%), whether the school teaches religion (67.2%), and the percentage of students accepted to college (53.6%). Interestingly, when filtered to only the parents’ most important piece of information, the top choice was the school’s accreditation status (26.1%). Wearne hypothesizes that this might be because Georgia offers a special scholarship that requires an accredited school. To gain this information, parents most frequently said they would attend an information meeting, ask for a tour, and review the school’s website. Parents were confident that they were able to get enough information to make an informed decision.

In conclusion, Wearne notes that hybrid homeschools may be emerging in the suburbs for families who are financially well-off but not wealthy enough to afford a full-time private school. While 81.7% of families said they sought a hybrid homeschool for religious education, only 55.2% of families listed it as one of their top five reasons. Thus, these families were mostly in hybrid schools for academic purposes.

Appraisal: Since very little besides Allahyari 2012 has been written about these hybrid homeschooling programs, Wearne’s article is a great addition that increases our understanding of the parental motivations behind hybrid school programs (at least in this particular area of Georgia). However, there are a couple questions that I wish Wearne would have asked. For example, it would have been valuable information to know whether the families had switched in from public schools, another private school, or homeschooling. Furthermore, while it might be outside of the intended scope of the article, it would have been valuable to know what these families’ homeschooling practices look like.

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