How many homeschoolers are in my county?

Email of the Day:
How can I figure out how many homeschoolers are in my county?

You’d think calculating the DofIs would be the best way to go . . . but it’s not.
First, the DofIs only count children 8-18, and don’t count the homeschoolers 5-7.
Second, the OSPI does not publish all of the DofI numbers in their reports — entire school districts are missing — even some fairly large ones.
Third, the numbers in the reports are themselves suspect. Take, for example, the DofI reports from
Looking at the 2014-15 reports, we note that Moses Lake reports 130 students from 68 families. Northshore reports 327 students from 173 families, Spokane reports 409 students from 244 families; these are realistic.

Kent School District Reports 413 students in 413 homeschool families.
Lake Washington SD reports 392 students in 392 families.
Mead SD reports 128 students in 128 families.
Puyallup reports 475 students from 475 families.
Richland reports 175 students from 175 families.
Snoqualmie Valley reports 209 students from 209 families.
Tacoma reports 380 students from 380 families.
These numbers aren’t realistic — and we know they aren’t true.

I know families in Mead, Puyallup, and Richland who have more than one child declared on their DofI. And, if you’ve spent any time at all in the homeschooling community, you know that families like mine (with an only child) are exceptional. These numbers also do not include folks who are “flying under the radar” and do not comply with the HBI law and submit a DofI.

The OSPI reports for 2014-15 total 19,610 children in 12,654 families. This includes the districts that are obviously lying on their reports — just the ones above are short at least 1,300 children — and I didn’t include all the districts whose reports are suspect, just a handful of the large ones. This number (19,000) does not include children 5-7. There are also 295 districts in WA state, only 280 of them made it onto last year’s report. The full list of SDs is here:

The best guesses have taken the number of children ages 5-17 reported on the US Census, and subtracted out the children enrolled in public and private schools, then put it up against the average of 2.83% of school children who are homeschooled from data from states that require registration (like ours). This best guess for 2013-14 is 32,615 children in WA who are being homeschooled.

I don’t know how sloppy the numbers are from other states that require registration, but since ours is obviously wrong (and low), I imagine this figure is probably still shy of the actual number of homeschoolers.

If we were all together, as a single SD, homeschoolers in WA would comprise 2nd largest SD after Seattle (46,648 students) — larger than Spokane (28,380 students) and Tacoma (27,738 students) or Kent and Evergreen, with 26K and 25K, respectively.

Homeschooling in WA, as homeschooling everywhere, has continued to grow each year — a somewhat slow and steady pace. We thought we’d see a spurt with the adoption of the Common Core Standards, but, although that has become a new reason for choosing to homeschool, we haven’t seen huge growth from it.

–Jen Garrison Stuber, WHO Board Advocacy Chair