Home School: A Niche Market

In past issues we have discussed the market of stay-at-home parents with preschoolers and how it can be tapped for LBEs, FECs, and especially children's edutainment centers.  There is another stay-at-home niche market that can also be tapped by some LBEs -- home-schooled children.

Recent analysis by the U.S. Census Bureau indicates that in 2000 there were over 800,000 home-schooled children 6 to 17 years old in the U.S.  That is just short of 2% of all children that age.  Home-schooling appears to be on the increase.  The estimated number of home-schoolers has grown at an annual rate of about 10% since 1996.  Continued growth is projected and further indicated by anecdotal data that the number of stay-at-home parents and births is increasing (see Summer 2003 issue). In its August 2001 report on home-schooling, the Census Bureau noted, "Home-schooling has emerged with, and indeed is linked to, other emerging educational trends -- on-line education and other systems that allow families and individuals to choose their own educational paths (school vouchers, charter schools)."

Academic concerns and religious motivations are the primary reasons parents home school.  In surveys, about half of parents say the primary reason for undertaking home-schooling is the idea that home education is better education and regular schools have shortcomings and are poor learning environments.  One-third of parents cite religion and less than one-tenth cite morality as reasons for home-schooling.

A market of only 2% of school-age children isn't large.  However, further analysis indicates home-schoolers are in a much larger percentage for the two-parent family segment of a target socio-economic group our company has named Knowledge Families .  We define Knowledge Families as middle- and higher-income families of college-educated parents with children. 

The percentage of home-schooled children belonging to college-educated parents is one-fifth larger than for children attending school.  It is also one-fifth higher for two-parent families.  And when there is a non-working parent, the proportion of home-schoolers is twice what it is for school children.  This indicates that for two-parent Knowledge Families , the overall percentage of home-schooled children may be as high as four percent.

Sure, this is still a small niche market, but when you look at it in terms of achievable attendance, its potential for LBEs and FECs becomes significant. 

Home-schoolers don't stay home during the entire time they are being schooled.  They often attend special classes with other home-schoolers and have a need for socialization opportunities with other children.  Most home-schoolers meet weekly somewhere with other home-schoolers for cooperative programs, extracurricular activities and support groups.

If an LBE becomes a destination for special home-schooler classes, extracurricular activities and groups, the home-schooler market suddenly represents significant attendance.  Furthermore, this attendance occurs during a typical downtime, the midweek daytime daypart.

When our company designs both the facilities and programming for our clients' centers, we pay particular attention to downtime opportunities presented by many potential niche markets, including home-schooling.  Tapping these opportunities not only requires special programming, but can also require features that need to be incorporated in the center's design.  Children's edutainment centers are ideal for tapping the home-school market.  However, with appropriate design, family entertainment centers can also capture this additional revenue source.