In a Nutshell
One of the themes that I consistently hear when I talk with homeschoolers at conferences is their desire for a short, direct summary of the results and benefits of homeschooling. They want factual information that enables them to communicate effectively with homeschooling’s detractors, with its doubters, and with those who just want to know more about it.
In response to that request, this Last Word column will address four categories of homeschooling research (academics, socialization, success after graduation, and success in college) with a quick synopsis.
J. Michael Smith, President of Home School Legal Defense Association, speaks at the evening banquet of HSLDA’s 2010 Summit.
ON ALL COUNTS, RESEARCH INDICATIES
THAT HOMESCHOOLERS MEET OR EXCEED
THEIR PUBLIC SCHOOL COUNTERPARTS.
By now, we should all know that homeschool students are very successful academically as determined by both standardized achievement tests and college entrance exams. As far back as 1988, the Tennessee Department of Education found in its official study that homeschool students did as well or better than their public school counterparts on standardized achievement tests. In 1999, the Oregon Department of Education found the same thing in its study of homeschool standardized achievement test scores. Over the course of the 20 years since the Tennessee study, there have been at least five national studies by professional researchers on homeschooling test results and demographics, including one by the director of the Educational Resources Information Center, a clearinghouse on testing and measurement sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education. In each of these studies, homeschoolers averaged between 15 and 30 percentile points above the public school average on standardized tests. This was true for all grade levels and subjects, and similar results were found in the most recent (2007) study by the National Home Education Research Institute.
Even more interesting is the fact that parents’ education level is basically insignificant to homeschooled students’ success on achievement tests. The test results of children whose parents have a high school diploma versus those whose parents have college degrees vary only slightly. And all the studies show that even students whose parents have the least education still score above the national average. This is in direct contrast to public school students, whose scores are more closely correlated to parents’ education levels.
The same phenomenon occurs when educational results are segmented according to family income. Homeschooled children from lower-income families score almost the same as children from higher-income families.
Regarding college entrance exams, the ACT reported that homeschoolers scored above the national average from 1996 until 2006 (that was when the ACT stopped differentiating between homeschool students and those from public and private schools). In 2006, the average ACT composite score for homeschool students was 22.4, compared to the national average of 21.1.
The bottom line is that, on average, home education produces superior academic results to classroom education. This makes sense. The child is receiving an individualized education rather than conforming to an education program designed for a group.
But what about socialization? Much research has been done in this area. In 2006, a psychology professor at Stetson University, Richard Medlin, did extensive research concerning homeschoolers’ social skills. He concluded that homeschoolers are not isolated, but in fact, because of the flexible schedule and more efficient use of time, homeschooling actually affords children more opportunities to participate in activities outside the home.
ACCORDING TO THE RESEARCH,
HOMESCHOOLING IS A MYTH.
“Homeschooled children’s social skills scores were consistently higher than those of public school students,” Medlin said. “The differences were most marked for girls and for older children and accomplished all four of the specific skills testing: cooperation, assertiveness, empathy, and self-control.” He concluded that taking into consideration three different perspectives—parental report, objective observers, and self-report—homeschooled children’s social skills were exceptional.
According to the research, the socialization knock against homeschooling is a myth. Homeschooled students are actually better socialized than their public school counterparts. Spending more time with responsible adults and older people and less time with their peers is the key to homeschoolers' social adeptness.
Success after graduation
What about success after graduation? According to the 2003 study by Brian Ray, Home Educated and Now Adults, homeschoolers are involved in their community, civics, and higher education to a greater extent than their traditionally educated peers. Seventy-one percent of the homeschool graduates surveyed were participating in community service activity in comparison with 37% of similar-aged U.S. adults. Over 90% agreed or strongly agreed that being homeschooled gave them advantages in adulthood and disagreed or strongly disagreed that homeschooling limited their career choices.
Ray’s study also found that twice the percentage of homeschool graduates go on to college as the general population, which leads to the final category of research.
Success in college
How about success in college for homeschool graduates? In 2004, the Journal of College Admissions published an article by an admissions director from Ball State University who reported that “Research showed that our homeschool students . . . performed better academically. They have a combined cumulative grade point average of 3.47, compared to the 2.91 shared by the general student population.” A 2010 study1 found that college freshmen who had been homeschooled had slightly higher GPAs and higher SAT scores than private and public school students, participated in more activities than those peers, and were satisfied with their homeschool experience.
Colleges all across the country are recognizing the benefits of recruiting homeschoolers. Over 700 post-secondary institutions, including Harvard, Yale, Stanford, MIT, Rice University, and the Citadel, have admitted homeschooled students. A spokesperson for the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admis-sions Officers, Barmark Nassirian, said “After years of skepticism, even mistrust, many college officials realize that it is in their best interest to seek out homeschoolers.”
Armed with these facts, you can now competently show skeptics that not only is homeschooling in the best interest of your child, but it would probably be in the best interest of their children as well. Over the past 30 years, a wide variety of research has been conducted to address homeschooling’s impact on children in every way. On all counts, research indicates that homeschoolers meet or exceed their public school counterparts. When you are having a bad day and wondering if you’ve made the right decision for your child, re-read this article. No matter what opposition you get, be confident in knowing that you have made the best choice for your child’s education.
1 Erika Jones, "Transition from Home Education to Higher Education: Academic and Social Issues," Home School Researcher, Vol. 25, No. 3 (2010)