The Washington Times
November 24, 2003

Op-ed: Homeschooling Grows Up

Washington Times
November 24, 2003
by J. Michael Smith
HSLDA President

Every home-school family has confronted the question "Oh, you home-school. What about your child's socialization?" It's a question which reaches right to the heart of home-schooling, because if a child isn't properly socialized how can that child succeed?

Since the re-emergence of the home-school movement, in the late 1970's, critics of homeschooling have perpetuated two myths. The first concerns the ability of parents to adequately teach their own children at home; the second is whether home-school children will be well-adjusted socially.

Twenty-five years later, homeschoolers have demonstrated significant academic achievement, and Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) is unaware of any serious critics who still argue that home-schoolers struggle academically. To the contrary, home-schoolers consistently score 20 to 30 percentile points more than their public-school peers on standardized tests.

Proving academic success is relatively straightforward, because tests can be administered and immediate results determined. The second myth, however, is more difficult to address because children who were homeschooled in appreciable numbers in the late 1980's are only now coming of age and in a position to demonstrate they can succeed as adults.

Home-school families across the nation knew that criticisms about adequate socialization were ill founded - they had the evidence right in their own homes. Until recently, there had been no adequate research of home-schooled adults. A new study, titled 'Homeschooling Grows Up' was commissioned by HSLDA and conducted by Dr. Brian Ray of the National Home Education Research Institute (NHERI). It provides academically based research to support the numerous anecdotal examples of home-school success. More than 7,300 home-school graduates participated in the study. Of these respondents, more than 5,000 had been home-schooled for more than seven years and their responses were used to compile the study.

Many critics believe the main motivation for many home-schooling families is to retreat from society due to the negative influences present in the wider world. It's certainly true that home-schoolers are reacting against the problems in the public-school system but it is not true that home-schoolers are retreating from society.

In particular, the study shows that home-schoolers are fully engaged in civic affairs. More than 71 percent of home-schoolers surveyed participate in a voluntary, church or neighborhood association compared with 37 percent of U.S. adults.

Furthermore, homeschoolers demonstrate great commitment to their communities by voting in large numbers. More than 76 percent of home-school graduates aged 18 to 24 voted in a national or state election in the past 5 years compared with just 29 percent of 18 to 24 year old public-school graduates.

Many organizations have raised the alarm about the declining numbers of young voters. It appears that the answer is home-schooling. Only 4.2 percent of home-schoolers thought that government and politics were too difficult to understand, compared with 35 percent of the general U.S. population.

The willingness to participate in the electoral process, and belong to civic groups proves that home-schoolers are focused on engaging with the wider society rather than remaining on the sidelines.

Home-schoolers not only are actively engaged in civic life, they also are succeeding in all walks of life. Many critics believed, and many parents feared, that home-schoolers would not be able to compete in the job market. But the study showed that home-schoolers are found in a wide variety of professions. Being home-schooled has not closed doors to career choices.

The results are a great encouragement to all home-schooling families and to parents thinking about home-schooling. Communities across America are also benefiting because home-school families are producing able citizens at a fraction of the cost of a traditional public education. The average public school spends $6,000 per student per year; the average home-school spends just $600 per student per year.

The myths surrounding home-schooling are being torn down. Home-schoolers, typically identified as being high academic achievers, are also making the grade in society.

'Homeschooling Grows Up' amply demonstrates that home-school graduates are active, involved, productive citizens. The belief that home-schoolers would struggle socially is exposed as a false assumption based on opinion rather than fact. As more and more people realize the benefits of home-schooling the greater the positive impact on society. Home-school families are the leading edge of excellence in American education, and this study clearly demonstrates that the home-school community is on the right path.

To read a synopsis of the study please visit www.hslda.org.