By Brian D. Ray, Ph.D.
People think it is being sugar coated—what researchers are finding about homeschooling, that is. Whether I am presenting research to a judge in a court case, to other researchers at an academic meeting, or to parents at a homeschool conference, someone is likely to think that I am hiding some dark secrets about how the home-educated are doing academically, psychologically, socially, or in terms of participation in their communities. Is anything being hidden?
Dozens of studies have now been completed, often involving analyses of standardized achievement test scores. On average, homeschooled students outscore their public (state) school peers by 15 to 30 percentile points. Here are few examples.
The Stanford Achievement Test scores of hundreds of home-educated students, grades K-12, in Washington State over several years show that they consistently score above the national average at about the 67th percentile on national norms. The public school average is about the 50th percentile.
Data on 1,657 families and 5,402 children were analyzed in my nationwide study. These students scored, on average, about 30 percentile points above the state-school average. This was in all subject areas: reading, language, math, science, social studies, and study skills. My summer of 2002 study of homeschooling in Ohio also found the homeschooled scoring well above average.
When someone asks of parent-led home education, “What about socialization?,” he usually means, “How will these children learn to get along with others when they are not in large, age-segregated groups of their peers most of the day?” He might also mean, “How will this home-educated child learn to accept the ‘American’ way of thinking and living?”
A number of studies have addressed the social and psychological development of the home-educated. Regarding the aspect of self-concept, for example, studies have revealed that the homeschooled are significantly stronger than are public school students. One researcher concluded: “A low anxiety level could be a contributing factor. …More contact with significant others, parental love, support, and involvement, peer independence, and a sense of responsibility and self-worth may be other contributing factors” (see Worldwide Guide to Homeschooling, p. 57-58, below).
Dr. Larry Shyers found institutionally schooled students to have significantly higher problem-behavior scores than their home-educated age mates. His study found the conventionally schooled to be considerably more aggressive, louder, and more competitive than the home-educated. He theorized that the home-educated do better because their key role models are their parents rather than peers. In summary, research to date finds the home-educated doing well in their social, psychological, and emotional development.
A Part of Society?
Sometimes homeschoolers are accused of isolating themselves and their children from their own communities and from society in general. Research is beginning to dispel this claim.
For example, Drs. Christian Smith and David Sikkink, conducted a nationwide study that examined the extent of family involvement in a variety of civic activities. They concluded: “Far from being privatized and isolated, home schooling families are typically very well networked and quite civically active. The empirical evidence is clear and decisive: private schoolers and home schoolers are considerably more civically involved in the public square than are public schoolers… (see Worldwide Guide, p. 75). My recent study of Ohio homeschooling revealed the similar findings.
The good news is that research on homeschooling indicates positive things about home-based education. Parents have re-learned that they can successfully teach, train, and disciple their children. By faith in a providing God, they can educate their children without taking money from their neighbors via taxation (e.g., conventional public schools, charter schools, vouchers).
It will be fascinating to see what future research reveals about the home educated as they move into their adult lives of living out their faith in the Lord, raising families of their own, working for pay, and serving in their communities and culture.
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