Tuesday, September 21, 2010

homeschool = success?

Tonight I slipped up. I let myself get involved in - of all the silly things - online drama over homeschooling. Specifically, a teacher who feels very passionately that public (or private or charter) school is the ONLY way to go, and that kids who are homeschooled by well-meaning but under-colleged parents are going to have children who are behind both socially and academically. So : are kids who learn from home all doomed to lag behind their brick-and-mortar-schooled pals? I thought this would be a great topic to explore since we've personally been traveling down this path for what is now our fifth year.

Who homeschools, and why?
Those of us who do homeschool all have our "what on earth was I thinking?!?" days, but let's look at what the National Center for Education Statistics has to say.

"In the spring of 2007, about 1.5 million, or 2.9 percent of all school-age children, were homeschooled in the United States, an increase from both 1999 and 2003."

So. In 2007, almost 3% of school-aged children (which, by the way, are kids ages 5-17 so this does NOT include pre-K kids) were homeschooled. I'm guessing the number is significantly greater since this only includes kids who are registered with their local school board as homeschoolers; it does not take into account children who are homeschooled under umbrella schools, or private schools that are schools in name only (which is what we use). It also does not include virtual-schooled students. I won't take a stab at what the real percentage is, but it is obviously greater than 3%.

"In 2007, the most common reason parents gave as the most important was a desire to provide religious or moral instruction (36 percent of students). This reason was followed by a concern about the school environment (such as safety, drugs, or negative peer pressure) (21 percent), dissatisfaction with academic instruction (17 percent), and "other reasons" including family time, finances, travel, and distance (14 percent). Parents of about 7 percent of homeschooled students cited the desire to provide their child with a nontraditional approach to education as the most important reason for homeschooling, and the parents of another 6 percent of students cited a child's health problems or special needs."

That means 80% of those surveyed chose to homeschool because they felt that they, as parents, could provide a more meaningful approach to schooling their child than a traditional public or private school. 80% of 1.5 million (see above) is 1.2 million. 1.2 million parents out there believe that they provide a more meaningful approach to schooling than a traditional public or private school.

Do homeschoolers succeed academically?
So we think we know our children better. So what? Are they learning, or aren't they? Let's see what Dr. Brian D Ray has to say in his article published in 2004 in the Journal of College Admission :

"Many studies have been completed during the past 20 years that examine the academic achievement of the homeeducated (Ray, 2004b). Dozens of researchers have executed these studies. Examples of these studies ranged from a multiyear study in Washington state, three nationwide studies across the United States, and a nationwide study in Canada (Ray,1994, 1997, 2001c; Rudner, 1999; Wartes, 1991). In study after study, the homeschooled scored, on average, at the 65th to 80th percentile on standardized academic achievement tests in the United States and Canada, compared to the public school average of the 50th percentile."

This was found to be true irrespective of the parents' income level or level of higher learning.

Okay, so maybe they're learning. But how do they fare socially?
We've all heard the horror stories of the "unsocialized homeschooler." How do we know these kids are more than just book smart? Let's refer to the Journal of College Admission article by Dr. Ray again :

"Numerous studies, employing various psychological constructs and measures, show the homeeducated are developing at least as well, and often better than, those who attend institutional schools (Medlin, 2000; Ray, 2004b, ch. 4). No research contravenes this evidence. For example, regarding aspect of self-concept in the psychological development of children, several studies have revealed that the self-concept of homeschooled students is significantly higher than that of public school students. As another example, Shyers (1992) found the only significant childhood social interaction difference between the institutionally-schooled and homeschoolers was that the institutionally-schooled had higher problem behavior scores."

All right. I get it. But how will they ever adapt to college life without having been traditionally schooled?
I think every parent spends time worrying about the college-bound. Should homeschool parents worry more? Looking at the Journal of College Admission article once again:

“The academic performance analyses indicate that home school graduates are as ready for college as traditional high school graduates and that they perform as well on national college assessment tests as traditional high school graduates.”


"Admission officers at Stanford University think they are seeing an unusually high occurrence of a key ingredient, which they term “intellectual vitality,” in homeschool graduates (Foster, 2000). They link it to the practice of self-teaching prevalent in these young people, as a result of their homeschool environment."

Long story short, there are actual, research-based statistics put out there by meaningful, educated people, who show that homeschooling is a viable, healthy school option for those interested in pursuing it. Is it for everyone? Of course not! But it remains one of the many healthy choices we have for our children in this country when it comes to our parental rights over their development, and we should treat that choice with respect.

And lots of silly faces.

1 comment:

Brenda L said...

Great post!

What I thought was funny about her "3 years of poor education and they'll be behind forever!!!!11!!1" attitude is that making sure my children *don't* get a bad education is *why* I'm choosing to homeschool.