What Does the Research Say About Homeschooling?
What Does the Research Say About the Academic Performance of Homeschooled Students?
Written by Rachel Wise, CEO and founder of educationandbehaviour.com
In a recent radio interview, the host asked me what the data says about homeschooling. “Do homeschooled kids perform as well as non-homeschooled kids? Is there a negative impact on their social skills?” At that time I honestly had not done much research on it, so I could not give an accurate answer. I politely said to the radio host, “That is not my area of expertise but I know people are concerned about the social impact it can have on children; however, some districts allow homeschooled children to participate in school related extracurricular activities (i.e., sports) so they have an opportunity to be with their peers.”
After the interview I wasn’t satisfied with my lack of knowledge on the subject so I decided to do my own research to let parents and educators out there know what the findings actually show.
Before I present the findings I want to share that I am not for or against homeschooling. I am simply providing data to make you more informed, so you have something to go on if homeschooling is something you are considering or if someone asks you about it. Additionally, I could not capture all the data in a single article so I am reporting the most recent and thorough research I could find. I encourage you to do your own research if you want more information. I also want to add that traditional homeschooling (as discussed in this article) is not the same as online/virtual schooling. If you want to know more about online schooling I recommend a Google Search or talking to your district.
Two of the biggest concerns I have heard about homeschooling are that children do not have normal socialization experiences and this will affect their ability to relate to others, and parents are not certified teachers so how do we know that homeschooled students are getting a quality education.
What Does the Research Say About the Academic Performance of Homeschooled Students?
According to an empirical analysis published in 2010, by Widener Law Review, called Evidence for Homeschooling: Constitutional Analysis in Light of Social Science Research:
“Homeschooled children achieve levels of academic achievement similar to or higher than their publicly schooled peers. These results cut across racial and socio-economic lines.
Numerous studies demonstrate that homeschooled students obtain exceptionally high scores on standardized academic achievement tests. For instance, one nationwide study analyzed data from 1,952 homeschooled students across the country and found that the students, on average, scored at the eightieth percentile or higher in every test category (i.e.,reading, listening, language, math, science, social studies, study skills, etc.). The national mean for these standardized tests, by contrast, was the fiftieth percentile.”
Numerous other studies have comparable results. For example, two other national studies also found that home schooled students excelled academically. A nation wide study of 20,760 homeschooled students in grade levels K-12 found the median standardized test scores to be in the seventieth to eightieth percentile. (50th percentile is considered an average score)
State-level studies have reached the same conclusion. A study in Washington State involving the Stanford Achievement Test scores of 873 homeschooled children found their median test scores to be in the sixty-fifth to sixty-sixth percentile range. In fact, several studies which were conducted at state departments of education found that homeschooled students score highly on academic achievement tests.”
Additionally, in 2008, Dr. Brian Ray, an internationally recognized scholar and president of the non-profit National Home Education Research Institute (NHERI), collected academic data based on 25 years of homeschool achievement. Dr. Ray utilized 15 independent testing services, to obtain information from 11,739 homeschooled students from all 50 states who took three well-known tests—California Achievement Test, Iowa Tests of Basic Skills, and Stanford Achievement Test.
“Overall the study showed significant advances in homeschool academic achievement as well as revealing that issues such as student gender, parents’ education level, and family income had little bearing on the results of homeschooled students.”
|National Average Percentile Scores|
|a. Core is a combination of Reading, Language, and Math.
b. Composite is a combination of all subtests that the student took on the test.
This information was obtained from an article entitled New Nationwide Study Confirms Homeschool Academic Achievement.
Depending on the child’s grade, the state he lives in and the test itself, the assessment could be given at home, in a specified location, or at the public school. Therefore, despite the scores in the table above, we must consider the fact that some homeschooled children, who take standardized tests at home, could possibly get parental assistance.
What Does the Research Say About the Impact on Social Skills of Homeschooled Students?
According to Evidence for Homeschooling: Constitutional Analysis in Light of Social Science Research, “studies demonstrate that homeschooled students are well socialized.”
“Several studies found no significant difference in the social skills of homeschooled and non-homeschooled students. Other studies found that homeschooled children score significantly higher on social development rating scales/questionnaires. For instance, one study using the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scale, a well-tested diagnostic tool for measuring communication and daily living skills, found that homeschooled students substantially outperformed traditionally schooled students. The average overall score for the homeschooled children on communication, daily living skills, socialization, and social maturity subscales was at the 84th percentile compared to the 23rd percentile for the traditionally schooled students.
Another study applied a Social Skills Rating System to evaluate thirty-four pairs of homeschooled and traditionally schooled children between the ages of five and eighteen. The researchers found that homeschooled children achieved higher scores on this scale than conventionally educated students.”
It is important to consider; however, that these are subjective questionnaires completed by children’s parents and it is difficult to determine the validity of parents’ views of their own child’s social skills. For instance, a child who is homeschooled may demonstrate excellent social skills within the family and community but it is impossible to determine how a child would interact with other children of the same age if they do not have the opportunity to do so. Additionally, what one family considers “well developed social skills” another may not.
However, when Richard Medlin, PhD, measured students’ social skills through direct observations and recorded his findings on the standardized measure known as the Child Behavior Checklist, he had similar findings to the previously discussed studies. “Dr. Medlin compared the social behavior of a set of seventy homeschooled and seventy traditionally schooled eight to ten year olds, matched along demographic and socio-economic lines and found no significant differences between the two groups regarding measures of self-concept and assertiveness.” He actually found that, based on the checklist, non-homeschooled students had more behavior difficulties than homeschooled ones. However, we must account for the fact that the findings are based on Dr. Medlin’s interpretations, which are subjective in nature. Because there is no test to measure social skills, we can only go off of the subjective data of checklists, questionnaires, and observations.
To answer the question, “What does the research say about homeschooling?” Studies show that homeschooled students outperform traditional students in achievement and social skills, but we must interpret this data with caution. Other variables play a role in these findings. Specifically, we don’t know how many homeschooled students get help on standardized tests and tools used to measure social skills are subjective in nature. A parent needs to make up their own mind regarding whether or not to homeschool their child taking into account their child’s needs, their work/financial situation, time constraints, their ability to provide the child with what he/she needs academically, the current data (as explained in this article), and their own instincts. But… the most concrete answer to the question of whether or not homeschooled students will suffer academically or socially is, “The research says ‘No.’”
If you are interested in homeschooling or learning more about how to home school, one book with excellent reviews is Homeschooling 101: A Guide to Getting Started, which can be purchased as a paperback or an e-book.
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