Deciding how your child will receive his education is a choice that can impact the rest of his life. While your decision may depend on personal factors such as your time and availability and your child's personality, evaluating studies and statistics can also provide information you can include in your decision making process.
Two major studies have assessed academic achievement in homeschooling. The first study, Strengths of Their Own: Homeschoolers Across America was conducted in 1997 and followed more than 5,000 homeschoolers from over 1,600 families. The study showed homeschoolers typically academically outperformed children receiving a public education on standardized tests by approximately 30 to 35 percentile points in all subject areas.
In the second, the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) commissioned a study drawing data for the 2007-2008 school year from multiple standardized testing services. Once again, the national average percentile scores were higher in all subject areas by at least 34 percentile points, and as high as 39 percentile points. Factors such as parental college degrees, how much parents spent on education, level of state regulation, and sex of the students made little difference in the range of scores in all areas among the homeschooled children.
Recent research is changing opinions about how well-socialized homeschooled children are. While there is a common misconception that homeschooled children may be more poorly socialized than their publicly educated peers, this may not be the case. In a meta analysis of 24 studies about homeschoolers and socialization, Dr. Susan McDowell concluded socialization was a "non-issue."
Another often-cited study is a survey conducted by Dr. Gary Knowles, a University of Michigan Assistant Professor of Education. For the study, Dr. Knowles surveyed more than 50 adults who had been homeschooled as children. In the study, Knowles found that more than 75 percent felt homeschooling had helped them learn to interact with others as an adult.
In 2000, Dr. Patricia Lines of the Discovery Institute studied the socialization of homeschooled children. She found that homeschoolers were well-adjusted, and experts were unable to distinguish homeschooled kids from children receiving a public education. In fact, homeschooled children also demonstrated fewer behavioral issues than their public school peers.
Additional studies have shown that homeschooled children participate in many activities outside of the home, which allows them positive interaction with not only their peers, but a variety of age groups.
According to the HSDLA, homeschooled kids score above the national average on college admissions tests. Approximately 50 percent of homeschooled children go on to attend college, which is the same number as children in public schools.
Dr. Michael Cogan published his study findings in the Journal of College Admissions. He found that homeschooled children were more likely to graduate from college and less likely to drop out than their peers. He also found that children from home education programs had higher first semester, first year, and last year grade point averages than their peers.
In the previously mentioned survey by Dr. Knowles, he found that nearly two-thirds of the adults he surveyed who had been homeschooled owned businesses. Socially, 2/3 of the adults surveyed were married, and none were unemployed or on welfare.
Which Is Better?
There is no "right" answer in the public school vs. homeschool debate. Data supports the effectiveness of homeschooling, indicating that homeschooled children wind up at least as academically and socially successful as their public school peers. Likewise, rates of college admissions and graduation match or exceed those of children educated in public school systems. With the bulk of studies showing that homeschooling does not harm, and may in fact help students throughout their lives, it's up to you to decide what's best for your family.