Choosing how your student will receive her education is a huge judgment call. While any conclusion you reach may depend on personal factors such as time and availability as well as your student's personality and learning style, evaluating studies and statistics can provide concrete information which will assist with this crucial decision.
Do home-schoolers truly outperform their publicly schooled peers?
Consistently Higher Percentile Scores
While standardized test scores aren't always the best way to measure academic achievement, studies consistently find that home-schoolers do seem to outperform public schooled students on tests such as the ACT and SAT.
The Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) commissioned a study drawing data for the 2007-2008 school year from multiple standardized testing services. 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 home-schooled children.
Analysis from a 2015 study conducted by Brian Ray of the National Home Education Research Institute reveals that home educated students usually score 15 to 30 percentile points higher than public school students on standardized tests. This study further concludes that these results were achieved regardless of income level within the students' families or educational status of the students' parents.
Other recent news from the National Home Education Research Institute states that the College Board reported 2014 SAT scores for home-schooled students as being significantly higher than scores for their traditionally schooled counterparts.
Conversely, the Coalition for Responsible Home Education found that there was a "math gap" between home educated students and public school students, with the public school students coming out on top in this academic area. The researchers concluded that, while it was a fairly straightforward task for most responsible parents to teach reading, writing, science, and social studies, many parents would struggle with teaching a challenging math curriculum.
Recent research is changing opinions about how well socialized home-schooled children are. While there is still a common misconception that home-schooled children may be more poorly socialized than their publicly educated peers, this may not be the case. In fact, as this article highlights, home educated students have many opportunities for social interaction beyond the classroom.
Above Average Social Skills
According to the most up-to-date statistics from the National Home Education Research Institute, home-schooled children's scores of social, emotional, and psychological well-being are above average.
In a 2013 study, Homeschooling and the Question of Socialization Revisited, published in the Peabody Journal of Education, Richard. G. Medlin re-examines the question of home-schoolers' social skills and concludes that their abilities are at the same level of their conventionally schooled peers.
The Other Side of the Story
Proponents of a traditional educational model point out that there can be some negatives associated with homeschooling as well as some benefits of public or private schooling. One of the advantages of public schools suggested by Publicschoolreview.com is frequent peer group interaction leading to heightened social skills.
According to a 2016 article from NBC News, although the number of home educated students applying to traditional colleges is still small, the numbers are growing and acceptance rates are improving. The report suggests that college admissions officers and deans find the home-schooled students' portfolios to be more extensive and more "innovative" as compared to their peers.
To further this point, a 2015 article on businessinsider.com highlights the Harvard acceptance story of one home educated student. The article praises the positive aspects of home-schooling such as the opportunities for students to attend high-level classes at colleges, study subjects of their choice in depth, and involve the community in their educational journey. This, the article explains, is what makes home educated students stand out from their peers and become appealing to admissions officers.
Homeschoolsuccess.com reports college acceptance statistics for the 2015/2016 year for home educated students at these top ranked schools as being between 4% (Stanford) and 17% (Williams). Although this seems low, the 2016 statistics for acceptance across the board at these two colleges is 4.69% (Stanford) and 17.3% (Williams) suggesting that home-schooled students have the same chance as their peers to attend an Ivy League college of their choice.
The Other Side of the Story
However, bear in mind that homeschoolsuccess.com also warns that home-schoolers hoping for acceptance into Ivy League colleges will need to ensure that their extracurricular talents and test scores set them apart from the crowd. Elective subject choices, gifted programs, honors, and AP classes can all ensure that motivated and talented public school students are able to achieve high standardized test scores and college acceptance rates, rivaling or bettering the results achieved by students educated at home.
Home-schoolers Become Adults
The National Home Education Research Institute suggests that home-schooled students become successful adults, indicating that they are frequent participants in community and public service projects.
The Other Side of the Story
The Coalition for Responsible Home Education, however, warns that feedback from adults who were home schooled in their youth suggests that the type of homeschooling received is crucial. Adults who were subject to an inferior or neglectful home-school environment had substandard levels of social interaction, faced poor job prospects, and experienced generalized life struggles.
The 2011 Cardus Education Survey, although designed to study adult graduates of Christian schools in North America, also surveyed adult graduates of religiously minded home-schools. The survey discovered that these young adults reported feelings of "helplessness in dealing with life's problems and of lack of clarity of goals and sense of direction." (see page 24 of survey)
Which Is Better?
It is important to note that one model does not fit all. There is no "right" answer in the public school vs. home-school debate. Although there is ever-increasing data to support the effectiveness of homeschooling, it is crucial to remember that while one child will benefit from this method, another might receive support from the social and structured atmosphere found at a traditional school. However, for families wishing to choose home education, the studies indicating that home-schooled children wind up at least as academically and socially successful as their public school peers should provide motivation and reassurance. Therefore, it is not necessarily a question of what is better or what is worse but a question of what is right for your family. All parents interested in their child or children's education should be supported regardless of the educational methods they ultimately decide to choose.