The past twenty years has seen a phenomenal rise in home education across the world and the general public’s familiarity with it has moved from almost complete ignorance to one of widespread, if largely uninformed, awareness. This change has been stimulated by, and reflected in, heightened media interest with feature articles on home education appearing in national magazines, newspapers and on television and radio. Cheaper computers, computer programs, easy access to the Internet and the increased amount of educational material available on line are assisting more parents to home educate their children (Wake, 2000).
Academic researchers and policy annalists are exhibiting more than a passing interest in what has been considered up until now, an extreme form of education. As a result many studies have now been conducted into home education overseas. Overall, they show that home education not only equals mainstream schooling, but also surpasses it.
According to the U.S. Department of Education, “Virtually all the available data show that the group of home schooled children who are tested is above average.” Such impressive results have been observable for at least 15 years with home-educated children in the U.S. surpassing the national averages on both the major college-entrance tests. Time Magazine reported that “the average home schooler’s SAT score is 1100 – 80 points higher than the average score for the general population.” Dr. Lawrence Rudner’s research covered 20,760 home-schooled students and found that in every subject and at every grade level, they scored significantly higher than their public and private school counterparts. Similarly, a Moore Foundation study of parents who had been arrested for truancy found that their children ranked 30 percent higher on standard tests than the average schooled child.
Interestingly, Rudner found that having at least one parent who is a certified teacher has no signifigent effect on the achievement levels of home-schooled students. Test scores of children whose parents had ever held a teaching degree were only three percentile points higher than those whose parents had not. Children who were taught at home by mothers who had never finished high school, still scored well above public and private school students. Students who had been home educated for their entire academic lives scored higher with SAT scores improving from the 59th percentile for those home educated for one year to the 92nd percentile for those home educated for seven years. (Ray, 1997). According to Rudner’s research, home schooling families typically have an above average income, are two parent families and have above the average number of children.
One Oregon study found that home educators save the taxpayers $31 million per year. (Ray 1993) Patrick Basham found that Canadian home educating families spent $546 per student producing an average 85th percentile test score while it cost $5325 per public school student to achieve an average score at the 50th percentile. In 1998 Lyman’s research produced similar results and she concluded, “Home schooling has produced literate students with minimal government interference at a fraction of the cost of any government program” (Lyman, 1998). Overall it may be argued that home educators serve ‘as models of economy and effectiveness’!
The successful socialisation of home educated children is aided immeasurably by home education associations (Basham, 2001) and the Internet brings home educated students together as, contrary to the isolated image of children learning at home, the Net provides contacts all over the world. (Gooderman, 1996).
All the studies that have been done so far, have failed to come up with any disadvantages for home educated students. Gary Knowles has investigated the long-term effects of home education and said, “I have found no evidence that these adults were even moderately disadvantaged? Two thirds of them were married, the norm for adults their age, and none were unemployed or any on any form of welfare assistance.” (Knowles, 1991). A study conducted by Jeff Richardson of Monash University cited the loss of income due to only one parent in the work force, as an obvious disadvantage; however, for most home educating families, this is a life style choice and the benefits of strong, close family relationships and happy children far outweigh the monetary rewards.
Home education, initially considered an extreme choice, has in recent years become a completely mainstream alternative to institutional schooling. Research has established that home education is a thriving movement in many parts of the world. It has also demonstrated that the academic and social outcomes for the average home educated child are superior to those experienced by the average public or private school student. The most recent large-scale research by the HSLDA confirms the findings of numerous foregoing studies. It found that home educated students are more likely than conventionally schooled students to enter university; they are employed in a wide variety of occupations, are active and involved in their communities and are more content than the average adult. Most tellingly perhaps, 95% of those surveyed were glad that they had been home educated and 82% said they would home educate their own children.
All the research points irrevocably to one fact: Home education works!
Homeschooling: From the Extreme to the Mainstream by Patrick Basham, Cato Institute, Canada.
Homeschooling Grows Up by Dr. Brian D Ray
Learning Cooperatives Quarterly Vol 2, No 1
Homeschooling comes of age by Patricia M Lines
Home Schooling Works by Dr Lawrence Rudner, 1988