|NUMBER 288||THE NEWSPAPER OF EDUCATION RIGHTS||JANUARY 2010|
|HOME-SCHOOLING: Socialization not a problem|
One of the most persistent criticisms of home-schooling is the accusation that home-schoolers will not be able to fully participate in society because they lack "socialization." It's a challenge that reaches right to the heart of home-schooling, because if a child isn't properly socialized, how will that child be able to contribute to society?
Since the re-emergence of the home-school movement in the late 1970s, critics of home-schooling have perpetuated two myths. The first concerns the ability of parents to adequately teach their own children at home; the second is whether home-schooled children will be well-adjusted socially.
Proving academic success is relatively straightforward. Today, it is accepted that home-schoolers, on average, outperform their public school peers. The most recent study, "Homeschool Progress Report 2009," conducted by Brian Ray of the National Home Education Research Institute, surveyed more than 11,000 home-schooled students. It showed that the average home-schooler scored 37 percentile points higher on standardized achievement tests than the public school average.
The second myth, however, is more difficult to address because children who were home-schooled in appreciable numbers in the late 1980s and early 1990s are only now coming of age and in a position to demonstrate they can succeed as adults.
Home-school families across the nation knew criticisms about adequate socialization were ill-founded — they had the evidence right in their own homes. In part to address this question from a research perspective, the Home School Legal Defense Association commissioned a study in 2003 titled "Homeschooling Grows Up," conducted by Mr. Ray, to discover how home-schoolers were faring as adults. The news was good for home-schooling. In all areas of life, from gaining employment, to being satisfied with their home-schooling, to participating in community activities, to voting, home-schoolers were more active and involved than their public school counterparts.
Until recently, "Homeschooling Grows Up" was the only study that addressed the socialization of home-schooled adults. Now we have a new longitudinal study titled "Fifteen Years Later: Home-Educated Canadian Adults" from the Canadian Centre for Home Education. This study surveyed home-schooled students whose parents participated in a comprehensive study on home education in 1994. The study compared home-schoolers who are now adults with their peers. The results are astounding.
When measured against the average Canadians ages 15 to 34 years old, home-educated Canadian adults ages 15 to 34 were more socially engaged (69 percent participated in organized activities at least once per week, compared with 48 percent of the comparable population). Average income for home-schoolers also was higher, but perhaps more significantly, while 11 percent of Canadians ages 15 to 34 rely on welfare, there were no cases of government support as the primary source of income for home-schoolers. Home-schoolers also were happier; 67.3 percent described themselves as very happy, compared with 43.8 percent of the comparable population. Almost all of the home-schoolers — 96 percent — thought home-schooling had prepared them well for life.
This new study should cause many critics to rethink their position on the issue of socialization. Not only are home-schoolers actively engaged in civic life, they also are succeeding in all walks of life. Many critics believed, and some parents feared, that home-schoolers would not be able to compete in the job market. But the new study shows home-schoolers are found in a wide variety of professions. Being home-schooled has not closed doors on career choices.
The results are a great encouragement to all home-schooling families and to parents thinking about home-schooling. Home-schoolers, typically identified as being high academic achievers, also can make the grade in society.
Both "Homeschooling Grows Up" and "Fifteen Years Later" amply demonstrate home-school graduates are active, involved, productive citizens. Home-school families are leading the way in Canadian and American education, and this new study clearly demonstrates home-school parents are on the right path.
This article originally appeared as an op-ed in The Washington Times on December 13, 2009. Michael Smith is president of the Home School Legal Defense Association, based in Purcellville, Virginia. To read a synopsis or the full version of the study "Fifteen Years Later: Home-Educated Canadian Adults," visit www.hslda.ca/cche.