(Photo: Reuters/Lucy Nicholson)
Homeschooled children, when following a structured education plan, tend to test higher than their publicly-schooled counterparts and fellow homeschoolers whose time is unstructured, research shows.
Though research tends to show only positive outcomes associated with homeschooling America’s children, some critics of homeschooling claim that there is very little research that shows anything significant about the academic achievements and the social benefits of home education.
New studies show that, if the set curriculum is structured and followed at home, some children today have better test scores in math and reading compared to students attending public schools.
Analysts from Concordia University and Mount Allison University in Canada studied 74 home-schooled children, ages 5 to 10, and compared them to 37 children attending local public schools.
Results show the students attending public schools tested at or above their grade levels, but the home-schooled students tested about half a grade higher in math and 2.2 grades higher in reading.
Researchers concluded, among other things, that students were receiving more personalized attention at home, which helped them perform better academically.
“This advantage may be explained by several factors, including smaller class sizes, more individualized instruction, or more academic time spent on the core subjects,” Sandra Martin-Chang, a professor at Concordia University, said in a statement Thursday.
However, when they studied a small group of home-schooled students whose education was unstructured, the results changed.
Once into the study, the researchers found that “structured” and “unstructured” homeschoolers had widely different results. The unstructured homeschooling method is referred to as “un-schooling,” which does not use teachers, textbooks or a structured curriculum.
Students from the unstructured group showed less positive results during testing, with some scores showing students fell four grade levels behind the other students educated at home.
Proponents for educating children at home say much of the time children spend in public schools is squandered on time-wasting activities, like standing in line for lunch, changing classes and waiting for late-arriving buses.
“The evidence presented here is in line with the assumption that homeschooling offers benefits over and above those experienced in public school,” Chang said.
Some critics of homeschooling say educating a child at home does not provide opportunities for the youngster to learn social skills and build a healthy self-esteem. However, very little research supports the theory that these children are socially stunted.
Many Christian families educate their children at home because it affords more family time, inspires respect for parents, offers flexible hours for vacations and allows for religion and Biblical studies.
A National Home Education Research Institute study found that home learners consistently scored higher than public school students in social development - especially girls and older children.
Because families have commit themselves to homeschooling for a few decades, many college graduates should be productive adults, research shows.
Dr. Karl M. Bunday, a member of the board of directors for the Minnesota Council for the Gifted and Talented, says self-esteem has been more and more emphasized in schools during precisely the same years that the youth suicide rate has increased in the United States.
He said a different perspective on self-esteem is that it is a concept born in the public school system, not at home.
“Instead, we should be teaching optimism and optimistic opportunities and vision to students,” Bunday said.
He was referring to a study that reinforces Biblical concepts in the classroom. He pointed out that students who honestly follow Biblical teachings don't seek to build self-esteem, but to build love for others. "This concept denies self and loves God first," he said.
"I've observed hundreds of homeschooled children of various ages in various places in two countries, so I'm confident that home-schooling children doesn't harm them socially."
Home education has continuously increased during the past two decades. The number of homeschooled children is growing more than 23 percent per year, according to the National Home Education Research Institute.
In addition to homeschooling families physically living in the United States, there are many families that homeschool while serving as missionaries, military members or employees of the U.S. State Department overseas.