Despite what many might believe, a vast majority of home-schooled children say they have plenty of opportunities for socialization with other children and, as adults, come to excel in all measured areas of adult life, according to a new study.
The study, released this month by the Canadian Centre for Home Education (CCHE), surveyed young adults in Canada whose parents responded to a 1994 study on home education. Ranging in age from 15 to 34, the study's participants answered questions on a variety of topics with comparable data from Statistics Canada.
The results, according to CCHE, were "astounding."
"In terms of income, education, entrepreneurial endeavors, involvement in their community, and all the other characteristics measured, home-educated adults not only excel, but also make meaningful contributions to their communities," commented CCHE president Paul Faris. "They are the type of neighbors we all want."
When measured against the Canadian average, home-educated adults were more socially engaged and almost twice as likely to have voted in a federal election.
Average income, meanwhile, was higher with more sources of investment income and self employment, and no cases of government support as the primary source of income.
Home-educated adults were also happier in their work and their lives in general, with 97.2 percent saying they were fairly or very happy with their lives, compared to 95.4 percent of all Canadians surveyed in the General Social Survey of Canada of 2003.
"Overall, homeschooling graduates appear to be very content with the education they received, as well as being happier and more satisfied with their work and life than similarly aged Canadians, and, indeed, young citizens of other countries," researchers noted in their report, titled "Fifteen Years Later: Home-Educated Canadian Adults."
When reflecting on the value of being home educated, most study participants felt that it was an advantage in their adult life.
Home-educated adults reported that they felt the "best part about being home educated" included the rich relational aspects, the opportunity for extensive curricular enrichment, the flexibility especially in terms of the schedule, the individualized pace and programs, the development of their own independence and confidence, and the superior education received.
As for what they felt "was the worst part about being home educated," more than one-third of the respondents who provided an answer mentioned an aspect of the social challenges of being home educated.
These comments ranged from simple reflections such as "I feel I could have had more social interaction" to more angst filled ones such as "[I was] so different from others my age and [felt] somewhat awkward."
Most, however, (70 percent) disagreed with the common criticism of home education that children have too few opportunities for socialization with other children and went as far as to claim that they had plenty of opportunities for socializing with other children.
Only 10.7 percent claimed that the criticism was most certainly the case in their situation.
"It was true and when given chances to interact I was generally too shy because I didn't know how to act," one respondent had replied.
"Most of my friends lived in other areas of town and I wasn't very close with anyone in my neighborhood," added another.
In their concluding remarks, researchers behind the study said their findings are consistent with those found in a 2004 study of 5,254 Americans (home educated for seven or more years of their K-12 education) in terms of the demographic characteristics of the adults such as education achieved and civic engagement.
Citing the study, researchers noted: "The home-educated adults in this study were very positive about having been homeschooled and toward homeschooling in general, actively engaged in their local communities, keeping abreast of current affairs, highly civically involved, tolerant of others expressing their viewpoints, attaining relatively high levels of formal education, religiously active and wide-ranging in their worldview beliefs, holding worldview beliefs similar to those of their parents, and largely home educating their own children.
"The eradication of social prejudice against those currently being home educated and against those formerly home educated could be achieved through concerted efforts to inform of the achievements of home education, through creating an awareness that stigmatizing those educated differently is a form of intolerance, and through creating awareness of the multiple alternative community-specific educational opportunities that are offered in our times, specifically that non classroom-based education is merely one of those forms," they added.
The study's authors noted that future research should probe more deeply into addressing the various questions.
More in-depth conversations with individuals and focus groups should take place to further probe for the strengths and weaknesses of home education, they noted.
And the adults in their study should continue to be tracked and, once they are settled into their middle years, again compared with their peers.
"If home education seems to achieve the positive results that are reported here in general, more comparative study of the outcomes of the various versions of home education such as non classroom-based charter schools, cyber schools, partial day school attendance, and funded approaches should be undertaken with a view to preparing proposals for further improving other forms of education," they concluded.
Data for "Fifteen Years Later: Home-Educated Canadian Adults" was gathered from the 226 home-educated children who responded out of the 285 that the researchers were able to reach from the 620 families who in 1994 had expressed interest in being approached for future participation in further longitudinal study.
For the original 1994 study, 2,594 children from 808 families had participated.