Socially challenged, educationally unprepared, and fashionably inept are only some parts of the erroneous thinking that often goes along with hearing the word “homeschool.”
Some of the more common questions I get are “Do you go to school in pajamas?” “So you’ve never had a real teacher?” “So you don’t have any friends?” “Does your mom grade you? That’s not fair.” Even in today’s modern world, one would be surprised at the abounding ignorance on the subject of homeschooling. Without debating the moral reasons and aspects of homeschool, simply take a brief look at the academic facts and let those speak for themselves. When done for the right reasons, homeschooling is many times more effective at education than public school and even private school.
Let’s face it, we all know that the public education system is failing rapidly and that the U.S. as a whole in education is falling further and further behind the rest of the world. With the low quality of public education, more and more families are turning to homeschooling their children to give them a level of education unattainable by a traditional classroom. Public education quality does vary by region, but test scores nationally have been declining for decades. Rough estimates place the number of homeschoolers in the U.S. around 2 million now and growing rapidly: the U.S. Department of Education estimates that homeschooling has been growing at a rate of 7% over the last 10 years. In general, the public education system is a bad one, and there are many families who recognize this but cannot afford private institutions for their children. Instead, they turn to homeschooling. There are other reasons for homeschooling as well, including moral and religious reasons and concern about the school environment; for myself, the reason was mainly academic dissatisfaction. The slow pace of a public school classroom is discouraging to students who have a desire to learn, and homeschooling provides the outlet to personalize the academics that you love with an advanced level and pace of learning. This leads to higher testing scores, better time management, and better preparation for the real world.
Homeschooled students have significantly higher test scores than public-schooled students: a recent study found that homeschoolers score nearly 40 points higher on standardized achievement tests, with most scoring in the top 80th percentile compared to the 50th percentile of their public-schooled counterparts. The one-on-one instruction and personalized curricula for the student makes enormous difference. Speaking from personal experience, I always loved English and history but struggled with mathematical concepts. I was able to spend several hours a day on math concepts, and less time on the subjects I was already skilled in. In this way, my performance academically vaulted as I was able to devote more time to the subjects I needed to, including structuring a tailored course for extra assistance.
It is common knowledge that parents’ income affects public education schooling, and on the surface it may seem like this plays a part in homeschooling as well: wealthier families can afford more, right? Wrong. Household income had little impact on the results of home-school students: Children of parents with an income between $35,000 and $49,000 scored at the 86th percentile, whereas children of parents with an income over $70,000 scored at the 89th percentile. There are homeschooling families who buy brand new textbooks for their kids, and there are families who pass them down for years, re-selling and re-using them, and who check out library books for schooling instead of buying new books. Further, gender achievement gaps are nearly non-existent. Public schools spend untold amounts of money to close these gaps, and homeschooling accomplishes it with none.
What about college? They’ll have to leave the homeschool bubble soon, right? With higher achievement scores, college acceptance rates for homeschooled students are higher. In the fall of 1999, Stanford University accepted 27% of homeschooled applicants, more than twice the acceptance rate of public and private-schooled students. Many homeschooled students enter college with college-earned credit, and earning college credit before freshman year can save thousands of dollars and shave time off of a degree. The 14.7 average credits for homeschoolers account for a full semester of freshman year. Homeschoolers also have a consistently higher college GPA, and in fact are arguably more prepared for college than their counterparts. Already used to managing their own class and study time, balancing a class schedule with a work schedule, and their own extracurricular activities, homeschoolers make the college transition oftentimes with more ease than a traditional student. In most cases, homeschoolers can play sports for private schools, and in some states such as Florida, they can play for public schools as well. They have strong discipline and self-motivation and are better prepared for “the real world.”
But won’t they fail miserably in attempting to integrate with society?
Well, that's a very common misconception, and an extremely erroneous one. Homeschoolers are arguably more socialized than other kids, as much of their time is spent interacting with not only their peers but also adults. They are also more likely to participate in community service and even vote; many hold jobs as soon as they are of working age.
I’ve heard people say that homeschool students can slide by in high school without trying, perhaps with a lenient grader, or perhaps by not doing as much work as traditionally-schooled students. While this may be possible, any student intent on going to college will not get in without credentials. A student who has not done much work while being homeschooled will not have good ACT and SAT scores, even if the transcript shows good grades or a GPA.
You don’t have to be a certified teacher to homeschool your kids; you don’t even have to have gone to college. Classes range from a variation of traditional textbooks, complete curricula sets such as Alpha Omega Publications or A Beka that include nearly all subjects, or computer-based curricula such as Switched on Schoolhouse. There’s also the option of college classes at your local university to count towards both high school and college credit, and there are many co-op classes such as the sciences and languages that are taught by other teachers as well, creating a traditional classroom setting. Nearly all paper curricula come with a teacher’s answer key, and computer-based curricula takes care of the grading for you. Many homeschoolers tailor a curricula around several different methods, and with so many options, the customization is endless. There are many different homeschool coverings who keep track of college materials such as transcripts, attendance, and entrance exams. Never let worries of being an inadequate teacher stop you; the array of material is astounding.
It’s true that homeschooling is not for every child; students need to have motivation, work drive and ethic, and a love for learning; otherwise, it may be a fight to get your child to do schoolwork every day. Every family’s reason for homeschooling is different, and it’s time we got rid of the many stereotypes that come with homeschooled students.