Homeschooling 101: Busting some long-held myths about home education
By: Rhema Thompson
September 19, 2012
Homeschooling is on the rise of the United States. Once wildly believed to be reserved for a small subset of the eccentric and religiously zealous, home-based education has been growing in national popularity by leaps and bounds.
In 2011, the National Home Education Research Institute estimated more than 2 million students receive home education, up by half a million since 2007.
President of the Oregon-based institute Brian Ray has been researching home-based education and its slow shift into the mainstream for 27 years.
“In the early 80s and up until early 2000s, they were seen as fringy and marginal and statistical anamolies, but clearly in the last dozen years it’s been much more publicly acceptable,” Ray said. “It’s a mainstream option to the public.”
In fact, according to the institute, with a 74 percent increase over the last eight years, it could just be the fastest growing educational trend in the nation.
And with more public school distance learning and virtual classrooms becoming available for parents and their children, even notions about how children are taught at home have begun to shift.
Yet, despite its rise into the mainstream, there are still some preconceived notions about home-based education that many people still hold.
Homeschooled children receive sub-standard education.
For Hendrick Giles of Pensacola, “lack of education” is what comes to mind when he thinks of home-based education.
“Obviously, the teacher at home does not have the same education as an actual teacher who went through the ranks in college,” he said. “So I think they're getting a sub-par education.”
However, a nationwide study by Ray published in the Winter 2012 Academic Leadership Journal which looked at more than 11,000 homeschooled students found that:
“Homeschool student achievement test scores are exceptionally high. The mean scores for every subtest (which are at least the 80th percentile) are well above those of public school students.”
“The research said over and over again…that these young people are performing above average and on average they're surpassing public school students,” Ray said.
Homeschooled children are "socially handicapped."
Giles also shared the sentiments of other locals interviewed that kids who receive home-based education do not properly develop social interaction skills.
Fifteen-year-old local resident Beth Hopkins said while a homeschool environment may provide more structure for children, it could leave much to be desired.
“What you do gain in structure, you also lose in other areas,” she said.
But in fact, a 2006 study by Stenson University’s Psychology Department found that homeschooled children’s social skills “were consistently higher than those of public school students.”
“Among homeschooled children, girls were more empathetic and assertive than boys, and at the lower grades, more self-controlled. These results mirror gender differences found among public school children, “ the report states.
Part of that may be due in part to the fact that homeschoolers tend to be more exposed to people in different age groups than their peers, Ray says.
“Homeschooled children interact with a variety of ages and a variety of backgrounds,” Ray says.
Only religious conservatives homeschool their children.
“Some people seem to think that all homeschoolers are all right-wing conservative Christians,” Ray said. “There always were people of other philosophical backgrounds…you have Jews, pagan, agnostic, Muslims, atheists.”
For Pensacola mom Whitney Thomas, who said she has been considering homeschooling her own 5-year-old daughter for some time, it is not about beliefs, but more about protection.
“I feel you have a little more control over what your kids are exposed to,” she said. “I’m just concerned about what she is going to get exposed to in public schools.”