Is Home Schooling Better?

Posted: September 20, 2011 in Media Gleanings, Pedagogy & Education, Statistics and Lies
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A recent study of 74 students between the ages of 5 and 10 seems to show that home schooled children outperform regularly schooled children when they have a structured environment in their studies.  While regularly schooled children were roughly at grade level, home schooled children were often a grade or two advanced.  In situations where home schooling did not have a strong structure, the children had the worst performance.

This is not at all surprising when you look at the variables.  Home schooled children, from my experience, fall into two categories.  The first is the conscientious parent who truly wants a better education for their child and is willing to put in the time to accomplish this.  Sometimes the child involved has an unusual learning style which the parent feels they can better accommodate at home.  The second is the eccentric parent who feels that the public system is flawed in some vague way, or who has religious standards, and who really don’t understand how to do home schooling.  I’ve come across many of those who have finally put their child back in the regular system after years of inadequate home schooling has resulted in the child being years behind in their achievement.  Each of these groups scored exactly where you would expect them to score in this study, with the operational distinction being in the word “structured” to describe the home schooling setting.

It makes sense that parents who are enlightened and capable are going to provide their children with a home schooling experience which may have more resources and individual attention than a public school can provide.  The motivation, time and customization is there.  The child is often more motivated because they can learn at their own level, frustration is minimized and individual learning styles accommodated.

The question I would ask is whether these home schooled children are developing normally on other strands than just the intellectual.  In many cases, I’ve noticed that home schooled children often are more poorly developed on a social level than others, -which some parents may regard as a good  thing.  Classrooms often emphasize groupwork and interpersonal skills in their programs.  IBM once said that they could retrain anyone to work at different skills, but that they were really looking for people who could work well with others in group situations.  This study doesn’t measure that variable at all.  The socialization which is sometimes a direct product and sometimes a byproduct of regular schooling involve important skills for life and eventual employment.  Parents want to protect their children from the undesirable social pressures of High School such as drinking or drugs, but insulating them is not doing them a favour.  Children eventually have to face the big, bad world, perhaps when going to university.  If they are unprepared for the temptations they will find there, they become easy victims for abuse and depression.  I’ve seen it many times.

Aside from being a rather small number of students, this study only measured academic achievement, which I think was very narrow minded on their part.  A study comparing home schooling to regular schooling should look at multiple facets of student development, from academic to creative to physical fitness to socialization to emotional stability.  That’s the only fair way to gage the relative benefits of home schooling.

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