Posted by: Tracy Barsamian Ventola | March 30, 2014

Homeschool Myths Busted!

It’s hard to believe that I only started to research homeschooling about a year ago.  Maybe 15 months ago.  For years, I had resisted even considering homeschooling.  In truth, before I started my research, I had always thought of homeschoolers at worst, as religious zealots teaching/torturing their children away from society and at best, as frustrated mothers on the verge of a nervous breakdown, sitting at the kitchen table tutoring their five to ten children.  And what about socialization, I wondered?  Without school, how could a child function in the world?  Or go to college?  Survive in the workplace, society in general?

But since our first year of homeschooling has gone so beautifully, I have all but forgotten all those unfounded fears, stereotypes really, about homeschooling.  Just last week, however, I received the gift of a reminder of those common stereotypes held by our fast paced – more, sooner is better! – society about homeschooling.  It turns out, however, that these stereotypes are actually myths.  In fact, research shows the complete opposite of these myths to be true!

I found an awesome (though dated) article written by Rachel Gathercole (also the author of The Well Adjusted Child:  The Social Benefits of Homeschooling).  Gathercole’s article Homeschooling’s True Colors*, published in Mothering Magazine (Issue 131, July/August 2005), covers many aspect of homeschooling, including the most common homeschooling myths.  The whole article is a worthwhile read, but I’ve selected a few key myths (busted!) below.

Myth:
Homeschooled children are undereducated.

Fact:
Numerous studies of homeschoolers’ achievement show that homeschoolers score exceptionally well on standardized tests, with the average/median homeschool students outperforming at least 70 to 80 percent of their conventionally schooled peers in all subjects and at all grade levels.18, 19 Studies also show that the longer a student is homeschooled, the higher his or her test scores become.20 In addition, homeschoolers have been described as “dominating” national contests, such as the national spelling and geography bees, and are now sought by many colleges.21-26

Myth:
Most homeschoolers learn through a formal curriculum, taught to them by their parents (for example, at the kitchen table).

Fact:
Homeschoolers learn through a variety of methods, which may include some teaching by the parent, as well as self-directed projects, real-life activities (such as gardening, cooking, sports, volunteer activities, etc.), free play, independent reading, group classes with other homeschoolers, cooperative learning experiences with other families, field trips and outings as a family or with a homeschooling group, and social activities and gatherings.27-31 The majority of homeschooling families do not purchase prepackaged curriculums but instead use some individually created combination of the above methods determined by the parent and/or child to suit the child’s individual needs and learning style.32

Homeschoolers also employ a wide range of overall approaches and philosophies, from “school-at-home” approaches that match the popular image, to (perhaps most common) an eclectic approach in which the family selects materials and activities according to the children’s needs at the time, to unschooling—“delight-driven” or “child-led” learning in which the child learns all necessary material through pursuing his or her own interests in a real-world setting, with a parent available to help, answer questions, and direct the child to resources.33-36Those who engage in formal lessons do so to varying degrees: one family might purchase and adhere to a full curriculum, while another might devise a complete or partial curriculum of their own using alternative methods and focus; still another might reserve formal lessons for a particular subject area, such as math.37-40

As new and varied as these methods may sound, all are effective methods for home educating. Dr. Lawrence M. Rudner, in an independent study of more than 20,000 homeschoolers, found that though homeschoolers tend not to use prepackaged curriculum programs, they nevertheless score “exceptionally high” on standardized tests, ranking typically in the 70th to 80th percentile (compared to the national average of the 50th percentile). “It is readily apparent . . . that the median scores for home school students are well above their public/private school counterparts in every subject and in every grade,” regardless of the presence or absence of formal curriculum use,41 says Rudner. Homeschooled students, regardless of teaching method, have gone on to attend Ivy League universities. According to an article in Stanford Magazine, “among homeschoolers who end up at Stanford, ‘self-teaching’ is a common thread.” 42,43

Myth:
Homeschoolers are “stuck at home.”

Fact:
Per week, the average homeschooled child participates in at least five outside activities, such as sports teams, scouts, clubs, classes in the community, volunteer activities, etc.44 Some (about 18 percent) participate in public school part-time.45 Many homeschooling parents are also very involved in their communities–volunteering, attending or teaching classes, pursuing part-time or full-time careers, operating family businesses, and/or developing close friendships with other homeschooling families.46,47 Homeschooling parents and children, free of externally imposed school schedules, are in charge of their time and are free to come and go as they please. Homeschooling enables family members to be very involved in outside activities without sacrificing their time together to do so.

Myth:
Homeschooling deprives children of proper socialization.

Fact:
Homeschooling affords children plenty of time and opportunity for social interaction and friendships, as well as time to learn appropriate social behaviors from their parents. The available research shows that homeschoolers tend to be very well adjusted. In 1986, even before the rapid growth in the homeschooling movement that we are seeing today, social researcher John Wesley Taylor V found that the self-concept of homeschooled children was significantly higher than that of their traditionally schooled peers when tested using the widely accepted Piers-Harris Children’s Self-Concept Scale. Among his conclusions was the statement that “it would appear that few home-schooling children are socially deprived. Critics of the home school should not urge self-concept and socialization rationales. These factors apparently favor homeschoolers over the conventionally schooled population.” 48

More recently, psychotherapist Dr. Larry Shyers, in a study involving “blind” observation of the behavior of homeschooled and conventionally schooled children, found that homeschooled children exhibited significantly fewer “problem behaviors” than their conventionally schooled peers and had no significant difference in levels of self-esteem.49 Thomas Smedley, studying communication skills, socialization, and daily living skills through the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales, concluded that homeschooled kids in his study were more mature and better socialized than the conventionally schooled.50 And finally, in a survey of adults who had been homeschooled for at least seven years, Dr. Brian D. Ray found that 59 percent said they were “very happy” with life, while only 27.6 percent of the general population said they were “very happy” with life.51

Due to the excellent teacher-student ratio that homeschoolers enjoy and the lack of time-consuming administrative tasks such as attendance taking, busywork, etc., the academic aspects of homeschooling require only a fraction of the time necessary for the same tasks in a conventional school setting, leaving lots of extra time for social activities. Not limited by strict “school hours” and brief interactions in the hall, homeschooled children are often found instead spending long days at the park with friends, gathering with other kids for group activities, sleeping over at each other’s houses on weeknights or weekends, and enjoying long conversations with their parents and siblings.52, 53 Homeschooled children also tend to have both homeschooled and conventionally schooled friends, and, like conventionally schooled children, they can and do play with neighborhood children and participate in scouts, 4H, church groups, community bands, orchestras, and sports groups, as well as outside classes such as dance and martial arts.54, 56 Many homeschooling parents consider their children’s social learning to be as integral a part of their education as academic subjects, and they are careful to provide their children with both social skills and opportunities to use them.

Myth:
Homeschoolers have a hard time applying for, getting into, and adjusting to college.

Fact:
College admissions officers now seek out homeschoolers due to their excellent preparation for academic success at college. An article in Stanford Magazine indicates that Stanford has a “special interest” in homeschoolers, and is “eager to embrace them” despite their lack of formal credentials. “The distinguishing factor is intellectual vitality,” says Dr. Jonathan Reider, a former senior associate director of undergraduate admissions at Stanford and a national expert on college-bound homeschoolers. “These kids have it, and everything they do is responding to it.”59 David and Micki Colfax, authors of the well-known book Homeschooling for Excellence, homeschooled four sons, three of whom attended Harvard.60 These are just a few examples; Karl M. Bunday’s well-known website (www.learninfreedom.org) lists more than 1,000 colleges and universities, including Ivy League schools and many other very selective and prestigious schools, that have readily admitted homeschoolers.61

*I cannot link directly to the article.  From Gathercole’s home page, click on the homeschooling button.  Homeschooling’s True Colors is the first article.

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