Fraser Institute Report on Homeschooling

The Fraser Institute is often referred to around here as “a right wing think-tank”. Every year they publish a “report on BC schools” that ranks all the schools here based on numerous categories that experts spend the rest of the year arguing about. I had no idea, therefore, that they also produced a report on homeschooling in North America back in 2001. And that, according to the second edition of this article, just released this month, their 2001 homeschooling report was one of the most downloaded files in their website’s history.

The report, which basically is a review of all the published studies out there regarding homeschooling, is very pro-homeschooling in it’s findings. Among the findings that didn’t surprise me is that the average homeschooled child is one grade level ahead of his schooled peers in early elementary school, reaching 4 grade levels ahead by high school. It also didn’t surprise me that homeschooled kids are more involved in their communities, watch far less TV than their schooled peers, and demonstrate less problem behaviours in social settings.

What interested me was the finding that it didn’t matter whether either parent was a teacher, in terms of the benefits of homeschooling. It makes sense since, despite popular misconceptions, homeschooling parents generally don’t “teach” their kids the way teachers in school do. Rather they serve as guides and a route to resources. I was surprised to learn that socioeconomic status did not affect the outcomes of homeschooling either. While the academic performance of schooled children is highly correlated with socioeconomic status, that correlation does not hold up for homeschooled children. I always assumed that parents with higher education and higher socioeconomic status would be more inclined to homeschool. And yet it seems that it actually would be better if more low socioeconomic class families homeschooled – it is apparently an impressive way to gain your child advantages that they will likely never get in public or private school.

From the Executive Summary section of the report:

• Many studies, Canadian, American, and international,
have found that home schooled students
outperform students in both public and independent
(private) schools. One US study found that
home and private school students perform comparably
well, and that both maintain a strong advantage
over public school students.

• Home educated children enjoy no significant advantage
if one or both parents are certified teachers.

• Surprisingly, several studies have found that home
education may help eliminate the potential negative
effects of certain socio-economic factors.
Though children whose parents have university
degrees score higher on tests of academic achievement
than other home schooled children, home
education appears to mitigate the harmful effect of
low parental education levels. That is, public
schools seem to educate children of poorly educated
parents worse than do the poorly educated
parents themselves. One study found that students
taught at home by mothers who had never finished
high school scored a full 55 percentile points
higher than public school students from families
with comparable education levels.

• Despite a widespread belief that home educated
students are not adequately socialized, the preponderance
of research suggests otherwise. The average
Canadian home schooled student is regularly
involved in eight social activities outside the
home. Canadian home schoolers watch much less
television than other children, and one researcher
found that they displayed significantly fewer problems
than public school children when observed in
free play.

• Though the long-term effects of home schooling
are less well studied, both Canadian and American
findings on previously home schooled adults are
encouraging. Canadian home-schooled students
report a life satisfaction score well above their public
school peers. American studies have found indications
of a wide range of non-academic benefits
from home schooling.

A full copy of the report can be found here.

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