Education outcomes: how do homeschoolers compare with conventional schoolers?
Last year, Sandra Martin-Chang of Concordia University and her colleagues recruited Canadian participants from both the homeschool and public school populations to study their academic achievement. It’s not a big sample but the research does offer an interesting look at how students educated at home compare with those from conventional schools. I have reproduced an extract from Parenting Science that summarises the researchers’ findings.
Is education achievement all that matters in homeschooling then?
Obviously not. But for education to equip a child academically for future pursuits, it must be seen in demonstrable results. If anything, studies such as Sandra Martin-Chang’s assure homeschoolers that parents need not fret that an education an home is somehow inferior to conventional schooling.
Here’s what the researchers noted in their participants and how both groups compare academically.
MARTIN-CHANG AND HER COLLEAGUES sought Canadian participants from both the homeschool and public school populations, recruiting through community announcements, radio ads, and email. They ended up with 37 homeschool students, and matched these with 37 similar-age public school students living in the same area. Overall, the students had these characteristics:
About the students
• They ranged in age from 5 to 10 years, and almost all of them lived with married or partnered adults.
• Most had mothers with college degrees (65% for homeschoolers, 54% for public school kids), and kids in public school were more likely to have mothers with graduate degrees (11% for homeschoolers, 30% for public school kids).
• Homeschool families had lower incomes, presumably because mothers in these families were more likely to have left the workforce.
In addition, the researchers discovered that the homeschooling group fell into two categories.
1. Most homeschooling parents took a structured approach to education. They “set out clear educational goals for their children and offered structured lessons in the form of either purchased curricula or self-made lesson plans (often some combination of both).”
2. A minority of homeschooling parents said they rarely or never used premade curricula and structured lesson plans. Some called themselves “unschoolers.” As the authors note, “These parents identified more with the pedagogical view that education is gained via the natural consequences of the child’s day-to-day activities.”
Obviously, these parents offered very different educational experiences to their kids. So Martin-Chang and colleagues didn’t lump them together with the structured homeschoolers. Instead, they decided to study three groups:
• Public school students
• Structured homeschooling students
• Unstructured homeschooling students
How did these groups compare?
To find out, researchers administered a 45-minute achievement test in the children’s homes. The questions—which were borrowed from the popular Woodcock-Johnson Test of Achievement—covered seven distinct academic areas, including reading comprehension, science, and mathematics.
Overall, the structured homeschooling group performed much better than the public school group. And the margin was pretty dramatic.
In 5 of 7 test areas, (word identification, phonic decoding, science, social science, humanities) structured homeschoolers were at least one grade level ahead of public schoolers.
They were almost half a year ahead in math, and slightly, but not significantly, advanced in reading comprehension. But this is a relatively small study. Was the homeschool advantage due to random factors?
Researchers calculated the probabilities of getting these results due to random chance alone. For science and calculation, these probabilities were 1.9% and 2.6%. For word identification, decoding, and social science, the probabilities were all below 0.07%.
Was the homeschool advantage merely the result of socioeconomic privilege? That seems rather unlikely too. Homeschoolers retained their edge even after researchers made statistical adjustments for differences in family income and mother’s education level.
You can read the whole article Homeschooling outcomes: How do they compare? by Glen Dewar,Ph.D., here.
Milton Gaither who blogs on homeschooling at Homeschooling Research Notes reviews Martin-Chang’s study and offers a caveat on her conclusions. Read also the comments that accompanied Gaither’s post. Interesting read.
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