Home schooled children are, on average, more
academically and socially advanced than public and private school
students, according to a new study Home Schooling: From the Extreme to the Mainstream
released today by The Fraser Institute.
"In the past decade, home schooling has proven itself to parents
and researchers to be a highly effective alternative to public
and private schooling," says Claudia Hepburn, director of
education policy at The Fraser Institute.
The growth of home schooling
In 1979, just 2000 Canadian children were home schooled. By 1996,
the respective provincial ministries of education put the number
of home schooled children at 17, 523 or 0.4 percent of total
student enrolment - a 776 percent increase over just 18 years.
Today, some estimates put the number of home schooled students in
Canada as high as 80,000.
In the United States, various estimates suggest home schooling is
growing at a rate of between 11 to 40 percent annually. In 1999,
the US Department of Education estimated that approximately
850,000 students were being home schooled. In both countries,
this surge in home schooling has been facilitated by the growth
of the Internet.
"Although parents home school their children for a myriad of
reasons, the principal stimulus is dissatisfaction with public
education," notes Hepburn.
Home schooling and academic performance
Research indicates that home schooled children in the U.S. and
Canada regularly outperform their peers in both public and
private schools. The international evidence on the academic
performance of home schooled students is equally encouraging.
In the United States, at every grade level, home schooled
students' average score placed between the 82nd and the 92nd
percentile in reading and reached the 85th percentile in math.
Overall, test scores for home schoolers placed between the 75th
and 85th percentiles. In contrast, public school students scored
at the 50th percentile, while private school students' scores
ranged from the 65th to the 75th percentile. Home schooled
students also surpass the national averages on both of the major
college-entrance tests: the ACT and the SAT.
Although there is less Canadian research available, the academic
performance of Canadian home schooled students appears to be
comparable to the American experience. The largest study to date
in Canada found that home schooling students, on average, score
at the 80th percentile in reading, at the 76th percentile in
language, and at the 79th percentile in mathematics. The Canadian
average for all public and privately educated students is the
"Almost one-quarter of home schooled students perform one or more
grades above their age level peers in public and private
schools," says Patrick Basham, Senior Fellow at the Cato
Institute and the study's author.
Home schooling and socialization
Contrary to the concerns of the educational establishment, the
typical home schooled child participates in a wide variety of
extracurricular activities, including afternoon and weekend
programs with public school students, day-time field trips and
co-operative programs with groups of other home schooled kids.
Ninety-eight percent of home schooled students are involved in
two or more outside functions on a weekly basis.
Research also suggests that home schooled students are more
sociable than their school peers, as well as more independent of
peer values as they grow older.
"Popular belief holds that home schooled children are socially
backward and deprived, but research shows the opposite: that home
schooled children are actually better socialized than their
peers," says Hepburn. "Some studies have shown that home schooled
children are happier, better adjusted, more thoughtful, mature
and sociable than children who attend institutional schools."
Characteristics of home schooling families
Parents choose to home school their children for a number of
reasons, such as: the opportunity to impart a particular set of
values and beliefs, higher academic performance, a lack of
discipline in public schools, the expense of private schools for
large families, and a physically safer environment in which to
Home schooling parents have above average levels of education.
Among American parents who home school, 81 percent have studied
beyond high school compared with 63 percent of parents
nationwide. Interestingly, having at least one parent who is a
certified teacher has no significant effect on the achievement
levels of home schooled students.
Home schooling families are almost exclusively two-parent
families. Because of the time required, home schooling usually
involves two parents-one who participates in the labour force and
one who home schools. Research on the income of home schooling
families has so far proven inconclusive.
Home schooling is legal in all ten Canadian provinces. In
regulatory terms, each province has its own specific rules
governing home schooling: most require that home schooling
parents comply with the Education Act in the respective province.
Alberta leads the way in North America as the only jurisdiction
that provides funding to home schooling families.
A comparison of home schooled students' performance in a
highly-regulated, moderately regulated, and unregulated American
jurisdictions found no statistical difference. In other words,
the degree of government regulation has no significant effect on
the academic performance of home schooled children.
"Although home schooling is neither desirable nor possible for
all families, it has proven itself to be a highly successful and
relatively inexpensive alternative to public and more formal
private education," concludes Hepburn. "As such, it merits both
the respect of regulators and the further attention of