by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Brian Ray and Carlos Valiente write for the Martin Center about homeschooling’s academic and social benefits.
Homeschooling works. The roughly 2 million children who currently learn at home join a millennia-old practice supported by many government officials, scholars, college officials, and employers.
While mainstream America has embraced homeschooling as a viable and positive educational option—and as 55 million K-12 students and their parents have been thrust into “crisis-teaching at home”—the angst of some academics over homeschooling has abruptly emerged.
Professors Elizabeth Bartholet of Harvard University and James Dwyer of William and Mary School of Law organized a summer meeting to “focus on problems of educational deprivation and child maltreatment that too often occur under the guise of homeschooling, in a legal environment of minimal or no oversight.” In a highly controversial article in Harvard Magazine, Erin O’Donnell advanced Bartholet’s arguments in favor of a homeschooling ban.
Yet, what does the evidence tell us about homeschool educational and social outcomes? Is there any sound corpus of evidence that homeschooled children are actually educationally deprived or maltreated? And what worldview drives anti-homeschoolers such as Bartholet and Dwyer?
Most reviews of homeschooling research reveal generally positive learning outcomes for children.
Joseph Murphy and Brian Ray provide quite optimistic reviews, while other appraisals present positive, albeit more tentative, conclusions. A one-of-its-kind review of only peer-reviewed research by Ray revealed that 11 of the 14 peer-reviewed studies on academic achievement found that homeschool students significantly outperformed conventionally schooled children. Both of the publicly available state-provided data sets showed higher-than-average test scores for homeschooled children.
A similar pattern emerges for the social, emotional, and psychological development of the homeschooled. The clear majority of peer-reviewed studies show that homeschoolers often have better parent-child relationships and friendships than conventionally schooled children. Homeschoolers are happy, satisfied, and civically engaged.
A growing body of research indicates that graduates of home-based education excel.