You Made a Good Choice

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Despite what you may have read elsewhere, statistically homeschooling does not give your student a better education than a public school. In fact, studies have shown that the best we can say is that homeschooling is not an academic disadvantage.

The good news: You're not "ruining" your children by homeschooling.

Your children will probably do well academically, just like every other family in our socioeconomic bracket. Which leads to the "bad" news: You didn't make a superior choice by homeschooling. You made a good choice. In fact, my sister laid out a few points about her experience and then asked why more people don't homeschool.

I'm aware of two "giants" in the homeschool research world. The National Home Education Research Institute promotes a great many studies that point to homeschool successes. The International Center for Home Education Research Reviews takes those reports and rips them up a bit. I found the analysis of why there's not more homeschooling research to be fascinating.

I bring this up to encourage you.

First, you made a good choice to homeschool. And, should you ever decide that homeschooling isn't working for you, you can move forward in freedom and confidence that another school option is also completely viable. It's always best to do what God has called you to do and what helps your children thrive, but the model you select doesn't matter statistically. The other social, emotional, spiritual, personal reasons should absolutely be taken into consideration.

Second, let's not misuse statistics or other information. We don't need to undermine our position on things that way (homeschooling or otherwise). Homeschooling is a great option. There are many benefits. Let's stick to the positives when discussing our choice with others.

Third, it's good to be challenged. This is something we prize here at Sonlight. In fact, reason 14 NOT to buy Sonlight reminds us that "we want to be fair when other perspectives merit discussion. We want to encourage students to think critically and to act with gracious humility toward those who hold differing views and perspectives." May we be open to discovering the faulty ideas we've entertained so we can walk ever more in truth and converse productively with those who disagree.

Keep up the great work. And may your family continue to experience many benefits from the time you spend homeschooling and learning together.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Filmmaker, Writer, Guardian

P.S. Be sure to read Judy's "rebuttal" post as well!

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Filmmaker, Writer, Pseudo-Dad
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4 Responses to You Made a Good Choice

  1. Robin E. says:

    I have read your stats previously and reviewed them today, but I am still at a loss because I have personally witnessed time and time again how the schools local to me are so academically behind my homeschool, even though academic excellence is not a priority for us. And now that I have stated that it sounds like I am one of those "homeschool is the only superior way to go" arrogant people, and I don't consider myself to be that, and indeed don't want to be.

    I do know that I live in one of the lowest ranked counties in one of the lowest ranked states for public education. I imagine that plays a large part in why homeschooling here seems to be such a big difference academically. I also know that many different experiences with public schools, colleges, and students at both have made it clear to us that my kids (and most of the other homeschool kids I know) are doing better academically than kids of the same race and similar economic background locally. (To be honest, it is much harder to compare if they have similar "stable" home lives, as sadly that seems to be a rarity now-a-days.)

    However, I also know that the level of classes my kids are taking in high school simply are not an option for public schoolers. Not one of the local high schools offer Advanced Physics. Not one of them allows students to take Chemistry as a freshman. Even the AP English class options are light on reading and writing compared to even the lower level high school Cores. As a homeschooler, my students have much, much more choice in what they take and when they take it. How can that not lead to academic advantage?

    I guess it boils down to I don't think standardized test results are an adequate indicator for academic advantage. I tutored kids while I was still in high school that did above average to above average in math (500s on the SAT), but needed tutoring because they weren't keeping their gpa up because they couldn't work most word problems. I remember sitting there shocked that someone, in all seriousness, could tell me she was, "good at math as long as it's not word problems." What? Life comes in word problems, not already prepared equations just waiting for us to plug and chug away to find the answer. But, even now 20 years later, word problems are such a small part of the SAT. There is still a prejudice toward kids that can compute quickly, rather than those that truly understand the concepts. Even the essay component they have added since I took it isn't a good measure of ability. It doesn't really measure how well someone writes, but rather measures how fast someone writes (there is a clear correlation between the length of that 25 minute essay and scores).

    Personally, I have no doubt that for us homeschooling has lead to a significant academic advantage, even if my kids only test to a level that is expected for middle class white people (even though technically we fall into the upper lower class in income).

    (And I'm not even getting into my dyslexic students here. They are getting even a larger academic advantage than they would in the local schools, for many reasons.)

  2. Luke says:

    Thanks for your thoughts, Robin! And I'd agree with all three of your main points (I hope I didn't miss one [smile]).

    1. Homeschoolers have the opportunity to provide an excellent education for their students in a way that some/most/all public schools cannot. If a parent is not involved in a child's education, the child will not do as well. But the data show that kids who are homeschooled do as well as kids who come from stable, two-parent homes with money enough to spend time helping their children succeed. Most telling, for me, is that the studies done by homeschool advocates show the same boosts no matter how long the child is homeschooled (1 year vs all 12). I have no trouble believing you can provide a better education than your local school district.

    2. With the flexibility of homeschooling, you can give your children more options! I attended a lower-income high school so I did not have opportunity to take, say, Differential Equations. The kids I know who attend a much more well-off school can. Homeschoolers have the opportunity to allocate resources that meet their child's needs. That is a huge benefit. ...a benefit that is shared--statistically--by children who come from homes of similar socioeconomic backgrounds.

    3. I also reject the idea that standardized tests are the way to best measure student success. No way! But give that information--and other studies--the point remains: The benefits we can measure in children who are homeschooled are also seen in children from homes with similar financial and familial setups.

    As I've said again and again, homeschooling is a great option! I think homeschooling is fantastic. It was for me. It is for many, many, many families. There are huge benefits we have, including time together as families and whatnot. Please take advantage of these opportunities. But if you decide to take advantage of the opportunities afforded by the schools around you, feel free to do that too.


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