Before we begin crowing that home-school is naturally better, we need to carefully look at the research. This research study does not support the superiority of homeschooling. It falls short because it did not sufficiently control for the demographics. In other words, there are demographic differences that easily account for the home-schooled students' performance. It appears that they are a select group rather than a general representation of all home-schooled students compared to other students possessing the same demographic traits. The factors include the following: (1) higher education levels, (2) more likely to reside in rural area, (3) more likely to have two parents in the home (one working), and (3) bigger families. It can be persuasively argued that these factors contribute to higher academic achievement and greater stability in school. Also, the importance placed by the home on the school environment and school performance as well as the desire to provide moral or religious training increase academic performance. Furthermore, the disparity of the percentage of males and underrepresented minorities between home-school and other venues is significant enough to call into question the validity of this study. This current study is about home environment and background, not the single factor of home-schooling.
One would do well by thinking twice before using this research study in support of homeschooling. Other studies (e.g. http://epaa.asu.edu/ojs/article/view/543) indicate that home-school students tend to have parents of higher education, higher socio-economic status, and two-parent families. These factors alone make home-school students a select population and suggest a strong familial factor in educational achievement rather than simply home-schooling. The HSLDA, IMHO, is making a grave mistake to promote the current study and build its arguments on such poor research. Homeschooling should be firmly grounded in the philosophical argument of parental rights as opposed to the dubious case for superior performance (I've seem many, many homeschooling failures). When the research is later discredited (and it is subject to being discredited), the whole HSLDA case for home-schooling suffers. It's the family, not home-schooling, that is the key.
I think most of the time this kind of research doesn't prove the 'superiority' of home education, but rather it attempts to answer critics who have for years claimed that homeschooling would by default result in intellectually and socially stunted youth who couldn't function in college or in society. All the research that has been done shows that this doomsday prophecy is unfounded. What it can never show is that home education is best for every family, 'cause it ain't.
I agree strongly that homeschooling tends to self-select, not so much parents of higher education or socio-economic status, but parents who are absolutely dedicated to the process of learning as a lifestyle (as opposed to school being something you go and do for a 6 hours and then come home and live your 'real' life). In 15+ years of homeschooling, I have yet to meet a family that was in the upper class bracket. I've met a few that were upper-middle class, several single working parents who had support from family and friends, and tons of middle and lower-middle class with the fortitude and creativity to make it work for them.
Family is key- but not only to home education. Studies about public education often allude to parental involvement as being key to the success of traditionally educated students as well. There are enough 'failures' to go around, but I think what would be most productive is to get away from blaming/praising educational methods and focus on the most important learning environment of all- the home.
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Granted, there are more minorities and lower-income people getting into home schooling. However, home schoolers - as well as those at charter and private schools - are always going to be a select group, meaning people who for whatever reason decide that traditional education doesn't suit their wants or needs and seek out an alternative. As a result, any increased academic performance will be primarily due to the self-selection factor as opposed to the pedagogy or environment.
Also, the issue should not be increased academic performance but parental rights. This is especially the case for people who homeschool for religious reasons. Parents should have the right to do so because of their rights and authority over their own children even if the result is lower academic performance. Christians who homeschool in particular should be motivated by the ability to rear their children in an environment and with a worldview that isn't corrupting and opposed to Jesus Christ, not because it increases their chances of getting into UCLA.
And the UCLA mention was not by chance. Recall lawsuits against the University of California system by Christian schools over UC's refusal to admit their graduates over creationism. "Academic performance" and the measures thereof are by no means objective or neutral. Having to spout evolution in order to get a passing grade in biology was just the beginning. Kids are now getting "graded" on their willingness to absorb and regurgitate such nonsense as environmentalism, multiculturalism, religious pluralism, gay rights etc. and things have been moving that way ever since public education adopted the Dewey philosophy that socialization was more important to education than learning facts and figures. Look at the two psychology students who got kicked out of their programs over their opposition to homosexuality. It would be so easy to come up with some measure or test designed specifically to "flunk" homeschoolers, especially Christian homeschoolers, that it isn't funny.
The parental rights issue is the real battleground. Some European governments have already basically taken the position that the state is primarily responsible for the welfare and protection of children, and that whenever the interests of the state and the parent collide, the state should win. If you look at some recent court decisions, America is flirting with that position also.
Solo Christo, Soli Deo Gloria, Sola Fide, Sola Gratia, Sola Scriptura
I personally do not home school but I am not against that option for moms and families who choose that route. I don't believe I am the best option to teach my children an education. However, I AM the best option to teach my children discipline, kindness, Christianity and how to love and treat others. I want my children to be Christian leaders in their public school. I don't want to focus on competition and who is smarter. Aside from school associated opportunities, I am looking into http://www.experiencegla.com/ global leadership adventures for my kids. I think what we are doing (or aren't doing) at home is what makes the biggest difference for our children in the long run. Parental involvement is key. We can't continue to blame the teachers!