- Wednesday, January 09, 2008
Of particular interest is the effect of state regulation of homeschooling on the achievement outcomes. What the research is showing is that state regulation, regardless of level, did not affect achievement scores.(Ramirez, L.P. (2003) Is Home Schooling Right for Kids? Family Matters. Green, J.P. (2000) "The Education Freedom Index." Civic Report. Num. 14. Click Here) Jay P. Greene of the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research worked to develop the Educational Freedom Index (EFI) to measure the amount of freedom states grant to parents to educate their children. Using this instrument, he evaluated states in terms of student achievement levels compared to the level of freedom each state allowed parents.What he concluded in his research was pleasantly reassuring, he states: "Put simply, states with more educational freedom have higher average student achievement" (p. 4).(Basham, P. (2001) "Home Schooling: From Extreme to Mainstream.") This is a strong argument for unencumbered access to homeschooling as an option without a lot of government involvement or oversight. These results in terms of what does (or really, what doesn't) make a difference in terms of academic outcomes runs very contrary to the ideology of critics of homeschooling who believe that homeschooling should use government-approved curriculums, be taught only by certified teachers, be overseen by government educational programs, and be heavily regulated. The results do demonstrate that despite the lack of these things, homeschoolers thrive.
Well, what about socialization? Aren't homeschool children isolated and deprived of adequate social opportunities? Measuring socialization is more difficult than measuring achievement. With achievement you simply test a child's ability to answer questions of an academic nature. Testing socialization relies on measures that attempt to quantify opinion and observation. Despite this difficulty, tests do exist to evaluate the level of socialization in individuals. Socialization can also be assessed by evaluating aspects of life such as number and quality of friendships, community involvement, or social activity outside the home. When homeschool children are evaluated by these measures, what do they show?
The research again shows encouraging news for homeschoolers. Researchers typically conclude that homeschooled children are, at minimum, as socialized as any other group of children, and in many cases they are found to be better socialized. In a particularly interesting study, researchers trained observers to rate children on a number of social skills from a prepared checklist. The raters were not told if they were rating homeschooled or public schooled children (this is called a blind study). The raters consistently rated the homeschool children as acting in a friendly and positive fashion. In contrast, the public school children were rated as aggressive, bad, and competitive. The researchers concluded that home educated children were socially adept and did not display behavioral problems above the norm. (Basham, P. (2001) "Home Schooling: From Extreme to Mainstream.") In several studies that used more sophisticated psychological tests, homeschool students demonstrated higher scores on communication, daily living skills, socialization, and social maturity. They also showed higher scores on family and community subscales. The conclusion of the researchers in these studies was that homeschool children are well socialized without exposure to large groups of children and that there was no substantial difference in terms of assertiveness or self-concept. (Medlin, R.G. (2000) "Home Schooling and the Question of Socialization." Peabody Journal of Education. Vol. 75, Num. 1&2, 107-123.)
In terms of friendships, homeschoolers demonstrate that they do just as well with friends and that they have the same number of close friends as public school children. The researchers did find that homeschool children worry more about their friendships and are more susceptible to negative emotional impacts when friendships go poorly. They concluded that homeschool students rely more heavily on their "best friendship" than do their public school peers. These same researchers found that homeschool students reported a more positive attitude toward teachers and coaches, more positive relationships with parents, a higher self-esteem, and more positive interpersonal relationships. Oddly enough, they also found that homeschool students express less confidence in their academic performance than public school children do, prompting the researchers to conclude that homeschool students may actually feel more confident socially than they do academically. (19. Reavis, R. & Zakriski (2005) "Experts Speak Out: Are Home Schooled Children Socially at Risk or Socially Protected?" )
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