by Ian Slatter, Director of Media Relations
Since the reemergence of the homeschool movement in the late 1970s, homeschoolers have continued to battle two myths. First, "parents are not qualified to teach their own children at home," and second, "homeschooled children will never fully develop necessary social skills."
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Twenty-five years and dozens of scientific studies later, homeschoolers have demonstrated significant academic achievement, and HSLDA is unaware of any serious critics who argue that homeschoolers struggle academically. However, the "socialization" question continues to plague homeschooling parents.
Homeschooling families have always been skeptical about the assumption that peer grouping provides better socialization than allowing a child to gain experience with a variety of age groups. Since the majority of every person's life is spent in an adult world, these parents ask why socializing within a narrow peer group is the only acceptable way to develop social skills.
Despite logical arguments and anecdotal stories of homeschooling success, many nonhomeschoolers-either purposely or unconsciously-still view socialization through the lens of the public school environment. They need hard facts to diffuse their skepticism toward homeschooling's social benefits.
Homeschooling families across the nation know that criticisms about adequate socialization are ill-founded-they have the evidence right in their own homes. But research on the abilities of homeschooled adults was limited until the home education movement exploded in the 1980s and ,90s. Finally, there were enough homeschool students to study, and now, as those young people have completed their education and are assuming adult roles in society, there are enough graduates to provide statistically significant data on the final product of homeschooling. In order to answer the "socialization question" with scientific facts, HSLDA commissioned a new study and chose Dr. Brian Ray of the National Home Education Research Institute to conduct it.1 HSLDA's synopsis of the study is entitled Homeschooling Grows Up, and is available at www.hslda.org.
Over 7,300 homeschool graduates participated in the study. Of these respondents, over 5,000 had been homeschooled for more than seven years, and the statistics in HSLDA's synopsis are based on these responses. The study aims to quantify the extent of homeschooled adults' participation in society as well as determine the attitudes of graduates toward their home education experience.
Involved and educated
"Homeschooling may turn out better students, but does it create better citizens?" asked TIME magazine in August 2001. Dr. Ray's new study provides hard data to answer this question.2 (See Figure 1.)
Dr. Ray found that nearly twice as many homeschoolers in this study were involved in community organizations than the general public. Over 71% of homeschoolers responded that they participate in a volunteer, church, or neighborhood association as compared with 37% of U.S. adults.
Another indicator of community involvement and responsible citizenship is voting. The data reveals that 74% of 18-24-year-old homeschool graduates vote, a percentage twice as high as that for the same age range in the general U.S. population. (See Figure 2.)
In addition to voting at higher levels than the general population, homeschoolers are also more likely to participate in political campaigns. Homeschool graduates in the 25-39-year-old age group were more than twice as likely to have worked for a political candidate or party. (See Figure 3.)
And homeschoolers' willingness to participate may have something to do with the fact that only 4.2% of homeschoolers considered government and politics too difficult to understand compared with 35% of the general population.
Of great interest to parents is the attitude of their graduates toward being homeschooled. An overwhelming 95% said that they were glad they had been homeschooled, and 94% did not believe that homeschooling had limited their career choices. In addition, 82% of respondents plan to homeschool their children. (See Table 1.)
Homeschoolers also appear to experience a more satisfying life. Sixty percent of homeschoolers reported being "very happy" compared with just 27% of the general population. Compared with 47% of the general population, 73% of homeschoolers felt that life was exciting.
This perspective on embracing life is also reflected in work attitudes. Sixty-one percent of homeschoolers reported that they were very satisfied with their work, compared with 39% of the general population. (See Figure 4.)
The results of this survey should encourage all homeschooling families. As more and more people realize the blessings and benefits that accompany homeschooling, the greater the positive impact this educational option will have on society. HSLDA looks forward to the day when the success of homeschooling becomes widely known. Homeschooling families are the leading edge of educational excellence and are part of a broader social trend toward greater parental choice and involvement in their children's education. This study clearly shows that the homeschool community is on the right path: these parents have done a great job teaching their children and these students have grown into well-adjusted, socially integrated citizens.
1 The results of the study were released at HSLDA's National Conference in Virginia Beach in September 2003.
2 TIME magazine, August 27, 2001, Vol. 158, No. 8, "Home Sweet Home."