A Systematic Review of the Empirical Research on Selected Aspects of Homeschooling as a School Choice

A systematic review of the empirical research on selected aspects of  homeschooling as a school choice

This is a review of peer-reviewed homeschool research in the Journal of School Choice, by Brian D. Ray

Brian D. Ray

Journal of School Choice, Pages 604-621 | Published online: 27 Nov 2017


This peer-reviewed article gives the demographic characteristics of the U.S. homeschooling population and the reasons that parents choose to homeschool, summarizes the findings of studies on the homeschool learner outcomes of academic achievement, social development, and success in adulthood, and proposes future research on parent-led home-based education. The majority of peer-reviewed studies on academic achievement reveal a positive effect for the homeschooled students compared to institutional schooled students, while a few studies show mixed or negative results. Regarding social and emotional development, a large majority of studies show clearly positive outcomes for the homeschooled compared to those in conventional schools. A majority of the studies on the relative success of the home-educated who later became adults show positive outcomes for the homeschooled compared to those who had been in conventional schools. I recommend that the existing literature be enhanced by well-controlled non-experimental designs to examine adults who were homeschooled in terms of an array of knowledge, attitudes and behaviors regarding lifelong learning, rates of public welfare dependency, and degree of personal agency or self-efficacy.

•        Research evidence on the demographic characteristics of homeschoolers

•        Research evidence on reasons for homeschooling

•        Research evidence on the academic achievement of the homeschooled

Are homeschool students performing worse, the same, or better than their public school peers? Some people want to know, What about homeschool vs. public school test scores (academic achievement)? “In 11 of the 14 [78%] peer-reviewed studies [on academic achievement], there was a definite positive effect on achievement for the homeschooled students. One of the 14 studies showed mixed results; that is, some positive and some negative effects were associated with homeschooling. One study revealed no difference between the homeschool and conventional school students, and one study revealed neutral and negative results for homeschooling compared to conventional schooling [this was for grade K students only, Aram et al., 2016]. Both state-provided data sets showed higher than average academic achievement test scores for the home educated” (p. 8).

•        Research evidence on the social development of the home educated

A common question by the simply curious or negative critics of homeschooling is, What about socialization? “Thirteen of the 15 [87%; studies on social development] showed clearly positive outcomes for the homeschooled compared to those in conventional schools. Two of those studies reported that some of the findings were more positive for homeschool students but some were more positive for institutional school students” (p. 9).

•        Research evidence on the relative success of the homeschooled into college and adulthood

“Eleven of the 16 [69%; studies on success into adulthood and college] showed positive outcomes for the homeschooled compared to those in conventional schools. One study found positive outcomes for conventional school students compared to homeschool students. Finally, four of the studies found no significant difference between those from homeschool backgrounds and the others from institutional school backgrounds” (p. 11).

•        Discussion: thoughts on the future of research on homeschooling and the choice of home education

Overall, 78% (35) of the 45 peer-reviewed studies found that the homeschooled students or graduates performed significantly better than their conventional or institutional school peers in terms of academic achievement, social and emotional development, and success into adulthood (including at college/university); 11% (5) found no significant difference; 7% (3) found mixed results; conventional school students performed significantly better in 4% (2) of the studies.  “The evidence from the studies presented in a new way in this review shed notable light on the generally positive relationship between homeschooling and the three learner outcomes of academic achievement, social development, and relative success in adulthood” (p. 617).

KEYWORDS: academic achievementcollege studentshomeschoolingsocial development, home schooling, home education