Keywords, Categories, Tags: homeschooling, home schooling, home education, home-based education, demographics, academic achievement, socialization, social development, adulthood, research, statistics, school choice research.
During the past five years or so, negative critics of homeschooling and of homeschool advocacy have claimed that research on homeschooling tells us almost nothing (e.g., about academic achievement or test scores). More recently, the criticism of positive claims about homeschooling’s effects has been softened by some. For example, consider the following:
Those claims [“that homeschooling ‘works’ and ‘leads to’ desirable outcomes”] might be true but cannot be supported by analyses of extant empirical evidence.
Regardless of whether these writers’ claim was true in 2013, is there any recent information that tells us anything definite about homeschooling and its effects? Yes, and it reveals more than many critics seem to want to admit.
A Recent Review of Research
The peer-reviewed Journal of School Choice published at the end of 2017 “A Systematic Review of the Empirical Research on Selected Aspects of Homeschooling as a School Choice” by Brian D. Ray. The purpose of the article is to give the demographic characteristics of the U.S. homeschooling population and the reasons that parents choose to homeschool, summarize the findings of studies on the homeschool learner outcomes of academic achievement, social development, and success in adulthood, and propose future research on parent-led home-based education.
One of the unique aspects of this review of research is that only peer-reviewed sources are noted and included for the aspect of the review that deals with the selected learner outcomes of academic achievement, social development, and degree of success in adulthood. In this, the purpose is to compare homeschool students to those who were educated in conventional or institutional schools such as traditional public, charter, or private schools.
This is the first review of homeschool research to use this approach. Using only peer-reviewed studies enhances discipline and consistency in the review. It reduces the opportunity for the reviewer to be arbitrary, capricious, or biased in what is selected for inclusion. Further, it theoretically enhances the methodological soundness of the studies included in the overview, and thus makes the conclusions based on the data more dependable.
This present article covers only one learner outcome, academic achievement, from Ray’s review of peer-reviewed research. Future articles will address other topics presented in his review such as the demographic characteristics of homeschoolers, reasons for homeschooling, social development, and relative success of the homeschooled into college and adulthood.
Empirical Evidence on the Academic Achievement of the Homeschooled
Ray’s literature search resulted in 14 peer-reviewed quantitative studies for inclusion for the topic of academic achievement. Most of the studies included, as dependent variables, students’ scores on standardized academic achievement tests. A summary of the items and their findings is presented in the detailed Table 1 in the journal article.
Six of the 14 peer-reviewed studies were cross-sectional, descriptive, seven were cross-sectional, explanatory in nature, and one was a continuous baseline probe design. In non-experimental explanatory research, investigators try to develop or test a theory about a phenomenon or try to identify the causal factors.
In 11 of the 14 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.
Both state-provided data sets showed higher than average academic achievement test scores for the home educated.
In the journal article, the author provides illustrative descriptions of a few of the studies. Here is one of them:
Ray’s (2015) was the first attempt at a quantitative study assessing the academic achievement of black homeschool children. He collected data from around the country and was able to control for two confounding variables, gender of the student and socioeconomic status of the family. The homeschool students were administered standardized tests by non-family members and their scores were analyzed. The black homeschool children outperformed their black public school peers in the areas of reading, language, math, social studies, and science with large effect sizes of 0.84, 0.90, 0.87, 0.82, and 0.82. Further, the black homeschool children scored the same or higher than all races/ethnicities in the general school-age public.
Summary on Academic Achievement and Test Scores
Does research on homeschooling tell us anything with distinctness, or not? Yes. Increasingly, research points to positive effects being associated with parent-led home-based education (e.g., see study on African American homeschool students’ test scores).
In 11 of the 14 peer-reviewed studies on academic achievement, there was a definite positive effect on or correlation with achievement for the homeschooled students. That is, 78% of peer-reviewed studies in existence at the time of the article’s writing showed a statistically significant positive connection with home education. That is not “nothing.” That is not “we can’t say anything.”
Is it possible that fewer positive relationships with homeschooling be found in the future? It is possible. Might some negative relationships be found? It is possible. Might the make-up and nature of the homeschool community change? It is possible. As of now, however, some definite positive things interconnected with home-based education are revealed by peer-reviewed empirical studies.
 Lubienski, Christopher C.; Puckett, Tiffany; & Brewer, T. Jameson. (2013). Does homeschooling “work”? A critique of the empirical claims and agenda of advocacy organizations. Peabody Journal of Education, 88(3), 378-392.
 Ray, Brian D. (2017). A systematic review of the empirical research on selected aspects of homeschooling as a school choice. Journal of School Choice, 11(4), 604-621, retrieved August 17, 2018 from http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/15582159.2017.1395638
 Ray, B. D. (2015). African American homeschool parents’ motivations for homeschooling and their Black children’s academic achievement. Journal of School Choice, 9, 71–96, retrieved August 17, 2018 from https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/15582159.2015.998966
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