Brian D. Ray
National Home Education Research Institute, Salem, Oregon, USA
Keywords: Home-schooled, schooled, students, impact, academic, evidence.
Multiple studies over thirty years have consistently found relatively neutral to positive things associated with homeschooling with respect to academic achievement and social, emotional, and psychological development (Ray, 2005, 2010). Some critics of both the quality of some research on homeschooling and of home-based education itself, however, hold that almost no research tells us anything significant about the academic achievement of the home educated (e.g., Reich, 2005). Along these lines, a relatively recent study by Martin-Chang, Gould, and Meuse (2011) is consistent with the suggestion that at least a certain form of home-based education causes higher academic achievement than does conventional public schooling.
Martin-Chang and her colleagues considered some of the limitations of research studies to date and worked for a design with more built-in controls. For example, they chose solely home educated and solely public schooled students, and matched homeschool and public school students on variables such as geographical area in which they lived, did fresh achievement testing of both groups, and found that all but one of the mothers for both groups were “married or living in committed relationships.” Also, the researchers adjusted test scores for the mothers’ educational attainment and household income, although “mothers’ education and median income were slightly higher for the public school group” (p. 6). Their careful matched-pair design was appropriate for addressing causal relationships. The sample sizes were 37 homeschool and 37 public school students of ages 5 to 10.
Once into the study, the researchers found that “structured” and “unstructured” homeschoolers were two distinct groups. For various reasons, the authors focused their analysis on comparing students from structured homeschool settings with public school students. They reported, “… the children who received structured homeschooling were superior to the children enrolled in public school across all seven subtests” (p. 5).
The seven subtests were Letter–Word, Comprehension, Word Attack, Science, Social Science, Humanities, and Calculation. Further, Martin-Chang and the others reported the following:
To gain a broad perspective of the level of standardized achievement in each group, we conducted a multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) that included the scores from all seven Woodcock–Johnson subtests. ….. Thus, all seven subtests were used as dependent variables, and schooling group (public school and structured homeschool) was the independent variable. ….. all the variables showed a medium or strong effect. ….. In conclusion, when comparing the test scores of the children attending public school and children receiving structured homeschooling, it becomes clear that the latter group has higher scores across a variety of academic areas. Moreover, there is no evidence that this difference is simply due to the family’s income or the mother’s educational attainment. (p. 5)
The researchers ended up with a very small sample size for the unstructured homeschool-family students. Based on this, they wrote, “… our exploratory analyses suggest that the unstructured homeschooled children generally score below their expected grade level on the standardized test, and that even with this small sample, performance differences are relatively substantial” (p. 5-6).
One should keep in mind, however, that the sole measure of learning in this study is standardized tests and the students are rather young; the researchers wondered, “… whether the children receiving unstructured homeschooling would eventually catch up, or even surpass, their peers given ample time” (p. 7).
Martin-Chang and her colleagues concluded as follows: “The evidence presented here is in line with the assumption that homeschooling offers benefits over and above those experienced in public school” (p. 6). It will be intriguing to see whether future research, that incorporates more careful controls as did Martin-Chang, Gould, and Meuse, continues to find relatively positive academic achievement associated with homeschooling in general, or only with certain versions of home-based education.
Martin-Chang, Sandra; Gould, Odette N.; Meuse, Reanne E. (2011, May 30). The impact of schooling on academic achievement: Evidence from homeschooled and traditionally schooled students. Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science/Revue canadienne des sciences du comportement, pp. 1-8.
Ray, Brian D. (2005). A homeschool research story. In Bruce S. Cooper (Ed.), Home schooling in full view: A reader, p. 1-19. Greenwich, CT: Information Age Publishing.
Ray, Brian D. (2010, February 3). Academic achievement and demographic traits of homeschool students: A nationwide study. Academic Leadership Journal, 8(1). Retrieved February 10, 2010 from http://www.academicleadership.org/emprical_research/Academic_Achievement_and_Demographic_Traits_of_Homeschool_Students_A_Nationwide_Study.shtml.
Reich, Rob. (2005). Why home schooling should be regulated. In Bruce S. Cooper (Ed.), (2005), Homeschooling in full view: A reader. Greenwich, CT: Information Age Publishing. ¯
- The “Perspectives – News and Comments” section of this journal consists of articles that have not undergone peer review.