The purpose of this project was to provide (a) base line information about the achievement levels of Washington home schoolers and (b) descriptive information about those who choose this educational option.
Population and Sample
Washington home schoolers who are apparently in conformance with the home school law constituted the population. All test scores came from those home school students who utilized the testing service operated by Richard Wheeler during 1986. This constituted a 100% sampling of 426 students located throughout Western Washington. All descriptive information (everything except test scores) was obtained through a 112-item questionnaire that was distributed via 12 “local coordinators” (support group leaders, test service operators, and others) throughout the state. A total of 219 questionnaires were returned.
Findings and Conclusions
As a group, these 426 home schoolers scored as well or better than their peers across the nation on virtually all of the six test scales measured by the Stanford Achievement Test series (Stanford Early School Achievement Test (SESATI for grade K, 2nd edition; Stanford Achievement Test [SAT] for grades 1 to 8, 7th edition; and the Test of Academic Skills [TASK 2] for grades 9 to 12, 2nd edition) that were utilized in this research. Of the 28 cells created by the separate subtests of Total Reading, Total Language, Total Listening, and Total Math, 27 were above the 50%ile on national norms (with the exception at the 49%ile), and
11 were above the 70%ile. Of the 12 cells created by the dependent scales of Basic Battery Total and Complete Battery Total, all were above the 50%ile and six were above the 70%ile.
Reasons for Home Schooling
While reasons relating to religion or philosophy were the dominant choice for why people home school, they were barely so. Following closely were, in order, the avoidance of peer pressure, greater parent-child contact, and the enabling of better self-concept. Additional reasons near the top of the list included avoidance of competition, a more personalized learning experience, and to accomplish more academically. It is interesting to note that 5 of the above 7 reasons deal more with the social/emotional/relational domain than with religious or academic criteria.
Descriptive Information: The Family
The typical Washington home school family was a two-parent family (93%), that earned a little more than $25,000 per year, where the mother was the primary teacher (89%), and where the parents were somewhat above average in their level of education (26% had a bachelor’s degree and only 5% had less than a high school diploma (compared with 19% and 22% respectively for the Washington adult population as a whole) (Census 1980). Few families (18%) were utilizing the services of a certified teacher more than one hour per month, but 47% of the families had completed a course in home based education (although the sampling method may have caused such families to be over—represented). A majority (62%) of the parents were attending home school support group meetings or activities at least once every two months and 85% were utilizing community resources (e.g. library, recreation department, athletic league, church, etc.) at least twice per month.
Descriptive Information: The Student
The typical home school student was White (96%), aged 8 to 11 (57%), and had been home schooled 1 to 3 years (87%). The student spent a median of 11 to 15 hours per week involved in “formal schooling.” The home education program tended to be somewhat toward the more structured side of a very unstructured to very structured continuum.
Descriptive Information: Planning Ahead
A very high number (91%) of the parents indicated a definite or probable intent to continue home schooling into the 1986—1987 school year. When asked how long they plan to home school, 37% of the parents indicated through high school. However, an even larger number (46%), said they could not make a reasonable estimate at this time. It is logical that parents who did not plan to continue home schooling would be less likely to return a questionnaire and, therefore, are not represented in this sampling. It is difficult, therefore, to document the question of how long parents will choose to home school.
Information Relating to Private Schools
Only 22% of respondents rated the inability to afford a private school as a moderate to very significant reason for choosing to home school. Home schooling appears to be the option of personal choice for the overwhelming majority irrespective of economics. Of home school students who were previously in some kind of conventional schooling, 31% had been in private schools. When one considers that only 8+% of Washington school age students are enrolled in private schools, it would appear that formerly private schooled children are proportionally over— represented among home schoolers compared to formerly public schooled students. There was no difference between the parents of previous private school students and previous public school students on the question of finances being a factor in choosing to home school. Thus the reason for the over-representation of formerly private schooled students does not appear to be related to economics.
Information Relating to Public School Cooperation
These data support the view that many home schoolers are interested in some kind of support services from their local public school district. 34% indicated an interest in part-time enrollment in current school programs or participation in a part— time program created especially for home schoolers. 59% gave favorable responses to educational support services on a mutually agreeable basis between home school parents and the district. An additional 29% were undecided on this point.
Are Home Schooled Children Being Socially Isolated?
Based upon these data, the answer is no. Respondents indicated a median of 20 to 29 hours per month for (a) participation in organized community activities, (b) contact with age peers, and (c) contact with non-age peers outside the immediate family. Parents rated 94% or more of their children as average or above in skills such as (a) ability to constructively interact with peers, (b) ability to constructively interact with adults, (c) display leadership ability, and (d) to show a sense of responsibility.
The writer would like to acknowledge the help of Richard Wheeler and Henry Reed who served as consultants and of 19 other home school parents and public school educators who assisted in the project.