The Difference in the Academic Achievements of Homeschooled and Non-Homeschooled Students

Sahar Almasoud

Samantha R. Fowler

Florida Institute of Technology, Department of Education and Interdisciplinary Studies,



The purpose of this study was to investigate if there is any significant difference in the success of home-schooled and non-home-schooled students after a year of study at a private university in the Southeast United States. The university has five major academic colleges with strong emphases on science, engineering, technology, and mathematics. An ex post facto research design used grade point average upon completion of a bachelor’s degree to determine whether there was a significant difference between the academic achievements of both groups. A statically significant difference was found between the overall GPA’s of home-schooled students and traditionally schooled students. Undergraduate students who were home schooled had a higher GPA mean compared to undergraduate students who were non-home-schooled. These results support some, but not all, of what has been shown from previous studies in the literature with regards to the academic achievement of home-schooled students in college.

Keywords: curriculum, education, homeschooling, non-homeschooling, academic achievement, college, transition, parents, gender


The purpose of this study was to investigate whether there was a significant difference in college level academic achievement between students who had been home schooled and those who had gone to public or private secondary schools prior to enrolling in college. In the context of this study, home-schooled students are defined as students who were taught by tutors, parents, or guardians at home and enrolled in the university in order to pursue a bachelor’s degree. It is essential to mention that a home schooling program has a more open curriculum and broader resources for learning, where students learn through interaction with the community and the environment where they live.  On the other hand, undergraduate non-home-schooled students are defined as students who attended public or private high schools and were taught formally by certified teachers and then enrolled at the college in pursuit of a bachelor’s degree. For the purpose of this study, academic achievement is defined as the undergraduate students’ GPA upon graduation from college.

Since the introduction of compulsory education in the 1890’s, some parents in American society have felt that mass education could not fulfill the needs of all students. Since its inception, many studies have shown that home schooling leads to greater student learning, and this can be attributed to several factors in the home environment. For example, Ray and Wartes (1991) reviewed several studies of cognitive and affective development for home-schooled students and consistently found that achievement scores on standardized tests were somewhat higher for home-schooled students than their peers. For example, they examined Stanford Achievement Test scores for home-schooled students in Washington State for 1986, 1987, and 1988. Compared with national norms, the home-schooled students’ median scores were typically above the 60th percentile in math, science, and verbal skills.

Wellman (1998) showed that home-schooled students perform better on the schools’ tasks than those in the traditional system, regardless of their family background, socio-economic status or the presence of disabilities. This was attributed to parents’ focus on enhancing the potential of the students by focusing on their needs, aspirations and goals. Interestingly, when examining other aspects of parenting a home-schooled child, Moore (1984) showed that home-schooled students whose parents were not certified teachers performed higher than those whose parents were certified teachers. Additionally, parents who prefer home schooling felt that it leads to child-led learning even as it requires parents to devote their full attention to their students, and to excel in time management.

Studies by Moore (1984) demonstrate that orphaned students brought up by illiterate surrogate mothers were more intelligent than students of the same age who attended school. Moore also cited examples where students born of African tribal mothers were more advanced emotionally and socially than western students of the same age. The main assertion was that home schooling enables the formation of bonds between parents and students and this helps the students to develop emotionally, socially and intellectually. Students are thus considered to be better situated at home, regardless of the state of the home they come from.

According to Chapman and O’Donoghue (2000) home schooling parents, although not educationally qualified, provide their Grade 6 students with an effective home environment where there is consistency in responsiveness to their needs and interests, and a happy environment where the students are valued and respected. The Grade 6 students are taken as responsible family members and are taught to learn without formal instruction. Traditional schools on the other hand, do not address the specific needs of students. They have a fixed curriculum, which all students are forced to learn. Grade 6 students are forced to conform to beliefs and values that may not conform to their own. Starting at an early age, the students feel they have no liberty, and this usually affects their performance. In addition, the school perceives students as vessels who are supposed to be filled with information instead of as individuals who can nourish themselves. For example, Chapman and O’Donoghue (2000) claim that all students are taught how to read the same way, and that teachers disregard the fact that students have the ability to learn what they want on their own.

The child-centered method of instruction used in-home schooling aims at fulfilling a child’s developmental needs as well as interests. According to Wellman (1998), grade six students in home schooling perform better because they are taught using the tutorial style and they are given enough time to do projects. This way, they complete formal learning more quickly and undertake projects that interest them. This boosts their creativity and increases their problem-solving, technical skills, and language abilities. As such, they demonstrate greater abilities in performing tasks than Grade 6 students who attend school.

Further, a study by Bell and Leroux (1992), shows that Grade 6 students have the opportunity to engage in plays or activities of their own choice, are isolated from peers who might influence them negatively and have the full attention of an adult. This enables them to perform better than students who attend school. Home schooling offers beneficial practical skills where students have more time to do what they like, and what they will probably do in future, without limitations.

Interestingly, socio-economic status does not play as large of a role in home-schooled students as it does in traditionally schooled students. Moore (1984) shows the socio-economic status of a family has more impact on traditional system Grade 6 students than on home-schooled ones. Students who attend school and belong to a high socio-economic status perform better than those of a low socio-economic status. However, the socio-economic status of home-schooled students has only a slight effect on their performance. Even in this case, home-schooled students from low-income families perform better than those who attend school. This may be due to the fact that home schooling families do not have the extensive budget requirements needed to send their children to school. The study found little correlation between the cost of education per year and the test scores of a home-schooled child.

On the other hand, critics of home schooling claim it can be abusive and subversive (Chapman and O’Donoghue, 2000). Critics argue that it exposes students to dangers such as child abuse, and that it denies the child an opportunity to socialize. Further, studies have shown that it is an inefficient mode of learning, due to lack of adequate instructional materials and because majority of home tutors are not certified as tutors (Chapman and O’Donoghue, 2000). This has led to conflicts between home school and traditional school parents. Home schooling parents feel that home schooling is the best as their students perform better than traditionally schooled students. Traditional school parents feel that home schooling is disadvantageous and that it hinders a child’s intellectual and social development.

Over the past 2 decades, traditional schools have been greatly challenged due to dissatisfaction with the curriculum, instructional and assessment methods, and structure of schools. Despite the current increase in the number of students who attend home schools, and despite the large body of research on the success of home schooling, no complete or comprehensive research has been conducted to determine which of the two schooling methods influence future educational outcomes, such as success in college. For this reason, the current study seeks to address the following research question:

Do traditionally schooled students have a higher GPA upon graduation from college than students who were home schooled?






Participants were the students who enrolled either on campus or online at a STEM-focused private university with a diverse population of students consisting of 30.94% international students from 101 different countries with the remaining students from 47 states. Half the university’s students were enrolled in the College of Engineering, while others were distributed among the College of Science, College of Aeronautics, College of Business, and College of Psychology and Liberal Arts. The average SAT I score for freshmen was 1150, compared to the national average of 1010. All students accepted into the university had a B+ or higher in math and science classes in high school, and over 90% had a 3.0 or above grade point average (GPA) in high school. The size of the study sample was ( = 44); 22 of them were students who were home-schooled at least in secondary school. Home-schooled participants were taught by parents, guardians, and/or tutors. Parents or guardians directed the educational development of their home-schooled children throughout high school. The other 22 participants were traditionally schooled students whose education took place in a formal setting of a public or private high school. They were required to attend classes every day. Their sources of knowledge were usually limited to the school environment, their teachers, library books, and their peers. Participants included 14 females and 30 males ranging in age from 17 to 28 years old.



Sampling procedure


The data were taken from the institutional research office at the university. It was difficult to obtain a large sample of home-schooled students; therefore, the research center was asked to provide a list of archival homeschooled and non-homeschooled student data collected throughout the past several years. On the home-schooled students’ list, there were only 22 participants, which was a much smaller number than the 2135 traditionally schooled students. Given the unequal sample sizes, we selected 22 students from the traditionally schooled students list matched by gender.


Instrumentation and data analysis


Student academic achievement was defined as a student’s final grade point average (GPA) on achieving his/her bachelor’s degree. The college GPA was calculated to represent numerically a student’s quality of performance. The GPA here is defined as the student’s average from all courses taken during the academic semesters. A student’s GPA was a reliable and valid instrument that would help to find the difference between variables. An independent samples t-test determined if there was a significant difference between home-schooled students and non-home-schooled students in their overall GPA.




The descriptive data for the students’ GPA of the undergraduate home-schooled students and undergraduate traditionally schooled students is described in Table 1. The mean of the undergraduate home-schooled students’ GPA was 3.45 (SD= 0.52) while the mean of the undergraduate traditionally schooled students’ GPA was 2.69 (SD=0.73).



Table 1
Sample size, Mean, Standard Deviation, and Standard error mean of Homeschooled and Non-homeschooled Students.

School type





St. Deviation Standard error mean
Homeschooled 22 3.45 0.52 0.11
Traditional Schooled 22 2.69 0.73 0.16
Note: N=44, 22 of the them were homeschooled and 22 of them were non-homeschooled




The difference in GPA was determined to be significant (T = 4.02, p =.0003) (See Table 2), and a 95% confidence interval and the mean difference lies between 0.3815 and 1.1533. The effect size was calculated to be 0.62, which is considered medium to large (Cohen, 1992).




Students who were home-schooled before entering this university had a significantly higher overall GPA than students who were non-home-schooled. These results support most previous studies where the home-schooled students usually performed better than traditionally schooled students. Rakestraw (1988); Rudner (1998), Martin-Chang, Gould, & Meuse (2011); Ray (2011); and Snyder (2013) all claim that students with home-schooled backgrounds have significantly greater academic achievement than non-homeschooled students. Our study adds to the growing body of evidence in recent years that the homeschooling education system provides a strong foundation for students to perform as well as, or better than, non-homeschooled students in college.



Table 2

The Independent Sample t-test for the Undergraduate Homeschooled and Non-homeschooled Students’ GPA


Independent sample t-test

t- Ratio p-Value  


95% Confidence Interval Effect size
4.02 0.0003 2.01808 [0. 3815, 1.1533] 0.62

Note: the sample size is N=44, n=22 for each group study, and the df=42.


Some of the home-schooled students’ success could possibly be attributed to the new environment of the university campus and attending daily classes.  These students might be keener to prove that they are like their competitors who were traditionally schooled.

All students who were enrolled to the school meet minimum admission requirements of SAT scores of 1550 or higher, ACT scores of 21 or higher, high school GPA’s of B+ or higher in math and science, letters of recommendation, and an admission essay; therefore, it is natural to assume that students were fairly evenly matched with regard to previous academic performance. Furthermore, due to the high cost of tuition at this private university, most of the students come from a high socio-economic background and/or are on scholarship due to exceptional academic performance. Results of this research might be affected there were more of a variation in the socio-economic status of the participants. In addition, the majority of the study sample were males, and it is not known if this affected the results. Future studies should be done with a larger sample that is representative of males and females. In addition, future studies should concentrate on how home-schooled students got their education. Were they enrolled in a virtual school, a guided homeschooling program, parental teaching, or did they have an academic tutor for each academic subject. Differences of this kind could have led to different findings.




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