Pros and Cons of Homeschooling for School Students Disrupted by COVID-19  (Coronavirus)

by Brian D. Ray, Ph.D.

A news article headline today states, “‘Unparalleled Disruption’: 290 Million Students Around the World Face Weeks at Home” in China, Japan, Iran, Italy, Iraq, North Korea, Azerbaijan, United Arab Emirates, and Lebanon. [i] Some parents with school-age children are concerned about their children’s attendance at school if anyone there were to be diagnosed with COVID-19 (or Coronavirus). They are also concerned about what to do for their child’s education (schooling) if his or her school has been or were to be closed for some period of time. This article shows that research informs homeschooling due to the COVID-19 Coronavirus.

Another headline reads, “Coronavirus May Lead to “Mass Homeschooling”.”  One solution that has already been implemented in some cities around the world – or suggested by experts and laypersons – is homeschooling (home education, home-based education, home schooling) of the child. With homeschooling having re-emerged and grown around the globe for the past 40 years, this suggestion is not surprising. In the United States alone, there are already around 2.5 million homeschool students in grades K-12.[ii]

Some homeschool organizations have already provided getting-started homeschooling resources for families. Two examples are one that is noted at “HSLDA Releases ‘Quick Start’ Guide to Homeschool in Light of COVID-19”[iii] that links to “Homeschooling Quick Start.”[iv] and the other is “A crash course in getting started in homeschooling.”

Research informs homeschooling due to the COVID-19 Coronavirus

What might research say about the possibilities of homeschooling for children and families who had not been planning on engaging in homeschooling? First, research evidence shows that parents of many backgrounds have been and can be successful at home educating their children. A demographically wide variety of people homeschool – these are atheists, Christians, Mormons, and Muslims; conservatives, libertarians, and liberals; low-, middle-, and high-income families; black, Hispanic, and white; parents with PhDs, GEDs, and no high/secondary-school diplomas. One study shows that 41 percent of homeschool students in the United States belong to the ethnic minorities of Black, Asian, Hispanic, and others (i.e., not White/non-Hispanic).[v]

Monetary Cost of Homeschooling

Next, families can homeschool their children for a fraction of the cost (money) that public schools spend on students.[vi] Families in the United States spend less than eight percent per homeschool child on curriculum materials than what public/government schools spend per student. If a family has access to the Internet, they can generally do well with simply the educational resources available online and what is freely available in their
communities and families outside of schools.

As a corollary of the monetary costs to families, there is great savings to the taxpayers (including the families that home educate). For each student not in government-run institutional schooling, taxes can be lowered. In the USA, this is about $13,000 per student per year of tax savings. And this dollar amount does not include capital expenditures and research and development costs for public/government schooling. For example, USA homeschoolers are saving USA taxpayers at least $32 billion during the 2019-2020 public-school year.

Academic Achievement

Third, people wonder, what is academic achievement or performance like for homeschool students versus public school students? Homeschool children typically academically outperform their institutional public school peers by 15 to 30 percentile points on standardized academic achievement tests.[vii] In a review of research of peer-reviewed studies, 11 of the 14 (78%) studies on academic achievement revealed a definite statistically positive effect on achievement for the homeschooled students compared to those in state/public schools.[viii]

Academic achievement scores of homeschool and public state-school students

Academic Achievement of Homeschool and Public State-School Students, summary of many studies

What About Socialization? Social Skills?

On a different note, many people ask, what about the socialization of homeschool students? How will they develop socially, emotionally, and psychologically if they are not with their peers every school day? Again, research informs homeschooling due to the COVID-19 Coronavirus. In the review of only peer-reviewed research studies, 13 of the 15 (87%) studies on social development showed clearly statistically positive outcomes for the
homeschooled compared to those in conventional schools.[ix]

Success in Adulthood

The curious also want to know, what will be the long-term outcomes in adulthood for those who are home educated? Also in the review of peer-reviewed research, 11 of the 16 (69%) studies on success into adulthood  (including college and university) showed positive outcomes for the homeschooled compared to those who had attended conventional institutional public or private schools.[x]

Reasons or Motivations for Homeschooling

Forty years of research show that there are many reasons why parents and teenagers (adolescents) choose homeschooling rather than institutional or conventional schooling, whether public/government or private. The reasons include the following:[xi]

  • Concern about environment of other schools
  • Dissatisfaction with academic instruction at other schools, both public/government and private
  • Desire to provide a nontraditional approach to child’s education
  • Child has other special needs
  • Child has a physical or mental health problem
  • Child has a temporary illness
  • Parental or adolescent desire to not have teaching, training, and indoctrination be by the state/civil government
  • Desire to provide religious instruction
  • Desire to provide moral instruction
  • Desire to provide instruction that is more focused on the child’s ethnic culture

Reasons vary and often parents’ and teens motivations for homeschooling change over time. They might begin as a reaction to negative things happening in school but later realize that there are many advantages to homeschooling about which they did not know.

A New Reason?

It may be that a new reason for homeschooling – short-term public or community illness and accompanying school closures or quarantines – is emerging around the world. No one knows for how long this will last. It will be fascinating to see what research evidence emerges over the next few years regarding whether this acute public event will spawn more widespread practice of parent-led home-based private education and schooling. One day, empirical evidence might reveal the effects of a wider group of children, future citizens, not being under the educational management and control of their civil governments/states.

Disadvantages to Homeschooling

One wonders what are the disadvantages of homeschooling. Perhaps they should be called challenges rather than disadvantages. Some follow. Homeschooling one’s children is work. It is not as easy, in the short-term, as sending them away to school for most of the day, most of the days each week. Parents must plan, be flexible, be attentive, be willing to learn more academic content themselves, be open to ideas and suggestions from friends, experienced homeschoolers, and homeschool organizations, not be tied to institutional models of schooling and learning, be humble, be ready to change, and find ways to address the individual strengths and needs of each child.[xii]

Also, parents who homeschool must find ways to overcome their concerns and fears of not having “experts,” professionals, or state-approved (government-certified/licensed) personnel being so involved in their children’s education. However, the experience of millennia of humankind in all nations around the world teaching children by parent-led home-based and neighborhood-involved education and research on forty years of the modern global homeschool movement suggest that parents and families are very capable of successfully educating children.[xiii] Further, they are able to do this without institutional or conventional schools, without university-trained and state-approved teachers, and without government-approved or state-selected techniques, ideas, values, and curriculum.

Summary: Research informs homeschooling due to the COVID-19 Coronavirus

Research informs homeschooling due to the COVID-19 Coronavirus. Nearly 40 years of research finds, overall, positive things associated with home-based education. Families, students, or schools who are disrupted by COVID-19 (Coronavirus) may confidently consider homeschooling to meet their educational needs.

Endnotes

[i] “Unparalleled Disruption”: 290 Million
Students Around the World Face Weeks at Home,” by Tyler Durden. (2020).
Retrieved March 6, 2020 from https://www.zerohedge.com/markets/unparalleled-disruption-290-million-students-around-world-face-weeks-home

[ii] Ray, Brian D. (2019). Retrieved March 6, 2020 from https://www.nheri.org/research-facts-on-homeschooling/

[iii] Retrieved March 6, 2020 from https://www.globenewswire.com/news-release/2020/03/03/1994542/0/en/HSLDA-Releases-Quick-Start-Guide-to-Homeschool-in-Light-of-COVID-19.html

[iv] Retrieved March 6, 2020 from https://hslda.org/getting-started?utm_source=press%20release&utm_medium=pr&utm_campaign=Outreach&utm_content=QuickStart

[v] United States Department of Education. (2019).
Retrieved March 6, 2020 from https://nces.ed.gov/pubs2020/2020001.pdf

[vi] Ray, Brian D. (2019). Retrieved March 6, 2020 from https://www.nheri.org/research-facts-on-homeschooling/

[vii] Ray, Brian D. (2019). Retrieved March 6, 2020 from https://www.nheri.org/research-facts-on-homeschooling/

[viii] Ray, Brian D. (2017). A
systematic review of the empirical research on selected aspects of
homeschooling as a school choice. Journal
of School Choice: International Research and Reform, 11
(4), 604-621.
Retrieved March 6, 2020 from https://www.nheri.org/a-systematic-review-of-the-empirical-research-on-selected-aspects-of-homeschooling-as-a-school-choice/

[ix] Ray, Brian D. (2017). A
systematic review of the empirical research on selected aspects of
homeschooling as a school choice. Journal
of School Choice: International Research and Reform, 11
(4), 604-621.
Retrieved March 6, 2020 from https://www.nheri.org/a-systematic-review-of-the-empirical-research-on-selected-aspects-of-homeschooling-as-a-school-choice/

[x] Ray, Brian D. (2017). A
systematic review of the empirical research on selected aspects of
homeschooling as a school choice. Journal
of School Choice: International Research and Reform, 11
(4), 604-621.
Retrieved March 6, 2020 from https://www.nheri.org/a-systematic-review-of-the-empirical-research-on-selected-aspects-of-homeschooling-as-a-school-choice/

[xi] United States Department of Education. (2019).
Retrieved March 6, 2020 from https://nces.ed.gov/pubs2020/2020001.pdf;
Ray, Brian D. (2015). African American homeschool parents’ motivations for
homeschooling and their Black children’s academic achievement. Journal of School Choice, 9:71–96.
Retrieved March 6, 2020 from https://www.nheri.org/african-american-homeschool-parents-motivations-for-homeschooling-and-their-black-childrens-academic-achievement/

[xii] Read Homeschooling Quick Start, retrieved March 6,
2020 from https://hslda.org/getting-started?utm_source=press%20release&utm_medium=pr&utm_campaign=Outreach&utm_content=QuickStart

[xiii] Ray, Brian D. (2017). A review
of research on Homeschooling and what might educators learn? Pro-Posições, 28(2).
Retrieved March 6, 2020 from http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/1980-6248-2016-0009

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