Homeschool vs. Public School

On December 3, 2004, in Education, by Troy Groberg

I have a son who is nearing school age. My wife and I have been considering all the options for his education from normal public school like I had, to private schools and even homeschooling. I have found that there is a huge controversy between homeschoolers and public school advocates.

There are numerous arguments against the public school system. The oldest of them come from religious extremists who have been taking their children out of public schools for decades. While I have difficulty taking these people seriously, I feel it important to point out their views. They believe that the public education system indoctrinates their children with anti-Christian philosophies that undermine the mental and moral health of their children. They claim that public schools are no longer teaching and simply trying to create a dependant and religiously apathetic public.

More rational arguments have begun to surface since the 1980′s. Public schools are becoming more and more dangerous places to send our children. Police officers are now common to see walking the halls of many of today’s schools. Many schools have metal detectors at all the entrances to avoid finding their school on the national news for the latest school shooting or other violent crime. Teachers no longer feel that they have the power to enforce rules in their classrooms. Illegal drugs run rampant in our public schools, which has lead to zero tolerance policies that punish the innocent. The most common reason today’s parents have for not sending their children to public school is that they feel that public school is no longer a place where children can obtain a quality education. 48.9% of parents in a survey stated that their reason for wanting an alternative to public school was that they could give their child a better education at home. Another 25% gave the reason that public school offered a poor learning environment and another 11% say that public school did not challenge their child (Bielick).

There are many reasons that show how homeschooling can give children a better education. Parents who teach their children at home will naturally take a greater interest in the student’s progress. They also have a much stronger relationship with their student than any teacher in the public education system could ever have. Students who are homeschooled overwhelmingly out perform students from public schools on tests and in academics. The home is a much safer place to learn than a public school. Homeschooling parents are many times less likely to be confronted with a violent situation and drug abuse is almost non-existent among homeschooled kids. Parents who object to certain material on a moral basis are free to instruct their children in accordance with that family’s beliefs. For example, many schools are required to teach “safe sex” in health classes while homeschooling parents can teach only abstinence if that is what they wish.

Public school advocates argue that the biggest problem with homeschooling children is that they miss out on socialization. They claim that by not being involved in the classical classroom environment, they miss out on social skills that are second nature to kids from the public schools. Homeschooling parents who wish to give their children good social skills must go out of their way to expose their children to social situations where they can learn these skills.

Many public school administrators say that parents lack the necessary skills to be able to teach their own children and have passed legislation that requires parents to pass some level of certification with the state or local school district before teaching their children at home. The state also complains that they have no way of knowing if the homeschooled students are being taught the necessary curriculum and might be missing important material

Public opinion of homeschooling is changing. The homeschooling population in the United States has grown from some 10,000 to 15,000 children in the late 1960s to over one million children in 2001 (Bielick). Homeschooling is currently growing at about 11% a year, and it’s no longer confined to a conservative fringe that never believed in the idea of public education anyway. Some colleges, like Kennesaw State University in Georgia, aggressively recruit homeschoolers (Cloud). The stereotypical religious fanatic that was once synonymous with homeschooling no longer comes to mind for much of the public when asked about their views on homeschool. Parents who homeschool their children are more likely to vote, contribute money to political causes, contact elected officials about their views, attend public meetings or rallies, or join community and volunteer associations (Smith and Sikkink 1999). This holds true even when researchers compare only families with similar characteristics, including education, income, age, race, family structure, geographic region, and number of hours worked per week.

Parents who homeschool do have some notable differences from the mainstream population though. In a study by L. M. Rudner homeschool parents had more formal education than parents in the general population; 88% continued their education beyond high school compared to 50% for the nation as a whole. The median income for home school families ($52,000) was significantly higher than that of all families with children ($36,000) in the United States. Almost all home school students (98%) were in married couple families. Most home school mothers (77%)did not participate in the labor force; almost all home school fathers (98%) did work (Rudner). This may explain why homeschooled students outperform the public schools students on standardized tests and academic competitions like the National Spelling Bee.

In 1997, the winner of the National Spelling Bee was a homeschooled student. Every year since then, the winner has been a homeschooled student. This year, the first and second runners up were also homeschoolers. The first place winner, 12 year-old George Thampy also placed second in the National Geography Bee and has written for the Wall Street Journal. In Rudners study, almost 25% of home school students were enrolled one or more grades above their age-level peers in public and private schools. The median scores for every subtest at every grade (typically in the 70th to 80th percentile) were well above those of public and Catholic/Private school students. On average, home school students in grades 1 to 4 performed one grade level above their age-level public/private school peers on achievement tests. Even with a conservative analysis of the data, the achievement levels of the home school students in the study were exceptional. Within each grade level and each skill area, the median scores for home school students fell between the 70th and 80th percentile of students nationwide and between the 60th and 70th percentile of Catholic/Private school students. For younger students, this is a one-year lead. By the time home school students are in 8th grade, they are four years ahead of their public/private school counterparts.

Homeschool students did quite well in 1998 on the ACT college entrance examination. They had an average ACT composite score of 22.8, which is .38 standard deviations above the national ACT average of 21.0. This places the average home school student in the 65th percentile of all ACT test takers. And the average homeschooler scored in the 75th percentile on the Iowa Test of Basic Skills; the 50th percentile marked the national average (Rudner). The average SAT score for homeschoolers in 2000 was 1100, compared with 1019 for the general population (Cloud).

According to Dr. Gordon Neufeld, a leading developmental psychologist, peer interaction has become more of a problem than an asset. Instead of peer interaction facilitating the process of socialization, it is now more likely to lead to the premature replacement of adults by peers in the life of a child. Such children become peer-oriented rather than adult-oriented and are more difficult to parent and teach. Furthermore, peer-oriented children fail to mature psychologically and their integration into adult society is compromised (Neufeld). A parent who is truly interested in his child’s education and not just kicking against the system, can easily find ways to give his child the socialization skills that will make him a better member of society.

In my opinion, homeschooling can be the best option for a child if the following conditions exist: the home provides a suitable learning atmosphere, the parent is capable, the child is receptive and the option to homeschool exists. These factors include the enabling of parents, the emotional health of the child, interest and curiosity, the socialization of the child and the teachability of the child.

Works Cited

Bielick, Stacey; Kathryn Chandler; and Stephen Broughman. “Homeschooling in the United States: 1999.” NCES Technical Report, 2001-033. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2001. <http://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2001033>

Smith, Christian, and David Sikkink. “Is Private Schooling Privatizing?” First Things 92 (April 1999): 16-20.

Rudner, L. M. (1999). “Scholastic achievement and demographic characteristics of home school students in 1998″. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 7(8). [Online]. <http://epaa.asu.edu/epaa/v7n8/>

Cloud, John and Jodie Morse. “Home Sweet School”. Time.com. Aug 27, 2001. <http://www.time.com/time/covers/1101010827/cover.html>

Neufeld, Gordon, “Homeschooling”. Home Page. <http://www.gordonneufeld.com/homeschool.html>

Other Resources:

Ann Zeise’s Home’s Cool

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29 Responses to “Homeschool vs. Public School”

  1. Mommy2Lots says:

    Excellent points!

    I am a homeschooling mother and I enjoy pondering the many pros of homeschooling.

    I see it myself in my children every day, but I just get such joy when I find real documented proof.

    I realize I’m way late, according to the date above, but anyway, here’s something that may also be of interest to you:
    http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/312728/why_homeschooling_is_a_valid_choice.html

  2. Christina says:

    Dear Conservative front,
    Hello my name is Christina Avalos and I am a senior at Live Oak High school in California. In order for us seniors to graduate we must complete what is called a Senior project; and with that senior project must come a research paper. For my paper I have chosen to write about Home School students vs. Public. I am going to argue that students who are homeschooled are not completly deprived of social skills but are equal, how smart they are and why, and reasons why they are safer because study shows that by “Public belief homeschooled students are deprived of social skills and do nothing but sit in the house all day and work.The information I have read from the above was helpful by a lot and also gave me a lot more than I hoped for! What I am here to ask you is can you tell me more about the saftey fact or do you have any websites I can go to that will help me? Once again my name is Christina Avalos and my email address is Supergirl3109@yahoo.com.
    Thank you for your time.

  3. Trenton says:

    Hi Christina,

    Thanks for taking the time to read our article on Home schooling. While I didn’t write that article, I can tell you from first-hand experience a little about how homeschooling affects children. My wife and I homeschooled our two oldest children for several years. We also provide homeschooling to our youngest daughter in addition to her regular public schooling.

    There are many critics of homeschooling who believe that homeschooled children don’t have a social life. That is entirely untrue. My kids were part of a network of homeschooling families that held yearly events like a spelling bee, a science fair, talent shows, and other activities. We participated in teacher-trade-off system where different moms were responsible for teaching different subjects on each day. Our children enrolled in public schools as they entered junior high school, and they have consistently outperformed the vast majority of their classmates in all subjects. My oldest son was on the high honor roll every single semester in junior high, and is doing the same now that he is in high school. My daughter also makes the honor roll frequently. She is probably more into drama than she should be and allows her plays and performances to interfere with her studies, but she still does very well.

    Your specific question was on the safety factor. Are you asking if kids are safer being homeschooled? If so, I would definitely say yes. When was the last time you heard about a child being kidnapped while on his or her way to homeschool? Or about a homeschooled child who got beat up at school? Or offered drugs? Homeschooled kids are also less likely to engage in pre-marital sex. It could be argued that the safety features of public buildings, such as fire alarms and fire suppression systems, make public schooling safer. But I would counter that the stories of school shootings, earthquakes, and tornadoes demonstrate that we cannot sufficiently prepare for everything. In all these events, multiple children have been injured or killed because they were all grouped together in one place. A terrible story was of the terrorist takeover of a school in the former soviet union. The terrorists (connected with al Qaeda) specifically targeted the school because they could take children hostage. If those children had been homeschooled, there would have been no target for the terrorists that day. The story is here.

    While I can’t give you specific statistics on homeschool safety, some places you might look for more information include The Heritage Foundation, Focus on the Family, and Homeschooling.com. There are some great articles and studies that have been published that demonstrate that homeschooling is as effective as public school at educating children, and in many cases better. Here is the link to one I found interesting. Searching Google for “homeschool safety” will yield results for you, too.

    Good luck with your research project!

  4. Addison says:

    Hi!

    My name is Addison Lewis and I’m a homeschooled 16-year-old student. I’ve been in high school online at http://www.compuhigh.com since I was 12 and I’m graduating from it this June with a full high school diploma and I am going to attend a few college courses this fall. I’ve also written and self-published a book called Time Train, and it’s been the most amazing journey for me, meeting people and other writing kids.

    I’m so thankful for the opportunities that this lifestyle has brought me, and just wanted to thank you for posting such a great article on it. It gives me faith that I’m doing the right thing with my life :).

  5. Trenton says:

    Hi Addison,

    Thanks for your comments. We wish you the best.

  6. jessica says:

    i think it is really stupid

  7. Mike says:

    Zero tolerance nonsense is a great reason in and of itself for homeschooling. In Georgia, for example, one need only accidentally leave a pocket knife in his/her backpack or car to be charged with a felony (I don’t know if most lead to convictions or not). Georgia is one of the few that this applies to universities as well.
    Especially in Georgia, no one should ever set foot in a school zone of any kind. One should attend college out of state or an online college.

  8. Allie says:

    I would also like to add that the best decision I have ever made was the decision to homeschool my children. I now have a high schooler and I have a question for any parents with over achievers. My son is a freshmen in trig. Has any one attempted to enroll your high schooler in a public school for a single class, (in my case, trig.) and please share what steps were taken to make it possible. Do you know our legal rights as tax payers. I wish to continue homeschooling my children but my high schooler needs to be taught triganometry by someone other than his mom.
    I cannot fathom the thought of sending him to a public school for 6 hours and so I would not enroll him in the public school system simply for academics. But I know he needs to be challenged in this subject.
    Thank you, in advance, for your response.

  9. Trenton says:

    Hi Allie,

    My mom homeschooled my youngest sister for a couple of years because she had some trouble with dyslexia.

    She found out that she could enroll my sister in any of the classes offered by the local school district, or she could get access to the textbooks being used in the classes.

    At first the school administrators gave her a bad time, but after she read them the laws and threatened a lawsuit, they backed down.

    Check your local laws. You are a taxpayer, and should have the right to access the things your taxes have purchased.

  10. Home Schooling is also nice since you got to always see your kids.-”,

  11. Sean Kaur says:

    Home Schooling is also nice since you got to always see your kids.;:.

  12. Ella Walker says:

    dyslexia is not that debiliating but it is somewhat limiting to the kind of job that you can get.’”

  13. i was home schooled too but i would still prefer regular schools.’;`

  14. i was home schooled and it is quite satisfactory when providing basic education*;`

  15. my kids are home schooled and they are always performing well in class during their High School years–:

  16. Christina Avalos says:

    I came across this website by accident when I was doing a google search of my name, (LOL) I have no relation to the above named Christina Avalos (I’m from Georgia). After reading this article I’m very interested to see how Trey feels about the homeschooling progress over the last 7 years. Did homeschooling work out for his family? What was learned by the experience & so on…. I was a senior in high school in 2003-04 and am now a senior in college studying Communications, and will be continuing to grad school after. During high school I attended traditional school (that wasn’t a safe situation for me) transferred to a private school (didn’t like the church-based education) and finally decided homeschool was a better fit. I graduated at the top of my class with the help of seeing a private tutor daily because my parents weren’t able to homeschool me themselves. Socially, I would not believe homeschooling a young child may be the best idea unless they are socialized among other children their age someway or another. Childhood socialization is a very important aspect in the overall growth in development that simply can not be taught from home. These skills are learned by real life events whether it is liked or not. I also believe once they are at high school age perhaps the decision of attending private, public, homeschool, should be highly taken in to account of their performance thus far. Their opinion of what type of education should be theirs only if they have proven to be accountable for their actings, performance in academics, skills, behavior, etc. There are just so many things that they may miss out on as I did by attending homeschool in high school: Prom, pageants, friends, yearbook, school sports, debate, theatre, etc. High school is only 4 years but those 4 years are important at developing your child for the real world and college. College is where they will get to “learn who they really are”. I just wouldn’t want to see anybody feel disadvantaged after all, parents that homeschool their children care a great amount of their wellbeing to begin with! I praise these parents and admire their interest in their child’s life especially given the amount of parents that do not have the advantage of doing so.(Not saying these parents don’t care about their child just saying other obstacles such as work prevent them from being able to homeschool.) Either way, I believe a child’s input should be acknowledged and recognized as being important.

  17. i was home schooled when i was still very young and i have to stay that it is also a great way to educate your kids “`,

  18. Chris Shaw says:

    Before a parent decides to home school educate or public school educate I think they need to understand their own reasoning. If it is just to force the student into a radical concept then they are doing the student an injustice! However, if it is to provide the best education to the student and allow them to grow into responsible and productive human beings then which ever way they choose is best for them. Some children need the extra guidance of public school. Some do not, and will slowly slide off into bad behavior because of boredom or frustration. We chose a combination of the two alternatives and are very proud of the way our children have established themselves in meaningful careers and are happy in their adult lives.

  19. Kristina Chapman says:

    I can comment on so many levels with this. I was the oldest of 8 kids and we were all homeschooled. Although yes we did have quality education and I really don’t feel we lacked on socialization as we participated with other local families in homeschool field trips as well as church functions. I however hated it the whole time, I begged and pleaded to go to public school, and was given the reasons all the time as to why we didn’t go. I got my GED at 16, and started at the community college…I did obtain my assoc. degree and several of my siblings have gone onto obtain degrees and or go into the military.
    I am now a mother of 2 and both of my children go to public school as I vowed they would never be put through what I endured. I am involved in the school and even though I work f/t I help in their classrooms occationally and also work with the teachers when anything comes up, such as they struggle with something. I am a local director of a non-profit national agency. I feel so much of this whole debate can come down to if you are invested and take an interest in your kids. Many kids that have gone through the public school system are amazing kids and not outstanding adults…largely due to their parents being involved in their education and their lives. Both my kids are near the tops of their classes…and they both love their schools. Their cousins(of same age), my siblings kids are both behind my kids in many different areas, even though they are the focus of their classes, compared to my kids who are “just one in a group of 25″.

  20. makayla says:

    i am also doing a project on this topic i would have to agree with the first christina on how this helped my prject

  21. makayla says:

    in many ways too look at it at a diffrent point of view sorry it posted b4 i could finish what I was typeing but this has really helped

  22. revenge89 says:

    please summarize this for me .. you email me if you do i need it for a school essay… i think this is the best one so far thank you8;.

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  25. Stonie Williams says:

    Kristina, I had the exact opposite experience and the same hardcore vow against public schools. My brother and I were both sent to public schools, I was miserable and near self-harm by the time my mom pulled me out in high school to homeschool me. I vowed my kids would never set foot inside of a public school. I feel your comment in partly in defense of public school; that it has more to do with out involved and active the parents are in the child’s lives and education than where they went to school. And I totally agree! That’s the single most important factor in a child’s education. But that doesn’t always equal to success. My mother was at my school every other day; mostly to fight with teachers over not letting my brother go take his ADHD meds on time – again or because I got beat up – again.

    I don’t feel like your comment can rightly be in defense of public school. Your children are excelling IN SPITE of public school. Because you’re there and active and helping when they don’t understand things; you’ve taken the best parts of homeschooling, and inserted it into a public school setting. Not to say the public school has done nothing, I’m sure their teacher is great. But if you’re going to site your involvement as a reason they’ve excelled, then they’re still excelling because of education and involvement from HOME. Not the public school.

    Not arguing or to say you’re doing anything wrong – obviously you’re doing everything right! But I can’t count this as a win for the public school system. This is a win for the home front, even if not for homeschooling itself.

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