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5 Myths About Homeschool Superiority

TheHomeSchoolMom: 5 Myths About Homeschool SuperioritySetting the Record Straight

It’s no secret that our family has taken advantage of a variety of school situations or that I am a fan of supporting parents no matter what their educational choice, but homeschooling has been the choice with the greatest flexibility and the one that I prefer.

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Despite being an ardent supporter of home education, I find myself consistently feeling obligated to set the record straight when it comes to claims of the vast superiority of homeschoolers. I’ve noticed a tendency of homeschool advocates commenting online to be elitist. I’m not sure many of the commenters are even homeschoolers themselves – I get the sense that they are just politically opposed to public schools – but regardless, it’s not helpful or accurate. If they are homeschoolers, I’m not sure if it is a defense mechanism, a lack of knowledge, or isolation from public school families, but I find it to be disingenuous and divisive.

I spend a lot of time following homeschool blogs, Facebook pages, and articles related to homeschooling, and I have seen several myths about homeschoolers repeatedly posted that are an inaccurate representation of reality. It’s time for homeschoolers to stand up and set the record straight. I’ve been homeschooling my daughters off and on for 16 years, and we know lots of homeschooling families both in person and online. We also know lots of families that have chosen public and private schools. In my experience, these 5 claims are not supported by the facts.

Myths About the Superiority of Homeschoolers

 

Myth #1: Homeschoolers perform better than public school students academically.

Homeschoolers, like public schoolers, are all over the map academically. There have been studies done and debunked (usually due to poor methodology) about the academic performance of homeschoolers. It is almost impossible to get a random representative sample of homeschoolers for a statistically valid study, so even if homeschoolers did perform better we wouldn’t know it.

Some homeschoolers perform better than they would have in an institutional setting because they get one on one attention, are allowed to fidget and move while learning instead of having to take medication, or do not have to deal with labels. Some children thrive in a classroom, are academically competitive, and benefit from positive academic “peer pressure”. Some homeschoolers would benefit from the rich academic opportunities available in public and private schools. Some homeschoolers were brought home from schools because they were pressured to perform before they were at a stage of academic readiness. There are as many environmental and personal factors that affect the performance of homeschoolers as there are homeschoolers, and a study that accurately depicts homeschooler performance does not exist.

Reality: No one really knows how homeschoolers compare academically to their peers in public school when all factors are taken into consideration. 

Myth #2: Homeschoolers are prodigies musically/athletically/intellectually.

This one is so outrageous that it is hard for me to even present an argument, but I still see comments from people suggesting that homeschoolers who win geography and spelling bees or make it into pro sports are representative of all homeschoolers. That is as ludicrous as suggesting that someone in public school is representative of all public schoolers. Yes, there are homeschoolers that participate in and even win spelling and geography bees. There are also public schoolers who do the same. And just like with public schoolers, the homeschoolers doing so represent a small minority of the whole. Whether it is athletics, music, art, theater, or academics, homeschoolers cover a broad range of abilities.

Reality: The homeschoolers in the news do not represent all homeschoolers.

Myth #3: Homeschoolers are better socialized than kids in public school.

I was guilty of pushing this myth when I first started homeschooling, but it was many years ago and I’ve matured. Socialization is defined as “to make social; especially : to fit or train for a social environment … to adapt to social needs or uses”. That covers a lot of ground, ranging from fitting in with your peers (which tends to be how critics define it) to acting appropriately for a situation (which tends to be how homeschool parents define it). Neither is exclusively true, but both together paint a picture that is somewhat more complete. As I’ve posted before, most people would say that they want their children to learn to function in a group setting, to learn respect for others, and to have the ability to get along with people of different ages, races, genders, and socioeconomic groups. Neither public school nor homeschooling is the source of those things. Instead, it is about how you parent and with whom your child spends time. Are there some homeschoolers who are socially awkward? Are there some public schoolers who are socially awkward? The answer to both is yes.

Socialization will continue to be a point of attack by critics and a defense for advocates, but the truth is somewhere in the middle. The personality of the child, the expectations of the adults in the child’s life, and the definition of socialization all affect the determination of whether a child is “well socialized”. Too many people like to point to peer segregation and high student to teacher ratios in public schools and make the assumption that it necessarily means that homeschoolers are better socialized. When my daughter spent a year in public school in elementary school, as a whole the children in her class were much better behaved and respectful than the homeschoolers in our local “nature days” classes. That is just one anecdote, but it shows that assumptions are a bad idea.

Reality: Just like public schoolers, some homeschoolers are “well socialized” and others are not.

Myth #4: Homeschoolers are more successful than public schoolers.

While it is true that many homeschoolers start earning college credit during high school or start their own businesses as teens, those experiences are not exclusive to homeschoolers. I have seen homeschoolers and public schoolers both that go on to be successful, and I’ve seen homeschoolers and public schoolers both that can’t find jobs that pay a living wage. The drive of the student, the support of the parents, the opportunities the student has during the school years, and the opportunities available to them as adults all combine to create unique outcomes for each individual.

There are homeschool parents and public school parents who are giving their kids a great start and working hard to give them many and varied opportunities, and there are homeschool parents (“But those aren’t real homeschoolers!“) and public school parents that hinder their children’s success in a variety of ways. Homeschooling can rescue some kids from what would have been sure failure in the public school system in certain cases, but in other cases public schooling might be the place where a child thrives.

Reality: Encouragement and support from parents are far more likely to determine whether a child will succeed than type of schooling.

Myth #5: Homeschooling guarantees that your kids will <insert ideology here>.

Whether the desired result is academic, political, religious, or social, there is no homeschool guarantee. An honest and respectful relationship with your children, whether they are homeschooled or in public/private school, is the best way to instill values and help your children work toward their goals. Homeschooling is not a magic pill that produces guaranteed results.

Reality: There are no guarantees for homeschoolers or anyone else.

Homeschooled kids as a whole are not any more socialized, academic, intellectual, athletic, musical, or entrepreneurial than their public and private schooled peers of the same socio-economic status with involved parents. Setting the standard that they are is harmful because it sends the message to our homeschooled children (who are paying a lot more attention to our attitudes than we often realize) that they have something to prove. When kids believe that they have something to prove and they don’t meet that standard, they believe that they have somehow failed. Our kids have nothing to prove – let’s stop sounding like they do.

Mary Ann Kelley

Mary Ann Kelley lives in Virginia with her husband and has two daughters, both homeschool graduates. Mary Ann, who homeschooled off and on for 16 years, believes in school choice as well as allowing children to direct their own learning with guidance and input from their parents. Her desire is to encourage parents and children to take personal responsibility for their own educational options and choices.

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Comments

  1. Mayra

    Hi, I would like to know if there are studies about this and where could I find them. Thank you.

  2. Carole Threewitt

    Mayra – see Myth #1. You could google but be careful of your authority for the study.

  3. Shawna

    I hear that we are all people and therefore we all have our strengths and weaknesses. I do however, wish to disagree that homeschooling offers basically the same educationally and socially as does public school. Let’s set aside for a moment the parents as well as school teachers that pervert the titles for which they have been empowered. So, molesters, bullies, zealots, racists… and so on that have infected all education aside, let’s just focus on the well meaning of both public school and homeschool. In the area of nstitutional schooling, whether this teacher wishes too or not, they are supporting the status quo–Americans homeschool and home-rear for the first 3 to 5 years and then hire out these jobs for the next 12-13 years. For those 12-13 years they are expected to support and accept the limitations and shortcomings of this agreement for the implied release of sole culpability should the child fail to become a contributor. For homeschoolers it is different. They have pushed away from the tightly woven ties of the status quo and in doing have already begun to model and, thus teach a sort of pioneering, what-if-there-might-be-something-better mindset that cannot be taught in schools. Does it show up on state testing scores? No. It is not suited to standardizing at all. So one relying solely on outdated valuation methods would be completely blinded to it. Where are these methods developed? By the status quo. Homeschoolers fall outside that. Why is this a beneficial advantage? Because the one thing just about everyone agrees on regarding the world that us educators expect to be preparing our children/pupils for is that it is going to be vastly different than anything that has ever been before. In other words, no one has a clue how to prepare them. Of course we could both fail but instilling a what-if-there-might-be something-better mindset may allow these children to adapt where a wait-for-permission, blend-whenever-possible, don’t-become-an-outlier mindset would have a much greater hardship taking those sharp mental turns that an unknown future contains. Another advantage that hasn’t made it to popular testing is the power of strong family unity. This unity is the security net that institutionalized schooling was designed to break as it has the power to break nations. I feel that these are advantages that make homeschooling a necessary hope for a rapidly changing world.

    • JennC

      Amen!

    • April West

      I whole-heartedly disagree with this. My child goes to public school and I consider myself just as evolved and dedicated to my son’s education as homeschoolers. I do not consider my son to fit into the status quo but he is adapted to take the “outdated standardized test”. That is a trait many successful working environment must possess. Parent involvement is key, yes homeschooling does provide parents with more opportunity to be involved, but I find it extremely offensive to state the public school parents sub their child’s education out. I do not. Each academic year I access my son’s weakness along with his strengths to know where my son may improve, than I purchase a curriculum that many homeschooler’s use to supplement his education after school. Many things are learned at home that will follow a child through out a lifetime. Your home environment foster a child’s success. That is what I believe the author is insinuating. No method is greater but what works for the child.

  4. JennC

    Wow. Wrong all over the place. I won’t even go into the studies and proofs of your wrongness. If you don’t think there is a serious difference between kids in public school and kids not in public school, well that’s just proof that you’ve homeschooled “off and on.” The differences in these kids on a social level is glaringly different. Kids in school are socialized to their environment and atmosphere, namely an institution in which they are surrounded by children. They act accordingly. Homeschoolers are socialized to their environment and atmosphere, too, namely the real world. One set is influenced by and tends to mimic immature (read childish) behavior, while they other set is influenced by and tends to mimic adult behavior.

    I had two kids, my eldest two, who spent the greater portion of their lives in the school system. The other three did not. The difference was profound. My younger children were more mentally mature at 10 than the others were at 17 or even 20 for that matter. The ones in school had an US vs THEM attitude about adults. The younger kids have never had that. The older kids were concerned with what kids thought; the younger (now adults) were more concerned with being good people.

    As it stands, we only know homeschoolers in our area. However, when I get around family members who have kids, it is a very apparent who is in school and who is at home. The difference is striking.

    • Hi Jenn – While I obviously haven’t had your experiences and won’t argue with them, you clearly haven’t had mine. The public schooled kids that we are around are lovely, adjusted, mature young people going on to better the world. I attribute the success of a child largely to their environment and the expectations of those around them, for better or for worse. I’ve been around a wide variety of homeschoolers for 20 years now, and have seen both homeschoolers and public/private schoolers go on to college and adulthood, so I am very comfortable with my conclusions. The only striking difference that I see in the young adults I am around is the difference that comes from being raised in a loving and involved home, which is not limited to homeschooling.

  5. Amy Wilson

    Excellent article, thank you! I think it’s important to be realistic about homeschooling as one of many educational choices. Unrealistic expectations aren’t healthy for kids, parents, or families. In addition, if you unrealistically regard homeschooling as “ideal” and other educational methods as “undesireable,” then if family circumstances change, it may be harder to make a beneficial transition to another educational approach. Family attitudes about education, ethical behavior, treatment of other people, self-worth and human dignity, etc. are all more important than the educational setting, in my opinion.

    • Amy Wilson

      By the way, I have one son (rising 11th grader) who has always been homeschooled, and a daughter (rising 9th grader) who was homeschooled until 8th grade. She chose public school last year and plans to attend public high school. It was an overwhelmingly positive experience for her and for our family. Homeschooling continues to be an overwhelmingly positive experience for my son.

  6. Td

    I have to chime in- I’ve homeschooled my 11 children for about 20 years. I started out of necessity( we were military and moved frequently)and held many similar views as those expressed in your article. I thought it was, more or less, an equal path to conventional education, chosen with respect to invividual preference and circumstance. So when we settled in one place, I registered my older children in local private high schools. What astounded me is that the saturation of drug/alcohol/sex culture is so overwhelming that a kid would have to be capable of heroic virtue to resist becoming enmeshed. We are asking our kids to deal with and make solid judgements about these adult issues, testing character to the limit before the character has a chance to even form. The result- my two older sons dragged themselves in way over their heads. My second, in particular, a charismatic,social risk- taker,state champ athlete and incredible musician, was so derailed, he’s still recovering at 22. I really feel I let them down.
    My third (daughter) made consistently good decisions and did fine. So to me, it’s kind of a crap-shoot. Will they adapt well or not? Are they ready, at 14, to ” just say no” with peer pressure and bullying at an astounding high?
    Maybe it’s better parenting or just personality type, but I have found that the younger group, who I chose to keep home, are doing exceptionally well in all of these areas. They are very engaged in the community, on public school teams, have jobs, take classes at community colleges for credit and are strong, well- rounded individuals who have had ample time to form educated opinions on hazards of popular culture. I don’t expect them to be prodigies, just want to give them a safe place to grow into the people God intended them to be. I really do not think that the dismal condition of our schools in areas of moral development can be underestimated.

    • Susan

      Td, I’m sorry to hear that your sons had a hard time in their adjustment to school. It is heart breaking to have children involved in these things. However, while your experience associates those problems with your kids who attended school, I have also been homeschooling a long time and know homeschooled kids who have also encountered problems with drugs, alcohol, and other poor decisions, including teen pregnancies and running away. These have included homeschooled kids who were from quite “strict” Christian families who had many rules, kids whose parents I considered to be permissive, and even kids whose parents seemed to try so hard to keep to a middle ground.

      I think this is what Mary Ann is saying — there just aren’t any guarantees. Does homeschooling help limit some of the negative influences and give kids more exposure to guidance by trusted adults? Yes, I believe it does. But not all homeschooled kids make it through their teens and twenties unscathed — and many school kids seem to turn out just fine despite exposure to these things while they are in high school.

      If homeschooling produced the perfect children that some contend it always produces, then everyone really would be homeschooling. Instead, we see that school works fine for some kids and homeschooling works fine for others. Because the parents are really involved with their kids, perhaps homeschooling tips the scales away from certain early experimentation. This makes sense — there is generally greater supervision and guidance.

      But overselling homeschooling doesn’t make sense. It’s not a panacea, and there are indeed kids who run into these same challenges even if they have been educated at home.

  7. I think the perception is that homeschooled kids are locked away in a little bubble. The reality is quite different. Not only do homeschooled kids have friends, but they have the opportunity to develop and grow strong friendships when they spend entire days together.

  8. I do think that homeschooling can improve social skills. Research has found that having siblings – but not a twin – boosts social skills, and that attending a mixed-age classroom results in better social skills than attending a class where everyone is less than a year apart. Given that, and how homeschool students tend to spend more time in mixed-age groups that regular schooled kids do, it stands to reason that there’s probably an advantage in socialization.

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