Home schooling was once reserved for homebound students due to a number of reasons, such as rural locations, or physical conditions. Religion has also been a major reason for home schooling. Today, however, many parents are choosing home schooling over public schools for variety of reasons and statistics show that for the majority it has proven to be the right choice.
The National Center for Education Statistics, NCES, collects and analyzes data related to education in the United States and other nations as well. In 1999, the NCES reported that approximately 850,000 students in the U.S. are being home schooled (McDermott Pp). This is 1.7% of all U.S. students, ranging from five to seventeen years old and a grade equivalent of kindergarten to high school senior level (McDermott Pp).
During the last two decades there has been a steady increase of parents choosing home schooling over public schools.
The most frequently asked question by the media to the Home School Legal Defense Association is, "Why do home-schoolers do so well on standardized achievement tests compared to students in institutional schools" (Smith Pp)? "Ever since home schooled test results on nationally normed standardized achievement tests have been tracked, every survey has indicated that home-schoolers score above the 50th percentile, which is the average," (Smith Pp). However, a 1985 survey by Dr. Brian Ray, showed that home-schooled students scored to a high of the 84th percentile in a nationwide study (Smith Pp).
It is really no mystery why home-schoolers do so well. According to educators, the basic ingredients that lead to successful education include "small class size, individualized curriculum, disciplined learning environment, one-on-one instruction and parental involvement" (Smith Pp). While only a handful of public schools offer these ingredients, these are all the ingredients provided in a home schooling environment (Smith Pp). Despite the obvious success of home schooling, the education establishment, such as the National Education Association, continues to warn that it is not possible for home-schoolers to receive a "quality academic education without a certified teacher" and recommends that all students, both in public and home schools, be taught by a certified teacher (Smith Pp). Michael Smith, president of the Home School Legal Defense Association, says that one way to examine the validity of this policy is to compare certified teachers verses non-certified teachers in a home school environment. Smith states that approximately ten percent of home school mothers are certified teachers and that according to surveys there is very little difference in tests results between children who are taught by certified parents and those who aren't (Smith Pp). Students who were taught be certified teachers scored at the 88th percentile on the basic battery, while those taught by non-certified parents scored at the 85th percentile (Smith Pp).
Smith says that another incorrect assumption is the "prediction that the academic success of a home-school child would correlate directly with the educational level of the parent" (Smith Pp). The results of achievement tests in four separate studied have found that there is "no relationship between the parents' education and the scores of their home-educated children" (Smith Pp). However, the study found that within the public schools there was a direct correlation between the parents' education and their children's scores (Smith Pp). The reason for this difference is that home-schooling requires the maximum of parental involvement, whereas in the public school setting, educated parents place more emphasis on education, not parental involvement (Smith Pp).
Many believe that the home educated child scores higher on testing because the family income is above average, however, studies showed that there was "no significant relationship between family income and student achievement of home-educated students" (Smith Pp).
Many critics of home education believe that students are allowed too much freedom and parents cannot be trusted to be responsible for their children's education (Smith Pp). However, test scores of home educated children in low, moderate, and high regulation states are the same, therefore, parents can be trusted to educate their children (Smith Pp).
There have been several researchers who have explored the issue of self-esteem as it relates to the socialization of home schooled children, and the large majority of the studies indicate that concerning the "area of self-concept and self-perception, the home-schoolers were significantly better socialized and more mature than their peers in public school" (Smith Pp). Therefore, according to the research, "home-educated children are well in terms of social, psychological, emotional and academic development" (Smith Pp). Research shows that when "parental involvement in children's education is high, students are more likely to become academically successful and reach their potential" (Romanowski Pp).
The recent movement of home schooling is rooted in the work of educators, Raymond and Dorothy Moore, who, beginning in 1965, "conducted large-scale, widely published studies on the damaging effects of early formal schooling" (Mondlock Pp). The Moores developed the Moore Formula for home schooling, "which stresses a child's developmental readiness for learning and a balanced blend of work, study, and community service" (Mondlock Pp). John Holt, another educator reformer, began a movement with his 1964 book 'Why Children Fail' and the magazine, 'Growing Without Schooling' founded in 1977 (Mondlock Pp). Holt also pioneered what is known as 'unschooling,' which is a "rejection of texybooks, rigid schedules, and other institutional 'trappings' "which he believed defeated a child's innate drive and enthusiasm for learning" (Mondlock Pp).
Many home educators feel that the large classes and a "one-size-fits-all curriculum" more than not breeds students who are "bored, unmotivated, or worse, with a growing number brandished with labels like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder" (Mondlock Pp). Award winning New York public school teacher of thirty-five years and author of 'Dumbing Us Down,' John Taylor Gatto, "attributes the massive stupidity in our culture to the complex comprehensive social agenda that has unfolded though the agency of public schooling" (Mondlock Pp). Gatto believes that with the demise of meaningful study in the major disciplines, "each generation...knows less than the generation before it, and hence is less able to counteract the training of schools" (Mondlock Pp).
Today, home schooled students are being sought by universities and colleges nationwide (Innerst Pp). According to one mother who teaches four children at home, "With the obvious decline in public schools, people can see home schooling as a viable option for education" (Innerst Pp). And with home schooling legalized in all fifty states, experts expect institutions of higher learning to intensify their recruiting of home-schoolers (Innerst Pp). In 2002, 12 of the 55 finalists, in the National Geographic Bee were home schooled students, "with four making the top 10 and three in the top four," and the winner was the youngest competitor in the contest, a ten-year-old home-schooler (Smith Home Pp).
And in the Scripps-Howard National Spelling Bee, "22 of 250 finalists and three of the top 10 finishers were home-schoolers," with two home-schoolers as finalists in "both the spelling and the geography competitions" (Smith Home Pp).
According to Smith, home-schoolers make up approximately two percent of students nationally, yet are well "over that percentage in terms of the national phase of each contest," and moreover, the "success ratio of home-schoolers in the competition itself was disproportionately high" (Smith Home Pp). In 2001, home-schooler, Reid Barton, became the first person ever to win four gold medals in the International Mathematical Oympiad" (Sommerville Pp).
Aside from the spelling bee champions of 2001 and 2002, other home-school achievers include tennis champion Venus Williams (Sommerville Pp).
Phi Delta Kappa-Gallup poll in 1986 found 16% of Americans believed home schooling was a 'good thing,' however, a Wall Street Journal-NBC poll in 1994 found 28% of Americans would prefer home schooling over public schools (Houston, Toma Pp). It is estimated that the "home school population equals the 6.8 million families with children (25.9% of all families…