Homeschooling: Answering Your Questions (Part Three)

by Sally Matheny

Does Homeschooling Produce Super Kids?
When I first considered homeschooling over sixteen years ago, the only homeschoolers I knew were the ones I saw on television or read about in newspapers. They won National Spelling Bees, Geography Bees, and Science Exhibitions. They were musical geniuses and artistic prodigies.

I panicked. If I homeschooled, would I be expected to produce a Super-Kid? Me? The one who struggled with math from kindergarten through college? Even though I earned a Master’s degree in Education, I figured I was capable of teaching my children through fifth grade—sixth grade, tops.

It’s thrilling to see homeschoolers win national competitions. You may not recognize the winners’ names of the spelling and geography bees but you may recognize these former homeschoolers: Claude Monet, C.S. Lewis, Carl Sandburg, Beatrix Potter, Noah Webster, Booker T. Washington, Amelia Earhart, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Andrew Carnegie, Dave Thomas, Bethany Hamilton, Tim Tebow, Verena and Serena Williams. This is just a small sampling. You can find an extensive list of well-known people who were homeschooled at some point at http://www.famoushomeschoolers.net/.

These folks are distinguished because of their hard work and dedication in developing their craft, their skills, and their calling. Homeschooling provides a wonderful flexibility. Not only are curriculums adapted for individual learning styles but also flexible schedules provide freedom to pursue personal interests.   
Even though the list of successful homeschoolers grows every year, one question remains among spectators. 

“What about socialization?” 
 Homeschool families laugh at this recurring question. Within the homeschool arena, you’ll find people capitalizing on its humor from t-shirts to bumper stickers.

What scoffers don’t realize is that most homeschoolers are very social. The flexible schedules allow more time to participate in extracurricular activities such as 4-H, sports, music, art, and field trips galore.

Independent studies show homeschoolers are doing well socially and academically. There are references to numerous socialization studies found at HSLDA.org.  While all the ones done by universities and doctors are wonderful, the one I want to quote is by Thomas Smedley. He used the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales as an evaluation tool. In his master’s thesis for Radford University of Virginia, “The Socialization of Homeschool Children” he shares results that prove the majority of homeschooled children are better socialized and more mature than their public school peers.

Because of my Christian faith, this is my favorite quote from that study:

“In the public school system, children are socialized horizontally, and temporarily, into conformity with their immediate peers. Home educators seek to socialize their children vertically, toward responsibility, service, and adulthood, with an eye on eternity.”

(Thomas C. Smedley, M.S., “Socialization of Home Schooled Children: A Communication Approach,” thesis submitted and approved for Master of Science in Corporate and Professional Communication, Radford University, Radford, Virginia, May 1992.)

How are homeschoolers doing academically?

So, most homeschoolers do well socially. But what about academically?

While not every homeschooler is an Albert Einstein [also a former homeschooler], statistics show that homeschool students generally score higher—usually 30-37 percentile points higher in all subjects on standardized tests than their public school peers. Two independent studies report that homeschoolers’ scores increased significantly after two years of homeschooling. It’s fascinating that students, who were homeschooled during their entire years of education, scored the highest.

You can read some of these reports and more at HSLDA.org. Also, they add their findings on homeschooling based on race and the financial investments in curriculum.

These findings show that when parents, regardless of race, commit themselves to make the necessary sacrifices and tutor their children at home, almost all obstacles present in other school systems disappear.

The results on the correlation between test scores and the amount invested in educational curriculum backs up my opinion stated in my last blog post on homeschooling. Students whose parents spent less than $200 on curriculum scored in the 80th percentile, the same percentile as students whose parents spent $400 - $600.

“The message is loud and clear. More money does not mean a better education. There is no positive correlation between money spent on education and student performance. Public school advocates could refocus their emphasis if they learned this lesson. Loving and caring parents are what matters. Money can never replace simple, hard work.

How well do homeschoolers do in college? 
CBS News reported all positive aspects including the fact that “homeschool students graduated from college at a higher rate (66.7%) than their peers (57.5%).”

In “Home-Schooled Teens Ripe for College,” an article in U.S. News World Report, they also share positive results of homeschooled teens entering college. Featured in the article was Jesse Orlowski, homeschooled since age three. He stated, “rather than a hindrance, home-schooling was an asset.” Orlowski chose to attend MIT and declined acceptances from Princeton, Vanderbilt and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Studies show homeschoolers are doing well in elementary grades, high school, and college. However, many homeschoolers are finding success without attending college.

K.M. Weiland

K.M. Weiland is a multi-award-winning author of historical and speculative fiction. Her blog, Helping Writers Become Authors, earned the highly acclaimed Writer’s Digest Award for 2014 and 2015 on top of numerous other awards. Weiland, a former homeschool student, did not attend college.

I asked her how her homeschooling experience prepared her for the work she does now. Weiland answered,

I loved school, loved learning, even loved the paperwork! In so many ways, being a self-disciplined student who works well by herself is just like being a writer, so I feel that education in general was an easy segue into writing. Although I have nothing with which to compare being homeschooled, since I never attended public school, I definitely tend to think home education, in particular, was the perfect training for what I do now.
I learned early on to be responsible for my work, to keep a schedule, to "show up" every day. Being homeschooled also allowed me to be much more efficient with my time, which helped me dedicate myself, while still in high school, to writing. I wrote and published a small monthly newsletter throughout high school, which gave me the platform to write hundreds of short stories and articles. That time was a tremendous platform for allowing me to learn and perfect the writing skills and responsibilities I now use every day.”

When I asked her if she had any advice for homeschool teens she said,

“I think the biggest bit of advice I can offer is simply: Take advantage of your circumstances as a homeschooler. Use the flexibility of your time and your educational program both to explore as many different subjects as possible and to focus on the subjects that call to your passions. Stretch yourself every day. In many ways, being homeschooled offers more opportunities for students to stretch themselves. But there are also limitations--unique to each different family--that need to be addressed and overcome. 
I personally feel that being entirely homeschooled was one of the biggest gifts my parents could have given me. I wouldn't have thrived so well in a public school environment, and I think my path forward toward a career in writing would have been much less clear. So appreciate the gift you've been given and don't take it for granted.”

I find Weiland’s words inspiring. I remember when I first mentioned to my little girl that I might leave my teaching job and come home to be with her. I wanted to make her aware that we might not be able to go out to eat as much or buy as many things. I’ll never forget her response.

“That’s okay, Mommy. All I want is you.”

She graduated from college in 2013. Our other daughter graduates this December. Homeschooling provided many wonderful experiences for all of us. We had good days and difficult days. Times when everything went smoothly, and others . . . not so much. But I would not trade those years for anything. 
Homeschooling was definitely the best decision for our family. 

Looking back, both of our girls see the great benefits of homeschooling. So much so, they've both expressed an interest in homeschooling their own children one day. 

I love the freedoms homeschooling offers. The freedom to tailor each child's education to fit her needs, and the flexibility to guide discoveries and enhance a joy of learning. And while it was not always an easy task, I am thankful for the additional time for character training. 

Homeschooling offers opportunities for my own character training.  I learn as much, if not more, than my kids. Even academically--now, I have a better understanding of math!

The adventure continues as I homeschool our son. Teaching a boy is a whole new ballgame, my friends. Prayers appreciated—blessings anticipated.

So, there you have it. I’ve answered the questions I receive most often. Feel free to contact me if you have more. I’d love to encourage you to try homeschooling. You may be pleasantly surprised.

My initial fears of homeschooling were unwarranted. God has and continues to meet all our needs. He fills in where I fall short. My kids may not be world champions, but by the grace of God, they turned out super after all.

Super Kids

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