New Study of Homeschool Adults

A new study of adults who were homeschooled contradicts assertions that they lack socialization and shows them to be far more likely than the average American to be civically minded and engaged in their local communities. The author of the study, entitled "Home Educated and Now Adults: Their Community and Civic Involvement, Views About Homeschooling, and Other Traits", was Dr. Brian Ray of the National Home Education Research Institute (NHERI) of Salem, Oregon. The intent of the survey was to answer the question in last year's Time magazine feature on homeschooling: "Homeschooling may turn out better students, but does it create better citizens?" Ray determined that homeschooling turns out more active citizens, and Americans who tend in overwhelming numbers to hold conservative values. The survey of 7,300 homeschooled adults was conducted on behalf of the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA). Over 5,000 of the participants had been home educated for at least 7 years.Ray said a "very large proportion follow a traditional Judeo-Christian worldview and believe in the (American) founding concepts of liberty and limited government along with active participation of citizens." He said those ideas are not cherished by many in positions in academia where he notes much of the criticism of homeschooling originates.

It is estimated that there are as many as 2.5 million homeschoolers in the U.S. Ray has been studying homeschooling for 19 years now. Some of the survey findings:

  • 4 percent of homeschool graduates consider politics and government to be too complicated to understand, compared to 35 percent of U.S. adults
  • homeschool graduates work for candidates, contribute to campaigns, and vote in much higher percentages than the general population (e.g. 76 percent of homeschool graduates aged 18 to 24 voted in the last 5 years, compared to only 29 percent of the U.S population in that bracket)
  • in older age brackets the percentage of voters is 95 percent or higher for the homeschoolers, compared to 53 percent for the relevant U.S. populace

Ray notes that people who doubt homeschoolers are becoming socialized have two presuppositions: one is that to engage socially one must have to have been in an institutional school for 13 years because for 100 years that has been the norm; the second is that schools run by state-certified teachers know the best ways for a child to acquire knowledge and worldviews.

Ray says that the first presupposition has been found to be unwarranted by a number of studies, and this latest one reaffirms that. The second one is more philosophical. Ray says studies show worldview largely depends on associations as people get older rather than the influence of the school system, but that homeschoolers are much more likely than others to align with the beliefs of their families.

Ray notes that the homeschoolers who would not align themselves with conservative values and politics have in common with their conservative cohort a strong belief in the jurisdiction of parents over their lives rather than the state. He notes "Homeschooling will tend to develop students with strong independent thinking and critical-mindedness." Other findings include:

  • 71 percent of the homeschool graduates participate in ongoing community service activities compared to 37 percent of U.S. adults
  • 88 percent of the homeschoolers were members of community groups, churches or synagogues, unions, or professional organizations compared to 50 percent of U.S. adults
  • 74 percent of home-educated adults aged 18 to 24 have taken college-level courses compared to 46 percent of the general U.S. population

HSLDA synopsized the study by noting that it presented good news for homeschooling parents wondering if they made the right choice for their children since 95 percent of homeschool graduates were glad they were taught at home. The vast majority said they have not been hindered in their careers or education. HSLDA further noted that since homeshooling is found in many settings which reflect the uniqueness of each family, that it was not surprising to find homeschoolers engaged in a wide variety of occupations (although many in the study reported that they were still full-time university or college students).

Eighty-two percent said they would homeschool their own children, and of the 812 participants with children 5 years of age or older, 74 percent are already doing it. Fifty-nine percent reported that they were "very happy" with life, and another 39 percent declared they were "pretty happy".

Although Ray noted that it is possible some respondents were motivated by a desire to make themselves and homeschooling look better, he did implement all the usual scientific safeguards used in social studies of this kind. He made sure that he included homeschoolers who had had a bad experience, and tested the data with quantitative and qualitative studies.

In a follow-up article entitled "Homeschooling Grows Up" HSLDA reiterates that the study backs up what homeschooling parents have known intrinsically for years: that their children are better socialized and that they may be better citizens overall. HSLDA believes that Dr. Ray's research should defuse long-held false criticisms of homeschooling and seems to indicate that homeschooling produces successful adults who are actively involved in their communities and who continue to value education for themselves and their children.

For more information regarding this study go to the NHERI website.

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Topics: Perceptions of Homeschooling