Another Study that Confirms Homeschool Graduates Outperform Their Peers in College

A happy graduate (Click for credit)

Last week, I spoke at the Great Homeschool Convention in Greenville, South Carolina. It was very well attended, and other than a fire alarm that interrupted one of my talks, it ran really smoothly. I gave two brand-new talks at this convention, and they were both done with Diana Waring, whose high school history curriculum is truly wonderful.

One of these new talks was on the myths that you find in textbooks. It started off with the myth that ancient people thought the earth was flat. There is simply no truth to such an absurd idea. As early as 200 BC, natural philosophers knew the circumference of the earth, and the earliest Christian writers who mention the shape of the earth (such as Basil of Caesarea – c. 330-379) mention the spherical shape of the earth as an accepted fact. No one thought that Columbus was going to sail off the edge of the earth. His problems getting funding involved people not thinking he could carry enough supplies to make a voyage all the way around the earth. The other talk was based on a study by Dr. Harold McCurdy, which I have already discussed here.

While the talks I gave were enjoyable, as usual, the most interesting thing that happened occurred as a result of someone asking me a question. One of the solo talks I gave was called Why Homeschool Through High School. As a part of that talk, I discuss studies in which homeschool graduates are compared to graduates of traditional schools when it comes to their performance in college. Not surprisingly, the homeschooled students do much better in college than their traditionally-schooled peers.

After the talk, a homeschooling parent who is also a college professor asked me a very interesting question. He asked me if any study had attempted to measure not the performance of homeschool graduates at the college level, but instead the preparation that homeschool graduates have when they arrive at college. After all, he said, a student can perform well at the college level even when he is unprepared, as long as he has the ability to learn on his own. I told him that the studies I had seen focused on performance, but I would take another look at the literature and see what I could find.

Well, it turns out that such a study has been done. It is a PhD dissertation, which is why I hadn’t seen it in the academic literature. It was done by a student at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, and it at least partially addresses the question that the homeschooling parent asked.

The study examined not only the students’ performance in college, but also the students’ performance on the COMPASS college placement test. This test is used to evaluate a students’ knowledge in a variety of areas such as reading, writing, and mathematics. Since it is typically used to determine which courses a student should take when he or she enters college, it is a reasonable measure of how well a student is prepared for collegiate academics. So the study not only looked at how the students did in college, but it also probed how much they knew when they first came.

Another interesting aspect of this study is that it involves students at a community college that has an open admissions policy. This means the students are not subjected to the rigorous admission evaluation that occurs at many colleges and universities. This tells us that the students in the sample were not pre-selected based on a specific set of criteria. As a result, there is not a lot of bias to the students studied. After all, it is possible that universities are more strict at accepting homeschool graduates. So the homeschooled graduates at a given college might have been pre-selected to be the better homeschool graduates. A college with an open admissions policy will be less likely to have such an inherent bias.

In addition, the author of the study took great pains to make sure that the 273 homeschool graduates he selected for the study were comparable to the 273 traditionally-educated students he selected. He compared race, gender, and whether or not the student came from the three-county area traditionally serviced by the community college. While he was able to match the latter two between the groups, he was not able to match the former. This is not surprising, as homeschooled students are significantly more likely to be white than the population at large. Nevertheless, given the realities of who is homeschooled, it really does seem that the author was able to make the two groups as similar as possible when it came to their general characteristics.

When he compared the two groups, he found that the homeschool graduates had significantly better grade point averages (GPAs) than the traditionally-schooled students (2.99 versus 2.67). This, of course, is not surprising, as other studies have found that as well. The more important finding is that in every subject area except college algebra, the COMPASS scores of the homeschool graduates were greater than that of the traditionally-schooled students. For example, in writing, the homeschool graduates averaged 78.9, while the graduates of traditional schools averaged 63.9.

What about college algebra? The homeschool graduates averaged 53.6, while the graduates of traditional school scored 62.8. However, there only a few students who took that COMPASS test in both groups. Because of this, the result was determined to be not statistically significant. This means that the statistical error associated with the measurement was greater than the difference between the two averages. Thus, it’s not clear that you can draw any conclusions from that particular test in this particular study.

Interestingly enough, there was a second part of the study. It involved only 8 students (4 homeschool graduates and 4 graduates of traditional schools), so it’s not clear what one can conclude from it. However, the author interviewed these 8 students, asking for their perceptions of how well they were prepared for college. All 8 students agreed that overall, their educations had prepared them for college. However, all 8 also agreed that their weakest area of preparation was in mathematics.

In the end, the study seems to indicate that homeschool graduates not only excel in terms of their performance at the college level (something that is already well known), but they are also more prepared than their peers when they arrive. This doesn’t surprise me at all, but I suspect it will surprise others.

14 thoughts on “Another Study that Confirms Homeschool Graduates Outperform Their Peers in College”

  1. I would like to see a study comparing home school to Christian school students. I suspect Christian schools produce more college students and better prepare students for college.

    Comparing home school to incompetent public schools is not much to brag about.

    While there are a few educated parents who do an excellent job home schooling, there are a LOT of parents who are bumbling through home school, because they do not know English grammar or mathematics well enough to do a sufficient job. I don’t mean to offend, but it is true.

    I help out at a home school co-op on occasion, and it is shocking, deplorable, and sad to see so many middle-grade kids who are far behind grade level in English. They cannot write a decent one-page book report or creative piece. This is 100 percent the parents’ fault. The kids are smart, but their parents have not taught them proper sentence structure, punctuation, or paragraphing. It’s a travesty. These kids will never be part of the statistics, because they will not go on to college.

    I strongly recommend parents make the sacrifice to send their kids to a good Christian school.

    1. Jack, such a comparison has already been done and, not surprisingly, the homeschooled students are still the best educated, even when compared to students in private schools. You can see that study here:

      Please note that this study was done at all grades, long before it was determined whether or not the students would go on to college. In my experience teaching at a university and working with all manner of students, the homeschooled students are simply a cut above the rest when it comes to academics. They are even a cut above the students who went to Christian schools.

      I strongly recommend that parents make the sacrifice to homeschool their children.

  2. Both our children were homeschooled.My son began in 3rd grade my daughter 6th. I am a high school dropout so I was scared to take on this responsiblity. I prayed and surrounded our family with great people to teach and incourage us. After many feild trips, sports, church and some book work our children started at community college in 10th grade both recieved AA. Our daughter earned her Master in Business Administration at Stetson University. Currently works at a surgical center. Our son earned a BS in Finance from University of Florida and now currently works for Goldman Sachs on Wall Street.
    The best part of deciding to homeschool is how close we became as a family. Trusting God with the gifts he has given you and your children is the best advise I could give you. Pure love cast out fear.

    1. Thanks for sharing, Judy. Your story is illustrative of the fact that it doesn’t take education to homeschool your children well. It only takes love. No wonder studies have shown that the education of the parents has little effect on the educational achievement of homeschooled students (see here and here).

  3. I’m a GED graduate. I enrolled my son in public school a few years ago. He received a perfect score in grammar, because I focused closely on language skills.

    Well educated or not, I refuse to send my children to back to the public school system. Furthermore, Christian schools use the same publishers as the public system, so I fail to see how they would be much better. They are not using Rod and Staff for grammar. They are using the same textbooks from the major textbook publishers. Our modern textbooks should be condemned as a crime against humanity!

    The longer I have homeschooled the less I have used the methods and materials from the school systems. I thank God for Dr. Wile, and all the others who have written books specifically for homeschoolers.

    If you haven’t watched the TED winner for this year, I highly recommend it.

  4. Is it really fair to judge 1 million homeschoolers based on what happens at a co-op? Probably not.

  5. I am with Jack. I am a school teacher who has seen many children who were home schooled not even go on to college. I have also endlessly cleaned up after parents who home schooled and thought their children were ahead of everyone else only to discover they were way behind. People who do not know how to teach should not educate their own children. I know there are some schools out there that are not good, but I strongly recommend that most home school parents find a good one and send your children there. I think they should do a study on how the children perform in all areas. They are often socially awkward and ill prepared to face the social atmosphere of college.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Lee. The problem is that your assertions are not backed up by the evidence. The link I gave to Jack reports on a detailed study that shows, on average, homeschooled students are academically superior to privately-schooled students, who are (in turn) academically superior to publicly-schooled students. In addition, the study I linked to Jack and other studies clearly show that homeschooled students whose parents are certified teachers are not significantly better academically than homeschooled students whose parents are not certified teachers (for a second study that shows this fact, see here). Thus, whether or not a parent knows “how to teach” has little effect on the outcomes of home education. This, of course, makes perfect sense, since home education is nothing like education in a school.

      In addition, the education level of the parent has a very small effect on the achievement of homeschooled students (the study I linked to Jack shows this, as does this study). This also makes sense, since parents naturally work to make up for their weaknesses as parents. For example, I could never discipline my little girl. I recognized that weakness, so my wife was in charge of her discipline. In the same way, a homeschooling parent who is weak in some areas academically works to correct this by using a more all-inclusive curriculum, utilizing a homeschool co-op class, or using online classes.

      Also, you claim that homeschoolers are often “socially awkward and ill prepared to face the social atmosphere of college.” That doesn’t seem to be borne out by the data, either. As the study that makes up this post shows us, homeschool graduates do very well at college. Other studies show the same thing. If these graduates are “ill prepared to face the social atmosphere of college,” why do they perform better than everyone else when they get to college? Now I agree that they are less likely to get drunk and party on the weekends than everyone else, but as far as I am concerned, that’s a good thing! It probably also helps to explain why they do so much better in college.

      This is why it is important to look at studies rather than anecdotal evidence. I could give you all sorts of examples of socially-awkward, poorly-educated children who attend public school and private school. However, that says absolutely nothing about the quality of those schools. It says something only about the individuals I have encountered and my observational biases. When a study is done, large samples are used and demographics are taken into account. In addition, relatively unbiased metrics are used in the evaluation. That’s why studies give you the most reasonable evaluation, and the studies indicate that homeschooled students are better off than their peers when it comes to education.

  6. As a homeschool parent and a public school teacher I see both sides of this. And I think the issue that is critical is not the education level of the parent, but their commitment to the education of their child. I know of students who were withdrawn from school to be home schooled simply as a matter of convenience. The parents were tired of dealing with the behavior, etc of their child at school and withdrew them to “home school” them, but had no intention of spending the time, effort, and money to help their child get the needed education. When these kids are re-enrolled, the public school teachers get a bad impression of home schooling, without seeing the successes.

  7. Lee has obviously not met any of the homeschoolers I know…Socially awkward? You mean, like public school students? Maybe we just have trouble talking to people who are too rude to look up from their cell phones while we’re talking to them.

  8. I think i read an article about homeschool vs public school in social activity, and it talked about how the homeschoolers were more social because they accepted people for who they were. They didn’t judge people’s cloathes or race or if they were older or younger, they accepted them unlike the public schoolers who had their seperate cliques. So technically the homeschoolers were more social because they didn’t exclude other kids.

    1. I am not sure I recognize that article, Nathanael, but there have been studies on the socialization skills of homeschoolers, and generally speaking, they find that homeschoolers are socially adept. One of those studies was done by Dr. Larry Shyers, a clinical psychologist who is not a home educator. His PhD dissertation at the University of Florida’s College of Education was called “Comparison of Social Adjustment Between Home and Traditionally Schooled Students.” He notes pretty much what you noted – that homeschooled students are not very “cliquish.” Instead, they tend to incorporate everyone into their play, regardless of age, race, or gender.

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