Homeschool Version of “I Will Survive”

I am a big fan of homeschooling, which I knew nothing about until I was on the faculty at Ball State University. As I taught there, I started encountering students who were truly head and shoulders above their peers. When I asked them where they went to school, they said, “at home.” I had no idea what that meant or how it was legal. Furthermore, I couldn’t begin to fathom how an untrained mother could teach her children physics and chemistry well enough to allow them to come to university and ace all my tests. Nevertheless, the longer I taught at Ball State, the more amazing homeschool graduates I encountered.

I decided to look at the academic literature to see if studies had been done on home educated students, and the studies I found agreed with my experience: on average, homeschooled students simply are academically and socially superior compared to their publicly- and privately-schooled counterparts. That’s the reason I started working with homeschoolers. I simply wanted to be a part of what is clearly the best kind of secondary education available in the United States.

Since I have been working with homeschooled students, I have come to learn that the real heroes of homeschooling are the parents. They face adversity, anxiety, strife, and financial hardships, yet they survive. Not only do they survive, they produce some amazing students. This video clip is for all the homeschooling parents out there!

9 thoughts on “Homeschool Version of “I Will Survive””

  1. First, I can’t believe I’m the first to comment on this. Second, I’m sure you dedicated readers/fans will totally blast me for my statements, and I’m okay with that. So here goes… While I was never homeschooled, I’ve met many children and adults who were/are homeschooled/homeschooling. I’m familiar enough with the homeschool market to understand that with the materials available, a student can certainly receive a better education at home than in the public schools.

    The part I continue to struggle with is the “socially superior compared to their publicly- and privately-schooled counterparts.” I’ve absolutely seen cases where this happens. I know quite a few homeschoolers that are not only smarter than me, but are quite humorous, witty, and generally fantastic in social situations. But I still think this is definitely the exception rather than the rule. There are still, I believe, an over-whelming majority of completely socially awkward homeschooled students out there.

    Certainly, as you said, the heroes of homeschooling are the parents – the parents who choose to homeschool because they truly believe they can provide their students a better education at home. While this certainly seems to be a growing portion of the market, unfortunately a large portion are still homeschooling their children so that they can keep them in a little protected bubble, where the outside world can’t influence them, where they create miniature clones of themselves who are incapable of thinking on their own. Those students are pretty much destined to be socially awkward for the rest of their lives.

    For the record, I’m not trying to bash homeschooling, there are a lot of positives. I am however questioning the fairness and accuracy of stating that homeschoolers are “socially superior.”

    1. Ah Black Sheep, I wish you would comment more often! I understand where you are coming from, and I doubt that even most homeschoolers would take much offense to what you have said. I know a lot of homeschoolers who lament the “socially awkward” in their midst. However, the studies show that the “socially awkward” stereotype associated with homeschoolers simply isn’t correct.

      For example, Larry Shyer’s PhD thesis from 1992 won the award for the most significant education research done that year. He had clinical psychologists watch videos of students in free and structured play. Some were homeschooled and some weren’t. The psychologists didn’t know which were which. They just rated the kids based on how they interacted with each other. When the scores of homeschoolers were compared to those of the other students, there was (on average) only one discernable difference: homeschooled students had fewer problem behavior scores. Thus, there were no more social misfits among the homeschoolers as compared to the others. There were just better-behaved children among the homeschoolers. [Shyers, Larry, “Comparison of Social Adjustment Between Home and Traditionally Schooled Students,” PhD dissertation, University of Florida. 1992]

      Also, Thomas Smedley used the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scale to rate homeschooled students. It is a standard scale that sociologists use to measure the socialization, maturity, community involvement, and daily living skills in a subject. When compared to the rest of the population, the average homeschooler is in the top 16% of the nation for the overall score, and in the socialization category, the average homeschooler is in the top 27% of the nation. [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].

      So while I understand the stereotype, the data say that the stereotype is just plain wrong. Homeschoolers are, ON AVERAGE, socially superior to other students. The key here is ON AVERAGE. There are some real social misfits in homeschooling, but there are also some real social misfits in public and private school. The data seem fairly clear, however. The data indicate there are FEWER social misfits in homeschooling.

  2. As a homeschooler, I agree with you partly, Black Sheep. Most homeschoolers do not interact with as many other peers as their public-schooled counterparts do. This naturally makes them awkward around other kids of the same age, especially when the homeschoolers are unfamiliar with them. (i.e. homeschoolers are worse at just walking up to someone of the same age and starting a conversation)

    However, I think homeschoolers are superior at interacting with different-aged people. Public schooled kids are segregated by age for most of their school life, and only learn to interact well with people within two or three years of their own age. I usually don’t see 17 year-old public school kids interact very well socially with 50 year-olds or 5 year-olds.

    Homeschooled kids, on the other hand, usually have younger or older siblings that they live and learn with all day. Most other social interactions outside of home occur during “regular” school hours when other kids aren’t around, forcing homeschoolers to interact well with adults.

    Since homeschoolers aren’t subjected to the peer pressure of 20 or 30 like-aged kids, homeschoolers learn to think more independently (no peer pressure to guide them).

    I think this quote from sums my thoughts up well:

    “A homeschooler who interacts with parents and siblings more than with peers displays self-confidence, self-respect, and self-worth. She knows she’s a part of a family unit that needs, wants, and depends on her. The result is an independent thinker who isn’t influenced by peers and is self-directed in her actions and thoughts.”

    I think a definition of “socially superior” would really help here. Is someone “socially superior” when he can interact well with peers of his own age, or is one “socially superior” when he can interact well with those older and younger than him?

  3. CalvinE – I don’t necessarily disagree with you. Your response is pretty much exactly what I expected. That is after all the “company line” when it comes to homeschooling and social interaction. Certainly a clear definition of “socially superior” would be helpful, though I’m fairly certain we still would not agree, it might bring us closer.

    I disagree that most publicly educated students don’t interact well with people outside their own age range. Do they prefer to hang out with people their own age? Sure, but I think that’s mostly true of homeschoolers too (particularly during the teenage years). I think most publicly educated students spend a decent amount of time with people outside their own age bracket. Certainly not as much as homeschoolers, but enough to keep them from being completely awkward.

    Perhaps I’m an exception to the rule, but I regularly spent time with my siblings (both roughly a decade younger than me) and with my parents and their friends. As an adult living on my own, many of my friends are in my peer group, yet I consider Dr. Wile and his wife, who are both closer to my parents’ age, to be irreplaceable pillars in my circle of friends. I also adore the rare occasion I can spend a day with one of my siblings, or even draw pictures with sidewalk chalk with my neighbor’s 4 year old daughter. Bottom line, I was publicly educated, but enjoy spending time with people of all ages.

    Clearly I can’t disagree about the peer pressure issue. Though the flip side of that is that homeschooling more frequently (than in public education) produces students who have a hard time asking, why? They are raised to unquestioningly believe what and how their parents believe. Now, I do believe that this is a much smaller population of homeschoolers than it used to be, but still more prevalent than in the general population.

    Ah Dr. Wile, how many times must I say this? I’ll comment more when you write about more interesting things!!!! Homeschoolers, diseases, and genetics tend to be good topics that actually “flow” with the rest of your blog. Though if you wanted to do a breakdown of the latest Lady Gaga hit or spout on about Lindsey Lohan and rehab, I’d be all over that too. 🙂

    While I appreciate your ability to back everything up with a study or statistics, you know me. I much prefer to use practical experience, specifically my own. Part of this is because I’m simply too lazy to do the research. But an equal part is because I have a marketing degree. I’m familiar with how studies done and how easy it is to cook statistics. Now, clearly no one in the science, and certainly not the social science world would ever think to stoop to the levels that us slimy marketers use, however, the fact remains, I just don’t trust those kind of studies (unless of course the support my opinion) without reading all the crap about how the study was actually conducted. Let’s be honest, we both know, I just don’t care that much!

    The bottom line, really, is that we don’t have a definition for what “socially superior” is. As CalvinE stated, social in peer groups, or non-peer groups? What definition do they use for those studies, I suspect they are far different than what I or frankly either of you would use.

    1. Actually, Black Sheep, we do have a definition of socially superior. That’s the whole point of scales like the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scale. The higher you score on the scale, the more superior you are socially.

  4. I’ve been reading this as ya’ll have been discussing it, and I just wanted to add my two cents 🙂

    I’m homeschooled: have been all my life. But I am one of the more “socialized” homeschoolers. I think that when people hear the generalized term of “homeschooled” they get a picture in their mind of a family with 10 kids in the boondocks with kids that never talk to anyone else. While there are many families like this (I know a lot of them), that’s not how every homeschooled family is. A lot of families are associated with the local school and co-ops. Those who are Christians are associated with people at church, youth group, prayer meeting, etc. And then summer camps and all that. There’s a lot of socializing with homeschoolers.

    But, I don’t really like this “socially superior” term. A public schooled kid has a lot of strong points that a homeschooler (even well socialized) doesn’t. I know from experience that I have handled certain situations poorly because I don’t come into contact with it all the time while my friend handles it very well and maturely because she’s in school and comes into contact with it everyday. And I happen to know a lot of public schoolers (Christians and not) who are great with younger kids and older people. I think that homeschoolers aren’t socially superior than public schoolers. We all just have different strong points so we are socially equal.

    Also, a lot of how people act is determined by their personalities. I think statistics can be efficient to a certain point. But then again you can’t pick more than one of each personality.

    But when it all boils down… does it really matter?

    Just my two cents… 🙂

  5. I always get a kick out of these ‘homeschooled kids are so smart’ anecdotes.

    Almost as much of a kick as I get out of the heaping of accolades upon horticulturalists like Sanford as if he were some sort of expert geneticist – heck, he can’t even get Haldane right…

    1. Hi Derwood. I am glad you get a kick out of the facts. The anecdotes about homeschoolers excelling in education are backed up by all kinds of studies. For example, Boston University tracked their students for a total of six years. Those who had graduated from homeschool had an average GPA of 3.3, which is about a full grade point higher than the average of the university as a whole (Daniel Golden, The Wall Street Journal, Feb 11, 2000, pg. 1). This is why universities who want serious students try to attract homeschool graduates. As IUPUI says:

      Over 150 students have enrolled at IUPUI with home school backgrounds and as a group these students have academically excelled and out-performed the general student population.

      It is also why Business Week says that some see homeschooling as the secret weapon for Ivy League admission. It is also why homeschool graduates are significantly more likely to have their college degree by the time they are 24 than the rest of the population.

      Sanford is certainly an expert geneticist. How many patents do you have in genetics? Dr. Sanford has more than 30. How many peer-reviewed papers have you published in the field of genetics? Dr. Sanford has published more than 80. How many times have you won the “Distinguished Inventor Award” for your work in genetics? Dr. Sanford has won it twice.

      I really get a kick out of people who have no credentials trying to insult those who have real credentials.

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