All Commentary
Saturday, November 1, 1997

Public School Failures, Homeschool Successes

Homeschooling Has Become a Serious Option

Mr. Peterson is a homeschooling parent and a frequent contributor to The Freeman, Teaching Home, and other periodicals.

Once almost unheard-of and usually relegated to the province of educational quackery and political or religious radicalism, the homeschooling movement has in the last few years blossomed into a serious educational option. A recent study by the National Home Education Research Institute and the Homeschool Legal Defense Association demonstrates just how serious an alternative it has become. Conducted by researcher Dr. Brian D. Ray, the report made a number of startling finds:

  • The number of students being homeschooled across the nation is between 1,103,000 and 1,348,000.
  • The total number of homeschoolers equals the public school enrollments of the states of Alaska, Delaware, Hawaii, Montana, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming combined.
  • Homeschoolers outperform public school students by 30 to 37 percentile points on all subjects on standardized achievement tests.
  • Whether the parents ever held a teaching certificate had virtually no impact on student scores. Even homeschooled students whose mothers never finished high school scored 55 percentile points higher than public school students in similar circumstances.
  • Homeschoolers scored between the 82nd and 92nd percentiles regardless of their families’ incomes.
  • Students scored at the 86th percentile whether states imposed strict or minimal regulations.
  • Homeschooling parents pay an average of $546 per year, whereas the average per-pupil expenditure by public schools is $5,325, excluding all capital costs.
  • Homeschoolers’ test scores tend to increase the longer they are homeschooled, going from the 59th percentile for those who have been homeschooled for one year to the 92nd percentile for those who have been homeschooled for seven years.
  • More than half (53 percent) of all homeschoolers visit a library at least once or twice a month; 38 percent of them make three to five visits a month.
  • The average homeschooled child is involved in 5.2 community activities, such as volunteer work, classes outside the home, group sports, and church. An astounding 98 percent are involved in two or more activities.
  • Only six percent of homeschoolers, in contrast to 62 percent of public school students, watch three hours or more of television each day.
  • About 61 percent of homeschoolers are in grades K-6, more than 18 percent are in grades 7-8, and almost 20 percent are in grades 9-12.
  • Three percent of homeschooling parents intend to continue doing so through grade 6 or less; 89 percent plan to homeschool through grade 12.

In short, homeschooling not only works, but is helping to erode the public school monopoly. The more this message gets out, the more serious will become the homeschooling option.

—Dennis L. Peterson

A copy of the complete study, Strengths of Their Own—Home Schoolers Across America: Academic Achievement, Family Characteristics, and Longitudinal Traits, may be obtained from the National Home Education Research Institute, P. O. Box 13939, Salem, Oregon 97309, (503) 364-1490.

Forty Years Ago in The Freeman . . .

Leonard E. Read: “Change is a law of all living things. That which is not growing is atrophying; that which is not progressing is retrogressing; that which is not emerging is regressing. The authoritarian act, or even thought, is time off from growth, progress, emergence. One cannot be attentive to the inner self while exerting coercion on others. The person who has me on my back holding me down is as permanently fastened on top of me as I am under him. To me, at least, this explains why Lord Acton was right when he said, ‘Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.’

“For any person to become aware of how little he knows—not a very difficult attainment—is a sure way to reduce the number of authoritarians by one. Who knows? The awareness might even catch on. And, if it did?

Millions of us would forsake society’s most corrosive pastime—meddling in the affairs of others—meddling not only through the political apparatus, but personally. Millions of us could then concentrate on the wholly rewarding venture of freeing ourselves from our own fears, our own superstitions, our own imperfections, our own ignorance. The individual human spirit, neglected while we play the futile and authoritarian game of imposing our wills on others, cries out for its freedom.”

V. Orval Watts: “Every human being’s progress depends on the amount of effort that he himself exerts in pursuit of good purposes.

“Among the essential conditions for this effort are the opportunities, the risks, and even the obstacles, of freedom.”

—November 1957