Sunday, February 18, 2007

Attitudes Toward Homeschooling

This is my final paper for my last class. I found the research quite interesting and thought I'd share.

Attitudes Toward Home Schooling
Melissa Calapp
Psychology 320: Research Methods and Statistics
February 7, 2007

Attitudes Toward Home Schooling

Introduction and Statement of Problem
I am a home schooling mother of four. I recently went to the doctor for my oldest son. The doctor asked me what my son’s teacher thought of a certain condition, and I told him he was home schooled. The doctor then asked me why, to which I replied that I did not think the local schools were very good and I could provide him with a better education at home. The doctor replied, “Well, yes, but we recommend the children go to public school, so that they can learn street smarts.” This instance brought again to my mind the question of people’s attitudes towards home schooling. If this doctor can admit that the local schools are not good educationally, but still recommend that the children go there, would other doctor’s also? What is the attitude of professionals and lay people toward home schooling and has it changed over the last twenty years?

This topic is timely and relevant for several reasons. According to Lawrence M. Rudner of the Home School Legal Defense (1999) there were between 750,000 to 1,200,000 home schooled children in 1998, while today there are over 2,000,000 children being educated from home. According to the Economist (2004), this number represents 1 in every 25 school aged children in America. The number of home schooled children is increasing each year, and it is now much more common for someone to know a family who chooses this educational method, which would lead us to ask that as people become more familiar with a variety of home schooling families will their opinion of them change? One other reason this is a relevant topic is that little research has been done on it and it would be beneficial to the general population along with those who serve children to understand this specific population better. Before I began the research on this topic my hypothesis was that the attitude towards home schooling has become more favorable over the last ten years, but there are still many who have negative opinions about it.

Literature Review
The literature reviewed in connection with the subject matter under consideration was obtained from scholarly journals found in Pro-Quest data base, with the exception of one article which was not found in a scholarly journal, but held important data and was quoted in other more scholarly journals. This article is reviewed along with five of the more scholarly articles below. None of them relate exclusively to the topic at hand, but by correlating the information from the articles a strong case for the hypothesis is made.

The first article is by Patricia Lines, from Public Interest (2000), it was not found in the scholarly journal section yet it was the most often quoted article by the others that I reviewed, with good reason. Lines worked in the Department of Education since 1985 and was partially in charge of recording how many home schooled children their were. She used “data from state education agencies; distribution of curricular packages for homeschoolers; and state homeschool associations' estimates of their constituencies” (75). Within her statistical analysis and questionnaires she came to the conclusion that many of the home school children are being pulled from students who would typically be candidates from private schools and less often from the public schools.

Lines then recounts a history of homes schooling reminding us that it is public schooling that is a recent educational method and home schooling has in fact always been the primary method of most people especially the upper class, who would hire tutors, and those living in rural locations. The modern movement started as a liberal movement in the 1960’s and then as the schools became more liberal has swung to a more conservative movement today, but with significant amounts of people from the liberal side still.

Lines hypothesizes that future growth in home schooling may come from the minority populations. She sites a study that was done Vanderbilt University and Nashville State Tech, a selective private university and a two-year college. The survey had 254 participants pulled from the classes of the professors doing the studies, so the results may not represent the general population. Nevertheless, 45.3 percent of African-American students replied yes or maybe when asked if they would home school their own children. The percentages were even larger among other minority groups.

The next study was an annual report sent out to Florida home schoolers, which shows a shift in the reasoning behind the decisions to home school. Before 1995 the primary reason was consistently religious, but after 1995 the primary reason for home schooling was a dissatisfaction with the public schools, which has also led to an even more diverse home schooling population.

Lines reports the findings of another study she had done previously. She was interested in the attitudes of colleges and Universities towards these students, and what they did with admission packets from them. She conducted phone interviews with a variety of schools and found an overwhelmingly positive response in the attitudes towards these students from schools ranging from local junior colleges, to tech schools to Ivy League schools. She then shows how the numbers of schools who have admitted home schoolers (which is more than 900 in 2000) has grown and become a much easier process for these students.

Lines then brings up two studies that were cited in several other articles as well. The primary concern that most people have about home schooling is for the social well being of the children. Two studies were conducted to see if there was any difference in social performance between the home schoolers and public schooled children. The first study was done with 70 children from each group. The 140 children were video taped at play with other children. The video tapes were then given to trained counselors who were not told how the children were being schooled. The counselors then rated the students and the data was then analyzed. It was found that there were very few differences overall between the two groups. This same study is cited by Wooster (2000), who says that the only significant difference was that on average the home schooled children behaved better. I was not able to locate the study to verify.

The second study was a questionnaire and personality analysis done by psychologists on a group of home schooled students and a group of public schooled students. Both groups scored as well-adjusted, “with comparable scores on scales measuring aggression, reliance on others, perception of support from others, perceptions of limits to be followed, and interpersonal relations among family members. Not surprisingly, the nonhomeschoolers scored somewhat higher in resolving interpersonal problems with other children” (78).

Lines then cites some public opinion polls, which are very pertinent to our topic. “In 1985, only 16 percent of respondents to the annual Phi Delta Kappan Gallup poll thought that the homeschool movement was a "good thing"; 73 percent thought it was a "bad thing." By 1988, 28 percent rated it a good thing and 59 percent rated it a bad thing. By 1997, the approval rating had grown to 36 percent while the disapproval rating edged down to 57 percent” (79).

The last study that is cited in this article was done by Christian Smith and David Sikkink of the University of North Carolina found that home schooling families tended to be more politically, and civically involved then those families whose children attend public school.

The next article (Wootser, 2000) cited several of the studies, which have been described above, but also included a study by statistician Lawrence Ludner, from the University of Maryland, who looked at test scores from 20,000 home schooled children and found that they consistently score better than public schooled children. They average 67 points higher on the SAT test then public schooled students. The studies that show that on average home schoolers consistently perform better academically compared with publicly schooled children are important in the general populations change in attitude toward home schooling, because the question of academic performance was one of the primary concerns twenty years ago.

Houston and Toma report on two surveys done that directly shows the change of public opinion. “In 1986, a Phi Delta Kappa-Gallup poll found only 16% of Americans believed home schooling to be a "good thing" (Lines 1996). In 1994, however, a Wall Street Journal-NBC News poll found 28% of Americans would actually prefer home education to in-school education.” These polls admittedly are not as carefully done as we would like from a carefully conducted experiment, and that must be taken into consideration. In this article the attempt to regulate home schooling by creating a law to require at least one home schooling parent to have a teaching credential was defeated in the House of Representatives 424 to 1. This does tell us something of the opinion of politicians of home schoolers in general.

In “Education Reform (2002),” by Pamela Paul which was published in American Demographics, a correlated study was reported where polls on the publics opinion of the public schools and home schools were collected and studied. It was found that the positive opinions of American’s in the public schools has sharply declined. For instance, in 1973 58% of the population had “quite a lot” or “a great deal” of confidence in the schools. By 1999 this number had fallen to only 36%. This study shows a possible reason for a change in opinion of home schooling as people tend to be more open to other methods of education when they are less positive about the main method.

An experiment found in School Psychology Review, was done by Steven F Duvall, Joseph C Delquadri, D Lawrence Ward, who are the authors of the article (2004). The effectiveness in teaching children with ADHD by home schooling parents who were untrained, according to current educational thought, was the topic of the study. First several publicly schooled and home schooled ADHD children were identified, and then two matched sets were identified. Each of the students and parents or teachers were then observed by two observers on a monthly basis for five months at timed intervals for 30 to 45 minutes. The students were then tested multiple times to see how effective their learning was and how effectively it was retained. Both sets of students started out at the same place on the tests, but both of the home schooled students were consistently scoring higher by the end of five months. It was found that even though the parents were not trained to deal with ADHD children they used many of the same techniques as the teachers, with a few differences. The parents more often directed learning from the side of the student or from out of the room, while the teachers were typically in front or behind the student and were directing larger groups of children. The home schooled students attention was focused and they were more on task then those in the public school situation. The home school parents more often ignored inappropriate behavior while the public school teachers more often engaged “talk management.” This experiment shows that untrained parents can teach children more effectively than trained public schooled teachers. This and another study done found no correlation between home schooled children’s academic performance and whether their parent had a teaching credential seem to show that parents teach children very well even without special training, which further breaks down some of the arguments that people have against home schooling. One drawback of this study was that it did not record the parents prior experience, which may very well have included quite a bit of research on how to deal with ADHD children. Another drawback is that it only used two pairs of students.

The last article I would like to discuss can be found in Clinical Pediatrics and was written by Susan L Klugewicz and Carol L Carraccio (1999). The authors wanted to find out what pediatricians thought about home schooling and if when they knew a family home schooled did they provide additional services that were normally provided at the public schools. They sent out over 1100 questionnaires and got about 600 replies from a variety of pediatrician offices. They found that 74% of pediatricians felt their knowledge of home schooling was inadequate. Eighty-eight percent thought that home schoolers would do well academically, while 51% thought that home schoolers would be less mature. Only about one-third said that they supported home schooling. Of those who had home schoolers in their practices the percentage of favorable responses towards it increased, while the opinions were most negative amongst those who had the least amount of home schoolers. Neither group offered any additional services to these students. The author recommends that pediatricians become more informed on this segment of the population and offer additional services to them.

Through my research I have found that, indeed, opinions towards home schooling have become more positive as the home schooling movement has become more widespread. In Home Schooling: an alternative choice Houston and Toma (2003) say, “Public perception of home education has also changed over the last 15 years. In 1986, a Phi Delta Kappa-Gallup poll found only 16% of Americans believed home schooling to be a "good thing". In 1994, however, a Wall Street Journal-NBC News poll found 28% of Americans would actually prefer home education to in-school education” (p. 925). Seventy-three percent of the participants of a Phi Delta Kappa-Gallup poll in 1985 thought the home schooling movement was a “bad thing” according to Lines (2000). In 1988, 28 percent thought it was a “good thing” and 59 percent thought it was a “bad thing.” In 1997 36 percent thought it was a “good thing,” while 57 percent thought it was a “bad thing.” In the 1997 poll 82 percent said that parents should have a legal right to home school, compared with 53% in 1988.

In Home schooled children: A pediatric perspective (Klugewicz, S. & Carraccio, C., 1999), the pediatricians were found to have a more positive opinion with the more home schooling families that they come in contact with. This confirms the hypothesis that the more familiar laymen and professionals become with home schooling, the more positive their opinions will be. One interesting finding was that on the whole the pediatricians really were not that familiar with home schooling and knew that they were not, which accounts for why on the whole their opinion of it was more negative than that of the general population.

There are several things that have contributed to the change of opinion in home schooling. One major factor, which has already been pointed out, is simply the growth of this form of education. With this growth has come a wider familiarity with home schooling in general. This same form of human behavior can be seen in other areas, as the general population becomes more familiar with a variety of people from a minor population. For instance, when schools and some apartment buildings were desegregated the attitudes of whites towards African Americans did indeed become more positive.

This form of education has been unfamiliar to a lot of people, and so it was not, and still is not, uncommon for home schooling families to receive a lot of questions and concerns about it. The top concerns have been can the children keep up academically? Will they get into college? Are parents capable of teaching as well as a trained professional teacher? Will the children be social misfits?
All of these concerns have been addressed with sound research. In addition to the research on academic performance already cited, in 1997 HSLDA sent out questionnaires to 6,000 home schooling families, the children were also given standardized tests and the data was then collected and correlated for the 5,402 recipients that responded. The results were then published in the Educational Policy Analysis Archives (Rudner, 1999). It was found that home schooled children performed on average one grade level above their peers in elementary school and four grade levels above their peers by eighth grade. This correlated educational levels of parents and how well the students did on the tests. In almost one-fourths of the homes one or both parents had a teaching degree, but there was no correlation found between this and a students test scores. However, there was a correlation between the parents educational and income levels and the test scores. The higher the educational levels and income the higher the test scores. But those with parents who did not have a high school diploma still did better than public school students who had parents with some college or an AA.

The research clearly shows that home schoolers are just as likely to get into the college or university of their chose as those in the general population. Most colleges and universities either accept students on their SAT and ACT scores or they have what is called a portfolio review, specifically designed for them.
The last major issue of socialization also was shown in the above research to be a concern that is misunderstood. The children have been shown to relate very well to others, and to be more politically and civically involved then publicly schooled peers (Lines, 2000). This is a hard area to define as there is no agreed upon meaning of the word socialization. Some home schoolers consider their school to have been a success if their children can not relate to some things in the general population, like drugs, premarital sex, and being told what to study, when to study and how to study. Others view “street smarts” as the correct socialization goal of schooling. There are a variety of people in both populations, and there will always be a few who miss social cues given by others or have a hard time interacting in groups from both groups and with these students it is not necessarily the method of education that produces students who do not meet everyone’s ideas of a well-socialized individual. There are probably external factors involved, such as individual personality. Another factor to consider also is that home schoolers often represent children who went to public school and did not fit in. An interview by Jenni Russel (2005) in England found that many of the parents pulled their children out of public school, because they were being bullied. She cites one student who had had a gun pulled on him by bullies. So, perhaps, any social differences that exist between the two populations is not a result of home schooling, but those that do not fit into the publicly schooled social environments are more likely to be home schooled.

As all of this research becomes public knowledge the fears of home schooling tend to dissolve, which I believe has helped the opinion of the general population to improve.

The last thing to consider is the inverse effect pointed out by Paul (2002). As the confidence in the public schools has sharply declined more people will look to other forms of education, which will lead them to be more open to home schooling. This has the effect of making the home schooling population more diverse and more numerous. As it grows in this way those in the general population will be more likely to know several different families who chose this option and less likely to make universal judgments about them, which will have the effect of increasing their opinion of home schoolers.

I have shown through solid research that as the home schooling population has grown, and many concerns have been proven unfounded that opinions towards home schooling, which were largely negative in the 1980’s, have now become largely positive. This swing of general opinion has been based largely on growth and the removal of ignorance about what it might be like, through a variety of solid studies, and a few controlled experiments. It is very important for the general population to abandon their prejudices, so that home schooling can be seen as the effective and worthwhile educational method that it is. As this is acknowledged, its strengths can then be studied and implemented to the improvement of other educational methods. This would help all of the children in the population and therefore be of great benefit to all of us.


Duvall, S., Delquadri. J. & Ward, D. (2004). A preliminary investigation of the effectiveness of homeschool instructional environments for students with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. School Psychology Review 33(1), 140- 159. Retrieved February 2, 2007, from Pro-Quest Direct database.
Houston, R. & Toma, E. (2003). Home schooling: An alternative school choice. Southern Economic Journal 69(4), 920-936.
Klugewicz, S. & Carraccio, C. (1999). Home schooled children: A pediatric perspective. Clinical Pediatrics, 38(7), 407-412. Retrieved January 19, 2007, from Pro-Quest Direct database.
Lines, P. (2000). Homeschooling comes of age. Public Interest (140) 74-86. Retrieved January 22, 2007, from Pro-Quest Direct database.
Paul, P. (2002). Education reform. American Demographics 24(8), 20-22. Retrieved January 22, 2007, from Pro-Quest Direct database.
Rudner, L. (1999). Scholastic achievement and demographic characteristics of home school students in 1998. Retrieved January 21, 2007, from
Russel, J. (2005). When parents are a child’s best teachers. New Statesman 18(840), 24- 27. Retrieved February 2, 2007 from Pro-Quest Direct database.
Wooster, M. (2000). The virtues of learning at home. The American Enterprise 11(8), 56. Retrieved January 22, 2007, from Pro-Quest Direct database.


Henry Cate said...

I enjoyed your summary of the attitutdes towards homeschooling.

Nat said...

I did my thesis on homeschooling too!