Since the dramatic increase in U.S. homeschool families after the COVID-19 pandemic, several critics of homeschooling have expressed concerns over the long-term effects of educating at home.
Will these children suffer academically, as parents aren’t always certified teachers? Will their at-home learning cause them to be less socialized? Does homeschooling adequately prepare them for the real world?
What many of these critics fail to mention, however, is that homeschooling has thrived for several generations in the U.S. Over the years, the experiences and data collected from homeschool families show many of these stereotypes to be false.
In fact, several homeschool moms are pushing back against these common misconceptions in a recent news article about homeschooling,
‘Anyone can facilitate an education’
Bethany Mandel, writer and editor for the children’s book series Heroes of Liberty, homeschools her five children.
She said she lets “the greats” do the teaching as her children study their work directly, since “there’s no better art teacher than Monet and no better literature teacher than Mark Twain.”
“Anyone can facilitate an education in that way, within reason obviously,” she said.
Additionally, many studies indicate that the strongest factor determining student success isn’t socioeconomic status or prestigious schools, but the level of parental involvement, or engagement in their child’s education.
Research conducted by the National Home Education Research Institute (NHERI) also shows that homeschool students score above average on achievement tests, regardless of their parents’ level of formal education.
“Whether homeschool parents were ever certified teachers is not related to their children’s academic achievement,” the institute concluded in its research facts on homeschooling.
Stephanie McAndrew, director of JBAB Home Educators, knows this firsthand. Although she went to school to be an educator, she says parents don’t need a degree to educate their own children.
“I don’t think anyone knows your kids better than you do,” McAndrew said. “I know what works to motivate my kids and to drive them and where their strengths are, and where their weaknesses are.”
In fact, some people believe homeschooling can improve children’s academic performance precisely because of its one-on-one, customized approach to learning.
“I will say, as a parent, no one loves your child and will encourage your child like you will,” said Allison DeMarco, a board member of the Florida Parent Educators Association Scholarship Foundation. “No one will spend the time with them, encouraging them in areas of study where they may need extra help, or where they may excel, just like a parent would. In a group of 30 kids, it’s difficult to isolate one child’s need for help in a certain area.”
Homeschool parents also learn alongside their children, DeMarco said, which can help children who might otherwise be studying the subject material alone.
All about socialization
Critics sometimes claim that homeschooling isolates children and makes them less able to adapt socially to the world around them.
However, multiple studies over more than 40 years of research have failed to substantiate any of these claims.
In fact, studies often suggest the opposite: homeschool graduates tend to be more social and well-adjusted than their public school peers.
A recent study by Harvard University researchers discovered that homeschool graduates were 33 percent more likely to volunteer, 31 percent more likely to be forgiving and 51 percent more likely to attend religious services in young adulthood than those who were in public school.
“Home-schooled children generally develop into well-adjusted, responsible and socially engaged young adults,” the researchers wrote.
In fact, some homeschool parents believe that the “socialization” that takes place in public schools can be less than optimal for children’s overall social development.
“The socialization is very manufactured and weird,” Mandel said. “Because it’s not actually socialization. You’re sitting next to someone most of the day who is the exact same age as you. And that’s not natural. That’s not something that you have in everyday life after you leave school. You have friends who are all different ages, and all different geography, but in school, you’re only exposed to kids who are the exact same age within a 12-month span. And only in this box. It’s not natural socialization and I would argue it’s not exactly healthy socialization either.”
Homeschool moms also emphasize that they don’t stay at home all day, as educational opportunities often occur during daily life through field trips and running errands.
Homeschool families also enjoy plenty of avenues for socialization through learning pods and homeschool co-operatives, or co-ops.
“There is so much help out there for homeschoolers,” said Yvonne Bunn, director of homeschool support and government affairs for the Home Educators Association of Virginia. “There are so many resources that homeschool parents can use. They can join a co-op with other parents and in the co-op they can have a teacher that may have majored in a certain aspect – a higher mathematics course, calculus, or a science lab, chemistry or biology. And in that co-op, she’ll teach a small group of students doing those particular subjects… It works out beautifully.”
Real-world successes for homeschool graduates
The multiple studies surveying homeschool graduates over the years find them leading successful lives as adults.
“Research facts on homeschooling show that the home-educated are doing well, typically above average, on measures of social, emotional, and psychological development,” the NHERI fact sheet on homeschooling concluded. “Research measures include peer interaction, self-concept, leadership skills, family cohesion, participation in community service, and self-esteem.”
Because of homeschooling’s long and successful history, many adults who graduated homeschool are choosing the same option for their own children.
One of them is Renee Bichel, who was homeschooled by her father in the 1980s. As her parents were divorced, her father had primary custody of her.
“I really did like public school, so it took a little bit to get used to the idea of being home,” she said. “But I did trust my dad. We had a very good relationship. He was a fantastic parent.”
Bichel now homeschools her three children, ages 9 to 14.
“I feel like my dad did a really good job of preparing me for the world and preparing me for college classes that I took,” she said. “I loved the idea of a family unit being together more, and not eight hours a day doing separate things. And then maybe getting a few hours in the evening to be together – and then starting that day over again.”
Bethany Mandel also emphasizes how true homeschooling can bring whole families together, which benefits all of society.
“People think that we’re shut-ins and my kids are sheltered,” Mandel said. “My kids are socializing with everyone under the sun – young and old – and also forming relationships with their siblings closer than anyone else.”