Monday, March 18, 2013

Ed prof gives 'generally positive evaluation of homeschooling'

In the April issue of First Things, Mary McConnell reviews Homeschooling in America: Capturing and Assessing the Movement by Joseph Murphy. "A professor of education at Vanderbilt, Murphy is a social scientist, not an advocate, which makes his generally positive evaluation of homeschooling all the more significant," McConnell writes.
His survey of the social science literature on the topic usefully, if sometimes turgidly, compiles the growing evidence that homeschooled children learn more than their counterparts, at least to the extent that standardized tests measure learning, and are emotionally healthier as well, at least to the extent that psychologists' "self-esteem and self-concept" scales truly capture emotional health. They volunteer many more hours in their communities and even spend more time participating in extracurricular activities.

While these findings have been widely reported, some of the other studies he describes deserve more attention. For example, low-income children who are homeschooled often reach or exceed national academic averages, whereas the average low-income children in public schools score "considerably below" the national norm.

Likewise, homeschooling seems to mitigate the negative effects of low levels of parents' education on student achievement—a finding that’s especially intriguing since these parents are the educators—as well as the negative effects of family socioeconomic variables and race displayed in public schools. It's easy to postulate that homeschooling parents are unusually committed, but these results still challenge the prevailing orthodoxy that societal problems inevitably hold education hostage.

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