Homeschooling and Academics

This is the last planned post in my series “Why We Homeschool“.  This series title  is a bit of a misnomer for this particular post because, while we believe that superior academics is an advantage of homeschooling, we would still choose to homeschool even if there was irrefutable proof that our children would receive better academic training at ABC Christian school.  While academics is important, in our house it is not most important.  (You may wish to read the post titled Homeschool Goals for a deeper explanation of this point.)

All that said, we are thankful that homeschooling is an excellent choice even for those whose primary goal is academic achievement. Take a look at some statistics:

  • In our home state of Tennessee the Department of Education reported that homeschooled children in 2nd grade on average scored in the 93rd percentile while their public school counterparts averaged 62nd percentile.
  • In 1997 a study of 5,402 homschool students from 1,657 families entitled “Strengths of Their Own: Homeschoolers Across America” was released. It demonstrated that homeschoolers on average out-performed their counterparts in pubic schools by 30-37 percentile points in all subjects.
  • Perhaps a more significant finding in the above study was that students who had been homeschooled 2 or more years scored in the 86th – 92nd percentile while those who had been homeschooled for one year or less were in the 59th percentile.

These results have been demonstrated time and again in many different studies over the years. This should not be  surprising if you consider that there is no one in the world who cares about the academic achievement of a child more than the parents. Parents are motivated to provide the best for their children. Also, parents know their children’s strengths and weaknesses and are able to work at the child’s level rather than having to cover a defined curricula to benefit the “average” student.  Homeschooling is full time private tutoring!

What may be more surprising to you is that, according to some studies, the parent’s education does not seem to make much of a difference in the academic outcome of the homeschool student, while parental education dramatically affects the performance of students who are in the public schools.

I was rather surprised when I saw the above graph and have thought about it for a good amount of time.  When parents are responsible for educating their own children, their own academic background does not affect the resulting education.  However, when parents give the responsibility for educating their children to the state, their educational level directly affect the academic outcome of their children.  This seems contradictory.  Here are two of my thoughts on this.

  1. God blesses covenant faithfulness.   When parents accept the responsibility that He has given to them to educate their own children, I believe that He blesses the results.
  2. Since God gave the responsibility of educating to parents, they will be one of the primary educators in their child’s life whether they like it or not.  So if a parent makes no effort to instruct, the dearth of teaching will be keenly felt. Whereas if a parent recognizes their influence and responsibility their efforts will not go unrewarded.

Those thoughts are absolutely free.  Feel free to tell me that I have some odd things going on in my brain.  I already realize that, which is why I’m thankful that my children’s education is not dependent on my intelligence.  (I’m also thankful that my husband teaches math, whew!  That requires more brain power than I currently possess.)

Despite more children in compulsory education and more money being spent than ever before the illiteracy rate is scads higher than it was in the 1930’s when the illiteracy rate reflected people who had not had the advantage of formal schooling. I wrote a whole post about John Gatto and appreciate his thoughts on why our educational system is failing.  His article “Nine Assumptions of Schooling” is worth your perusal if you are at all interested in education.

This leads to my next series of posts, “How We Homeschool“.  Here is a peek, we do not have a classroom with 9 desks facing a chalkboard (although we do have the chalkboard), we rarely use “school type” textbooks, and our children LOVE “school” and learning.  In fact most of the children’s “free time” is spent on activities that “educators” would call educational.   Interested?  Stick around.  I may even have this series finished before next year.  🙂

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15 Responses to Homeschooling and Academics
  1. tara
    June 25, 2009 | 9:30 am

    What a great post. I agree that you can offer a superior education in homeschooling. But it is also sooo important to be abel to train them to have wonderful character qualities. And while I do believe education is important. I think character is first. I love your sneak peeks of next weeks post.


  2. Hannah
    June 25, 2009 | 9:55 am

    Very interested! Can’t wait to read it! Thanks for the well written post. Now if I could just quit this silly job!




  3. Cardamoms Pod
    June 25, 2009 | 10:08 am

    LOL “I may have this series finished by next year…” 🙂 Love the new button, too! and woohoo! over 20,000 hits! Congratulations!



  4. Nicki
    June 25, 2009 | 12:26 pm

    I agree wholeheartedly! My mom dropped out of high school in the 9th grade, and my dad got a high school diploma. They taught my sister and me at home, and we always tested several grades above our “level.” Thanks for your post! I look forward to HOW you homeschool. : )


  5. Seth
    June 25, 2009 | 2:51 pm

    You do have some odd things going on in your head, but only compared to the average American, so that is a good thing. However, no one ever polled me for that chart.


  6. aimee
    June 25, 2009 | 4:37 pm

    We just had a discussion of this sort on our homeschool group website. I think I’ll post your blog address there so they can come check out this post. It seems some have been getting less than positive responses from people about homeschooling.

    I agree with you 100%. That’s pretty much why we homeschool too!


  7. Lisa
    June 25, 2009 | 6:23 pm

    Thouigh I do not and have no plans to homeschool, I can see how it would be to a child’s advantage to be homeshooled. I agree wholeheartedly that academics is secondary to several other things. If children are not taught to get along well with others and have no understanding of compassion, integrety, community, work ethic etc. All of which are more important to living a happy life than academic learning. Plus you don’t have to worry about your kids being exposed to so many dangerous things (drugs,booze,sex,prejudice), what’s not good about that? Yeah for homeschooling and the parents choosing to educate their kids! I see your kids out in the world…I notice what good people they are…I am glad you do it! Thanks Kimberly for your imformative posts about this subject.


  8. Momtofivekids
    June 25, 2009 | 11:36 pm

    Just wanted to say that I love your blog! Ilm looving forward to your next post!


  9. Lindsey in AL
    June 26, 2009 | 9:59 am

    I find it interesting in the chart that parents who dropped out of high school and those who dropped out of college have almost the same level of success as homeschoolers and that it’s *higher* than those who graduated from high school. Staying in high school until you’ve finished is kind of the easy road to take, the path of least resistance, the status quo. You don’t necessarily learn much from it and it doesn’t give you much appreciation for education. Dropping out may seem like the lame or easy way when you do it but it does give you a better perspective on education, I think. Whether that perspective is that everyone should stay in school and get an education, after school special style (probably what most would assume) or that staying in gov’t school until you’re 18 years old is a waste of time and you can learn so much more by staying home and following your own learning interests. My husband dropped out of high school in 11th grade but went on to 6 years of college (for 2 different automotive degrees, not exactly an academic at the time) and his perspective is definitely the latter. I graduated 3rd in my high school class of 450 and went to college for one year (on a full scholarship). 13 years after leaving school I feel no guilt about not finishing, although I did for a looooong time. I still yearn for more information and knowledge and learning but I have finally figured out that I can get that on my own without paying a dime to anyone or soaking up all the humanist garbage that I was so bombarded with in 1995.

    Your two points are both excellent but the second one I think is particularly true. I can’t wait to see your next posts.



    Raising Olives Reply:

    Oh Hannah, I feel for you. Hopefully in God’s timing.

    Seth – 😛

    Cardamom, Thanks! I need to do a post about the button, but just haven’t gotten it together, but I am really happy to have one.

    Thanks Aimee.

    Lindsey in AL, Great points! Thank you for joining in the conversation and taking the time to post your thoughts.

    Tara, Lisa, Momto5kids, and Nicki thanks for taking the time to comment!

    There are a few bad things about telling you all what I’m going to be posting, if I don’t tell you what I’m planning there is no expectation, you aren’t disappointed. Also, if we have an crazy week and I don’t get to it you don’t wonder where that promised post is. All that said, I’m glad to know you are interested and I pray that my posts will be helpful!



  10. Mallory
    June 27, 2009 | 11:35 am

    I think homeschooling is a great way to educate children! However, I do think those statistics are somewhat misleading. The reason homeschooling children do so well, I believe, is because their parents are so involved in their education. Parents who are likewise involved in their children’s public education also do very well on standardized test scores.

    If children realize their parents care about their education, they are going to succeed in school regardless of how they are educated. Either through public of home education. So many children in the public schools come from low income families who have little time to invest in their children’s education because they are in survival mode or they just do not care to be involved in their children’s lives.

    This is the reason that the average score for children in public school is so much lower than homeschooled children. You have to take it into account that many parents of public educated children just do not take the time to help their children with their school work. Either they are to tired, do not care, or do not have the time with their work schedules. I’m not saying this is right by any means, but you cannot compare public school to homeschooling. It’s like comparing apples to oranges.


    Raising Olives Reply:

    I agree that parental involvement plays an important roll in a child’s education. In fact parental responsibility has been one of the main points in all of the posts in this series. The public schools will (obviously) have a much higher percentage of uninvolved parents than homeschools. So the statistics are a bit like apples to oranges. However, the purpose of this post is to encourage those who are afraid to homeschool because of the daunting task of being responsible for their child’s academics. My point is that, yes parents can teach their children successfully whatever their educational background. It is not my intent to imply that a child could not excel academically in the public schools.

    Thanks for taking the time to comment.



  11. Kerry
    June 29, 2009 | 10:42 pm

    I found this post to be very interesting… and I have some thought “from the other side”. Please understand – I am *not* disagreeing with you, so if it seems like I am, it shouldn’t!

    *I* think all of the statistics work together… those of us who have our children in public school have to pay as much attention as those of you who homeschool. It is the right choice for us, but requires diligence in order to make sure our children receive the challenge they need and in order for US to know what is being taught, to make sure our children are equipped to answer it. Those who homeschool have made the conscious choice to be intimately involved in the process – to follow through every step and make sure their children are learning and progressing. Those of us who enroll our children in public or private schools have 2 options: we can be as involved and make sure our children get the education they should, or we can step back and leave it all up to the school district – assume that the teachers and administration will do all they can for *our* children with no parental imput.

    I think the more education the parent has, the more they stress the importance to their children AND (unfortunately) the more seriously they are taken by the teachers and administration. I have an example of this… when my son was in 1st grade he had a teacher who tended to look down at everyone – sitting in parent conferences often felt like YOU were the child. I did not appreciate it. One day I was speaking with her and the fact that I was going to graduate school came up. We talked about it for about 30 seconds – if that. From that day on I was spoken to as an adult, as an equal. THAT really irritated me. In my opinion the parents who were high school dropouts had as much right to be treated with respect as I did and the fact that it was so obvious just burned me.

    Those parents who have little or no educational background and have chosen to homeschool – I believe – have taken the conscious step to be involved and make sure their children succeed where the parent may have struggled. Depending on the environment, there is a good chance this is the only way the child will succeed – with total attention from parents and minus the environmental distractions.

    Which brings me to my final point… the averages dealing with students success via public school or homeschool… In the set with your public school averages you have the bright children, the children with supportive parents who will do very well and then at the bottom of the range are the children who may be very intelligent (or may not) but have no educational support at home – parents who are absent, abusive, think education is a waste or are just too busy trying to stay alive to keep on top of their children’s education. On the other hand, as I previously mentioned, the homeschooled group is made of almost exclusively of children whose parents have made the decision to be involved in all aspects of their child’s education at all times.


    Raising Olives Reply:

    I agree and your points are well taken. It is normative for children of parents who are involved in their education to excel compared to those who have uninvolved parents. It boils down to parental responsibility!

    It is a shame that some teachers don’t have more respect for parents, but I have sympathy for the teacher. They are trying to educate children and are often not receiving any support from the parents, who should be taking a leading role in their children’s education. I think they are in a difficult spot. Of course there are some who probably should not be teaching period, but I would imagine that is the exception and not the norm.

    Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts and add to the conversation.



  12. Sandra Bueno
    September 11, 2014 | 11:55 am

    I am looking for Christian Homeschooling Programs that I can enroll my 8th-grade son into. We are currently in Spain and planning to travel for the entire year. Perhaps you may have some links or referrals you can share with me. Also, I know some programs differ in internet/web-accessible content, thus if you are able to share some light on the options, I would greatly appreciate the help. Thanks


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