PULLING BACK THE CURTAIN:
Liberty's Winning Formula
It all comes down to people and test results. The historic caution of our legislators with respect to home schooling has been rooted in two things, academics and socialization.
And more than anything else, what has ultimately convinced Idaho legislators to protect and extend our home schooling liberties has been first-hand encounters with home educated students and seeing their remarkable academic test results.
Show and Tell
For many years, the question that home educators heard more than any other was: What about socialization? The question grew out of a caricature of home schoolers. We were reputed to be isolationist in our practices. That isolationism was then presumed to result in the inadequate socialization of our children.
To gently push back against that stereotype, part of ICHE's mission has been to provide our governing officials with first-hand exposure to students who are being taught at home.
We do that through our Legislative Pie Day when we bring dozens of home schooled students to the capitol for a grand "show and tell" opportunity. We do that by encouraging high school seniors to apply to serve the legislators as House or Senate pages. We do that by cooperation with Cornerstone Family Council's annual Captsone Student Legislature each January. And we do that by encouraging home schoolers to campaign for the candidate of their choice.
These face-to-face encounters with home educated students have converted many concerned legislators into enthusiastic supporters. In the final analysis, this decades-long mission contributed to last year's unanimous passage of a revised law which gives Idaho's home schooling parents total freedom to pursue their children's education in the manner which they deem best.
And it has allowed us to turn the socialization question on its head and ask: What about the well-documented dysfunctional socialization that often takes place in the public schools. For our legislators need to focus their attention on the areas where improvement is genuinely needed.
Cap and Gown
But the other half of the formula that has bred such success is the academic achievement of students who have been taught at home. Without strong academic results, our representatives would have been reticent to extend our liberties.
Composite scores from the tests which are administered each year by ICHE provide significant hard evidence to dispel the academic concerns of our legislators. As an added bonus, individual test scores provide parents with assurance in those areas where their children are excelling and valuable pertinent information in those areas where a child may be struggling.
As with all such statistics, the greater the number of participants involved, the more credible the results are regarded.
Every decade or so, researchers conduct a nationwide study of home education. In 2009, Dr. Brian Ray of the National Home Education Research Institute concluded the most recent national study of 11,739 home schooled students and their families. The final study, Homeschooling Across America: Academic Achievement and Demographic Characteristics, will be published shortly The study's results not only provide further validation of the academic achievement of home schoolers, they also provide a fascinating snapshot of the demographics of the entire home schooling movement. The full report can be obtained from www.NHERI.org.
The wealth of knowledge about home education which Dr. Ray has amassed over the years contributed to CHOIS's decision to invite him to be the keynote speaker at this year's annual convention.
If you haven't already done so, you and your family are strongly encouraged to immediately register for the convention to take advantage of this rare opportunity to hear a world-renowned expert on the subject of home education. To do so, visit the CHOIS web site at www.CHOIS.org. In his convention sessions, Dr. Ray will also be sharing the results of additional work in which he focused down on the test scores and demographic information for Idaho's home schooling families.
So Who Are We?
The results of Dr. Ray's national study answer many of the questions that are asked about home schooling. It offers a convenient means of describing who we are, why we do what we do, and how dramatically successful our efforts have become. Here's a brief summary of the major points documented in Dr. Ray's study:
Academic Achievement: The average home schooled student scores on the 86th percentile on standardized achievement tests. By comparison, the average student in the nation's public schools scores on the 50th percentile.
Teacher Certification: Whether or not a parent has a teaching credential has no statistical affect on the test scores of their children. Children whose parents have a credential score on the 87th percentile while the children whose parents are not certificated actually score a notch higher, on the 88th percentile.
Government Oversight: When test scores were separated to reflect the degree of government oversight in the state where each child resided, the results showed that greater levels of regulation failed to produce improved academic results. Students in states with the highest levels of oversight scored on the 87th percentile while those in the states with the least regulation also scored on the 87th percentile.
Parental Education: Looking at the educational background of home schooling parents, the study found that they tended to be better-educated than the parents of public school students. 64% of home schooling parents had a bachelor's degree or higher, 27% had some college education (but not a degree), and the remaining 9% had taken no college courses at all. The children, on the other hand, showed strong achievement for all groups, regardless of how well educated the parents were. Children whose parents had never attended college scored on the 83rd percentile. Students whose parents had attended college, but not received a degree, scored on the 86th percentile. And children whose parents held a bachelor's degree or higher scored on the 90th percentile. Among other things, this data confirms that parents should not feel hesitant to teach their own children at home simply because they have not attended or graduated from college.
Finances: The level of a family's income and the amount spent on the education of a child were shown to have relatively little impact on academic achievement. Students from families earning less than $35,000 per year scored on the 85th percentile while those from families earning $70,000 or more scored on the 89th percentile. The median amount spent per year on a home schooled student's education was $400 to $600. Students whose parents spent $600 or more per year on their education scored on the 89th percentile and students whose parents spent less than that amount still scored on the 86th percentile.
Marital Status & Family Size: 98% of the parents of home schooled students were married. On average, their families had 3.5 children. Both figures are substantially above the public averages.
Religious Affiliation: Home schooling families strongly tend to be people of faith. Various denominations of Christians made up a substantial majority of those choosing to home school: 82.4% identified themselves as Protestant, 12.4% Roman Catholic, .8% Mormon, and .2% Eastern Orthodox. Muslim parents constituted 1.1%, Jewish .4%, and atheist/agnostic 1.1%. The remaining 2.5% held a variety of other faiths.
What can be discerned from all of this? That home education is still the most universally-successful mode of education, bar none.
Parents who will take the time and make the commitment to privately teach their own children at home will greatly enhance the academic achievement of those children. Those stellar results are duplicated regardless of the wealth or education of the parents, the degree of governmental oversight, or even the faith of the parents.
The long and short of it is that parents who privately teach their own children at home without government oversight or participation will produce the most academically gifted students possible. There is no other mode of education - public school, private school, charter school, or virtual charter school - that is able to duplicate the academic achievement of students quietly raised up and educated at home by their own parents.
Barry Peters is an attorney in private practice with offices in Eagle, Idaho, and is one of the legal advisors for both ICHE and CHOIS. His law practice focuses on the areas of wills & trusts, real estate contracts, and business formations.