National Home Education week is coming up (November 21st-25th of November) and to help spread the word I am going to be doing a series of Home Ed based blog posts that will explain our home ed journey as well as providing links and resources. For more information on National Home Education Week please visit the Australian Homeschool Network. They will be running free online chats about home education as well as park days and get togethers during Home Ed week where you can find out more about home education.
This will be the final instalment of my Home Education series (for now anyway). Today we are going to focus on the findings of the very first (that we know of) long term homeschooling study. I was linked to this study during the time we were still considering homeschooling as a possible option. Some of my biggest concerns were that my girls would be somehow worse off than their peers when it came to university and further education if they were homeschooled. It was so great to be able to hold tangible evidence to say otherwise.
The study was funded by the Canadian Centre for Home Education and was completed in 2009. It was a follow up to participants of a 1994 survey. You can find the entire document HERE if you are interested. I am just going to pick out a few choice bits of information to share here.
Note: No, not every single response was positive. Out of 182 participants that sent back the follow up study only 13 felt home education had limited their subsequent educational opportunities and only 6 felt home education had limited their subsequent employment opportunities. Of the 13, 5 had completed undergraduate degrees and 2 had not yet finished secondary studies. Only 1 respondent felt the preparation for further education very poor. BUT ask a few people how they felt their school environment did the above. I know I can say that school didn’t prepare me at all for further studies and employment? Nope didn’t help there either.
The following combinations of educational achievement were also recorded.
- Of the 61 respondents (27%) who held Bachelor’s degrees, ten were currently pursuing graduate studies, two at the doctoral level. One had also completed a post-graduate diploma, five had completed college diplomas, six had undergraduate diplomas, and five also had trade qualifications.
- Of the eight respondents (4%) who held Master’s degrees, two were currently engaged in doctoral studies.
- Of the 27 respondents (12%) who held trade qualifications, included five who also had Bachelor’s degrees, and 10 who had completed college diplomas.
- Of the 59 respondents (26%) who had college diplomas, there were ten who also held trade qualifications, and 11 who also had university level degrees or diplomas.
- Overall, young adults who had been homeschooled were better educated than similarly aged Canadians. This is particularly notable with respect to postsecondary education, where greater proportions of homeschooling graduates have attained Bachelors’ and graduate degrees.
Homeschooled adults were almost twice as likely to have voted in a federal election, and much more likely to have voted in a provincial election. Again, the homeschooled adults appear to be more involved in the life of their communities.
Wages and salaries were the main source of income for our respondents, more so than for young Canadian adults in general. Furthermore, 22 (10%) homeschooled adults reported that selfemployment was their main source of income, which is considerably higher than the comparable population. None of the homeschooled adults reported any kind of government payment as their main source of income, compared with 11% of the comparable population. Taken together, this would appear to indicate that the homeschooled adults are somewhat more self-reliant.
Total income for the past year ranged from nothing at all to a high of $160,000, with a median of $20,000 and a mean of $27,534. These numbers are similar to, but slightly higher than the 15- to 34-year-olds in the comparable general population, as reported in the 2006 Census, where the median income was $18,335 and the mean $22,117.
We asked a sequence of questions relating to general life satisfaction. The first question asked respondents how satisfied they were with the work that they were currently performing. About half (52%) said that they were ‘very satisfied’ with their work, and the addition of those who said they were ‘moderately satisfied’ (44%), accounts for almost all of the respondents. The remaining few (4%) reported that they were ‘not very satisfied’ but no one at all reported being ‘dissatisfied’. In the General Social Survey of 2006, the same question elicited a similar response from 15- to 34-year-olds, in that 88% rated themselves on the positive side of satisfaction with their current work. Overall, the homeschooled adults were slightly more likely to be satisfied with their current work.
The second question asked respondents how happy they were with their lives, all things considered. In response to an identical question in the General Social Survey of Canada of 2003, close to half (49.7%) of all Canadians surveyed said they were very happy, slightly less (45.7%) saying they were happy, and only a handful (4.1%) saying they were somewhat or very unhappy. Canadians in our comparative age group (15-34) reported slightly higher levels of happiness, a total of 97.2% stating they were fairly or very happy, only 2.8% saying they were somewhat or very unhappy. National data from 2005 showed a slight decline for the 15–34 age group, 43.8% stating that they were very happy, 52.5% that they were somewhat happy, and 3.8% reporting unhappiness. Overall, our home-educated adults reported that they were happier with their lives than the comparative population: all but one respondent was either ‘very happy’ (67.3%) or ‘fairly happy’ (32.3%). The one respondent who reported being ‘not very happy’ was a 26-year-old university graduate who was currently working in an unskilled and low-paying position.
Best part about being home educated
Respondents were asked what they felt was the “best part about being home educated”. A total of 216 answers were submitted to this open-ended question. Home-educated adults reported that they felt the best part about being homeschooled included the rich relational aspects, the opportunity for extensive curricular enrichment, the flexibility especially in terms of the schedule, the individualized pace and programs, the development of their own independence and confidence, and the superior education received. The number and types of responses in each category are listed in Table 14. In summary, it was these six features—relationships, enrichment, flexibility, individualization, independence, and superior academics—that home-educated adults found best about their education.
Worst part about being home educated
When asked what they felt “was the worst part about being home educated” a total of 208 respondents provided an answer. More than one third mentioned an aspect of the social challenges of being home educated. These comments ranged from simple reflections such as “I feel I could have had more social interaction” to more angst filled ones such as “[I was] so different from others my age and [felt] somewhat awkward”. More than one fifth indicated that their curriculum was limited in some manner, particularly in terms of sports. More than one-sixth mentioned the difficulties of living with societal stereotypes towards their education including those embedded in postsecondary institutional policies. “People [were] always watching, looking for something wrong” said one. “[People asking] ignorant or judgmental questions”, said another. More than one-tenth mentioned the difficulties adjusting later to the expectations of education provided in classroom settings. More than one-tenth also mentioned their concerns about how home education may have strained their family relationships. Several (n=12) were concerned that on occasion boredom or lack of motivation set in, and almost as many (n=11) mentioned that the worst part of being home educated was the lack of snow days or P.D. days, or the irritant of having a slow internet connection. Table 15 lists the number of time items in each category were noted. In summary, while in no case did the majority of respondents agree on any specific challenge, in order of most commonly noted, the worst part of being home educated included the social challenges, curricular limitations, societal prejudice, later adaptation to classroom settings, and possible strains on family.
So there you have it – the first long term research on home education. Some good, some not so good. I had a good laugh at some of the “worst” things about home ed. “Lack of snow days” in particular. I think my girls would also complain about the lack of public holidays and canteen – which if you really think about it is not the worst thing in the world.
While this wraps up my Home Education series if anyone has any questions feel free to ask in the comments and I will respond. If I get lots of questions I might ad a further post with answers.
Thank you for tuning in and reading about home education. Home Education Week isn’t about trying to convert people or being anti-school…it’s about raising awareness that this is a valid and legal alternative to “formal schooling”. Most home ed families are pretty “normal”, they aren’t trying to brainwash their kids, or coddle them. They are trying to give their children the best education they can. We socialise. Our girls attend sports and music and language classes. They go to birthday parties and have birthday parties. We go on holiday, we have slack days, we have busy days and we even have days when we want to throw in the towel and send them all back to school. Some of us will always home educate, some will pull their children out of school, some will put theirs back in. Some families even home educate one child while another goes to school. But over all, like parents everywhere, we are just trying to do what we think is best for our children based on the knowledge we have now.
If you are interested in finding out more please visit the Australian Homeschooling Network for free online chat sessions on homeschooling or come along to a park day in your area on Wednesday the 23rd of Novemeber.