Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Home School Study

A UK researcher has published a study of homeschooled children. See Paula Rothermel, Home-Education: Comparison of Home- and School-Educated Children on PIPS Baseline Assessments, Journal of Early Childhood Research, Vol. 2, pp. 273-99. The results are utterly typical: Homeschooled children do just as well or far better than their peers. Interestingly, she begins the article by noting a distinct difference between the UK and most American states:
School is not compulsory in the United Kingdom . . . In the UK it is not necessary either to register as a home-educator or to ask anyone’s permission. There are believed to be about 50,000 children being home-educated throughout the UK (Meighan, 1997), but no one knows just how many there really are. Many parents choose to avoid contact with their local education authority (Lowden, 1993).
She also noted an earlier study of her own that found a less significant difference between homeschooled boys' and girls' performance:
From p. 288:

Rothermel (2004) found that whilst girls still outperformed the boys, the difference, unlike most national samples where girls are seen to excel (e.g. Sukhnandan et al., 2000), was not significant.
Also interestingly, Rothermel found that socioeconomic status was not the reason that homeschooled children did well. To the contrary, homeschoolers with low socioeconomic status were able to outpace their schooled peers:
From p. 293:

All the children scored good marks, whatever their background and family structure. However, contrary to the findings of Tymms et al. (1997) the home-educated children from the lower socio-economic groups scored significantly higher than those with professional parents on the Registrar General’s classification (Rose and O’Reilly, 1998). The most obvious reason for their doing well, and one that is supported by evidence from other sources, is that home-educated children are, at least amongst their own ranks, free from the stigma of being poor, simply because they are not learning in an environment where affluence and labelling are an issue.

* * * From p. 294:

The key to performance irrespective of background was, it seemed, the availability of parent[s] to spend time with their children, since at least one parent in each family was continually present throughout this period of their child’s life. Desforges and Abouchaar (2003) have also commented on the importance of parental attention in children’s attainment.
Rothermel's findings lead her to suggest that far from parents being tutored in the art of teaching by trained educators, things should be the other way around:
The fact that findings here contradict the many studies linking social class to low attainment (e.g. Feinstein, 2002) suggests that policy makers might do well to study the home-education model and explore ways in which the benefits could be adapted into mainstream education.

From page 295 [quoting another study]:

Indeed, in our opinion, it is time to shift the emphasis away from what parents should learn from professionals, and towards what professionals can learn from studying parents and children at home.
Stuart Buck



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