Study supports structured homeschooling

Science Daily reports on a Canadian study of homeschooling, one that comes across as objective and unbiased, finding that kids homeschooled with a structured curriculum really do perform better than their public school peers.  “Unschooling,” though, the approach to homeschooling that is even more progressive than public schools in doing away with structure altogether to just let kids do what they want, does NOT work.

A new study from Concordia University [in Canada, not a part of the LCMS university system] and Mount Allison University has found that homeschooling — as long as it’s structured or follows a curriculum — can provide kids with an academic edge.

“Structured homeschooling may offer opportunities for academic performance beyond those typically experienced in public schools,” says first author Sandra Martin-Chang, a professor in the Concordia Department of Education, noting this is among the first nonpartisan studies to investigate home education versus public schooling.

Published in the Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science, the investigation compared 74 children living in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick: 37 who were homeschooled versus 37 who attended public schools. Participants were between 5 and 10 years old and each child was asked to complete standardized tests, under supervision of the research team, to assess their reading, writing, arithmetic skills, etc.

“Although public school children we assessed were performing at or above expected levels for their ages, children who received structured homeschooling had superior test results compared to their peers: From a half-grade advantage in math to 2.2 grade levels in reading,” says Martin-Chang. “This advantage may be explained by several factors including smaller class sizes, more individualized instruction, or more academic time spent on core subjects such as reading and writing.”

The research team also questioned mothers in both samples about their marital status, number of children, employment, education and household income. The findings suggest that the benefits associated with structured homeschooling could not be explained by differences in yearly family income or maternal education.

The study included a subgroup of 12 homeschooled children taught in an unstructured manner. Otherwise known as unschooling, such education is free of teachers, textbooks and formal assessment.

“Compared with structured homeschooled group, children in the unstructured group had lower scores on all seven academic measures,” says Martin-Chang. “Differences between the two groups were pronounced, ranging from one to four grade levels in certain tests.”

Children taught in a structured home environment scored significantly higher than children receiving unstructured homeschooling. “While children in public school also had a higher average grade level in all seven tests compared with unstructured homeschoolers,” says Martin-Chang.

via Structured homeschooling gets an A+.

HT: Joe Carter

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Pete

    Duh…

  • Pete

    Duh…

  • Joe

    I see they used standardized tests to grade out the kids. It is not clear from the article if these were the universally used standardized tests we all took along the way or standardized tests created for this study, but aged specific/standardized testing will almost always show that unschooled kids are behind their age-peers in early years. It is pretty common for unschooled kids to completely ignore a subject until much later than structured kids. The whole point of it is to wait until the kid is ready to learn something (ready to learn is defined by the kid having an interest in it) instead of pre-determining when the kid will learn what. So age or grade level is not the true marker of a “peer.” For example an unschooled kid might not look at long division until they are in middle school or high school but a structured kid is going to have that as part of their work at a much lower grade. So the peers would be two kids who have completed that subject – not some random age group. This is one of the things about the public school mindset that drives me nuts – who determines the right age for learning X – and given the vast differences among kids and how can it possibly ever be standard.

    Now, before people think I am just defending a choice I made, let me tell you that we do NOT unschool. We have a structured curriculum at our house (actually multiple curriculum because my kids are not all the same). I just wanted to point out what seemed like an obvious flaw in the study to those who actually understand the logistics of unschooling.

  • Joe

    I see they used standardized tests to grade out the kids. It is not clear from the article if these were the universally used standardized tests we all took along the way or standardized tests created for this study, but aged specific/standardized testing will almost always show that unschooled kids are behind their age-peers in early years. It is pretty common for unschooled kids to completely ignore a subject until much later than structured kids. The whole point of it is to wait until the kid is ready to learn something (ready to learn is defined by the kid having an interest in it) instead of pre-determining when the kid will learn what. So age or grade level is not the true marker of a “peer.” For example an unschooled kid might not look at long division until they are in middle school or high school but a structured kid is going to have that as part of their work at a much lower grade. So the peers would be two kids who have completed that subject – not some random age group. This is one of the things about the public school mindset that drives me nuts – who determines the right age for learning X – and given the vast differences among kids and how can it possibly ever be standard.

    Now, before people think I am just defending a choice I made, let me tell you that we do NOT unschool. We have a structured curriculum at our house (actually multiple curriculum because my kids are not all the same). I just wanted to point out what seemed like an obvious flaw in the study to those who actually understand the logistics of unschooling.

  • WebMonk

    There have been a number of studies like this, mostly with the same result. However, I really wish a study would address one of the big problems these sorts of studies have: self selection.

    They can’t randomly assign kids to be public or home schooled; the home schooled kids are always from families that have self-selected to home school. That opens up a pretty big hole in the reliability of these studies.

    Everyone knows that parental involvement is a huge factor in the educational results for kids. It is extremely possible, even likely, that parents who would already be very involved in their kids’ education are much more likely to home school.

    Two families can have the same parental education level, same income, same marital status,, and both send their kids to the same school and teachers. But, if one of the sets of parents is more involved than the other, their kids will do significantly better.

    That’s not a function of the type of schooling, but rather of the parental involvement. Parents who are more involved in their kids’ education are also more likely to home school. That, by itself, will tend to make home schooled students come out with better academic results.

    Don’t get me wrong. I suspect that the structured home schooling will give better results than public schooling (on average) even if one accounts for that parental involvement bias. However, I can’t prove it with any sort of hard data, because as far as I know, there haven’t been any studies which have managed to control for the issue I mentioned above.

    There is certainly no grounds for saying home schooling gives an inferior education to public schooling, and so I really think that governments should get out of schooling decisions of parents on that alone. However, one gets on very shaky ground when claiming home schooled kids do X% better academically than their public schooled counterparts.

    (Also, there are a host of non-academic benefits to home schooling which I think are extremely valuable, but that’s not the topic.)

  • WebMonk

    There have been a number of studies like this, mostly with the same result. However, I really wish a study would address one of the big problems these sorts of studies have: self selection.

    They can’t randomly assign kids to be public or home schooled; the home schooled kids are always from families that have self-selected to home school. That opens up a pretty big hole in the reliability of these studies.

    Everyone knows that parental involvement is a huge factor in the educational results for kids. It is extremely possible, even likely, that parents who would already be very involved in their kids’ education are much more likely to home school.

    Two families can have the same parental education level, same income, same marital status,, and both send their kids to the same school and teachers. But, if one of the sets of parents is more involved than the other, their kids will do significantly better.

    That’s not a function of the type of schooling, but rather of the parental involvement. Parents who are more involved in their kids’ education are also more likely to home school. That, by itself, will tend to make home schooled students come out with better academic results.

    Don’t get me wrong. I suspect that the structured home schooling will give better results than public schooling (on average) even if one accounts for that parental involvement bias. However, I can’t prove it with any sort of hard data, because as far as I know, there haven’t been any studies which have managed to control for the issue I mentioned above.

    There is certainly no grounds for saying home schooling gives an inferior education to public schooling, and so I really think that governments should get out of schooling decisions of parents on that alone. However, one gets on very shaky ground when claiming home schooled kids do X% better academically than their public schooled counterparts.

    (Also, there are a host of non-academic benefits to home schooling which I think are extremely valuable, but that’s not the topic.)

  • WebMonk

    Joe, just to point out a bit of datum, unschooled kids are still measured well behind other home schooled kids even in high school and college. It’s not just the early years.

    In their defense, there are some pretty strong indications that there is a greater creativity among adults who were unschooled, but again, that falls in the same difficulty I mentioned in post 3. Does unschooling foster greater creativity, or are more creative people drawn to unschooling?

  • WebMonk

    Joe, just to point out a bit of datum, unschooled kids are still measured well behind other home schooled kids even in high school and college. It’s not just the early years.

    In their defense, there are some pretty strong indications that there is a greater creativity among adults who were unschooled, but again, that falls in the same difficulty I mentioned in post 3. Does unschooling foster greater creativity, or are more creative people drawn to unschooling?

  • http://enlivenonline.com Jason Barker

    This sounds very interesting, and the results jibe with my (at this point) anecdotal experience, but I do question the relatively small sample sizes for the study; with only 25 structured homeschoolers — and 12 unschoolers — from two of the smaller Canadian provinces, it’s difficult to generalize these findings.

    A key determining factor in successful versus unsuccessful homeschooling is the motivation and involvement of the parents. My wife ran a GED program for several years, and many of her students had been homeschooled. The children whose parents homeschooled them to improve their education, and whose parents were highly involved in forming and administering that education, tended to do well. The children whose parents started “homeschooling” entirely as a reaction against evolution and condoms in school, or because the children were involved in a large number of disciplinary incidents at school, unsurprisingly tended to have a very weak academic background.

  • http://enlivenonline.com Jason Barker

    This sounds very interesting, and the results jibe with my (at this point) anecdotal experience, but I do question the relatively small sample sizes for the study; with only 25 structured homeschoolers — and 12 unschoolers — from two of the smaller Canadian provinces, it’s difficult to generalize these findings.

    A key determining factor in successful versus unsuccessful homeschooling is the motivation and involvement of the parents. My wife ran a GED program for several years, and many of her students had been homeschooled. The children whose parents homeschooled them to improve their education, and whose parents were highly involved in forming and administering that education, tended to do well. The children whose parents started “homeschooling” entirely as a reaction against evolution and condoms in school, or because the children were involved in a large number of disciplinary incidents at school, unsurprisingly tended to have a very weak academic background.

  • http://theoldadam.wordpress.com Steve Martin

    I used to get upset when the kids were out of school (holidays, teacher days, whatever)…

    but not anymore.

    I say to myself (and sometimes their parents) “one less day of leftist indoctrination.”

  • http://theoldadam.wordpress.com Steve Martin

    I used to get upset when the kids were out of school (holidays, teacher days, whatever)…

    but not anymore.

    I say to myself (and sometimes their parents) “one less day of leftist indoctrination.”

  • Joe

    Webmonk – I was referring to this study specifically, they looked only at kids between ages 5-10. I am simply not aware of other data on the overall success of unschoolers.

    I won’t question your data, but the kids I know who were unschooled are now adults are not behind anyone. I tend to disagree with the philosophy of unschooling, but I have not yet met an unschooled kid who was any worse for having been unschooled.

  • Joe

    Webmonk – I was referring to this study specifically, they looked only at kids between ages 5-10. I am simply not aware of other data on the overall success of unschoolers.

    I won’t question your data, but the kids I know who were unschooled are now adults are not behind anyone. I tend to disagree with the philosophy of unschooling, but I have not yet met an unschooled kid who was any worse for having been unschooled.

  • forty-two

    How did they defined structured vs unstructured homeschooling? It’s really more of a spectrum than a binary choice, and given their description of unschooling as “no teachers, textbooks, or formal assessments”, they don’t seem to have the greatest grasp of the nuts and bolts of hs’ing.

    Because pretty much all unschooling involves teaching, just not on a defined schedule. Even radical unschoolers teach something (or find a teacher) when their children ask them to, and the less hardcore bunch actually *initiate* teaching ;) . And unschoolers of any stripe will use textbooks if they want to – it’s just that they are more one tool among many rather than the one true way. I’ll give them the lack of formal assessments – but unschoolers aren’t the only ones who don’t test (b/c given the rest, I’m not sure they acknowledge intentional observation and focused questioning in a casual format as being “formal” – vs informal – methods of assessment).

    And how structured is structured? I’m on a classical hs’ing board, and structure and academic rigor aren’t really tied together. Plenty of rigorous folk who are loosely structured, and some very structured hs’ers who aren’t trying to be particularly rigorous (it’s a classical ed board, so everyone is rigorous to some extent or another by wider standards). And the idea of school-at-home structure is rather looked down up, actually.

    The thing is, unschooling is an umbrella term for unstructured hs’ing, and doesn’t really tell much about the actual approach used by any given unschooler. Radical unschoolers get most of the attention – they believe in not coercing educational choices (or any choice, in some cases) as a moral obligation, sometimes to the point that parents shouldn’t even suggest anything, as with the unequal relationship b/w parent and child, even a suggestion carries undue weight. But that is a minority – most unschoolers are more low coercion than no coercion, and work hard to set up an environment that is conducive to learning and teach good learning habits and watch for teachable moments. Unschooling well does, imo, require more work and more knowledge on the part of the parent-teacher, b/c you need all the info and skills and habits that you want to teach in your head, mastered, so that you can capitalize on teachable moments as they occur.

    But radical unschoolers would say that if a parent does any intentional work to teach anything, they are *not* unschoolers – radical unschoolers are, ime, sometimes more interested in philosophical purity than the practicalities of real life. And there are plenty of anecdotes about radical unschoolers who trusted unschooling to magically produce educated children while living an intellectually impoverished life, or that all kids would magically choose the right thing b/c that’s what kids do when left to themselves – mostly that doesn’t work out as promised. But that’s not *all* unschoolers, by a long shot.

  • forty-two

    How did they defined structured vs unstructured homeschooling? It’s really more of a spectrum than a binary choice, and given their description of unschooling as “no teachers, textbooks, or formal assessments”, they don’t seem to have the greatest grasp of the nuts and bolts of hs’ing.

    Because pretty much all unschooling involves teaching, just not on a defined schedule. Even radical unschoolers teach something (or find a teacher) when their children ask them to, and the less hardcore bunch actually *initiate* teaching ;) . And unschoolers of any stripe will use textbooks if they want to – it’s just that they are more one tool among many rather than the one true way. I’ll give them the lack of formal assessments – but unschoolers aren’t the only ones who don’t test (b/c given the rest, I’m not sure they acknowledge intentional observation and focused questioning in a casual format as being “formal” – vs informal – methods of assessment).

    And how structured is structured? I’m on a classical hs’ing board, and structure and academic rigor aren’t really tied together. Plenty of rigorous folk who are loosely structured, and some very structured hs’ers who aren’t trying to be particularly rigorous (it’s a classical ed board, so everyone is rigorous to some extent or another by wider standards). And the idea of school-at-home structure is rather looked down up, actually.

    The thing is, unschooling is an umbrella term for unstructured hs’ing, and doesn’t really tell much about the actual approach used by any given unschooler. Radical unschoolers get most of the attention – they believe in not coercing educational choices (or any choice, in some cases) as a moral obligation, sometimes to the point that parents shouldn’t even suggest anything, as with the unequal relationship b/w parent and child, even a suggestion carries undue weight. But that is a minority – most unschoolers are more low coercion than no coercion, and work hard to set up an environment that is conducive to learning and teach good learning habits and watch for teachable moments. Unschooling well does, imo, require more work and more knowledge on the part of the parent-teacher, b/c you need all the info and skills and habits that you want to teach in your head, mastered, so that you can capitalize on teachable moments as they occur.

    But radical unschoolers would say that if a parent does any intentional work to teach anything, they are *not* unschoolers – radical unschoolers are, ime, sometimes more interested in philosophical purity than the practicalities of real life. And there are plenty of anecdotes about radical unschoolers who trusted unschooling to magically produce educated children while living an intellectually impoverished life, or that all kids would magically choose the right thing b/c that’s what kids do when left to themselves – mostly that doesn’t work out as promised. But that’s not *all* unschoolers, by a long shot.

  • WebMonk

    Joe, “behind” is a tricky term, especially when taken to refer to the entirety of an adult person.

    The “behind” to which these sorts of studies show are focused on academic measurement.

    You can know two people, one of which got a 3.7 in college, and another who got 2.5 in college. When we know these two people in person, we don’t think of the 2.5 person being “behind” the 3.7 person, but when one measures their knowledge in an academic world, it is pretty clear that one is a lot more skilled in academic matters than the other.

    One might say academic prowess is subsumed by a host of other factors and is only a tiny factor. When we look at our acquaintances it may seem ludicrous to suggest that some are “behind” others based on their academic records up to their 18th (or 20-something-th) year. However, in more subtle ways that we humans aren’t as good at noticing in personal interactions, people with better academic skills generally have several advantages over their less skilled peers.

    It’s not like unschooled people grow up to be stupid anti-intellectual morons. It’s more subtle – fifteen percentage points academically can mean $500K over a lifetime, changed divorce rate, etc. Adults aren’t “behind” others, but there are significant differences that arise on average over time.

    People should be free to unschool all they want. It’s just not an optimal academic method. (of course, neither is most public schooling, IMO)

  • WebMonk

    Joe, “behind” is a tricky term, especially when taken to refer to the entirety of an adult person.

    The “behind” to which these sorts of studies show are focused on academic measurement.

    You can know two people, one of which got a 3.7 in college, and another who got 2.5 in college. When we know these two people in person, we don’t think of the 2.5 person being “behind” the 3.7 person, but when one measures their knowledge in an academic world, it is pretty clear that one is a lot more skilled in academic matters than the other.

    One might say academic prowess is subsumed by a host of other factors and is only a tiny factor. When we look at our acquaintances it may seem ludicrous to suggest that some are “behind” others based on their academic records up to their 18th (or 20-something-th) year. However, in more subtle ways that we humans aren’t as good at noticing in personal interactions, people with better academic skills generally have several advantages over their less skilled peers.

    It’s not like unschooled people grow up to be stupid anti-intellectual morons. It’s more subtle – fifteen percentage points academically can mean $500K over a lifetime, changed divorce rate, etc. Adults aren’t “behind” others, but there are significant differences that arise on average over time.

    People should be free to unschool all they want. It’s just not an optimal academic method. (of course, neither is most public schooling, IMO)

  • WebMonk

    And yes, I echo forty-two’s post about how “unschooling” is a spectrum and not always well understood or defined, especially by people outside the home schooling world.

    Where I grew up, the “unschool” group was mostly just not worried about academics in general and so took a very low-pressure approach to academics. I think they were technically a low-structure and low-rigor subset of the local home schooling population, not ideologically motivated unschoolers.

    There was also a definite subset that was very non-structured (or perhaps very “diversely structured” is a better term) and very high-rigor. I heard them referred to as “unschoolers” a time or two, but I don’t think that was an accurate term.

    Like forty-two said, it’s a spectrum.

  • WebMonk

    And yes, I echo forty-two’s post about how “unschooling” is a spectrum and not always well understood or defined, especially by people outside the home schooling world.

    Where I grew up, the “unschool” group was mostly just not worried about academics in general and so took a very low-pressure approach to academics. I think they were technically a low-structure and low-rigor subset of the local home schooling population, not ideologically motivated unschoolers.

    There was also a definite subset that was very non-structured (or perhaps very “diversely structured” is a better term) and very high-rigor. I heard them referred to as “unschoolers” a time or two, but I don’t think that was an accurate term.

    Like forty-two said, it’s a spectrum.

  • forty-two

    Looking back at the article, they equate structured with following a curriculum. If you use curriculum in the ps/ed-school sense, of being a defined course of study that you implement with whatever materials you choose (as opposed to the hs sense of curriculum = the materials used), then I’d agree with that. A planned, well-thought-out progression would be more efficient and yield better results than a haphazard approach in most cases. But you could certainly be textbook free, and even fairly unstructured in scheduling – just takes more work.

  • forty-two

    Looking back at the article, they equate structured with following a curriculum. If you use curriculum in the ps/ed-school sense, of being a defined course of study that you implement with whatever materials you choose (as opposed to the hs sense of curriculum = the materials used), then I’d agree with that. A planned, well-thought-out progression would be more efficient and yield better results than a haphazard approach in most cases. But you could certainly be textbook free, and even fairly unstructured in scheduling – just takes more work.

  • WebMonk

    Nice catch. I totally missed that statement. That is very helpful!

  • WebMonk

    Nice catch. I totally missed that statement. That is very helpful!

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    I really wish a study would address one of the big problems these sorts of studies have: self selection.

    They can’t randomly assign kids to be public or home schooled; the home schooled kids are always from families that have self-selected to home school. That opens up a pretty big hole in the reliability of these studies.

    While it is true that kids can’t be randomly assigned, other controls can be used, like say the SAT scores of the parents. Then we could see if the kids are the same as their parents. If both public schooled students and home schooled students whose parents scored 9oth percentile also score 90th percentile, then we know that the schooling choice is not what is making the difference.

    As long as students are scoring about the same as their parents did, we know it isn’t the location of the instruction that is making the difference. Also, with unschooling what kind of people would choose to do that? I am going out on a limb and suggesting that they are the kind of people who are comfortable with unschooling. But what personality is that?

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    I really wish a study would address one of the big problems these sorts of studies have: self selection.

    They can’t randomly assign kids to be public or home schooled; the home schooled kids are always from families that have self-selected to home school. That opens up a pretty big hole in the reliability of these studies.

    While it is true that kids can’t be randomly assigned, other controls can be used, like say the SAT scores of the parents. Then we could see if the kids are the same as their parents. If both public schooled students and home schooled students whose parents scored 9oth percentile also score 90th percentile, then we know that the schooling choice is not what is making the difference.

    As long as students are scoring about the same as their parents did, we know it isn’t the location of the instruction that is making the difference. Also, with unschooling what kind of people would choose to do that? I am going out on a limb and suggesting that they are the kind of people who are comfortable with unschooling. But what personality is that?

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    It’s not like unschooled people grow up to be stupid anti-intellectual morons. It’s more subtle – fifteen percentage points academically can mean $500K over a lifetime, changed divorce rate, etc. Adults aren’t “behind” others, but there are significant differences that arise on average over time.

    Okay, but again perhaps things like high tolerance for ambiguity, unstructured schooling/home life, lower academic performance, higher divorce rates, lower earnings, all arise from a common cause (perhaps lower conscientiousness), rather than unstructured schooling/home life being the cause. I think that is possible.

    Anyway, I looked at Texas’ law and it is pretty clear that the school must be conducted diligently in order to be legal. It seems pretty common sense. The law requires that students actually be taught at school, or home.

    c. Homeschools must be conducted in a bona fide manner, using a written curriculum consisting of reading,
    spelling, grammar, math and a course in good citizenship; no other requirements apply.

    http://www.hslda.org/laws/analysis/texas.pdf

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    It’s not like unschooled people grow up to be stupid anti-intellectual morons. It’s more subtle – fifteen percentage points academically can mean $500K over a lifetime, changed divorce rate, etc. Adults aren’t “behind” others, but there are significant differences that arise on average over time.

    Okay, but again perhaps things like high tolerance for ambiguity, unstructured schooling/home life, lower academic performance, higher divorce rates, lower earnings, all arise from a common cause (perhaps lower conscientiousness), rather than unstructured schooling/home life being the cause. I think that is possible.

    Anyway, I looked at Texas’ law and it is pretty clear that the school must be conducted diligently in order to be legal. It seems pretty common sense. The law requires that students actually be taught at school, or home.

    c. Homeschools must be conducted in a bona fide manner, using a written curriculum consisting of reading,
    spelling, grammar, math and a course in good citizenship; no other requirements apply.

    http://www.hslda.org/laws/analysis/texas.pdf

  • steve

    But it’s not just about getting an academic edge. We are told homeschooled kids will be awkward and socially maladjusted. They won’t know the current Lady Gaga songs or understand the latest references to sexual acts, and other pertinent social skills that are so very important to navigate the world around us.

  • steve

    But it’s not just about getting an academic edge. We are told homeschooled kids will be awkward and socially maladjusted. They won’t know the current Lady Gaga songs or understand the latest references to sexual acts, and other pertinent social skills that are so very important to navigate the world around us.

  • steve

    [/cynical sarcasm]

    Sorry, forgot my tags.

  • steve

    [/cynical sarcasm]

    Sorry, forgot my tags.

  • WebMonk

    steve, I assure you the home schooled kids I know all are familiar with Lady Gaga and are quite conversant (and at least somewhat experienced) on sexual matters.

    Since you’re so worried about that. :-D

  • WebMonk

    steve, I assure you the home schooled kids I know all are familiar with Lady Gaga and are quite conversant (and at least somewhat experienced) on sexual matters.

    Since you’re so worried about that. :-D

  • mendicus

    I have a young daughter who is highly creative and favors unstructurd everything. She is succeeding in her Lutheran school, but not without struggle in some areas. It’s clear to me that there are things she must learn that she just isn’t “ready” to learn. Watching her in those struggles, drying her tears, forcing her to be disciplined…at times I have wished we could allow her to opt out until she’s ready. But I’m ultimately glad that we haven’t done so, for a few reasons.

    First, she is being stretched. Some kids (like her sister) will push/stretch themselves. She won’t, so absent some external pushing, she wouldn’t have tasted the sweet fruit of going from the despair of “I can’t” to the elation of “I did”. Second, society tends to function in linear ways, and she’s learning against her inclination how to live and succeed in that world. And she is doing so without any trace of diminished creativity.

    The third reason is the most significant, and I can only describe it by anecdote. She was slower in learning to read than we expected based on her verbal abilities, and we eventually realized it was due to the linear and structured nature of reading. She didn’t want to grapple with that–she wasn’t “ready”. But grapple she did, and learn she did, in the timing expected for grade-level advancement. And since then she has been a voracious reader and finds unsurpassed joy in it. Had we not pushed her, she I’m confident she would have missed out on years of that joy.

    So, without knocking unschooling (about which I know little), I think there are reasons to go with traditional notions of structure.

    Pax

  • mendicus

    I have a young daughter who is highly creative and favors unstructurd everything. She is succeeding in her Lutheran school, but not without struggle in some areas. It’s clear to me that there are things she must learn that she just isn’t “ready” to learn. Watching her in those struggles, drying her tears, forcing her to be disciplined…at times I have wished we could allow her to opt out until she’s ready. But I’m ultimately glad that we haven’t done so, for a few reasons.

    First, she is being stretched. Some kids (like her sister) will push/stretch themselves. She won’t, so absent some external pushing, she wouldn’t have tasted the sweet fruit of going from the despair of “I can’t” to the elation of “I did”. Second, society tends to function in linear ways, and she’s learning against her inclination how to live and succeed in that world. And she is doing so without any trace of diminished creativity.

    The third reason is the most significant, and I can only describe it by anecdote. She was slower in learning to read than we expected based on her verbal abilities, and we eventually realized it was due to the linear and structured nature of reading. She didn’t want to grapple with that–she wasn’t “ready”. But grapple she did, and learn she did, in the timing expected for grade-level advancement. And since then she has been a voracious reader and finds unsurpassed joy in it. Had we not pushed her, she I’m confident she would have missed out on years of that joy.

    So, without knocking unschooling (about which I know little), I think there are reasons to go with traditional notions of structure.

    Pax

  • WebMonk

    sg 14,

    Okay, but again perhaps things like high tolerance for ambiguity, unstructured schooling/home life, lower academic performance, higher divorce rates, lower earnings, all arise from a common cause (perhaps lower conscientiousness), rather than unstructured schooling/home life being the cause. I think that is possible.

    Yup, that’s definitely possibly true and it’s definitely possibly not true, which is why you need a randomly assigned study to try to tease out what results come from what root.

    sg 14,
    I don’t know of any studies in particular linking parental SAT scores to their kids’ scores, but I would be willing to bet that once things like education level, marital status, and economic status are taken into account that parental SAT scores have only a very weak correlation to kids’ SAT scores.

    In some ways it’s sort of depressing how very much economic factors affect things. People with high SATs tend to make more money and have “better” kids, but once you balance for the money by comparing them with people with lower SAT scores who also have lots of money, most of the difference will disappear, I suspect.

    That has shown to be true for dozens of different factors, and I doubt SAT scores are the exception.

    (I haven’t tried to find the original study, but I would assume they did account for things like parental education levels, which would track decently with SAT scores, or their Canadian equivalent.)

  • WebMonk

    sg 14,

    Okay, but again perhaps things like high tolerance for ambiguity, unstructured schooling/home life, lower academic performance, higher divorce rates, lower earnings, all arise from a common cause (perhaps lower conscientiousness), rather than unstructured schooling/home life being the cause. I think that is possible.

    Yup, that’s definitely possibly true and it’s definitely possibly not true, which is why you need a randomly assigned study to try to tease out what results come from what root.

    sg 14,
    I don’t know of any studies in particular linking parental SAT scores to their kids’ scores, but I would be willing to bet that once things like education level, marital status, and economic status are taken into account that parental SAT scores have only a very weak correlation to kids’ SAT scores.

    In some ways it’s sort of depressing how very much economic factors affect things. People with high SATs tend to make more money and have “better” kids, but once you balance for the money by comparing them with people with lower SAT scores who also have lots of money, most of the difference will disappear, I suspect.

    That has shown to be true for dozens of different factors, and I doubt SAT scores are the exception.

    (I haven’t tried to find the original study, but I would assume they did account for things like parental education levels, which would track decently with SAT scores, or their Canadian equivalent.)

  • DonS

    Webmonk is right, above, in saying that there is really no way, in these types of studies, to account for the self-selection bias — families who home school made a conscious choice to do so, whereas public school is the default. If you want to compare the benefits of homeschooling to traditional school, you would be better to compare to private schools, where at least the parents also made a conscious choice, and have invested discretionary dollars to do so.

    The bottom line, though, is that there is no need to prove that homeschooling is “better” than traditional age-segregated communal schooling. The value of these studies is in ensuring the continued ability of families to direct the education of their children, rather than having the government vitiate or eliminate that right. As long as the evidence shows that homeschoolers are effectively educated and function well as adults, the education bureaucrats have a tougher time continuing to espouse, without grounds, the harms of that choice.

    As for unschooling, I am all for the flexibility that homeschooling affords. If a child, at a particular point in time, wants to emphasize one subject over another, and the parent is fine with accommodating that interest — great! Just remember that, beginning at least in the student’s jr. year in high school, he/she is going to be subjected to standardized testing which will strongly affect their prospects for higher education. If you care about not limiting their potential options, you will ensure that they are ready, at least by that time, to tackle all of the subjects presented on those tests.

  • DonS

    Webmonk is right, above, in saying that there is really no way, in these types of studies, to account for the self-selection bias — families who home school made a conscious choice to do so, whereas public school is the default. If you want to compare the benefits of homeschooling to traditional school, you would be better to compare to private schools, where at least the parents also made a conscious choice, and have invested discretionary dollars to do so.

    The bottom line, though, is that there is no need to prove that homeschooling is “better” than traditional age-segregated communal schooling. The value of these studies is in ensuring the continued ability of families to direct the education of their children, rather than having the government vitiate or eliminate that right. As long as the evidence shows that homeschoolers are effectively educated and function well as adults, the education bureaucrats have a tougher time continuing to espouse, without grounds, the harms of that choice.

    As for unschooling, I am all for the flexibility that homeschooling affords. If a child, at a particular point in time, wants to emphasize one subject over another, and the parent is fine with accommodating that interest — great! Just remember that, beginning at least in the student’s jr. year in high school, he/she is going to be subjected to standardized testing which will strongly affect their prospects for higher education. If you care about not limiting their potential options, you will ensure that they are ready, at least by that time, to tackle all of the subjects presented on those tests.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “I would assume they did account for things like parental education levels, which would track decently with SAT scores,”

    I am skeptical. People with degrees vary greatly, as do people with just high school educations. Controlling for parent’s measured academic performance is a reasonable control for a study such as this. If all students achieve within x% of their parents, we know it isn’t methods or location that is affecting the outcome.

    Back to the point of unschooling. It seems obvious that achievement will be lower for students who haven’t had much instruction.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “I would assume they did account for things like parental education levels, which would track decently with SAT scores,”

    I am skeptical. People with degrees vary greatly, as do people with just high school educations. Controlling for parent’s measured academic performance is a reasonable control for a study such as this. If all students achieve within x% of their parents, we know it isn’t methods or location that is affecting the outcome.

    Back to the point of unschooling. It seems obvious that achievement will be lower for students who haven’t had much instruction.

  • jbo

    Does this matter? “Academic advantage” at 10? What’s the advantage? Scoring higher on a standardized test? Sounds useful. Especially for 5 to 10 year olds. This is meaningless until there are long term studies with the same students with multiple follow ups at various times over the course of their “academic careers.”

  • jbo

    Does this matter? “Academic advantage” at 10? What’s the advantage? Scoring higher on a standardized test? Sounds useful. Especially for 5 to 10 year olds. This is meaningless until there are long term studies with the same students with multiple follow ups at various times over the course of their “academic careers.”

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “I would be willing to bet that once things like education level, marital status, and economic status are taken into account that parental SAT scores have only a very weak correlation to kids’ SAT scores.”

    I would bet the opposite. I would also bet the kid’s height has a pretty high correlation to his parents, because 100% of who a person is comes from his parents. There is no other source. The only thing we can discover about environmental effects is whether they are optimal or sub optimal, and what is optimal for one individual may not be optimal for another, or not. Anyway, it seems arbitrary to control for education level, marital status and economic status but not SAT scores, all of which correlate. Why education level, but not SAT score? Seems like they both control for similar things. Tangentially I have seen studies that claim kids who were spanked had slightly lower IQ than kids who weren’t, but which didn’t control for the parents IQ. Seems like a poor design, since there is no expected value calculated when there should be.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “I would be willing to bet that once things like education level, marital status, and economic status are taken into account that parental SAT scores have only a very weak correlation to kids’ SAT scores.”

    I would bet the opposite. I would also bet the kid’s height has a pretty high correlation to his parents, because 100% of who a person is comes from his parents. There is no other source. The only thing we can discover about environmental effects is whether they are optimal or sub optimal, and what is optimal for one individual may not be optimal for another, or not. Anyway, it seems arbitrary to control for education level, marital status and economic status but not SAT scores, all of which correlate. Why education level, but not SAT score? Seems like they both control for similar things. Tangentially I have seen studies that claim kids who were spanked had slightly lower IQ than kids who weren’t, but which didn’t control for the parents IQ. Seems like a poor design, since there is no expected value calculated when there should be.