How Do Educators and Policy Makers View Homeschooling?
Homeschooling is controversial. The National Parent Teacher Association opposes the practice, as do the National Education Association and the National Association of Elementary School Principals. Other groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union maintain that parents have a constitutional right to school their children at home. Though they don't necessarily approve of homeschooling, a majority of Americans responding to the 1988 Phi Delta Kappa Gallup poll believed that parents have a right to try it. State legislatures agree, and over the past 20 years they have responded favorably to homeschoolers seeking more flexible compulsory education laws.
How Well Do Homeschooled Children Do?
Homeschooling's academic worth is hotly contested by researchers, educators, and parents. It is difficult to obtain a representative sample of homeschooled children, and researchers cannot say for certain whether these children would do better or worse in a public or private school. Scores of homeschoolers who have taken state-mandated tests or who have provided their results to researchers indicate that while some homeschoolers test below average, a larger number test above that mark.
Proponents and opponents also disagree on how well-adjusted homeschooled children are. Although it appears to be true that children who are homeschooled spend less time with same-age children and more time with adults and children of different ages, research has not found that homeschooling harms children's social or psychological development. On the contrary, these children often demonstrate better social adjustment than their traditionally schooled peers.
Opponents argue that homeschooling is harmful to children because it isolates them from other children in their community. However, homeschooling is rarely conducted in total isolation. Many families participate in homeschool support groups, scouting, church and recreational activities, and other associations.
Through these activities, homeschooled children share experiences with people outside their immediate families. Although some homeschoolers and their associations emphasize affiliations only with people who share their religious beliefs, many actively seek religious, cultural, and racial diversity. In fact, one national magazine, The Drinking Gourd, is devoted to multicultural homeschooling.
What About College Admissions?
Homeschooling teenagers should contact the colleges and universities they would like to attend and ask about their admission policies. In a 1994 telephone poll conducted by the author of this brochure, a select group of admissions officers from large universities and colleges indicated willingness to consider applications from homeschooled students. In addition, all of the officers said that they accept standardized admission test scores-along with other material showing experience in learning and collaborating with others-in the absence of a regular high school transcript. Although admissions officers do not monitor this practice, some estimated that they admit a handful of undergraduates each year without a transcript. Interested teenagers should ask their local homeschool association for the names of college students who were homeschooled and would not mind offering advice about the college application process.