From home school to college

Can home school children do well in college? That question is so … 1970. Here’s an item (a few years old) from the Deseret, Utah, News:

After years of skepticism, even mistrust, many college officials now realize it’s in their best interest to seek out home-schoolers, said Barmak Nassirian, associate executive director of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers.

An article from the Journal of College Admissions says that homeschoolers are not who you think they are:

Experience and anecdotes have led many people to believe that homeschool parents were either move-to-the-country anarchist goat-herders, or right-wing Bible-thumpers, and their children were either mathematically-limited, due to Mama’s fear of math, or child prodigies in rocket-science who were unthinkably socially hindered. Although one can find statistical deviants in every group, homeschooling research tells a different story from the experience-based stereotypes and biases concerning those involved in home education.

More recently, a researcher at the University of Saint Thomas, in Saint Paul, Minn., undertook a study of college students who had been homeschooled. The results were impressive: Incoming college students who were home school students had higher academic credentials, earned higher grades in college, and were more likely to graduate. Here’s the research (PDF).

Lynn O’Shaughnessy provides a summary on Moneywatch.com, and links to other articles on the subject, some of which I’ve included above.

If you think about it, the success of home schooling shouldn’t be a surprise. It’s the ultimate in personalization, parental involvement, and one-on-one attention. (If smaller classes are good–a popular assumption that doesn’t have as much merit as you’d think–how about a class of one, or three?)

What does all this mean for public policy? Don’t harass home schoolers, for one thing. They’re paying money in taxes to support public schools, but not using them–and producing some citizens who may be more educated than the typical public school student. A small tax break may even be appropriate, though many homeschooling parents would refuse to take it, fearing the red tape that might come with it.

Another lesson may be that for all the academic degrees, institutional controls and hard work of people in the education industry, parents and students can be more trustworthy than given credit for.

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