Socialization: The level of socialization homeschool students enjoy is entirely dependent on how the adult(s) in charge of the experience coordinate and manage opportunities for outside activities. Not everyone who homeschools takes the time to plan extra-curricular activities or involve their children in the community. Generally speaking, homeschool kids go on field trips with other homeschooled kids; attend topically interesting classes and seminars at local museums, zoos, and other places; start home businesses; play sports and are involved in art, drama and music lessons. The Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) “PBS Parents” Web page quotes National Home Education Research Institute president Brian Ray who believes that socialization is not a problem for the vast majority of homeschool students. Mr. Ray reports that “Research shows that in terms of self-concept, self-esteem and the ability to get along in a group, homeschoolers do just as well as their public school peers.”
To assist in the student learning and socialization process, IVLA (www.internationalvla.com) offers homeroom sessions through a mentoring program designed to give full-time students the opportunity to interact and build relationships with other students.
A 2011 small-sample study led by Sandra Martin-Chang of Concordia University* and using Canadian participants, found that “structured homeschooling” – where clear education goals are set and structured lessons in the form of either purchased curricula or self-made lesson plans (or a combination of the two) – produced academic performances much better than those achieved by same-level students in public school. Specifically, in five of seven test areas (word identification, phonic decoding, science, social science, humanities) structured homeschoolers tested at least one grade level ahead of public schoolers. They were almost a half-a-year ahead in math, and slightly, but not significantly, advanced in reading comprehension.
However, in every test area, homeschoolers experiencing an “unstructured” learning environment – where premade curricula and structured lesson plans are rarely or never used – achieved lower scores than did “structured” homeschoolers. In fact, in five of the seven subject areas, where the structured homeschoolers performed above grade level, the unstructured homeschoolers performed below grade level. In addition, the study reported that unstructured homeschoolers also performed worse than the public school kids did, though by a small margin.
The Huffington Post Teen page for 3/28/15 cites a U.S. News and World Report article published in 2012 based on statistics provided by the National Home Education Research Institute. These statistics indicate that more than 2 million U.S. students in grades K-12 were home-schooled in 2010, accounting for nearly four percent of all school-aged children. The same Huffington Post page notes that, according to a study that compared graduation rates at one doctoral university from 2004-2009, students coming from a home school graduated college at a higher rate than their peers — 66.7 percent compared to 57.5 percent — and earned higher grade point averages along the way (Cogan, Michael; “Exploring Academic Outcomes of Homeschooled Students,” University of St. Thomas, 2009).