I remain an enthusiastic advocate of homeschooling, but recent years have found me occupied with reforming “real” school. Two much-heralded but very different books, Joseph Murphy’s new survey of the professional literature on homeschooling, Homeschooling in America, and Quinn Cummings’ story of homeschooling her daughter Alice, The Year of Learning Dangerously, rekindled my interest in the movement that once so engaged my family.
A professor of education at Vanderbilt, Murphy is a social scientist, not an advocate, which makes his generally positive evaluation of homeschooling all the more significant. His survey of the social science literature on the topic usefully, if sometimes turgidly, compiles the growing evidence that homeschooled children learn more than their counterparts, at least to the extent that standardized tests measure learning, and are emotionally healthier as well, at least to the extent that psychologists’ “self-esteem and self-concept” scales truly capture emotional health. They volunteer many more hours in their communities and even spend more time participating in extracurricular activities.
While these findings have been widely reported, some of the other studies he describes deserve more attention. For example, low-income children who are homeschooled often reach or exceed national academic averages, whereas the average low-income children in public schools score “considerably below” the national norm.
Read it all.