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Home-school students do well first time in college

Published: Tuesday, Nov. 5 2013 4:00 a.m. MST

Salt Lake Community College student Cade Taylor walks to the library on campus Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2013.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

When Cade Taylor considers what career he’ll choose, there’s a little voice in the back of his mind that inspires him to aim high.

It sounds like his mother.

Taylor is a college freshman who, up until now, has been home-schooled by his mom his whole life, but the next step after college is one he hopes will make her years of sacrifice all worth it, he says.

“I feel guilty I took up so much of her time,” Taylor says with a little laugh. “I feel like I have to succeed at something to make myself feel like her spending all of that time on me was worthwhile — so I have to do something cool with my life.”

Taylor is one of a growing population of home-schooled students whose first experience with a brick and mortar school is walking onto a college campus. As the rate of students attending home school is increasing, so too is the rate of home-school students attending college, thanks to a marked increase of available resources and a softening of public perception.

Now more home-school students than ever are making the transition to college life with better skills and preparation in some cases than their non-home-schooled peers, studies show. The 20-year-old Taylor wants to make his mother proud by becoming a pediatrician or an anesthesiologist. Data comparing home-schooled students’ scores and skills to his non-home-schooled peers show that his mother’s investment might already be worth it.

The home-schooling choice

Lisa Taylor, Cade Taylor’s mom, didn’t initially plan on home-schooling her kids.

Years ago, she was in college herself, majoring in biology and English, with plans to go on to graduate school, when she had her first baby — a little girl who was diagnosed with Down syndrome. From that point on, her life changed.

Parents choose to home-school their children for a variety of reasons: they like the freedom of setting their own schedule, they like having a flexible curriculum or they have ideals not being met by a standard school setting. Lisa Taylor did it because she thought it would be fun. For the most part, she says she was right.

“Especially if you start when they are young, it becomes your lifestyle; it becomes something you do,” Lisa Taylor said on a recent fall afternoon from her home in Herriman, Utah. “There are some days that aren’t as fun as others. And there are some days when you think, ‘Why am I doing this? I could be out shopping someplace.’ ”

Even though Lisa Taylor didn’t initially plan on being a home-school mom, her family fits the mold of home-schoolers pretty well. Families that home-school their children generally have more formal education than the general population, according to "Homeschooling Across America: Academic Achievement and Demographic Characteristics," a study published in 2009 by the National Home Education Research Institute. The study was commissioned by the Home School Legal Defense Association, a nonprofit group that promotes home-schooling across the country. According to the study, 66.3 percent of fathers and 62.5 percent of mothers had a bachelor's degree or higher.

Some home-school families have parents with teaching credentials, and some have a higher income than others, but on average, neither factor seems to affect students’ scores, the study says. Home-school students with families of all incomes scored in the 85-89th percentile in CORE testing, compared to public school students who scored in the 50th percentile on average, the study says.

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