National Edition

Home-school students do well first time in college

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

Home-school students score as well as or better than public school students almost across the board, except when it comes to ACT math scores, according to a 2009 study by the University of St. Thomas' Associate Vice President for Records and Institutional Effectiveness Michael Cogan. According to Cogan's 2009 study, called "Exploring Academic Outcomes of Homeschooled Students," home-schooled students scored an average of 26.5 on their composite ACT scores, compared to an average of 25 for students who attended public school.

For math scores, however, home-schooled students scored 24.6 on average, compared to students at public schools who scored 24.7, and students at private schools who scored 25. Once at college, according to Cogan’s study, 66.7 percent of home-schooled students graduated within four years, compared to 57.5 percent of other students.

With home-school students having positive testing results, more parents have opted to keep their children at home. There is less cultural resistance than was experienced by home-school parents 15 years ago, says Brian Ray, a former university professor and learning expert who founded the National Home Education Research Institute to study the phenomenon.

Currently, only about 4 percent of children are home-schooled in America, Ray says, but that number has grown substantially in the last 10 years, from about 850,000 students in 1999 to about 1.5 million students in 2007, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. With that growth and the advancement of technology has come an onslaught of resources available to home-school parents.

“There are hundreds (of resources),” Ray said from his office in Oregon. “There isn’t a question anymore — it’s endless. It’s overwhelming to new home-schoolers there are so many materials, and those are mostly hands-on, concrete tangible things, books and science kits and things. Add to that all of the electronic and online resources and it is amazing.”

Prepared for higher learning

Cade Taylor’s pathway on the road to college was paved by his older brother, Jesse Taylor.

Jesse Taylor volunteered enough hours to qualify for a tuition-free scholarship to a community college, where he went to school and earned credits for free until he transferred to the University of Utah to major in political science. He will graduate from the university this December debt free, with plans to go on and earn his master’s degree after saving some money first.

Like most home-schooled students who go to college, he credits his smooth transition to higher education to the time management skills he learned in home-school. He worked on his own deadline, learning academic discipline and independence in the process, but there was one key to his home-school experience that had the biggest impact.

“The main difference is that personal desire to succeed and learn for the sake of itself, not because I had to, I wasn’t forced to,” Jesse Taylor said recently. He is working in a political internship in Washington, D.C. “That really sparked me, that kind of drive to get involved and help in a cause greater than myself.”

Home-school students have other qualities that typically play into their favor during and even after college. Compared to non-home-school students, they typically read more and watch one hour or less of TV per day, according to a 1998 study by the ERIC Clearinghouse on Assessment and Evaluation at the College of Library and Information Services at the University of Maryland.

According to the "Homeschooling Across America" study, 98.5 percent of former home-schoolers polled read a book in the last six months, versus 69 percent for the general population. The former home-schoolers also appeared to be more civically involved; 71 percent participated in community service activities, versus 37 percent. Additionally, they were more likely to vote, participate in protests or boycotts, write petitions or call public officials.

About 73 percent said they are satisfied with their lives and find life to be exciting — perhaps because they share a key influence, says Scott Woodruff, senior counsel at the Home School Legal Defense Association.

“One of the most important things that home-schooling does is it doesn’t crush a child’s natural desire to learn,” he says. “It fertilizes it.”

The college transition

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