Tells Us Plenty - Research on Homeschooling Tells Us Plenty Despite the Claim It Does Not

Published: Thu, 12/28/17

Research on Homeschooling Tells Us Plenty Despite the Claim It Does Not

Hello, , from NHERI and Dr. Ray.

The Context

As recent as a few years ago, negative critics of homeschooling and of homeschool advocacy were claiming that research on homeschooling tells us almost nothing. More recently, the criticism of positive claims about homeschooling’s effects has been softened by some. For example, consider the following:
Those claims [“that homeschooling ‘works’ and ‘leads to’ desirable outcomes”] might be true but cannot be supported by analyses of extant empirical evidence.[1]

Regardless of whether these writers’ claim was true in 2013, is there any recent information that tell us anything definite about homeschooling and its effects? Yes, and it reveals more than many critics seem to want to admit.

One Recent Review of Research

Just two months ago, the peer-reviewed Journal of School Choice, published my manuscript entitled “A Systematic Review of the Empirical Research on Selected Aspects of Homeschooling as a School Choice.”[2] The purpose of the article is to give the demographic characteristics of the U.S. homeschooling population and the reasons that parents choose to homeschool, summarize the findings of studies on the homeschool learner outcomes of academic achievement, social development, and success in adulthood, and propose future research on parent-led home-based education.

One of the unique aspects of this review of research is that only peer-reviewed sources are noted and included for the aspect of the review that deals with the selected learner outcomes of academic achievement, social development, and degree of success in adulthood. In this, the purpose is to compare homeschool students to those who were educated in conventional or institutional schools such as traditional public, charter, or private schools.

This is the first review of homeschool research that I know of to use this approach. Using only peer-reviewed studies enhances discipline and consistency in the review. It reduces the opportunity for the reviewer to be arbitrary, capricious, or biased in what is selected for inclusion. Further, it theoretically enhances the methodological soundness of the studies included in the overview, and thus makes the conclusions based on the data more dependable.

In this present news article, today, I will cover only one learner outcome, academic achievement. Future news articles will address other topics presented in this review such as the demographic characteristics of homeschoolers, reasons for homeschooling, social development, and relative success of the homeschooled into college and adulthood.

Research Evidence on the Academic Achievement of the Homeschooled

My literature search resulted in 14 peer-reviewed quantitative studies for
inclusion for the topic of academic achievement. Most of the studies included,
as dependent variables, students’ scores on standardized academic achievement
tests. A summary of the items and their findings is presented in the detailed Table 1 in the journal article.

Six of the 14 peer-reviewed studies were cross-sectional, descriptive, seven were cross-sectional, explanatory in nature, and one was a continuous baseline
probe design. In nonexperimental explanatory research, investigators try
to develop or test a theory about a phenomenon or try to identify the causal

In 11 of the 14 peer-reviewed studies on academic achievement, there was a definite positive effect on achievement for the homeschooled students.

One of the 14 studies showed mixed results; that is, some positive and some negative effects were associated with homeschooling.

One study revealed no difference between the homeschool and conventional
school students, and one study revealed neutral and negative results for
homeschooling compared to conventional schooling.

Both state-provided data sets showed higher than average academic achievement test scores for the home educated.

In the journal article, I provided illustrative descriptions of a few of the studies. Here is one of them:

Ray’s (2015) was the first attempt at a quantitative study assessing the academic achievement of black homeschool children. He collected data from around the country and was able to control for two confounding variables, gender of the student and socioeconomic status of the family. The homeschool students were administered standardized tests by non-family members and their scores were analyzed. The black homeschool children outperformed their black public school peers in the areas of reading, language, math, social studies, and science with large effect sizes of 0.84, 0.90, 0.87, 0.82, and 0.82. Further, the black homeschool children scored the same or higher than all races/ethnicities in the general school-age public.[3]


Let the reader and author of this news article get straight to the point. Does research on homeschooling tells us anything with distinctness, or not? Yes. Increasingly, research points to positive effects being associated with parent-led home-based education.

In 11 of the 14 peer-reviewed studies on academic achievement, there was a definite positive effect on achievement for the homeschooled students. That is, 78% of peer-reviewed studies in existence at the time of the article’s writing showed a statistically significant positive connection with home education. That is not “nothing.” That is not “we can’t say anything.”

Might fewer positive relationships with homeschooling be found in the future? It is possible. Might some negative relationships be found? It is possible. Might the make-up and nature of the homeschool community change? It is possible. As of now, however, some definite positive things interconnected with home-based education are revealed by peer-reviewed empirical studies.

--Brian D. Ray, Ph.D.
National Home Education Research Institute

P.S. If you would like a free copy of my new research article, please contact me at [email protected] and ask for “the JSC article.”

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Keywords, Categories, Tags: homeschooling, home schooling, home education, home-based education, demographics, academic achievement, socialization, social development, adulthood, research, statistics, school choice research.

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Copyright © 2017 by Brian D. Ray


[1] Lubienski, Christopher C.; Puckett, Tiffany; & Brewer, T. Jameson. (2013). Does homeschooling “work”? A critique of the empirical claims and agenda of advocacy organizations. Peabody Journal of Education, 88(3), 378-392.
[2] Ray, Brian D. (2017). A systematic review of the empirical research on selected aspects of homeschooling as a school choice. Journal of School Choice, 11(4), 604-621.
[3] Ray, B. D. (2015). African American homeschool parents’ motivations for homeschooling and their Black children’s academic achievement. Journal of School Choice, 9, 71–96.