Homeschooling by the Numbers

female teacher writing various high school maths and science formula

There are so many fun and adventurous stories about homeschooling and homeschoolers, and I do love to share those, but there are also “numbers people” out there, who want facts and statistics. So today’s post is for them.

Please be aware that it takes several years for statistics to be compiled, and studies aren’t done every year, so some of these numbers may be older than you’d like. If I could offer an antidote to that it would be to enter your own homeschooled child into a contest and to promote homeschooling in the community, so that more people will be interested in learning more about homeschooling, which will produce more statistics, enticing more researchers to study homeschooling.

The big news is that homeschoolers have tended to do very well in national contests. Despite the fact that homeschoolers make up a mere 2-3 percent of students in the US, they typically make up 10-15 percent of National Spelling Bee contestants, 12 percent of Spelling Bee finalists and 5 percent of National Geography Bee finalists.

In 1997, the first homeschooled student won the Spelling Bee and in 1999, the first homeschooled student won the National Geography Bee. Between that time and 2009, five homeschoolers won the spelling bee and five won the geography bee.

2000 was a banner year, as homeschooolers earned first, second, and third place in the Spelling Bee, and the first place winner of the Spelling Bee also took second place in the National Geography Bee.

In 2002, the homeschooled champion of the geography bee was 10 years old, the youngest in that event’s history. And in 2008, a homeschooler placed first in the National Geography Bee and another was the runner-up in the National Spelling Bee.

In 2007 homeschoolers took top honors in four major academic competitions: The National Geographic Bee, the National Spelling Bee, the Intel International Science & Engineering Fair, and the first GSN National Vocabulary Championship, while in the 2009 National Bible Bee, 300 national qualifiers were chosen from among 17,000 entrants; 89% of those qualifiers were homeschoolers, and all nine of the finalists were homeschooled.

These are some pretty exciting statistics.

But what about your run-of-the-mill academic achievement? Progress Report 2009, conducted by Brian Ray, PhD, of the National Home Education Research Institute, evaluated over 11,000 homeschooled students, and discovered that K–12 homeschoolers scored an average of 37 percentile points above the national average on standardized achievement tests. Interestingly, non-white students enjoy an even greater boost, as a 2015 study (as noted by Dr. Ray in a 2016 article) found that black homeschooled students scored between 23-42 percentile points above black public school students.

Homeschoolers do well in college, too. According to the study “Exploring Academic Outcomes of Homeschooled Students” by Michael F. Cogan, published in the “Journal of College Admission” in 2010, homeschool students had better first and fourth year GPAs and a better 4-year graduation rate than public, private or Catholic school students, and a better college retention rate than public or private students. Cogan also found that the average ACT scores of homeschool students were better.  You can see the study here:

Life isn’t all about school, though, and if you homeschool for more than three minutes you will hear the dreaded question: “What about socialization?” Yes, what about it? Well, homeschoolers do pretty well in that regard as well.

A July 2000 a study was conducted by the Seattle-based Discovery Institute, in which counselors watched videotapes of homeschooled and schooled children playing.  The counselors did not know which children were homeschooled and which were traditionally schooled. The consensus: homeschool students exhibited fewer behavioral problems than the students who attended school.

In 2003, Dr. Ray, (see Progress Report 2009, above), conducted a study for Home School Legal Defense Association entitled “Homeschooling Grows Up”. This study found that there was virtually no area of adult life in which homeschoolers did not excel. A pdf of the study can be found here:

If you would prefer an international perspective, check out “Fifteen Years Later: Home-Educated Canadian Adults” from the Canadian Centre for Home Education, published in 2009. They discovered that “successful, happy, and self-sufficient adults who had been homeschooled once again proved to the world that homeschoolers really can live long and prosper”. For a pdf of that study, go here:

There are a lot of names, numbers and studies here. Which is exactly what “numbers people” want… you’re welcome. But for you others, it might seem a little confusing. Here is the summary, however: homeschoolers do just fine. They do well academically; they do well socially; and they lead well-rounded lives. And isn’t that really all we could want for our children.

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