Bob Adelmann’s Deceptive Use of Homeschooling Statistics

Bob Adelmann, YouTube screenshot.

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Libby Anne’s blog Love Joy Feminism. It was originally published on Patheos on May 13, 2015 with the title “Can You Be More Deceptive? Homeschool Edition.”

I just came upon an article by Bob Adelmann of the New American discussing U.S. test scores as compared to those in other nations, and then arguing that homeschooling is the solution to U.S. underperformance. I bring it up because it is a really good example of the way some homeschooling parents use bad data and outright lies to argue that homeschooling is academically superior to other methods of instruction.

I was homeschooled from kindergarten through 12th grade. While there were some gaps, I got a pretty good education overall and went on to excel in college. As a homeschool alumna, there is nothing that bothers me more today than people using bad stats and deception to argue that homeschooling is better than public or private schooling when in fact there is no data that actually says this. Accuracy matters, people! Do we really need to lie to make homeschooling look better? Really? 

Okay, end rant. Let’s look at what the piece said:

The recent flurry of test results on how American students are faring in school has resulted in much commentary decrying their dismal performance compared to their international peers.

. . .

This prompted George Nethercutt, a former member of the House of Representatives, to declare that “Americans get an F in civics” in his article in The Hill last week. He asserted, “The findings showed broad failures. If policymakers don’t soon pay attention to such failures, the perpetuation of citizen understanding of the basic concepts of the American system will continue to be at risk.”

. . .

Nethercutt’s conclusion, with himself and his performance in the House as a prime example, is correct: Students with little or no understanding of their history will have little ability to steer the ship of state in a constitutional direction in the future.

That’s why the home-schooling movement is so vital to keeping that ship afloat and away from the shoals of authoritarianism. In another study (that Nethercutt failed to mention) from the DOE’s Educational Resources Information Center, homeschoolers are learning precisely the skills needed:

Homeschool student achievement test scores were exceptionally high. The median scores for every subtest at every grade were well above those of public … school students.

On average, homeschool students in grades one to four performed one grade level above their age-level peers on achievement tests….

Even with a conservative analysis of the data, the achievement levels of the homeschool students in the study were exceptional. Within each grade level and each skill area, the median scores for homeschool students fell between the 70th and 80th percentile of students nationwide….

For younger students, this is a one year lead. By the time homeschool students are in 8th grade, they are four years ahead of their public/private school counterparts. [Emphasis added.]

Nethercutt is a product of the public schools and traditional universities, and so is severely limited in his ability to see what’s really needed in education in America. That’s why his solution misses the mark when he suggests that “all states should adopt basic requirements for graduation.” No, George. States and the federal government should remove themselves from the educational process altogether and allow the home schooling movement to flourish and grow even more rapidly.

At this point you may be curious to which study Adelmann is referring. I was too! Adelmann says the study is “from the DOE’s Educational Resources Information Center” but does not provide its name or link to it. One wonders why.

It turns out that the Department of Education’s Educational Resources Information Center does not conduct research itself, it merely archives digests of existing research conducted by a variety of scholars in a sort of library to make it easier for researchers or policymakers to find information. The study in question is The Scholastic Achievement of Homeschooled Students, by Lawrence Rudner, published in 1999 and funded by a grant from the Home School Legal Defense Association. You can see a digest on ERIC here.

Portraying a study conducted independently from the Department of Education with money from the largest homeschool lobbying group in the country as though it is in fact an official study conducted by the Department of Education is incredibly deceptive. Adelmann doesn’t even give the reader a link where they can go to find out more about how the study is conducted. Given that linking is standard procedure, especially when quoting, I can’t help but see this as intentional deception.

And what does the study itself say? How was it conducted? You can read an overview at the Coalition for Responsible Home Education. In sum, the study was conducted using a volunteer sample, and it does not correct for background factors. To quote the overview linked above:

Rudner’s study tells us essentially nothing about homeschooled high schoolers, children of color, poor children, unschoolers, children with poorly educated parents, children being raised by single parents or by parents who both work, abused or educationally neglected children, or disabled or special needs children. The higher-than-average standardized test scores earned by Rudner’s highly privileged group of homeschoolers are only what we would expect from a study where nearly all disadvantaged children are excluded.

Adelmann makes it sound like the study he is citing proves homeschooling superior to other methods of education, but in fact the study shows only that privileged homeschooled children tend to score well. That’s no surprise, but it’s also no solution for our education system, where the majority of U.S. schoolchildren now live in poverty.

But perhaps what’s most shocking about Adelmann’s use of the Rudner study is this statement by Rudner himself, at the end of his study:

These comparisons between home school students and students nationwide must be interpreted with a great deal of caution. This was not a controlled experiment. Students were not randomly assigned public, private or home schools. As a result, the reported achievement differences between groups do not control for background differences in the home school and general United States population and, more importantly, cannot be attributed to the type of school a child attends. This study does not demonstrate that home schooling is superior to public or private schools. It should not be cited as evidence that our public schools are failing. It does not indicate that children will perform better academically if they are home schooled. The design of this study and the data do not warrant such claims. All the comparisons of home school students with the general population and with the private school population in this report fail to consider a myriad of differences between home school and public school students. We have no information as to what the achievement levels of home school students would be had they been enrolled in public or private schools. This study simply shows that those parents choosing to make a commitment to home schooling are able to provide a very successful academic environment. [emphasis added]

In other words, even Rudner himself did not claim that his study showed that homeschooling was superior to public or private schooling! In fact he insisted that his study did not show that! Rudner argued only that his study shows that homeschooling can work, not that it always does or that it works better than other methods of instruction. Indeed he explicitly stated that his study does not show that children will preform better if they are homeschooled.

In other words, not only did Adelmann act deceptively by portraying Rudner’s HSLDA-funded study as a government study, he used the study’s findings in a way that Rudner explicitly said they should not be used and to mean things Rudner explicitly stated they did not mean. If this isn’t gross deception, I don’t know what is. I am utterly disgusted.

Kevin Swanson on the Gen2 Survey, Homeschooling, and Sexual Abuse of Women

HA note: The following is written by Kathi and reprinted with permission from Julie Anne Smith’s blog Spiritual Sounding Board. It was originally published on March 3, 2015 with the title “Is there a correlation between sexual abuse as an adult and homeschooling?”

About Kathi: Kathi is a Bible-belt midwest transplant to the beautiful Pacific northwest. After homeschooling her kids for 10 years (she decided that high school math and science were not her strongest subjects), both kids are in public school. She is a former church goer and finds herself in that unstudied demographic of middle-aged Nones. She has a B.A. in Urban Ministry and a M.S.W. (Master of Social Work). Her goal is to work with children who have been abused or are in foster care. She loves to knit, cook and read (not in any particular order). Kathi blogs at Moving Beyond Absolutes. Also by Kathi on HA: “Kevin Swanson, Child Abuse, and Dead Little Bunnies” and “A Closer Look at Karen Campbell and Lisa Cherry’s Podcast Series on Sexual Abuse Prevention.”

On February 6th, Christian homeschool leader Kevin Swanson and Steve Vaughn did a radio broadcast entitled, “1/3 of College Women Sexually Abused.” Swanson fails to mention the name of the study referencing this statistic and states that he received an email from his father with a link. The Oregonian reported in September 2014 about a survey done by the University of Oregon in which 35% of the female respondents indicated they had at least one non-consensual sexual contact event. I can only assume that this is the survey to which Swanson is referring.

The title of the radio broadcast is a bit deceiving because it seems that Swanson’s primary purpose was to discuss the findings of the Gen 2 Survey. The discussion of college women being sexually abused occurred in the middle of the broadcast.

Swanson starts off this part of the broadcast by discussing the findings of child sexual abuse in his Gen 2 Survey. Based upon self-report,  6% were primarily homeschooled, 18% were primarily public schooled, and 16% were primarily Christian (private) schooled.

The obvious conclusion of the study was that there is a greater chance of a student being sexually abused if he/she is in (or primarily educated by) public or private school.

Swanson continues by acknowledging that there is anecdotal evidence of child sexual abuse among homeschoolers because of recent stories being told. However, he warns that anecdotal evidence is not equal to statistical evidence, therefore, anecdotal evidence should not be a strong basis for change in public policy. Swanson’s hope is that the Gen 2 Survey will play an important role for family and parental rights in the future.

Moving on, Swanson then talks about the University of Oregon survey. At this point he states, “You wonder why anybody would want to send their daughters to a university like this. They’ve got a 1 in 3 chance of being sexually assaulted.” I fully understand the concern regarding the statistics from the University of Oregon survey. I have a daughter getting ready to go to college in the fall and I find myself feeling like it’s one more thing I have to worry about.

However, Swanson doesn’t end there, he says, “Homeschooling numbers are more attractive to parents who want to protect their daughters.” At this point I see where the conversation is heading. Swanson blames the college culture of sexual revolution, the grey line between consensual sex and rape (huh?), fornication, and students “having sex like rabbits” for the high number of sexual assaults. He compares sending daughters off to college to cohabitating prisons where there is no separation of men and women. In an environment such as this, surely bad things are going to happen. Right? He then suggests that a good way for daughters to attend college is by taking online classes from home. Vaughn chimes in and promotes College Plus, which is a program that is promoted and talked about by a lot of proponents of Patriarchy and the Stay-at-Home Daughter Movement, including Doug Phillips and Voddie Baucham. You can read a little bit more about Voddie Baucham’s daughter and College Plus in this article, Jasmine Baucham, CollegePlus, and Leaving Things Out.

Folks, Kevin Swanson is promoting the stay-at-home daughter movement. Is anyone surprised?

Getting back to the original question related to the correlation between homeschooling and sexual abuse as an adult, Swanson makes one of his generalized statements that makes me so fond of him. In relation to the University of Oregon study he says, “This kind of thing was not happening 20 years ago.” It just so happens, Mr. Swanson, that the Department of Justice issued a special report, “Rape and Sexual Assault Victimization Among College-Age Females, 1995-2013.” (psssttt…1995 was 20 years ago.) This report found that “the rate of rape and sexual assault was 1.2 times higher for non-students (7.6 per 1,000) than for students (6.1 per 1,000).” The report also found that “most (51%) student rape and sexual assault victimizations occurred while the victim was pursuing leisure activities away from home, compared to non-students who were engaged in other activities at home (50%) when the victimization occurred.”

It is interesting that non-students reported that half of the incidents happened at home. How does this look for the stay-at-home daughter movement?

So, Mr. Swanson, it does not seem that there is any correlation between your child sexual abuse statistics for those who were homeschooled and adult college women who are sexually abused. Apparently college-age women can be sexually assaulted whether they are in college or not and whether they are living at home or not. What is comparable, though, is that like most children who are sexually abused, most college-age women who are sexually assaulted know who their offender is.

While I applaud your effort in encouraging homeschoolers to protect their daughters, I’m not buying your push for stay-at-home daughters.

Identity as Means of Control: Results from the 2015 Survey of Identification Abuse Within Homeschooling

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By the HARO Team

The 2015 Survey of Identification Abuse Within Homeschooling is an informal survey conducted by Homeschool Alumni Reaching Out (HARO) of homeschool alumni who experienced identification abuse. HARO’s purpose is to advocate for the wellbeing of homeschool students and improve homeschooling communities through awareness, peer support, and resource development.

Screen Shot 2015-02-18 at 12.55.04 PMWhile this was not a formal survey, our goal is to get a better picture of identification abuse within homeschooling and collect stories about such abuse. Identification abuse, also known as identity or ID abuse, was previously defined by HARO’s 2014 Survey of Adult Alumni of the Modern Christian Homeschool Movement as one’s parent, guardian or primary caretaker “not providing you with, withholding, or destroying any of your identification documents: driver’s license, social security card, etc.” The 2014 survey found that, out of 3703 homeschool alumni, 3.65% (or 135 respondents) experienced some form of identification abuse. There are also a plethora of stores onlinefrom alumni who have experienced this, including high profile cases like Cynthia Jeub and Alecia Pennington. Thus we desired to get better information about this phenomenon.

To take the 2015 survey, respondents had to be at least 18 years of age and have been homeschooled for at least a year. The survey opened on SurveyMonkey on February 12, 2015 and closed on February 17, 2015. 68 individuals took the survey. U.S. states represented by respondents include: Alabama, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin, Other places of residence represented include Nova Scotia and Ontario. Several individuals were also from military families that frequently moved.

To download the results from HARO’s survey, click the link below:

Identity as Means of Control: Results from the 2015 Survey of Identification Abuse Within Homeschooling

Announcing the Results from HARO’s 2014 Survey of Homeschool Alumni

surveycoverHomeschool Alumni Reaching Out is happy to announce the 1st installment of results from our 2014 Survey of Adult Alumni of the Modern Christian Homeschool Movement. Data analysis was generously provided by the amazing team over at the Coalition for Responsible Home Education (CRHE).

About the survey

In 2014, HARO, the parent organization of Homeschoolers Anonymous, conducted a survey of adult alumni of the modern Christian homeschool movement in consultation with CRHE. The purpose of this survey was to investigate the life experiences of Christian homeschool alumni by collecting information that past surveys of homeschool alumni had not. The data collected will be used to advocate for the interests of current and future homeschooled children.

The survey, written by HARO Executive Director R.L. Stollar, was developed over a span of 9 months. Work on the survey began on November 24, 2013 and it was opened to the public on August 18, 2014. A set of approximately 90 initial questions were first created. These questions were then tested, modified, and re‐tested repeatedly over a span of 6 months to create the survey questions that were on the final version. The questions were specifically run by a diverse group of people, including Christians and non‐Christians, conservatives, moderates, and liberals, homeschoolers and unschoolers, and so forth. The final version of the survey featured questions on demographics, academic school experiences, non‐academic school experiences, food and health, religion, present and future personal life plans, sexuality, mental health, and abuse.

The survey, conducted online through SurveyMonkey, was estimated to take respondents 30 minutes to complete. It was first promoted through the homeschool abuse survivor community, from which it spread across the country through online social networks (primarily Facebook). Survey respondents were required to affirm that they were 18 years old or older, had been homeschooled for at least 7 years, were homeschooled in an environment which was classifiable as Christian (including Christian‐influenced new religious movements), and were taking the survey through completion for the first time. A total of 6,249 people started the survey; 3,702 respondents completed the survey before it closed on September 15, 2014. Only the completed responses were recorded and analyzed.

To download the first installment of results from HARO’s survey, click the link below:

A Complex Picture: Results of the 2014 Survey of Adult Alumni of the Modern Christian Homeschool Movement

HARO is extraordinarily grateful to CRHE for donating an immense amount of their time and energy to analyzing the survey data. If you would like to support CRHE’s work, they are currently holding a fundraising drive.

Answering Some Questions About Our Survey

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By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator

On Monday we released the first-ever survey created by alumni of Christian homeschooling for alumni of Christian homeschooling. The 2014 Survey of Adult Alumni of the Modern Christian Homeschool Movement, facilitated by HA’s parent non-profit organization Homeschool Alumni Reaching Out (HARO) in consultation with the Coalition for Responsible Home Education (CRHE), aims to investigate the life experiences of Christian homeschool alumni by collecting information that past surveys of homeschool alumni have not.

The response thus far has been amazing. In just four days over 2,200 individuals have completed the survey. Individuals from every single one of the United States have taken it, as well as individuals from the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. We have also received international responses, including individuals from Australia, Canada, Guatemala, Mexico, New Zealand, Portugal, Russia, Singapore, Spain, South Africa, Thailand, and the United Kingdom.

The survey remains open until Monday, September 15, 2014 at 11:59 pm Pacific time. To qualify to take it, you must be 18 years or older and have been homeschooled for at least 7 years in an environment classifiable as Christian. If you haven’t taken it yet, please do! And share with anyone you know who qualifies!

As the survey has picked up steam, a number of questions seem to be commonly popping up. So I wanted to answer the most common questions here.

Q: Why are you doing the survey?

The most significant alumni survey was from over a decade ago, commissioned by HSLDA and conducted by Brian Ray in 2003. As CRHE has pointed out, it involved a highly selective sample population and has been repeatedly presented in a disingenuous and inaccurate manner. Our goal is to (hopefully) get a more diverse, nuanced, and current look at the Christian homeschool alumni population. We also are interested in data points that previous surveys have never researched.

Q: Why is the survey limited to Christian homeschool alumni with 7 or more years of homeschooling?

The survey is limited in a number of ways simply because we need some basic parameters. We in no way believe that you must be homeschooled for at least 7 years to be an “alumni,” or to be impacted significantly (whether positively or negatively) by homeschooling. The last large survey of homeschool alumni (the aforementioned 2003 survey) was limited to alumni with at least 7 years’ experiences. Since we want our survey to provide a more up-to-date counter-balance to the 2003 survey, we decided to limit ourselves to the same experiential time length.

Q: Why is the survey limited to alumni of Christian homeschooling?

Only because it’s our area of experiential expertise as individuals and our focus as an organization! As the author of the survey, I was homeschooled K-12 in the Christian homeschool movement and I have limited firsthand knowledge of non-religious homeschool subcultures. I wanted to keep the survey as focused and accurate as possible — and to do that, I had to limit the survey to experiences and groups I know. That said, HARO would be 100% interested in doing a survey for alumni of non-religious homeschooling. So if you are such an alum, and would be interested in consulting with us and sharing your experiential expertise, please feel free to email us at homeschoolersanonymous@gmail.com. We would be happy to pursue the possibility of such a project.

Q: THIS SURVEY IS NOT REPRESENTATIVE.

So this isn’t a question, really. It’s more just a statement that a number of people seem to throw at the survey in an attempt to “discredit” it.

My response is: The very first page of the survey says, “As we are not randomly sampling the population, our results will be descriptive rather than representative.” So we state this fact upfront. For any survey to be representative of any given population, you need to have a random sample of that population. That is nearly impossible to obtain with the homeschooling population. Every survey conducted by Brian Ray’s NHERI and HSLDA are just as non-representative as ours. The difference is that, unlike Ray and HSLDA (usually), we will not pretend our data is representative. Hence our being upfront on the very first page that our survey’s results will be descriptive.

Q: Why do you ask “what gender were you assigned at birth?” rather than “what is your gender?” Or to put this in the remarkable language of one respondent, “F*ckin’ seriously? Why phrase it like that, p*ssies? I’m a male.”

Numerous individuals do not identify with the gender assigned to them at birth. You can take that as some sort of ideology and/or you can take it as the simple recognition that intersex and transgender individuals exist. We are not interested in erasing either of those populations — both because we object to such erasure inherently and because erasure will lead to less accurate data.

Intersex individuals, according to the Intersex Society of North America, are “born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t seem to fit the typical definitions of female or male.” Thus some are literally assigned a gender that does not necessarily correlate to stereotypes about physical anatomy. And yes, there are intersex homeschool alumni. Several of them have taken our survey. There might even be intersex students in your homeschool community right now. (Does your community daily erase their existence? Have ever you thought about that?)

Transgender individuals are, according to GLAAD, “people whose gender identity differs from what is typically associated with the sex they were assigned at birth.” Now, we desire to respect individuals’ gender identities. You might not. But the statistical reason why we ask the question the way we do is because simply asking a transgender person, “What is your gender?” (or as one respondent suggested, “the gender God created me as”) will not give us the data we are looking for. A transgender individual will answer that question with the gender they identify with, and not necessarily the gender they were assigned at birth. Our survey has a number of goals, and one of those goals is to analyze homeschool alumni experiences based on gender roles placed on children growing up. So regardless of what gender people now identify with, we need to ask this particular question in a way that (1) respects the existence of intersex and transgender individuals and (2) gives us the specific answers we need to do our analysis accurately.

Q: Aren’t the creators of the survey just angry ex-homeschoolers?

Well, I am the author of the survey. Let me introduce myself: My name is Ryan Stollar. I was homeschooled my entire life. I had a generally positive experience. I was a national award-winning high school debater. I got to tour the United States throughout high school and make friends all over the country. I have a B.A. and an M.A. I love my family. They have shown me that unconditional love is a reality. My family is also very supportive of HA and HARO: my dad is proud of what I do, my mom has contributed a post to HAmy older brother has contributed a post to HA, and my younger sister has promoted this survey. So no, the creator of the survey is not an angry ex-homeschooler. Get your facts right.

Q: What’s with the question about BDSM/kink?

Sorry to burst anyone’s bubble, but the answer to this question is quite simple: In some of our homeschool alumni communities, numerous conversations about BDSM/kink have arisen. A decent number of people seem attracted to or interested in such lifestyles and activities. I was merely curious to get data about it and see if there are any trends. Plus, it is a question that is never on surveys like these. Questions about frequency of porn use are rather popular on surveys of evangelicals, for example. Those questions have been done so many times and in so many ways. We would not be examining anything new. But I have never seen a survey address BDSM/kink. So that’s what’s up.

Q: What are you going to do with the data?

HARO as an organization is interested in using the data for educational purposes. For example: There are questions about if you struggle with mental health issues. What we are not going to do is make arguments like, “Homeschooling leads to _____.” Rather, we are interested in using the data to help educate and improve homeschooling communities. The data gives us information to say things like, “Out of this group of x many alumni who responded to the survey, z many have dealt with mental illness in their lives. One of the most common mental health conditions was q.” Such statistics can help tailor what sort of resources we focus on for HARO’s website, focus our efforts on educating homeschooling communities about the most common mental illnesses homeschool alumni deal with, etc.

Or take the abuse section, as another example: We’re not trying to — and honestly, we can’t without a representative sample — say how common abuse is in homeschooling. But we can say, “Out of this group, x many people have dealt with abuse in their homes, or even outside their homes, or knew people who were abused.” This data can help us communicate the importance of homeschooling communities creating homeschool co-op child abuse policies, educating people about the fact that abuse happens to homeschoolers (regardless of if it’s related to homeschooling), etc.

Q: Are you going to cast evil spells on the data so that it says things it doesn’t say?

No.

Q: ARE YOU TRYING TO BAN HOMESCHOOLING?

No.

If you have any other questions about the survey, feel free to email us at homeschoolersanonymous@gmail.com! And don’t forget to take and share the survey!

Calling All Alumni of Christian Homeschooling: We Have A Survey For You!

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By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator

Homeschool Alumni Reaching Out (HARO), HA’s parent non-profit organization, is happy to announce our first-ever comprehensive survey: the 2014 Survey of Adult Alumni of the Modern Christian Homeschool Movement. This survey is open to any adult homeschool alumni (18 years old or older) raised in a Christian homeschool environment.

For the purposes of this survey, “alumni” designates everyone homeschooled for the majority of their K-12 education; in other words, for at least 7 years. The survey is open to anyone in that category, whether your experience was positive or negative and whether you are still a Christian or not. By “Christian,” we are including the broadest possible definition, including Christian-identified new religious movements.

The purpose of the survey is to investigate the life experiences of Christian homeschool alumni by collecting information that past surveys of homeschool alumni have not. We have done our very best to create fair, balanced questions without any leading or attempts to skew results. All results will be anonymous and used for informational purposes only.

If you are an adult alumni of this movement, we would greatly appreciate your involvement. We would also love for you to share the survey with your friends and former homeschool peers through word of mouth and social media. The more responses, the better!

Go to www.HomeschoolAlum.com to learn more and take the survey!

When Precision is a Red Pen

Heather Doney is the Executive Director of the Coalition for Responsible Home Education and blogs at Becoming Worldly.

As someone who has been studying and working on homeschooling issues from an academic as well as personal angle and who recently co-founded the Coalition for Responsible Home Education (CRHE), I want to say that Benjamin Keil makes some good points in “A Call for Precision”. He makes good points about the plural of anecdote not being data and also how we want to avoid confusing different types of arguments or reasoning for one another. I also think that Sarah Henderson made some good points, too.

We are talking about, within, and to a group of people who often suffered educational neglect. I know I did. Some people have been able to largely overcome it. I too have a masters degree today. Some have not. We want to be very careful not to intimidate anyone or make them feel like their story or perspective is not “correct” or “educated” enough to be told.

This is a place for people to tell their stories as they see them through their own eyes and for others to provide feedback and support, not judgement or academic critique.

So while I am working with a team of former homeschoolers who are trying to do our best to get the quantitative data we have (which is slim) all in one place and collect and share the qualitative data (which is just coming together), fact is we (and by this I mean all of us) do not have the kind of data to know how abuse and neglect in homeschooling compares to that occurring in other educational settings. It is a question to be answered, a known unknown. We just know that it happens and that there are some really bad cases and the watered down or nonexistent laws on homeschooling in many states don’t pass a basic common sense smell test.

I also think it is instinct for people to use the info they have and generalize based on their social milieu. It happens a lot, annoying social science researchers everywhere, since we want to measure and quantify.

But is a natural human tendency.

So I think Keil’s points would have been stronger if he had noted that homeschool parents who keep saying “these stories are rare” and “most homeschoolers are ______” really need to notice that they do this way too much, that it isn’t helping, and they need to knock it off. A really good example of exactly what we don’t need any more of: this post in Christianity Today.

“Anecdote passed off as data” doesn’t make for an airtight case if anyone does it and frankly so many of us have had to sit by and have our experiences silenced and dismissed while homeschool parents and leaders got a pass for this sort of nonsense for years. The “data” collected by Brian Ray’s NHERI was spread around in the media and the homeschool community as proof of homeschooling’s excellence across the board.

As a matter of fact, Ray’s “Strengths of Their Own” study isn’t proof of anything except that self-selected participants in a survey (with just under a 30% response rate, I might add) of white, middle and upper middle class Christian homeschool families usually do pretty good. I could do a voluntary study of prep school kids, say they represented American students as a whole, and it would be much the same kind of result.

Which is to say it is not an accurate depiction of the population at all.

My initial thoughts from combing through the quantitative and qualitative data available and also running a support group are that it seems that homeschools aren’t too different from public school in terms of us having “haves” and “have-nots.” The difference is we pretend our have nots just don’t exist because we don’t measure them. There are generally no mechanisms in place to shut down failing homeschools or fire failing or abusive homeschooling teachers.

Because there seems to be this huge socio-economic status/class difference in homeschool student experiences and outcomes, we will need to pay a lot more attention to that gap before any of us do any more generalizing about what homeschooling as a whole is and isn’t. We also need to make sure we leave wide open spaces where people can safely tell their stories without worrying that the rest of us will be judgy perfectionists or parse it apart harshly.

Even if we are well-meaning in taking the red pen to someone else’s story and perspective, that can be very intimidating and used as a means to quiet their voice.

Too many of us have already had more than enough of that happen in our lives and don’t need any more. So I want to say that while I want solid arguments and good data as much as the next person, even more than that I want people to feel free to tell their own story and share where they see it fitting into the whole. After all, it is because a growing group of people are telling their first-person stories that we are even discussing the need for data in the first place.

Stories are powerful things.

Results of HA Basic Survey, Part Five: Fundamentalism as a Factor in Educational Quality, Abuse, and Other Areas

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Results of HA Basic Survey, Part Five: Fundamentalism as a Factor in Educational Quality, Abuse, and Other Areas

Whether or not respondents were homeschooled in a fundamentalist Christian environment made the most dramatic differences in both educational quality and abuse. The results are fascinating. There are also interesting differences between fundamentalist environments and non-fundamentalist environments concerning HSLDA membership, parental education, and the current level of respondent education.

Before continuing, it is important to note once again that this survey is self-selected and should not be construed as representative of anything other than the 242 respondents that took this survey.

Fundamentalism and HSLDA Membership

While the Home School Legal Defense Association claims to defend any and all homeschoolers, it has a reputation as a conservative fundamentalist organization. There is a plethora of documentation concerning HSLDA’s projects that fall outside mere advocacy for the legality of homeschooling. Those projects are traditional, conservative fundamentalist projects, such as opposition to same-sex marriage and UN treaties as well as support for candidates like Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum.

Considering that context, it is interesting to note that — for respondents — membership in HSLDA did not rise or fall according to whether a family was fundamentalist or non-fundamentalist.

For respondents who grew up in fundamentalist Christian families, the following was true:

  1. 56.22% said their families were directly members of HSLDA.
  2. 14.05% said their families were indirectly members of HSLDA through dues paid to a homeschool organization.
  3. 29.75% said their families were not members of HSLDA.

For respondents who grew up in non-fundamentalist Christian families, the following was true:

  1. 70.97% said their families were directly members of HSLDA.
  2. 9.68% said their families were indirectly members of HSLDA through dues paid to a homeschool organization.
  3. 19.35% said their families were not members of HSLDA.

In our pool of respondents, therefore, there was not that much of a difference in HSLDA membership (approximately only 5%) between fundamentalist and non-fundamentalist families. Furthermore, the percentage of HSLDA members among non-fundamentalist families was slightly higher. 

Fundamentalism and Parental Education

The level of education achieved by the primary teachers of respondents was slightly higher among non-fundamentalist Christian families compared to fundamentalist ones.

For respondents who grew up in fundamentalist Christian families, the following was true concerning the highest level of education of their primary teacher:

  1. 4.32% had no high school diploma or GED.
  2. 15.14% had a high school diploma or GED.
  3. 23.78% had some college but no degree.
  4. 41.62% had an associates or undergraduate degree.
  5. 15.14% had a graduate degree or higher.

For respondents who grew up in non-fundamentalist Christian families, the following was true concerning the highest level of education of their primary teacher:

  1. 12.12% had a high school diploma or GED.
  2. 21.21% had some college but no degree.
  3. 45.45% had an associates or undergraduate degree.
  4. 21.21% had a graduate degree or higher.

Whether respondents grew up in fundamentalist or non-fundamentalist families, that did not seem to significantly increase the highest level of parental education of the primary teachers.

There are a few differences — for example, all respondents that grew up in non-fundamentalist families had a teacher that at least had a high school diploma or GED (compared to 4.32% without them in fundamentalist families). Also, the level of education did increase slightly: there were more teachers with college or graduate degrees in non-fundamentalist families, but only by a few percentage points.

Fundamentalism and Respondent Education

Whereas the level of parental education did not change much between non-fundamentalist and fundamentalist Christian families, the highest level of education that respondents personally achieved did change in noticeable ways.

For respondents who grew up in fundamentalist Christian families, the following was true concerning the highest level of education they personally achieved:

  1. 4.84% have no high school diploma or GED.
  2. 3.23% have a GED but no high school diploma.
  3. 8.06% have a high school diploma.
  4. 23.66% have some college but no degree (this includes the 2.69%, or “Other,” which fit the “some college” category).
  5. 38.17% have an associates or undergraduate degree.
  6. 18.28% have a masters-level degree.
  7. 3.76% have a PhD-level degree.

For respondents who grew up in non-fundamentalist Christian families, the following was true concerning the highest level of education they personally achieved:

  1. 18.18% have some college but no degree (this includes the 3.03%, or “Other,” which fit the “some college” category).
  2. 54.55% have an associates or undergraduate degree.
  3. 12.12% have a masters-level degree.
  4. 15.15% have a PhD-level degree.

This means that 100% of respondents from non-fundamentalist families have some level of college education, compared to 83.87% of respondents from fundamentalist ones.

Indeed, among respondents from non-fundamentalist families, the first three categories — (1) no high school diploma or GED, (2) GED but no high school diploma, and (3) high school diploma — disappeared. All numbers began with at least “some college.”

This also means that 81.82% of respondents from non-fundamentalist families have a college degree or higher, compared to only 60.21% of respondents from fundamentalist ones.

Fundamentalism and Educational Quality

How respondents rated the quality of their educational experiences  dramatically changed when results were filtered by fundamentalist versus non-fundamentalist environments. Indeed, the changes are striking.

Respondents from fundamentalist Christian families gave their homeschool experiences — in totality — an average score of 2.81, less than the median score of “So-so”:

Filtered by fundamentalist. 2013 Homeschoolers Anonymous Basic Survey.
Filtered by fundamentalist. 2013 Homeschoolers Anonymous Basic Survey.

Respondents from non-fundamentalist Christian families their homeschool experiences — in totality — an average score of 4.2, higher than the base score for “Adequate.” The visual difference here is striking:

Filtered by non-fundamentalist. 2013 Homeschoolers Anonymous Basic Survey.
Filtered by non-fundamentalist. 2013 Homeschoolers Anonymous Basic Survey.

This is an increase of almost one and half points between fundamentalist and non-fundamentalist respondent groups. This is one of the most significant increases seen in this survey yet.

Fundamentalism and Abuse

While the difference in educational quality between respondents from fundamentalist families and non-fundamentalist families was striking, the difference in experiences of abuse is even more so. Indeed, the difference in experiences of abuse is the most glaring of all of the results from this survey.

The majority of respondents from fundamentalist Christian families (71.2%) experienced one or more forms of abuse.

The most common forms were emotional abuse (61.41% experienced this), verbal abuse (52.72%), religious abuse (46.74%), and physical abuse (33.70%). This means that the majority of respondents from fundamentalist Christian families experienced emotional and verbal abuse.

Filtered by fundamentalist. 2013 Homeschoolers Anonymous Basic Survey.
Filtered by fundamentalist. 2013 Homeschoolers Anonymous Basic Survey.

The overwhelming majority of respondents from non-fundamentalist Christian families (93.55%) did not experience abuse. 

Whereas 61.41% of respondents from fundamentalist Christian families experienced emotional abuse, only 6.45% of respondents from non-fundamentalist families did. Whereas 46.74% of respondents from fundamentalist Christian families experienced religious abuse, only 3.23% of respondents from non-fundamentalist families did. Whereas 33.7% of respondents from fundamentalist Christian families experienced physical abuse, only 3.23% of respondents from non-fundamentalist families did.

Filtered by non-fundamentalist. 2013 Homeschoolers Anonymous Basic Survey.
Filtered by non-fundamentalist. 2013 Homeschoolers Anonymous Basic Survey.

As this is — once again — a self-selected survey, these results do not accurately represent the frequency of educational quality and abuse in fundamentalist or non-fundamentalist Christian homeschool families. The results do suggest, however, that fundamentalism is a highly significant factor in the quality of education and the experiences of abuse for the adult graduates of the Christian homeschool movement that took this survey.

In fact, fundamentalism is the most significant factor thus far.

*****

< Part Four: Parental Education as a Factor | Part Six: HSLDA Membership as a Factor >

2013 HA Basic Survey: Main Page

Results of HA Basic Survey, Part Four: Parental Education as a Factor in Educational Quality, Abuse, and Current Religious Beliefs

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Results of HA Basic Survey, Part Four: Parental Education as a Factor in Educational Quality, Abuse, and Current Religious Beliefs

In every one of the following categories — educational quality, abuse, and current religious beliefs — parental education seemed to correlate to a decrease or increase. As parental education increased, the following consistently occurred: the quality of education improved, abuse decreased, and homeschool experiences were less likely to have influenced respondents’ current religious beliefs. Also, as parental education increased, those who experienced a fundamentalist Christian environment decreased.

Parental Education and Educational Quality

Averaging the scores for all aspects, respondents gave their educational experience a score of 3.06, slightly above the median score category of “So-so.”

When the primary teacher had no high school diploma or GED, respondents’ scores for their educational experience averaged at 2.21.

When the primary teacher had a high school diploma or GED, respondents’ scores for their educational experience averaged at 2.74.

When the primary teacher had some college education but no degree, respondents’ scores for their educational experience averaged at 2.76.

When the primary teacher had an associates or undergraduate degree, respondents’ scores for their educational experience averaged at 3.23.

When the primary teacher had a graduate degree or higher, respondents’ scores for their educational experience averaged at 3.47.

There is a significant decrease in expressed educational quality from respondents whose primary teachers had a graduate degree to those who primary teachers had no degree or diploma whatsoever — a decrease of 1.26 points. Not only that, but perceived educational quality consistently decreased as parental education decreased.

Notable areas in which educational quality dropped significantly are: (1) socialization, dropping from 3.63 (graduate degree or higher) to 2.62 (high school diploma or GED) and ending at 1.78 (no high school diploma or GED); (2) college prep, dropping from 3.51 (graduate degree or higher) to 3.0 (high school diploma or GED) and ending at 2.11 (no high school diploma or GED); and (3) intangibles in general, dropping from 3.66 (graduate degree or higher) to 2.63 (high school diploma or GED) and ending at 1.67 (no high school diploma or GED)

Parental Education and Abuse

The majority of respondents (60.92%) experienced one or more forms of abuse in their homes or homeschooling environments. 

2013 Homeschoolers Anonymous Basic Survey.
2013 Homeschoolers Anonymous Basic Survey.

When the primary teacher had no high school diploma or GED, the percentage of respondents who experienced abuse was 88.89%.

When the primary teacher had a high school diploma or GED, the percentage of respondents who experienced abuse was 75.53%.

When the primary teacher had some college education but no degree, the percentage of respondents who experienced abuse was 70.37%.

When the primary teacher had an associates or undergraduate degree, the percentage of respondents who experienced abuse was 56.12%.

When the primary teacher had a graduate degree or higher, the percentage of respondents who experienced abuse was 41.46%.

This is a remarkable drop in experiences of abuse from respondents whose primary teachers had graduate degrees or higher to respondents whose primary teachers had no degree or diploma. This is a decrease of 47.43% in experiences of abuse.

Notable areas in which abuse increased significantly as parental education decreased are: (1) physical abuse, increasing from 17.07% (graduate degree or higher) to 35.29% (high school diploma or GED) and ending at 77.78% (no high school diploma or GED); (2) verbal abuse, increasing from 21.95% (graduate degree or higher) to 61.76% (high school diploma or GED) and ending at 88.89% (no high school diploma or GED); and (3) emotional abuse, increasing from 34.15% (graduate degree or higher) to 58.82% (high school diploma or GED) and ending at 88.89% (no high school diploma or GED)

Parental Education and Current Religious Beliefs

The majority of respondents (78.84%) said their homeschool experience was fundamentalist Christian. 

The overwhelming majority of respondents (92.53%) believe that their homeschool experience influenced what they believe today about religion.

When the primary teacher had no high school diploma or GED, the percentage of respondents who said their homeschool experience was fundamentalist Christian was 100%. Also, the percentage of respondents who believe that their homeschool experience influenced what they believe today about religion was 100%.

When the primary teacher had a high school diploma or GED, the percentage of respondents who said their homeschool experience was fundamentalist Christian was 85.29%. Also, the percentage of respondents who believe that their homeschool experience influenced what they believe today about religion was 97.06%.

When the primary teacher had some college education but no degree, the percentage of respondents who said their homeschool experience was fundamentalist Christian was 81.48%. Also, the percentage of respondents who believe that their homeschool experience influenced what they believe today about religion was 94.44%.

When the primary teacher had an associates or undergraduate degree, the percentage of respondents who said their homeschool experience was fundamentalist Christian was 77.44%. Also, the percentage of respondents who believe that their homeschool experience influenced what they believe today about religion was 92.16%.

When the primary teacher had a graduate degree or higher, the percentage of respondents who said their homeschool experience was fundamentalist Christian was 68.3%. Also, the percentage of respondents who believe that their homeschool experience influenced what they believe today about religion was 85.37%.

The strongest sense of correlation between parental education and current religious beliefs concerned those respondents that have turned their backs on Christianity in favor of agnosticism, atheism, or another religion.

Keep in mind here that the primary teachers of the overwhelming majority of respondents were their mothers. Mothers were the primary teachers of 80.91% (195) of the graduates. 

2013 Homeschoolers Anonymous Basic Survey.
2013 Homeschoolers Anonymous Basic Survey.

When the primary teacher had no high school diploma or GED, the percentage of respondents who turned their backs on Christianity was 88.88%.

When the primary teacher had a high school diploma or GED, the percentage of respondents who turned their backs on Christianity was 44.13%.

When the primary teacher had some college education but no degree, the percentage of respondents who turned their backs on Christianity was 42.59%.

When the primary teacher had an associates or undergraduate degree, the percentage of respondents who turned their backs on Christianity was 33.33%.

When the primary teacher had a graduate degree or higher, the percentage of respondents who turned their backs on Christianity was 14.64%.

(The category descriptions in the pictures above get cut off, so see Part Two for a reminder of what each category is.)

A correlation seems to exist, therefore, between how educated primary teachers — interestingly, mothers for 80.91% of respondents — are and whether respondents retained their Christian beliefs.

*****

< Part Three: Economics as a Factor | Part Five: Fundamentalism as a Factor >

2013 HA Basic Survey: Main Page

Results of HA Basic Survey, Part Three: Economics as a Factor in Educational Quality, Abuse, and Current Religious Beliefs

Screen Shot 2013-09-28 at 9.19.55 PM

Results of HA Basic Survey, Part Three: Economics as a Factor in Educational Quality, Abuse, and Current Religious Beliefs

Economics and Educational Quality

Averaging the scores for all aspects, respondents gave their educational experience a score of 3.06, barely above the median score category of “So-so.”

For the lower class, the average score was 2.71, below “So-so.”

For the middle class, the average score was 3.10, above “So-so” and slightly above the average for all class scores.

For the upper class, the average score was 3.37, well above “So-so.”

Certain aspects of homeschool experiences were significantly different between economic classes. For example, Math was ranked by those in the lower class at 2.83; this significantly increased in the middle class to 3.39, and to 3.89 in the upper class. Similarly, Science was ranked by those in the lower class at 2.48; this significantly increased in the middle class to 2.81, and to 3.39 in the upper class.

Certain aspects of homeschool experiences did not change much regardless of economics. Sex education, for example, stayed within a narrow range between “Inadequate” and “So-so.” The lower class ranked it at 2.02, the middle class at 2.23, and the upper class at 2.5. The same occurred with political diversity: lower class ranked it at 2.05, middle class at 2.36, and upper class at 2.61.

In general, every single aspect of respondents’ experiences seemed to improved as wealth increased.

The only exception to this, interestingly, is socialization.

The lower class ranked socialization at 2.76; this increased to 3.14 in the middle class. But then it decreased to 3.11 in the upper class.

The most telling way in which economics related to educational quality is in the scores for the category Academic Experiences (As A Whole). The lower class rated their homeschool experiences in totality at 2.98, the middle class at 3.44, and the upper class at 3.96. That is an increase in nearly an entire point between the lower class and the upper class, raising the quality of the academic experience from “So-So” to “Adequate.”

Economics and Abuse

In contrast to educational quality, abuse did not seem to necessarily correlate to a decrease or increase in wealth for respondents.

The average for all economic classes for those that experienced abuse in their home or homeschooling environment was 60.92%.

The average for the lower class for those that experienced abuse in their home or homeschooling environment was 73.81%. The average for the middle class for those that experienced abuse in their home or homeschooling environment was 57.49%.The average for the upper class for those that experienced abuse in their home or homeschooling environment was 60.71%.

There was a substantial decrease in abuse (of 16.32%) moving from the lower class to the middle class. That decrease did not continue, however, moving from the middle class to the upper class. Rather, abuse increased (by 3.22%) from the middle class to the upper class. Thus there did not seem to be a direct correlation between wealth and the frequency of abuse in general.

Some specific forms of abuse, however, did seem to correlate with wealth. For example, economic abuse decreased as wealth increased: from the lower class (40.48%) to the middle class (23.95%) to the upper class (17.86%).

Medical abuse also decreased as wealth increased, and in fact was non-existent in the upper class: from the lower class (30.95%) to the middle class (10.78%) to the upper class (0%).

Educational abuse also decreased as wealth increased: from the lower class (40.48%) to the middle class (20.96%) to the upper class (14.29%).

Emotional and verbal abuse were the main categories in which abuse did not consistently decrease as wealth increased. Each decreased from the lower class to the middle class, but then increased from the middle class to the upper class: Emotional abuse went from 66.67% (lower) down to 48.5% (middle) and then up to 53.57%. Verbal abuse went from 59.52% (lower) down to 41.92% (middle) and then up to 42.86% (upper).

Thus while specific forms of abuse did correlate to a decrease or increase in wealth, this fact was not consistent enough to generalize a direct correlation. In fact, several forms of abuse increased in frequency from the middle class to the upper class.

That said, what can be generalized is that abuse was consistently the highest in families in the lower class or below the poverty line.

Filtered by lower class. 2013 Homeschoolers Anonymous Basic Survey.
Filtered by lower class. 2013 Homeschoolers Anonymous Basic Survey.

Economics and Current Religious Beliefs

78.84% of respondents said their homeschool experience involved fundamentalist Christianity.

This number was highest in the lower class, at 88.1%, dropping to 77.77% in the middle class.

This number was then lowest in the upper class, at 71.42%. So while the overwhelming majority of respondents grew up in fundamentalist Christian environments regardless of economic class, those environments were slightly less fundamentalist as wealth increased.

The most interesting trends, as far as a correlation between economics and current religious beliefs are concerned, is the percentage of respondents who grew up in fundamentalist Christian environments and then left Christianity for agnosticism, atheism, or another religion (cited were Paganism and Satanism).

In the upper class, only 24.99% believed their fundamentalist Christian homeschool experience influenced them towards agnosticism, atheism, or another religion. This increased to 35.08% in the middle class.

In the lower class, 45.24% believed their fundamentalist Christian homeschool experience influenced them towards agnosticism, atheism, or another religion. 

Filtered by lower class. 2013 Homeschoolers Anonymous Basic Survey.
Filtered by lower class. 2013 Homeschoolers Anonymous Basic Survey.

That is approximately 20% more than those in the upper class (and 10% more than those in the middle class) influenced towards agnosticism, atheism, or another religion.

These findings seem to suggest that, as wealth decreases, fundamentalist Christianity in homeschooling experiences increases — but only slightly so. However, as wealth decreases, the number of respondents — with fundamentalist Christian environments — turning their backs on Christianity significantly increases.

*****

< Part Two: Summary of Findings | Part Four: Parental Education as a Factor >

2013 HA Basic Survey: Main Page