Not All Homeschoolers Are Religious (But Many Are)

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HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Libby Anne’s blog Love Joy Feminism. It was originally published on Patheos on May 14, 2014.

Sometimes I feel like I have to play this thing from both sides.

When I and other bloggers talk about some of the problems in the conservative Christian homeschooling subculture, we are informed by secular homeschool parents that not all homeschoolers are religious, and in fact that religious homeschoolers are just a minority today and not really a problem to be worried about. Well yes, we know that not all homeschoolers are religious. However, it’s a simple fact that many—perhaps even the majority—are.

When I read comments on mainstream news articles about things like Clare being kicked out of her homeschool prom for her dress, I see individuals who assume that all homeschoolers are religious, that all homeschooling is about religious indoctrination, and that homeschooling should therefore be shut down plain and simple. This is not helpful and certainly not true. There are secular homeschool leaders, textbooks, support groups, and conventions. A significant and growing percentage of homeschoolers are not religious homeschoolers.

And here I am, caught in the middle of misperceptions on both sides.

There is a lot I could say here, but I think it might just be simplest to quote from information put out by the Coalition for Responsible Home Education. This passage comes from “Reasons Parents Homeschool,” a page on the organization’s website.

Sociological research on homeschool families and their motivations, practices, and characteristics suggests that, going back as far as the late 1970s and early 1980s, there have been two main groups of homeschooling parents. First are evangelical and fundamentalist Christians who want to give their children a Christian education, and second are progressives who believe that formal schooling stifles children’s natural creativity and that education takes place best outside of the classroom. Throughout the past three decades, these two groups have coexisted in what sociologists and historians have described as an often uneasy tension. While the two groups at times cooperated, they also each created their own local, state, and national homeschool groups, conferences, and organizations. Research suggests that those with religious motivations have been the larger group by far since the 1980s, and that this group has also been the more successful at networking and building organizations and infrastructure.

Recent work suggests that these two groups continue to exist with very similar motivations and characteristics as in the past. Many parents today continue to homeschool for religious reasons, and religious homeschool curriculum is common. Conservative evangelical speakers teaching the supreme importance of the family and the scientific reality of creationism make their rounds speaking at homeschool conventions and before homeschool audiences across the country. At the same time, progressive educational reformers such as John Taylor Gatto speak at “unschooling” conferences and gatherings, encouraging parents to forgo classrooms and textbooks and engage in radically child-led learning.

Even as many parents continue to homeschool for religious or pedagogical reasons, recent sociological work suggests that an increasing number of parents are choosing homeschooling for purely pragmatic reasons: because the academic quality of the local schools leaves something to be desired, or because of bullying or health problems. Some families homeschool in order to be closer as a family, or simply so that children may have access to an individualized education. While homeschooling in the past has often been an act of religious or pedagogical protest, homeschooling has today become mainstream and accepted as a valid educational option. In an era of increasing school choice, parents turn to homeschooling for a variety of practical reasons that are often very family-specific.

I also want to quote briefly from “How Have Scholars Divided Homeschoolers into Groups?“, which adds another dimension to this.

The most recent addition to scholarly literature on homeschooling is Jennifer Lois’ 2012 Home Is Where the School Is (Lois, 2012). In contrast to earlier scholars, Lois focuses specifically on homeschooling mothers. Perhaps the most notable thing about her work is that she categorizes these mothers slightly differently than previous scholars. Rather than dividing them into ideologues and pedagogues or believers and inclusives, she divides them into “first choice” and “second choice” homeschoolers. First choice homeschoolers, she says, are mothers who feel that they are called to homeschool, whether for conservative religious reasons or progressive pedagogical reasons. In fact, Lois’ work seems to suggest that both types of mothers similarly find root for their choice to homeschool in their common identities as mothers. Second choice homeschoolers, in contrast, are those who come to homeschooling after other educational methods fail their children. For these mothers, homeschooling is not an identity but rather a temporary educational options. Lois finds that first choice homeschooling mothers report higher levels of satisfaction and that second choice homeschooling mothers are likely to look forward to the day when their children are grown or back in school.

Feel free to read these entire pages if the excerpts interest you. The basic point I want to make is that, yes, religious homeschoolers make up a significant percentage of both the homeschool population and the infrastructure of the homeschooling world, and that, at the same time, there are many who homeschool for pedagogical or pragmatic reasons that have nothing to do with religion. It is wrong to assume that all homeschoolers are religious (or that all religious homeschoolers are extremists) and it is wrong to assume that religious homeschooling is a marginal or insignificant part of homeschooling as a whole. 

I want to finish with a chart from the National Center for Education Statistics. The data displayed was collected in 2011.

nces

When reading the chart, bear in mind that many scholars feel that sociological work may get at parents’ motivations more accurately than a survey of this sort. I tend to agree, as my parents might put academics down as their number one reason for homeschooling on a survey like this even though they are very clearly and solidly religious homeschoolers. Further, “a concern about environment of other schools” may mean a variety of things, religious or secular. Finally, some scholars question whether religious homeschoolers may be less likely to participate in a government survey of this sort, and whether that may skew the results.

If you want to read more, you may also find “A Brief History of Homeschooling” and “Homeschool Demographics” of interest.

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

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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

Results of HA Basic Survey, Part Two: Summary of Findings

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Results of HA Basic Survey, Part Two: Summary of Findings

Summary of Educational Findings

Survey respondents were asked to rate the following aspects of their homeschool experience: Math, Science, History, Language Arts, Studying Religions Other Than Your Family’s, Studying Political Beliefs Other Than Your Family’s, Sex Education, Socialization, Life Skills Relevant To All Genders, Job Training/Preparation For The Work Place, College Preparation, Academic Experience (As A Whole), and Intangible Experience (Everything Other Than Academics). Respondents were asked to rate these aspects on a scale from 1 to 5, 1 being “Horrible” and 5 being “Excellent.”

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

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

Respondents consistently and overwhelmingly consider language arts their strong suit. The average score for language arts was 4.22, which makes it the only average score above 4, or “Adequate.”  No score’s average reached past 4.5, putting it in the “Excellent” category.

Respondents consistently and overwhelmingly consider the quality of all other aspects of their home school experience (other than language arts) to be less than “excellent” and also less than “adequate,” averaging around “so-so.” Sex education, world religions, and comparative political science are the weakest points.

There was a tie for the aspect that received the most amount of “Horrible” votes between “Studying Political Beliefs Other Than Your Family’s” and “Sex Education.” 106 of the 242 respondents gave each of these categories a 1.

The aspect that received the most amount of “Excellent” votes was “Language Arts,” with 136 respondents (56.43%) giving it a 5. Coming in second to “Language Arts” was “History,” with 80 respondents (33.47%) giving it a 5.

Among core subjects (math, science, history, and language arts), math had the lowest score, with 2.82. Only 28.22% (68) of respondents considered their math education to be “Adequate,” and only 8.3% (20) considered it “Excellent.”

Summary of Abuse Findings

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.

Emotional abuse was the most common (52.10%), followed by verbal abuse (44.96%); sexual abuse was the least common (5.46%).

Identification abuse was not common (8.82%, or 21 individuals out of 242), though that number ought to be concerning regardless. It means approximately 1 out of every 10 respondents experienced an environment in which their parent(s) did not provide or withheld/destroyed their identification documents (driver’s license, Social Security card, etc.). Similarly, more than 1 out of every 10 respondents (13.03%) were prevented while growing up from seeking medical care or denied medical care by their parent(s).

Approximately 1 out of every 4 respondents experienced the following forms of abuse in their home or homeschooling environment: economic abuse, educational abuse, and physical abuse.

Summary of Findings on the Relationship Between Christian Homeschooling and Current Religious Beliefs

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

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

*****

(Since the above categories are difficult to read, here is a text version:)

Answer Choices
Responses
My homeschooling experience had no influence on what I believe today about religion.
7.47%
18
My homeschooling experience was fundamentalist Christian, and strengthened my religious beliefs in fundamentalist Christianity.
5.81%
14
My homeschooling experience was fundamentalist Christian, and influenced me towards non-fundamentalist Christianity.
37.34%
90
My homeschooling experience was *not* fundamentalist Christian, and influenced me towards fundamentalist Christianity.
0.41%
1
My homeschooling experience was *not* fundamentalist Christian, and strengthened my religious beliefs in non-fundamentalist Christianity.
12.86%
31
My homeschooling experience was *not* fundamentalist Christian, and influenced me to leave Christianity for another religion.
0%
0
My homeschooling experience was *not* fundamentalist Christian, and influenced me to leave religion altogether.
0.41%
1
My homeschooling experience was fundamentalist Christian, and influenced me towards agnosticism.
19.09%
46
My homeschooling experience was fundamentalist Christian, and influenced me towards atheism.
14.94%
36
My homeschooling experience was fundamentalist Christian, and influenced me towards a religion other than Christianity:
1.66%
4

*****

Only 7.47% (18) said their homeschool experience did not influence their current religious beliefs. This means homeschool experiences influenced the current religious beliefs of 92.53% (224) of respondents.

78.84% of respondents had fundamentalist Christian homeschool experiences; 13.68% had non-fundamentalist Christian homeschool experiences.

The plurality (37.34%) of respondents had fundamentalist Christian homeschool experiences, and these experiences influenced them away from fundamentalism towards non-fundamentalist Christianity.

The second most common category (19.09%) was graduates whose fundamentalist Christian homeschool experiences influenced them towards agnosticism.

The highest retention value was within the non-fundamentalist Christian category: 33 respondents had non-fundamentalist Christian homeschool experiences, and among these 33 respondents 31 of them felt that experience strengthened their religious beliefs in non-fundamentalist Christianity.

Only 5.81% (14) of the respondents said they had a fundamentalist Christian homeschool experience that strengthened their own beliefs in fundamentalism.

*****

< Part One: Demographic Considerations | Part Three: Economics as a Factor >

2013 HA Basic Survey: Main Page

Results of HA Basic Survey, Part One: Demographic Considerations

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Results of HA Basic Survey, Part One: Demographic Considerations

Disclaimer About Survey Results

The Homeschoolers Anonymous (HA) Basic Survey was conducted for adult graduates of the Christian homeschool movement. Throughout this survey, “respondents” will signify the 242 individuals from 42 U.S. states and 8 foreign countries that participated in the survey.

These respondents do not necessarily reflect all adult homeschool graduates, nor is it claimed that these 242 individuals are a representative sample. Three important considerations are to be considered:

  1. This survey was conducted for graduates of the Christian homeschool movement specifically.
  2. This survey was open for anyone who desired to participate, thus it is self-selected.
  3. Effort was made to solicit diverse responses from this specific subculture of adult homeschool graduates, whether their experiences were positive or negative. At the same time, the primary methods for promoting the survey came from the social media channels and blog partners of HA.

The survey was designed by HA with the explicit purpose of helping to identify experiential and qualitative patterns as well as learning what the HA community’s needs are.

Geographical Considerations

242 adult graduates of the Christian homeschool movement took the HA Basic Survey.

Those 242 individuals represented 42 U.S. states and 8 foreign countries.

U.S. states represented in this survey include: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

The average response per state was 5.45 survey responses.

States with one survey respondent only included: Connecticut, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, South Carolina, Utah, Vermont, and West Virginia.

States with high numbers of survey respondents included: Florida (13 survey respondents), Georgia (13), Oregon (13), Texas (21), Virginia (10), and Washington (14).

California had the highest number of survey respondents for a U.S. state with 42.

Foreign countries represented in this survey included: Canada, Australia, Philippines, Eastern Europe, South Korea, Mexico, England, and Iceland. Canada had the highest number of survey respondents for a foreign country with 4.

HSLDA Considerations

The majority of respondents are from families which were members of the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA). 

2013 Homeschoolers Anonymous Basic Survey.

57.98% (138) of the graduates’ families were directly members of HSLDA.

13.87% (33) of the graduates’ families were indirectly members of HSLDA, through dues paid to a local or state homeschool organization.

28.15% (67) of the graduates’ families were not members of HSLDA.

Economic Considerations

The majority of respondents are from middle class families.

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

70.95% (171) of the graduates’ families were in the middle class (with incomes between $32,500 and $100,000 a year).

17.43% (42) of the graduates’ families were in the lower class or below the poverty line (with incomes lower than $32,500 a year).

11.62% (28) of the graduates’ families were in the upper class (with incomes above $100,000 a year).

Educational Considerations

235 individuals stated the length of their homeschool experience, with a cumulative total of 2641 years. Thus the average length of each individual’s homeschool experience was 11 years.

This means that this survey represents individuals whose primary educational experience from K-12 was almost entirely through homeschooling.

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

The primary teachers of the overwhelming majority of respondents were their mothers. Mothers were the primary teachers of 80.91% (195) of the graduates.

The second most common primary teacher of the graduates (at 13.28%, or 32) was “other” than mother, father, other relative, co-op teacher, or tutor. When asked to specify, the majority of these graduates specified “myself’ or “no one,” with personalized answers such as:

  • “From first grade on, I did everything by myself but my parents would help sometimes if I got stuck.”
  • “I attended classes once a week, but ‘taught myself’ at home otherwise.”
  • “Basics were taught by oldest sister. 6-9 (I took from 13-18 to get through these grades) were done on my own…”
  • “Myself. I also was responsible for teaching my brothers.”
  • “No one. We read our text books alone.”
  • “No real effort was made in my homeschooling. I was run around to activities but other than that largely self taught and given the answer keys to check my own answers after I completed the booklet.”

3.73% (9) of respondents said their primary teacher was both their mother and their father evenly.

1.24% (3) of respondents said their primary teacher was a non-family member such as a teacher at a co-op or a tutor.

0.83% (2) of respondents said their primary teacher was their father.

The highest level of education of the primary teacher of each respondent is most commonly an associates or undergraduate degree.

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

42.50% (102) of the primary teachers had associates or undergraduate degrees. 22.50% (54) had some college education but no degree. 14.17% (34) had a high school diploma or GED. 3.75% (9) had neither a high school diploma nor GED. 17.08% (41) had a graduate degree or higher.

This means 59.58% of the primary teachers had an associates degree or higher.

The highest level of completed education for the plurality of respondents is an associates or undergraduate degree.

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

The highest level of completed education for 41.08% (99) of adult homeschool graduates is an associates or undergraduate degree; for 17.43% (42), a masters-level degree; for 5.39% (13), a PhD-level degree; for 20.33% (49), some college education, but no college degree; for 6.64% (16), a high school diploma; for 2.90% (7), GED but no high school diploma; and  for 3.73% (9), no GED and no high school diploma.

This means 63.9% of respondents have an associates degree or higher. This is an improvement of exactly 4.32% over the percentage of the graduates’ primary teachers with associates degrees or higher. 

Religious Considerations

The majority of respondents said their homeschool experience was fundamentalist Christian. 

190 individuals, or 78.84%, said their homeschool experience was fundamentalist Christian.

33 individuals, or 13.68%, said their homeschool experience was non-fundamentalist Christian.

18 individuals, or 7.47%, declined to provide information relevant to this question.

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< 2013 HA Basic Survey: Main Page | Part Two: Summary of Findings >

Learning Together: Emily

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Learning Together: Emily

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Libby Anne’s blog Love Joy Feminism. It was a guest post by Emily and was originally published on Patheos on February 24, 2013.

My parents didn’t set out to homeschool.

The fluke of my birthdate put me either the youngest or the oldest of my class, and after being the youngest in kindergarten my parents decided to homeschool for a year before first grade. That year went so well that they homeschooled for another, then another, reevaluating each year. My mom thoroughly enjoyed the experience and my dad supported it wholeheartedly, though was not often involved in hands-on teaching. I have one younger homeschooled sibling, but I’ll focus on my experience.

In 4th grade I started doubting my academic competency due to lack of comparison. I spent a half a year in public school for 5th, and after discovering that I was, indeed, on track academically, begged to come home. We homeschooled through middle school and I entered public high school in 9th grade. I went to a private Christian university and a public university for a master’s and PhD. I’m midway through my PhD.

First, I want to point out some social-location factors that positively frame my homeschooling experience. The big ones include my family’s upper middle class economic status, my parents’ education, our family size (2 kids), large suburban location, and Christian faith.

Had those variables been different I would be telling another story.

My mom homeschooled as a Christian but I missed out on the quiverfull/CP, Vision Forum, etc. My parents decided to avoid those circles. There is a family story of going to a homeschooling event where a couple of the other dads talked seriously to my dad (whom they had just met!) about the small size of his quiver.

His snarky response was, “Actually, my quiver is full! It’s a two-arrow-holding quiver.”

Early on, we used some Bob Jones and Abeka history, but that got ditched, especially as more homeschool resources were made available each year. I got my fair share of gender roles at church, but it wasn’t Christian Patriarchy as such.

I will start with what I see as strengths of my homeschooling experience. First, we were often not at home. We had season passes to the aquarium, the zoo, amusement parks (yep – when other kids were at school!), tickets to anything appropriate for kids at the city’s performing arts center, state parks, library programs, art, science, music camp. Plus, my dad’s work requires travel to cities around the country and we would all go along and tour each city’s historical and cultural landmarks during the day. My parents’ approach was “180 school days per year, distributed as necessary,” so we didn’t follow the public school calendar and continued through summer.

I thrived in self-directed, participatory learning.

I’m reading Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed this week and I missed out on what he terms the banking model of education, where the student is an empty account into which the expert teacher makes deposits (till high school and college, at least). In contrast, my mom always talked about how we all learned together.

I often participated in setting the agenda, and she provided the resources and helped guide the investigation. It was that way as far back as I remember. Clearly, there was stuff I just had to learn, like cursive and long division. Still, I had the freedom to say if a method wasn’t working and I wanted to try it a different way. I read like a girl possessed, mostly uninterrupted, completely uncensored. If it was at the library or Barnes and Noble, I had access to it. I was well-prepared for honors and AP classes in high school, the SAT, then the honors college, on the GRE, and now in a PhD.

No academic regrets.

Socially, I largely avoided some challenges and my parents orchestrated good opportunities to form relationships. I got a very low dose of the girl-on-girl relational violence of adolescence. Given my social location, this was a real threat. Since I was relatively chill during the day I had lots of energy for after school activities. I participated in competitive soccer, Girl Scouts, a children’s chorus, church activities, and community theater. When I did enter public school in 9th grade, it was new and fresh. I didn’t develop senioritis and I wanted to get to know all kinds of people. I didn’t have as many labels to apply to others as my peers did. Also, with our homeschool peers, there was no age hierarchy for building friendships.

There were some things I had to compensate for later. In a word: algebra.

Saxon Math was awesome for word problems, critical thinking, and the basics. Except later, I really needed someone to explain how to solve for X and my mom’s skill set didn’t extend there. Math in high school was a battle. That said I am now proficient in statistics, which I am constantly using in my PhD studies. I will never catch up from missing the peer-to-peer sexual education that happens during middle school.

For example, I only know, like, four words for semen and I realize there are about a thousand in current use.

I don’t consider this a deficiency. I know I miss some social queues.

Transitioning to a 2,300 student high school was a big adjustment. Here’s what was hard: asking permission to go to the bathroom and having requests denied, stopping in response to the bell, even if the algebra question on the board was left unanswered, the sheer noise of the lunchroom, hallways, etc., bomb threats and lockdowns (this was Columbine-era), learning how to respond to different teachers’ expectations and methods, academic competition, watching discrimination happen, being “made” to do stuff by authorities (like fundraise for a new football field house), and the amount of wasted time. I came home really tired each day.

That said, I’m so glad I did it. I really enjoyed many of my teachers and the new subjects I took, as well as the friendships I developed. Playing soccer was fantastic, as was my involvement with the FFA.

How Bad Homeschool Research Hurts Homeschoolers

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Kathryn Brightbill’s blog The Life and Opinions of Kathryn Elizabeth, Person. It was originally published on July 24, 2013.

When I was in college, I was one of the participants who answered the NHERI/HSLDA/Brian Ray survey of homeschooling graduates. I don’t remember how I got the survey, probably via email forward from my mom, but what I do remember is sending an email to my family after taking it in which I said something about how I wouldn’t believe a thing from the eventual study results. Aside from the fact that an email forwarded among homeschool groups asking people to take an internet survey is a lousy way of getting a representative sample (especially when we’re talking more than a decade ago, when we were nowhere as close to ubiquitous computing as we are now and computer access was still largely along socioeconomic lines), the survey itself was rife with methodological problems.

My memory is of a survey where I could tell exactly what answer they were looking to find, based on both the questions asked and the possible answers given for those questions. It was a survey that, even as a college student who had a positive experience and didn’t have the criticisms of the system that I do now, was so bad that I wondered why anyone would design it the way they did unless the goal was not usable data but a certain set of predetermined results.

If I got anything out of being homeschooled for twelve years by a math teacher, it’s a healthy appreciation for numbers. Numbers explain the world, or at least they can explain the world if they’re used correctly. Without good numbers, you might as well be stumbling around in the dark bumping your shins into the furniture. Bad numbers are even worse than no numbers; they’re like spreading Legos on the carpet while stumbling around in the dark with bare feet.

The HSLDA/NHERI numbers on homeschooling are like stumbling around on that Lego-strewn carpet. Aside from the aforementioned homeschool graduate survey, they also have test scores that they trot out to prove that homeschoolers do better on standardized tests than other students.

Except that the numbers don’t show that. What they actually show is the results of those homeschooled children whose parents not only use achievement tests (which isn’t all of them), who were aware of the NHERI survey (again, not all of them), and who agreed to submit their children’s scores for a study that they were already told was intended to make homeschooling look good. We have no idea how representative that group is of homeschoolers as a whole because it was self-selected and we don’t know whether that self-selected group in any way mirrors homeschoolers as a whole.

The modern homeschool movement is more than 30 years old and we still don’t have a good idea of homeschooling demographics. We know that they’re predominantly white and might be mostly religious (but even the religious makeup is hard to guess because the religious and the secular homeschoolers seldom run in the same circles). We don’t know what the socioeconomic makeup of the homeschool population is, and we don’t know the average education level of parents or a breakdown of those parents’ degrees. Without that, we can only guess at whether the socioeconomic levels of homeschoolers in NHERI’s test score data in any way represent homeschoolers as a whole.

Homeschoolers are fiercely independent even without taking into consideration that the religious ones don’t trust outside researchers because they’ve been told by HSLDA for years that outsiders want to hurt homeschooling. As for the secular unschoolers, they aren’t exactly fans of the establishment, which makes it hard to pin them down as well. Compounding the problem, the people the religious ones do trust (aka, HSLDA and NHERI) aren’t interested in giving good data, they’re interested in giving a good sales pitch for homeschooling. And so, we’re stumbling around in the dark knocking our shins into furniture and stepping on stray Legos.

There are a handful of small studies about adult former homeschoolers, but the rest is guesswork. We don’t have a good picture of the socioeconomic status of homeschooling families. We don’t really know how homeschoolers as a population do on achievement tests because we don’t have any surveys that aren’t self-selected. We don’t even have a good idea of how many people are homeschooling. It might be a million and a half, it might be twice that. We need good data and we simply don’t have it.

Are the kids I knew in high school who were all upper middle class children, mostly of parents with degrees in STEM fields, an accurate representation? What about the kids I knew when I was younger whose blue collar parents had no college and were passing their non-standard English dialect on to the kids rather than standard English grammar? Was my dad right when he always said that math was a weakness that homeschoolers needed to watch out for because the kids were being taught primarily by mothers who had been put on the consumer math track in school? Was I right when I used to tell people that the reason they thought homeschoolers were weird was because the normal ones who are in the majority didn’t advertise that they were homeschooled?

I don’t know because no one does.

And yet the Brian Ray/NHERI research keeps getting repeated in conservative and mainstream media even though it doesn’t actually tell us anything.

I understand why homeschool parents want to like the NHERI numbers; they help reassure them that they’re on the right path and not totally screwing up their kids with the homeschool choice. That’s why what NHERI’s doing with self-selected, unscientific research methods is so messed up. Parents, good parents, are relying on data that’s given a veneer of science but that may well be leading them to make educational choices that aren’t the best possible for their children. If math education, for example, really is the weakness for homeschoolers that my dad thought it was, homeschoolers need to know that so they can compensate for the weakness. If more than a fringe number of homeschool kids are having trouble fitting in with mainstream society because of the homeschool bubble, parents need to know that to correct for it.

With nothing but bad data to rely on, parents are left stumbling around in the dark hoping that they aren’t going to bash their shin on the corner of the coffee table or step on a stray Lego. That’s not serving homeschool parents well, and it’s certainly not doing anything for the kids.