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Originally published Tuesday, November 29, 2005 at 12:00 AM

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Home-schooling in the modern world: Success of home-schooled children

Like many critics, I used to feel vaguely sorry for home-schooled kids. What a shame, I thought, that they might be deprived of the well-rounded...

Syndicated Columnist

Like many critics, I used to feel vaguely sorry for home-schooled kids. What a shame, I thought, that they might be deprived of the well-rounded education and social skills to become integrated, productive members of society. I never thought to question why cafeteria food fights or the predatory pack habits of teenage girls would be better for molding productive members of society.

This uninformed, critical opinion lasted precisely until I met my first home-schooled children several years ago. Within one month I met five home-schooling families, and their 13 children were among the most polite, well-adjusted, socially adept and academically advanced kids I'd ever seen. Being home-educated seemed to have given them a confidence and maturity — and yes, social skill — far beyond their years. They had many friends, but didn't seem dependent on their peers for approval — a far cry from what I remember as a kid.

I've since learned that these kids were not the home-schooling exception but the rule, which makes me wonder how anyone could look at the data and say it deprives kids of anything. In a landmark study by Dr. Brian Ray of the National Home Education Research Institute, among 7,000 young adults who had been home-schooled, 74 percent had attained some college courses, compared with just 46 percent of other young adults — and 82 percent said they would home-school their own kids. On the social front, almost twice as many home-schooled adults as those in the general population were active in their community (71 percent to 37 percent) and "very happy" with life (59 percent to 28 percent).

In 1998, a Home School Legal Defense Association's study of 20,760 home-school students found that: "In every subject and at every grade level (on standardized tests), home-school students scored significantly higher than their public and private school counterparts." Younger home-schoolers performed one grade level higher than their public and private school counterparts, and by eighth grade, "the average home-school student performs four grade levels above the national average."

Obviously, home education doesn't fit every family. But the evidence makes me think it's the kids who aren't home-schooled who may be missing out, not the other way around.

Harvard-educated Shaunti Feldhahn (scfeldhahn@yahoo.com) is a conservative Christian author and speaker, and married mother of two children.

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