Thursday, November 21, 2013

Home School Survey Release #2

If you haven't already, I encourage you to read the Home School Survey Release #1, here.
The following section had questions about family relationships, religion and more.

  I wanted to include two stats that I had to compile separately and did not get in the slide show.
First is the ages of those who took the survey.

The second slide shows the occupations of those who took the survey.


    So this week’s survey release addresses family relationships and the way home school graduates feel their experience affected them within society.

Family Relationships

   I think that the responses to my questions on family relationships may surprise some. Building strong family relationships has long been a selling point to the home school life style, something I address in my ‘10 Reasons not to Home School #7. Unfortunately, as I mention in my post,  more time as a family is only as healthy as the family relationships are to begin with.  

  Almost 40% said they had strained or broken relationships with one or more siblings.  In contrast, about half described their relationship with their parents as strong and close, while about one third described it as good but distant.

   I thought it incredibly telling that only scarcely above half (56%) of home school graduates who took the survey described their parent’s marriage as ‘strong and healthy’.  

    Marriage failure rates are high in our country, with little difference between those in church and those outside, so it should come as no surprise if this appears in home school families also.

   However I think many will be surprised though, since part of the allure of conservative Christian home school culture, and something it heavily advocates is the idea that by embracing certain lifestyle changes, a family can escape the troubles that plague others.  

Another sad statistic was that a full quarter of those who were part of a large family said that it was not a positive experience. More than 40% described the impact of large family living on their home school experience as meaning sacrifice, needs unmet, and a lower quality education.


    I thought it interesting that a little over half said that they felt home schooling did not positively prepare them to enter modern American culture, and around the same number said that they still feel that they are unable to relate to their peers because of their different educational experience. 

    I find it interesting to note again the ages of the survey responders. We are not talking about 18 or 20 year olds who are trying to find their way in life. Almost 40% are over the age 30, which means that the impact of home school on their social acclamation and relationships was significant and long lasting.

   Unfortunately, while I know some home school parents would consider a of lack of positive preparation to enter modern American culture, and inability to relate to peers as a compliment, the questions which follow give a clearer picture of graduates feelings on the matter.

    21% said they were kept from participating in modern culture and were glad.

   Roughly a third said they felt that it was a detriment, a third said they wished there had been better balance, and a third said that that they wished they’d been given more freedom to choose. *

  While there were some who said they were free to participate and were glad, I found it funny that not one home school graduate said they had fully participated in modern culture and wished they hadn’t. I have not ever met one either. J Encouraging personal freedom is sadly not a common home school parental characteristic.
   This post written by a k-12 home schooled woman describes her experience socially and explains the bubble in which most conservative Christian home school kids live; even those who seem quite socially active.

     I thought it interesting that while 88% of grads consider themselves Christians, very close to half the students (47%) said they do NOT agree with “most of the philosophies and ideals with which they were raised”.  Roughly 40% said that they are not living a life in line with their parent’s ideals for them, and about half say that they have siblings that their parent’s would consider to be on the ‘wrong path in life’.

   This is especially interesting to me considering that this was the largest reason by far (almost 70%) given as the primary reason these parents chose to home school, (to impart their religious and moral beliefs).

   What I see in these numbers and in my life is that the majority of home school graduates seem to embrace Christianity, (at least the very basic idea of it) but many have rejected the particular ways their parents chose to live it, which for many parents, was the entire point of home school.

   This week had some heavy and sobering numbers.  Do you feel that they fairly represent your home school family, or the home school families you know?
*Please remember for some questions, multiple answers were allowed, therefore percentages may exceed 100.

Linking Up

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Survey Release #1

Survey Reveal Part One

     Ok. So I’d like to start by saying I that this is the very first survey I’ve ever written, and after I released it I cringed and wished I’d spent a bit more time perfecting it.   I do wish I’d written some questions differently, eliminated some that are repetitive, and there a couple that I really wish I would have thought to include before I released it. 

   That being said, I still think the results are fascinating and reveal a lot of good information.

   My goal in creating this survey was to ask questions that I have not heard addressed in any depth or in an organized way. There are trends that I have observed and topics that I’ve talked to fellow home school grads about in length that seem to be completely be ignored by most of the home school community at large.

   Having grown up in the very early years (1980’s) and out of the home school community, and then re-entering it  15 years later as a tentative home school Mom, I was actually pretty surprised at the direction of home schooling as a whole. I am amazed at some aspects and results of home schooling that I thought were pretty self evident that still seem to be completely unacknowledged by current parents and leaders in the movement.

    Have you wondered why the home school movement isn’t flooded with voices like my own? Do you wonder where an entire generation, (thousands of home school graduates) has gone?  Have you noticed that many of those leading the home school movement even now are those relatively new to the concept as a whole? (Most are still in the process of raising and schooling their kids.)

   What DO home school grads think of their home school experience? Those of us who have over the last 5- 20 years since we’ve left home have created our own lives. Many of us have children, and are choosing how to educate them.

   What I know to be true in my world is that most home school grads are not choosing to home school their own children. Often the strongest advocates of home school I know are those who did not experience it firsthand.

    In my post, ‘What is Successful Home School?’ I address the disparity between the academic results (in most cases, home school students score very high on tests) and the stated purpose of home school which (until only recently) was by a large margin parent's desire to pass on specific religious or moral values and beliefs to their children.

   For years home schooling has been considered an incredible success; but by whose standards? Has home schooling truly produced ‘believers and followers’, or simply better educated free thinkers who are equally likely to reject their parent’s beliefs as the culture from which they were kept?

   Only 128 home school graduates took my survey.  At these numbers, my survey is still highly antidotal statistically speaking. However these results reflect more than simply my family or local home school group. In fact I estimate about 25 - 30% of those who responded are people I do not know personally but were taking the survey on the recommendation of friends.

     I worked hard to get a broad spectrum of responders; however it was hard to find men with the interest or time to participate. Also, in most cases those with positive experience and those with young children currently discussing education options were far more likely to take my survey. There are many grads (especially male) I know who are busy living their life and are uninterested in rehashing their education. 

     With that being said, if you were homeschooled and are reading the results I would love to hear your thoughts. If you are a veteran home school parent who has finished educating your children, or are on the home stretch, I would love to hear your perspective. Do you feel the survey results match what you know of home school?

    I want to take a moment to clarify what this survey was intended to accomplish, and what it was not designed to do. First; this survey was not designed nor intended to achieve clinical, cold hard numbers of how well a student was educated, or how ‘successful’ they have become. 

   Instead I have attempted to give you a sense of how home school grads think and feel about their experience. I have asked question that are both highly subjective and personal.
  Some of these questions may seem unimportant until we get to the questions about family relationships and what these grads are choosing for their own children.  It is then that some of the others help give insight.

   It is important for you to know that almost all of these questions allowed multiple answer selection, so the results may equal more than the number of survey takers.
  Finally, and perhaps most important.
     Something I have always known to be true about my fellow home school graduates is the intense awareness we all have for the tremendous work and sacrifice of our parent teachers. No matter how widely our experiences differ, one factor was true in every single case: home schooling was not easy for them. Though there are some who through their difficult and painful experiences are extremely bitter and angry at their parents, the vast majority (even those with less than stellar experiences) feels tremendous loyalty toward their parents and the idea of home school itself.

   I believe it is one of the biggest reasons that the faults of home school (specifically within conservative Christian culture) are not freely discussed. No one wants to make their parents, or someone else’s parents feel like a failure. No one wants to ‘beat up’ the pioneers who fought for the rights we have today.
   I however feel it is of tremendous disservice to those who are attracted to this way of life every year not to be brutally honest with ourselves about home schoolings strengths and weaknesses. It is unfair to talk only about homeschooling success. I also think discussing flaws and failures can be done without beating anyone up or discrediting the good.
   Because the survey was fairly long, this is the first of several releases.

  This first slide includes the initial basic questions, and those in the academic and occupation sections. My thoughts and commentary follow.

 (To view this in a larger, full screen please click symbol on far right.)

My comments and observations.

Academic Section

   Given home schooling’s stellar reputation for producing strong students, I was curious how home school graduates felt about the academic aspects of their own experience.

   I was not surprised that almost a third (27%)* said that core academic subjects were not a strong focus in their home school experience. This is a number I fully expect to rise sharply given what I hear and see in the current home school community as many parents seem to be preferring activities, family projects and other forms of learning over classic text book and class room style learning. Only time will tell how and if this will impact home school test scores.

   Almost half (43%) of home school grads said that they did not regularly take tests, regularly have their work graded or know where they stood according to state requirements for their grade level. While this is a poorly worded question and leaves some room for interpretation, I do think it an indication of the independent / laid back nature of these parents' teaching styles.
  Currently there are many states that require little to no testing, supervision or regulation of homeschooling, which is something that some groups are trying to change.

   I find it interesting that while over a third (32%)said they had an accelerated academic experience, there were slightly more (33%) who said that they were either uneasy and wondered if their work was on par with peers, or embarrassed because they knew they were not doing grade level work.  {Please keep in mind, this survey was not designed to actually measure their academic strength, but to tell us how they perceive it.}
    Almost half (42%)said they were completely on their own for high school level work, and almost a third (28%) said they received some good instruction but that it was incomplete.
  Of those who sought further education; while graduates credited home schooling as preparing them well academically for college (70%to30%) just over half said it did not help prepare them socially, and it was nearly split between those who did and those who said it did not prepare them in general confidence. I think this is unfortunate, but also unsurprising.
Occupation Section
Over a third (35%) of home school grads said that self employment was a significant factor in which professions their parents encouraged, which I found interesting. I am not sure if this is affected by the large number of women who took this survey, but in my experience self employment seems valued highly in home school circles.
   I did find it fascinating that only about half (52%) of home school graduates said their parents saw all professions as equally important and valid options, and the rest was broken down between specific kinds of occupations that the parents encouraged. Again, I am not sure if this is a gender motivated statistic, or if parents were trying to encourage their child into something for which they thought their child best fitted, but I thought this a bit sad.

     37% said that their home school experience did not prepare them well for the workplace.
When asked which of 10 specific areas were positively impacted by their home school experience,
A) Work Ethic
B) Morals and Character
 C)Eagerness and Ability to learn,
     were given highest scores. 

 When asked which of those same 10 areas their home school experience did not well prepare them for their profession; the following were chosen, (even above specific education for their current occupation).

A)     Ability to promote themselves in business

B)      Understanding workplace dynamics

C)      Knowledge on how to choose or pursue a career
What these numbers suggest  to me is that homeschooling appears very effective in establishing work ethic and creating eager learners; I propose this is begun and developed in early grades.

   However high school level education, preparation for continued education, career choices and confidence in their work and knowledge seem to be areas that home school students are not well supported and left to figure out on their own.

 89% of home school graduates say they are happy in their current occupation, which is slightly higher than the national average of roughly 80% according to this article which rates the satisfaction rate of different jobs.
  Over half (61%) of home school graduates said their HS experience has benefited them in the work place, while 34% say it’s been something they had to overcome.
Whew! We will stop here for this week.
    Sections of the survey to come include questions regarding impact homeschooling had on students social life, their current religious views, the impact on parents and sibling relationships, and more.
Stay tuned!!

 This Present Mom,

 * Please keep in mind that when listing percentages below I will round up to the largest whole number, and that in some cases multiple answers were allowed, meaning the totals may surpass 100%.

Linking Up

Monday, November 11, 2013


What is the quickest way to spark your child's curiosity and hunger for knowledge?
Ask good questions.
Let them hang in the air.
Let them marinate in a child's mind.
When they figure out the answer, they OWN it.
  Often a well chosen question brings questions in response.
 Something I've found useful, especially when introducing new topics is to write down ALL my child's questions as they come.
   When a child see's their question in writing, they feel like their thought process is significant and valuable.
   They also feel that suddenly learning is about satisfying their desire for knowledge, instead of simply listening to what some one else considered important.
   Have you ever been asked a life changing question!?

Friday, November 8, 2013

For God So Loved........ He Sent Truth


                      “…..God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son….”

 His son came, but he didn’t call himself love. He didn’t go around hugging everyone and making them feel special. He didn’t chum with the ‘good’ people and keep a safe distance from the 'bad'.

 He called himself the ‘way, the truth, and the life’.

 The truth confronted, it asked good questions, it healed the broken, and it broke down those satisfied with good enough. It cared. It shared. It prayed.

       God so loved; he sent truth.

  The truth bound up shattered souls of the wounded. It comforted the hurt, it healed the sick,  filled the impoverished, it freed those kept by lies, by pride, and by false ideas of God.

   It pierced the satisfied. It destroyed the haughty, the good, and the holy. It slammed into comfortable lives and shattered the ideals for which they’d worked. It gave grief and sorrow to those who had the most to lose.

   They mocked him. They mocked his family. They presumed that they knew enough to judge.

   What good can come from Nazareth? What good can come from a bastard child?

   They mocked his audacity to speak.
 ‘He speaks as one with authority!’ they exclaimed, and thought him arrogant.

   God loved, and sent truth.
 God. Give me your love. Give me your truth.   
 Give me the grace to accept them, the strength to share them, and the wisdom to know how.

Friday, November 1, 2013

"The Smartest Kids in the World" Book Review

Recently I finished a great book called ‘The Smartest Kids in the World and How They Got That Way’ by Amanda Ripley.

  This book focuses on the results of the PISA test (Program for International Student Assessment) the brain child of Andreas Schleicher and first taken by teens in 43 countries in 2000.

 This test does not consist of multiple choice answers nor is it like any standard academic tests; and was instead designed to demonstrate the real knowledge and communication skills of each student. Interpreting charts, data and being able to write clear concise answers and opinions in essay form are just part of how the test measures a student’s real life abilities.

    It may come as no surprise that the US high school students have never performed well on this test, in 2009 we ranked 26th in Math, 17th in Science, and 12th in Reading (all the while ranking 2nd in the World in spending per pupil).

     The author Amanda takes a look at the three countries who have managed to come out on top, with students who score impossibly high on these tests, and yet have incredibly different national approaches to the practical business of educating their children. What do these countries have in common that seem to have nothing in common?

  Amanda leaves no factor, such as poverty or parental involvement untouched; these and more are fairly examined with unexpected results. She does not address the idea of home education at all, however her look at parental involvement and which kinds actually contribute to better education is revealing and may surprise many.

  She specifically follows three American students who participate in foreign exchange programs in the three top scoring countries, which gives her not only an interesting platform for comparing and contrasting American schools with their international competitors, but also lends very personal and unique perspectives of not only the practical differences in school but also a sense of how family and cultural attitudes toward education shape a student’s experience.

   Toward the end of the book she manages to tidy the incredible amount of information, and the personal stories she shares into helpful conclusions, and some thought provoking (if not discouraging) suggestions of the key factor to successful education.

    As much as I enjoyed the whole book, my favorite part was toward the end where she talks about how she has learned to walk into a class room, or school and tell whether the factors needed for an excellent education are there ( it isn’t what most parent’s tend to know to look for). I loved her list of questions to ask students, which allow you to know if real learning is happening.

   I found these things incredibly motivating and challenging as a parent educator. How does my class room score? What answer would my students give to her revealing questions?

    For a book that covers a lot of ground (both geographical and philosophical) it was not difficult or heavy reading. The foreign exchange student’s stories brought their countries methods to life and the author managed to present a lot of information in a way that is not tedious, or boring, but instead felt interesting  and relevant, no small feat when writing on a subject that can easily become as inspiring as a fifth grade list of spelling words.

  I recommend this book to parent’s who don’t mind taking a look at their approach to education from a fresh, and international perspective. In my opinion, THE factor that she presents as the difference between those who excel and those who don’t is just not naturally occurring in the USA at this time and our kid’s only hope is for parents to artificially create it no matter where their child currently learns.

 The Smartest Kids in the World and How They Got That Way by Amanda Ripley can be found in The Present Mom’s Amazon Store.  For quick and easy purchase go here.