It is a common notion that attendance at the “right school” is the surest way to get a quality education and find opportunities for college and career. Much data and trends are debunking this ideology, causing many to consider the more reliable ways to a successful education for their children.
Education reform has become a buzz word in this age when test scores are falling, graduation rates are atrociously low, and satisfaction of both student and teacher is plummeting. Legislators, who find themselves responsible for efficiently allocating public funds, struggle to know where a dollar is “well spent” in education. All institutions want and need more funds to achieve higher standards for student achievement, yet there is no clear evidence that spending more money in a school system improves the performance of its students.
Over the last 2o years, there has been a meteoric rise in the success of students in a group that on average spends less than 7% of the amount public schools spend on student education. The cost attributed to the education of one public school student is $15,000 -$29,000 annually, yet students from the group that spends a mere $600 per year on its students are repeatedly winning national honors in competitions, landing many large academic scholarships, and scoring more than 30 percentile points higher on national standardized tests. Therefore, money spent on education cannot be the determining factor of performance.
The education of the teacher could be a determining factor of the performance, and logic would agree that the better the teacher, the better the student. Even an old proverb says “The student shall not be greater than his master.” Yet in the group of high achievers, the teacher’s level of education had little apparent effect on the performance of the student on the SAT exam. Students whose teachers had only a high school diploma, or less, on average still out performed the average public school student; and showed no significant difference from the student in the same system whose teacher had college or graduate degrees.
The high achieving students are being educated by their parents at home. The vast majority of the parents has no formal training in education, and simply are self-taught teachers who operate on a shoe-string budget. The puzzling question is why are these students appearing on national stages to be crowned spelling champions or geography champions? Why are they finding success in the college classroom or in business, more than their public, or even privately educated counterparts?
In a study by Dr. M. Evans of the University of Nevada, using data from 27 countries and no fewer than 58,944 people, the researchers focused on how many books were in the homes of the participants when they were 14. The team also collected data on other biographical aspects of the participant’s background such as their parent’s education and occupation as well as how long the participant had spent in formal education and what work they themselves performed.
There was a strong relationship between the number of books in the house where they grew up and their later educational and career success. The relationship between the number of books in the home was a better predictor than the parent’s own level of education or occupational status. This was found to be true across rich and poor countries, communist and capitalist, and in North America, Africa, Asia and Europe.
So what are the implications of this for parents? The good news is that regardless of their own level of education or nature of their work, parents can create an environment which fosters academic achievement and career success for their children. Parents can help their children succeed in school beyond their own level of attainment.
It is precisely the environment of learning that has been suggested to be the reason for the success of the homeschooled student. Parents, who are highly engaged with their children, and communicate a value of the process of learning and growing, have seen the greatest degree of academic and professional success in their students.
Those in the homeschool movement tout numerous benefits to the home education process. Reaching far beyond academics, the home education families note that communication is better, sense of overall happiness is increased and family relationships experience less tension and stress. And it may be saving the state of Louisiana thousands of dollars per student as well.
Because of the apparent differences between home education and public or private education, thousands annually choose to begin educating their children at home. History has proven its success both in recent and distant past. Most of the founding fathers, and several of our first presidents were educated at home—homes rich in books and a learning environment.