This post briefly reviews Lisa Bergstrom, “What Effect Does Homeschooling Have on the Social Development and Test Scores of Students?” (M.A. Thesis: U of Wisconsin-Superior, 2012). [available here]
This Master’s Thesis covers very familiar terrain in the world of homeschooling research. Bergstrom begins with a very cursory and idiosyncratic lit review, revealing that when she first started looking into homeschooling she was going to focus on its negative aspects. But reading some literature made her more positive about the phenomenon. She decided to survey parents and children, both homeschooled and not, about their attitudes toward standardized tests and toward socialization. She did this by sending out surveys, contacting friends and friends-of-friends through facebook. She started with 46 subjects, but only 21 returned her surveys–10 homeschooled kids, 7 homeschooling parents, 3 public school only parents, and 1 child with both public and homeschool experience.
The answers she got to the questions asked will not surprise anyone who has read much homeschooling research. Homeschooled kids do a lot of outside activities and are generally positive about their experiences. They take standardized tests and typically do just fine on them, though some of them don’t see the point. The only really interesting data she has comes from the question about how long homeschooled children spend studying per day. Over half of homeschoolers spend 4+ hours a day doing school. The rest spend from 1-3 hours.
And that’s about it. Not a great study really. I’d encourage other graduate students who may read this to try to come up with more creative questions to ask about homeschooling than attitudes toward academic achievement and socialization, the two subjects that more than any other have been beaten to death. What we don’t need are more convenience samples about these things (though well-crafted studies that control for background variables and avoid selection bias are desperately needed). If you must do a convenience sample I’d recommend targeting a specific TYPE of homeschooler–say unschoolers, Christian homeschoolers who use a particular method or curriculum, Jewish or Muslim homeschoolers, families with special-needs kids, or some other niche demographic, and study them in a more qualitative way–looking especially at how they spend their time, how the parents and children interact, how they network with other homeschoolers, and so forth [for an example, see here]. Convenience samples using quantitative surveys aren’t very helpful.