Friday, August 15, 2008

Homeschoolers Transitioning to Public Schools

Not every homeschooler chooses to continue homeschooling throughout their child's school years. As a result, a significant question arises: what does it take for a family to have a successful transition from homeschool to public school? A doctoral student at the University of Missouri did his dissertation on the topic, and recently Milton Gaither reviewed it on his blog, Homeschooling Research Notes, in a post entitled, "Koonce on Transitioning from Home School to Public School."

Koonce's research was admittedly based on a very small sample of 13 Missouri families who agreed to be interviewed. That's too bad, because his conclusions are fascinating, and it would be helpful to have more statistics to confirm what he found. I hope someone will undertake further research on this topic. From Dr. Gaither's post:

What made the transition positive or negative? Positive experiences resulted when the school system was helpful and understanding of the student’s background (4 students in his sample). Negative experiences resulted either when the school was skeptical of the child’s homeschooling background (5 students) or when the homeschooling background had not adequately prepared the child academically (2), socially (1), or procedurally (1).

In short, the single most significant factor in the students' successful transition, found in at least 9 of the 13 cases, was the school's perception of homeschooling. If the school was "understanding of the student's background," the transition was generally positive. If the school was "skeptical of the child's homeschooling background," the transition was generally negative. Given the overwhelming prevalence of negative attitudes toward homeschooling on the part of so many people involved in the public education system, this is unfortunate.

It is also clear from these results that's it's important for parents to make sure children are prepared for the transition. Two of the 13 families had negative experiences because the children were not prepared academically; this is sad given the innate advantages of homeschooling. The single negative experience due to social factors is probably less significant, since it could be argued that at least one of every 13 kids is going to struggle socially regardless of their educational background.

In the end, according to Gaither, Koonce offers some practical suggestions:

Koonce ends his study with some practical suggestions both for homeschooling parents and for public schools to help ease the transition. Homeschoolers should make sure their curriculum is sound, that they keep good records, that their kids take “an anual nationally normed test” and that they have “a positive mindset toward public education.” Public schools should recognize homeschooling as a normal and legitimate educational option, provide a user-friendly enrollment process and mechanism for giving homeschoolers credit for academic work done at home, tap into the energy of the involved homeschooling parent-type, provide a liason to help students with the transition, and encourage part-time enrollment as a first step for those who need it.

While I think homeschooling is a great option, and I believe many kids would benefit from homeschooling all the way through high school, there are many who will eventually end up in the public school system. Parents send kids back to school for many reasons, including the difficulty of the subject matter as they get older. Art, band, sports, and drama all draw families back to the school system. And because kids are going to go back to the schools, it's important that more research be done on the topic of this transition, both for the sake of the schools and for the children's sake. I hope someone undertakes a much more comprehensive study of these issues.

1 comment:

IJecsMommy said...

Thank you for posting this! I have been homeschooling for 3 years and due to some rough circumstances I had to stop this year. I saw your blog when I googled transitioning from homeschool to public school. This is what we are doing this year! Thank you!!!