I wonder, has anyone ever thought about it from a causation perspective, rather than a correlation perspective? Do those who express doubts about children who are homeschooled ever take a moment to look at the variety of reasons that cause parents to make the decision to disenroll them from their local public school? Do they evaluate the results of homeschooling on their own merits, rather than working hard to ignore certain key factors?
Many critics of homeschooling offer up socialization issues as one of the biggest concerns they have. How can a child be "properly socialized" when they are not around their peers regularly? How do they learn to share, interact, and handle socially awkward situations? How do they develop into more social creatures if not given the chance to practice those skills with their peers?
Those same critics often point to the naturally introverted child who happens to be quieter, and use that introversion as proof, completely disregarding the fact that what they are seeing is correlation, not causation, and that perhaps that child was just born that way! For example, long before I ever considered the idea of home education, the first homeschooling family I ever met had eight children and had homeschooled since their first child started kindergarten. By the time I got to know them, they were several years into their homeschooling journey and a few of their kids were teens. A friend at the time pointed out how very quiet each of the kids was, and how homeschooling was to blame for stunting their social maturation process. What was completely disregarded in that assessment was that their mom and dad were both quieter, more contemplative types. Homeschooled or not, these kids might have been predisposed to being more like their parents!
Two of our kids, though not biologically related to us, are introverted and self-contained. Neither has the need for as much social connection, though they are not hermits, and they are quite content with occasional opportunities to engage with others. Like most introverts, for them socializing feels like work and a little goes a long way! Our other three are social butterflies, and their needs are met in a variety of ways. Did homeschooling "make" our introverts that way? Or did it allow them to be who they naturally were and not force them into a situation requiring them to don a false facade to please those around them?
In typical interactions with the world at large, homeschooled kids are often held to a far higher standard for academics than their public schooled counterparts. When was the last time you witnessed a public schooled child being grilled and quizzed by strangers and acquaintances alike on what they know? This happens with regularity to homeschoolers, and aside from the fact that this public "testing" is annoying and judgmental, it points to a certain bias that most "outsiders" have. Once again, correlation versus causation comes into play, though few would stop long enough to consider that to be true.
Many parents elect to withdraw their kids from local schools because those schools are ill equipped to meet the specific needs of their child. This can be due to specific areas of giftedness, or due to learning disabilities that are not easily remediated in a typical classroom setting. There are few surveys available that provide relevant data to back up this assertion, but one survey of 119 families indicated that 38% of homeschooled students present with learning disabilities, which is three times higher than the number of students in special education programs in public schools. Now, has homeschooling caused the lower academic achievement, or is it merely a correlation? According to this study, 61% of those children were already working below grade level prior to being pulled from school for an attempt at remediation at home. That doesn't sound to me like causation, that homeschooling somehow fails to do an adequate job of educating learners. Instead, it speaks directly to correlation, and that schools tried and failed, and parents stepped up to try and fill the gap. However, ask an "outsider" and they often try to disprove the strength of one-on-one education by pointing to this very issue, without giving any thought to whether it is correlation or causation, because their own inherent bias against homeschooling gets in the way of rational thinking.
I would like to point out that as homeschoolers, we also approach education with biases and fail to see correlation versus causation. We blame the school setting for the attitudes and bad behavior of students, never taking into account the home life of the child...correlation versus causation. Many a wonderful kid has emerged from public education, but we tend to turn a blind eye to that. We blame low test scores on poor teachers, when in fact many children are deprived of being immersed in a language rich environment filled with experiences and books long before the school ever sees the child come through their doors. Studies reflect that many of those kinds of students never catch up. Again, correlation, or causation? None of us are immune to our own prejudices clouding our thinking.
There are many other examples on both sides. Public education versus home-based education will likely always serve up a hot stew of contention. However, rather than arguing the point, perhaps we can present the ideas behind causation and correlation to help those who question us think a little differently, and in turn, perhaps we can lend an ear to supportive arguments in favor of public education and consider them from a more thoughtful, rational place. Discovering where our own blind spots are relating to the discernment of correlation and causation helps us become better thinkers, and more astute evaluators of all kinds of situations. When we can more concisely express our own opinions, we might change minds...perhaps even our own.