Does Homeschooling Work?

Can conservative Christian parents protect their children from the corrupt values of public schooling?  That’s the question asked by homeschooling parent Braden Hoelzle.  As reviewed by the peerless homeschooling scholar Milton Gaither, Hoelzle’s published findings don’t really offer us the solid answer we want.

First of all, for all of us interested in questions about homeschooling, Gaither’s blog is a must-read.  Professor Gaither reviews academic research into central questions and offers a quick summary of its value and contribution.

In this case, Gaither examines a 2013 article by Hoelzle.  Hoelzle wondered if homeschoolers can really pass along their values to their children.  He did so by interviewing four adults who were homeschooled.  For those four, the results were mixed.

Please read Gaither’s full appraisal, but in short, Gaither notes that we don’t get the solid research-based answers we want in this article.  Does homeschooling work?  Can parents pass along their values?  Maybe.  Sorta.  But this research doesn’t give us more than what Gaither calls “just four anecdotes.”

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  1. Agellius

     /  December 17, 2014

    As a parent –like any parent — I want the option to teach what I believe are correct values to my kids, and not have what I believe are false or destructive values taught to them, while they’re at an impressionable age (which, frankly, I think is all of childhood even through the teen years).

    My goal is not to make my kids carbon copies of myself. I’m well aware that you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink. The extent to which my kids become faithful, devout Christians is between them and God.

    Nevertheless it’s my *duty* as a responsible parent to teach them things that are true and good, and avoid exposing them to things that are harmful and bad; to teach them the right way to act and to avoid wrong ways of acting.

    I can’t imagine that any decent and sensible parent would feel any differently about these issues. I’m sure that even liberal parents are aware that they can’t make their kids carbon copies of themselves, and that try as you might, your kids might end up rejecting the beliefs and values that are sacred to you.

    In other words, we have the same intentions, even if we disagree as to what specifically is good and bad, harmful and helpful, etc.

    • Donna

       /  December 17, 2014

      Agellius, do you have specific ideas and ages in mind when you talk about avoiding exposure to things that are harmful?

      • Agellius

         /  December 17, 2014


        No, I’m making general statements of principle which I think all parents would agree with. How to apply the principle in specific circumstances will vary depending on the kid and the circumstances.

        My point is that making kids into carbon copies of their parents is not a homeschooling goal, any more than any other parents doing what they think best for their kids, is an attempt to make them into carbon copies. We all hope that our kids will turn out to be good people in accord with what we consider good, and do what we can to make that happen. This is not something peculiar to homeschooling families.

  2. Agellius

     /  December 17, 2014

    You could put the question this way:

    A lot of atheist parents are highly concerned that God not be mentioned in school: No prayers, no overt professions of faith by teachers, no prayer meetings during school hours, etc.

    Is anybody asking, “Do atheist efforts to shield their kids from Christianity work? What percentage of atheist kids remain atheist when they grow up, as a result of their parents having fought to keep all mention of Christianity out of the schools their kids attend?”

    • willbell123

       /  December 21, 2014

      I am an atheist and a secularist, and if/when I have kids they will learn about Christianity, and Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, Jainism, Shinto, Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, etc etc. I will not shield them from these other religions, I won’t even criticize those religions when I teach about them. It is up to the child to see what they think about that religion, fully understanding that religion. This is not the same thing, trying to keep schools secular is trying to keep them neutral, taking kids out of school so they are only exposed to one’s own religion (which is the intent/practice of many parents who homeschool) is bringing them from a neutral and diverse setting to an explicitly biased setting.

      • Agellius

         /  December 21, 2014


        It’s a common misconception that religion-free is equal to unbiased and neutral. But the very notion, that religion should not be taught to a child, is an opinion like any other, and to someone starting from a religious point of view, is not a “neutral” opinion at all.

        All parents are obligated to teach their children as they think best. What you think best is to teach your children the facts about various religions and let them choose whichever one they want, or none. The underlying opinion which this reflects — and the opinion that you will be teaching to your children in the process of pursuing this course of action — is that all religions are equally valid, and that it’s not really important which one you choose. The most important thing, in your scheme, is not choosing the religion that is most true, but rather, letting your child choose according to his own criteria, and not even teaching him what criteria are to be used in making such a choice.

        This is a specific viewpoint with regard to religion and its importance and the best way of teaching it. It’s not a “neutral” viewpoint, because it is directly opposed to the opinion of Christian parents, which says that Christianity is the truest of all religions and should be presented as such to their children. Being as all parents, again, are obligated to teach their children as they think best, a parent who believes in Christianity has an obligation to treat it as the truest of all religions, and not treat it as though it were no truer or more valid than any other. To believe Christianity to be the truest of all religions, and yet treat it as if it were not, would be a falsehood and a failure to teach your kids the truth about life to the best of your ability.

        From the Christian point of view, what you advocate would be like teaching your kids, “Some people believe that stealing is wrong and others that it’s not wrong. I’m not going to push one point of view or the other on you, but let you figure it out for yourself.” Why push the biased view that stealing is wrong?

  3. willbell123

     /  December 21, 2014


    I do not believe the question of what religion one belongs to is unimportant, in fact I find you putting such words in my mouth to be disrespectful. If I believed that I would say that, otherwise do not make insinuations about my beliefs. I do not believe all religions are equally valid, but I believe that if they are introduced to them and given a toolbox of reason and different perspectives on religious issues as a starting point then they are likely to make a sensible choice. If that agrees with my own choice I do not know, I’ll find out when I get there.

    A viewpoint can be neutral even if you disagree with it. If I taught a course on political science and I taught everything from the assumption that communism is the only viable economic system I think we can both agree that it wouldn’t be neutral, even if I thought it wasn’t neutral to teach without starting from that premise. The only neutral way of looking at something is to give each side a word except in matters of empirical/rational truth (i.e. science, math, etc).

    To think of it using your analogy: if I were teaching about stealing, I would tell them to consider every part of it, stealing might help you, but does it feel good? How does it make the other person feel? Does it fit in with whatever concept of right and wrong they have naturally developed (and we do naturally have a conscience)?

  4. Agellius

     /  December 22, 2014


    You may not believe all religions are equally valid, but I think that if you teach them all to your children from a completely neutral point of view, without telling them which ones you believe are preferable or more valid than the others, then the de facto message that you are imparting to them is that as far as you are concerned, they are all equally good or equally bad. In your own mind you may not believe they are equally valid, but the point here is not what you believe, but what you are imparting to your kids.

    If, on the other hand, you work through them with your children, stating the points on which you think each one is valid or invalid, good and bad, etc., then they may get a different message. But then, that’s pretty much what Christian parents do.

    You write, “A viewpoint can be neutral even if you disagree with it.” Well, “neutral” means “not taking sides”. Certainly if you treat all religions as being equally valid, then you’re being neutral on that question. What you’re not being neutral on, is the question of whether parents should pass on religion to their children. To that question you’re giving a definite no.

    With regard to the schools, there are three basic ways that they could treat religion: (1) they could mandate that one religion be taught as true; (2) they could allow any religion or no religion to be taught as true; (3) they could mandate that no religion be taught as true.

    True neutrality would be (2), openness to teaching any religion or no religion (which apparently is what they do in the UK); whereas what you advocate is (3). In practice, the government is neutral when it comes to private schools, adopting option (2); but it is not neutral with regard to public schools.

  5. Agellius

     /  December 22, 2014


    On further reflection, I should not have said that you are “giving a definite no” to the question of whether parents should pass on their religion to their kids, since all you said is what you would do personally. I have heard atheists say that all parents should be neutral with regard to religion and not “indoctrinate” their kids with it, but I should not have attributed that opinion to you since I haven’t heard you say it.


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