Knowing all the imperfections of most homeschooling families, even those who claim their kids turned out alright in the end, it is hard for me to believe sometimes how well homeschoolers do when compared to schooled kids. Everyone I know has grand plans for their homeschool and they seldom actually do it all. Those enrolled in courses sometimes do the same thing as schooled kids: they cram, they procrastinate, and they worry they won't do as well as they'd like as far as grades go. My family is imperfect, trust me.
Homeschoolers consistently do well on standardized tests and homeschool girls fare better on the math SAT than their schooled counterparts. Community colleges sing the praises of high school aged homeschoolers, saying they can't believe how well they do compared to high school graduates. Four year colleges claim the homeschoolers arrive on campus with better time management skills, act more mature, seem to have a grasp on their sense of self, and are more interested and serious about their studies: they actually go to class, do the work, participate in class and perform well. No one complains that the homeschoolers are less socially adjusted as schooled kids.
How is this possible? Homeschoolers are imperfect! Some of us worry about not doing enough, or not studying everything as in-depth as we think we should.
While watching the documentary Race to Nowhere a few years ago, a statistic was reported that 96% of high school students admit to cheating, even those taking high level courses, the so-called "smart kids". It dawned on me only recently that one reason homeschoolers may fare well is they do not cheat.
Having grown up without testing, other than spelling tests and checks to see if artithmetic assignments were done properly, my kids have no desire to cheat. My kids are not grade strivers. My kids want to learn, or they say they do not want to learn that subject, but they do it anyway. For example my older son this year is angry at the system of memorizing using short term memory then being tested for a test score to be reported then being allowed to forget it all afterward (in his chemistry homeschool co-op class). He wants to learn in a more interesting way, with a more interesting book than the textbook the class is using. He wants more hands on chemistry work for fun (let's blow something up with chemicals!) and more experiments. He asked me what the point is of all that memorization if everyone knows they will forget most of it when the class ends.
Another thing is the homeschoolers actually read the assigned readings. Most of us actually read the whole book, not just excerpts of literature. We do not read JUST the Cliff Notes. (One schooled student my older son knows advised him last week to stop reading To Kill a Mockingbird and instead to read only the Cliff's Notes, he said he did fine on his test using that method and he said the book sucked.) In our homeschool there will be no test on TKaM. We are doing discussions instead using prompts in Reading the Classics by Center for Lit. (Shortly I will begin having him do more writing relating to his readings.) I am fine with using Cliff Notes after and alongside in order to provide context and background information but we do not use them IN PLACE OF doing the readings. (I will admit in high school and college to reading ONLY the Cliff's Notes sometimes. I want something of higher quality for my own kids hence, homeschooling.)
Could it be possible that the reason that homeschoolers learn so much and are able to test well on standardized tests and perform well in college simply because they do not cheat and actually do the readings?
That's my working hypothesis and I'm sticking to it until someone can convince me otherwise.