Sunday, January 20, 2013

Homeschoolers Learn: Is It The Result of Not Cheating

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.

8 comments:

My name is Tiffany said...

You may be on to something here. Homeschooled, students also finish textbooks. I never completed material in a textbook during school. No hs family is perfect but perhaps the little things make more of an impact than we think. Like interest led learning, not making big deals over exams, or finding alternate ways to assess learning. On top of that allowing children to grow and develop with less peer pressure helps them be more secure in self once they enter college. I'm just guessing,

Tracey said...

Interesting post. I think that lack of motivation is a big factor in why students – any students – do poorly. Public school kids are forced to learn things they are not particularly interested in for the purpose of (ironically) scoring well on tests. So many are “pushed through” the system whether they learn anything or not. We homeschool parents have a vested and personal interest in our children doing well, so, yes, they do the work. Homeschool students, although they too have certain guidelines to follow (depending on the state) typically have more time to explore their own interests, and develop real-life skills, which can at least mitigate, to some degree, the boring school stuff. I have seen my own children absolutely come alive when something ignites their interests, and, without any prompting, they research and in some cases apply what they’ve learned to the real world (through an apprenticeship, or volunteer work, or paying job, etc.). This self-learning teaches so much more than they can ever learn in a classroom, where students are spoon-fed everything. My oldest, who has graduated and is doing her first two years at community college, tells me that her public school peers have a very hard time particularly with online classes (which require students to manage their time independently even more so than seated classes), and were perplexed that, when asked why she does so well in classes, she said, “Well, for one thing, I read the textbook.”

Karen said...

Oh, I absolutely agree!

The other day the kids were saying to me, "We don't cheat! I mean, why would we? We'd be cheating ourselves."

Pretty wise, eh?!

Karen said...

Oh, I absolutely agree!

The other day the kids were saying to me, "We don't cheat! I mean, why would we? We'd be cheating ourselves."

Pretty wise, eh?!

Roma said...

I loved your son's comment: "let's blow something up with chemicals!) and more experiments.". It is so typical of hands on learners.
Hands On Learners

Roma said...

I loved what your son said: "let's blow something up with chemicals!" That is so typical of hands on learners.

Hands On Learners

ADHSA said...

Hmeschool kids are not immune to cheating! I have homeschooled our. 5 children. I do no test extensively, nor do I give grades until high school for the sake of a transcript. Yet I have caught them ALL cheating at one time or another. Until it happened I would have totally agreed with your post. It is hard to keep all teacher'smanuals and answers keys hidden away, but I came to realize that obviously policing their tests and even their homework is what it takes.The only thing I agree with is that we are definitely imperfect!

ChristineMM said...

ADHSA, I think degree and frequency are important. How often did you catch your kids cheating?

I have never caught my older but a few times caught my younger, like 3 times ever from prek-grade 8.

For some school kids cheating is an every single day occurrence and multiple subjects every day, grade after grade, year after year. That adds up.

I recall kids cheating on homework also, copying off answers, I did some of that in school too. I also was begged for my completed homework. We also did homework as a group sometimes in school, each of us taking a few questions and finding the answer then sharing the answers. In that way we didn't do all the reading or researching and then learning it all for a test was difficult, so cheating was a temptation.

To me just the fact that my kids can learn without it being geared toward a test helped them learn.

In the recent shift to formal strict co-op classes and community college my kids have started to shift to thinking about "getting the assignment done" not just learning and also "it's not going to be tested so I can skip reading (and learning) about that thing". Sad. That's why I am trying to keep our homeschooling as alternative as possible for as long as possible.

If we are to shift to college learning they need to know how to do that, and if my younger does go to school he needs to be able to work inside that framework. So the learning shifted here and I'm not happy about it to be honest.