According to a new study published in the Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science, some students who are schooled at home have a leg up on their public-school peers ... but only when that home schooling is conducted in a structured way. Researchers studied a relatively small group of kids - 74 children aged five to ten years old in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick - asking them to complete standardized tests of reading, writing and math.
37 of the kids were schooled at home, and the other 37 at public schools. The public school kids tested "at or above" their grade levels, but the home-schooled children tested even higher: about a half grade higher in math and 2.2 grades in reading. Home-schooling didn't offer the same benefits, however, in households that used "unstructured" teaching methods, involding no textbooks, teachers or tests.
This unstructured approach, which some people call "unschooling," is apparently very popular in the U.S. these days. One Associated Press report estimates as many as 680,000 students in the States may be receiving this type of education, in which kids are allowed to explore whatever takes their fancy on a given day. Advocates of the approach say it helps kids to stay engaged in their education and remain excited. One thing it doesn't help with, apparently, is standardized test scores.