Psychological Effects of Homeschooling Later in Life: My Experience & Evidence


What are the psychological effects of homeschooling later in life compared to children who went through traditional schools? Many think there are a lot of negative effects of home education – particularly regarding socialization. Some think ‘homeschooling and social skills’ are two words that should not be used together.

But this wasn’t my experience and hasn’t been the experience for most homeschoolers I know or have heard about anecdotally or in studies.

Rebbecca Devitt

I hope you enjoy reading this blog post. If you want to do my course on how to homeschool, click here.

This article covers statistics on the psychological effects of homeschooling AND reflections on my experiences as a homeschooler.

Specifically, we’ll cover:

  • My and other homeschool experiences
  • Positive and negative effects of homeschooling on socialization
  • Positive psychological effects of homeschooling later in life
  • Negative psychological effects of homeschooling  later in life

Let’s get started!

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The first article that currently appears in Google if you type in ‘psychological effects of homeschooling‘ is an article about the experience of a home educated girl who didn’t love homeschooling and who had a bad experience (it’s called, Socialization and Psychological Maltreatment: Isolating Children and Teenagers).

In the article, the writer says:

Socialization” was a joke to my parents, as it was and is for many homeschooling apologists, but the different aspects of isolation are easily categorized as psychological maltreatment.’

This is sad to hear, as home education can offer a superior socializing experience if only parents value it enough.

While I knew some home-educating parents who didn’t value socialization highly, most parents were acutely conscious of the socialization question (this was a significant barrier to them choosing to home-educate in the first place).

What is more, I can find no evidence that the issue of socialization is ignored among many home education apologists. Instead, I’ve found the opposite.

Many of my homeschool blogging friends constantly publish articles about the importance of socialization in home-educated families and the dangers of failing to do this!

I myself have probably talked about this issue in most of my posts (and I am a very ardent apologist for homeschooling).

Psychological impact of homeschooling study finds homeschool is overall a great way to educate children.
Overall, homeschooling is a great way to educate children.

How I Reacted to Being Home Educated

I completed three years of mainstream education in a Christian school and then homeschooled for the rest of my primary and secondary years.

Compared to my school experience, I can see almost no negative sides to home education.

Below are the psychological effects of homeschooling later in life that I noticed for me:

  1. Boosted self-confidence as I avoided an environment where I felt unloved (school) and felt I had no friends (whether this was true or not).
  2. Better attention during work time as I wasn’t hung up on what my peers thought and how badly I was performing compared to them (this meant my test scores went from the bottom 10% in my classroom at school to the top 10% at university and assisted me in entering medical school).
  3. Gratitude to my parents for pulling me out of school as I wouldn’t say I liked mainstream education as I felt rejected and unloved most of the time.
  4. Serenity and Hope – when at home, I was no longer stressed, and I didn’t have to put on a fake face to fit in with my peers. I now hoped life would be cheerful every day as I loved spending time with my new best friends – my parents and my brothers!
  5. Awe – working in nature more than the classroom rekindled my awe of God and His creation.
  6. Joy as I restarted my relationship with Jesus. Ironically, when I started attending Christian school, I began walking away from anything to do with God because I was too distracted by everything around me.
  7. Love – through homeschooling, I relied on more emotions that can be encompassed by the word love. I loved others more. By comparison, my Christian school felt like a fight, and I constantly dealt with feelings of dislike and negative psychological effects as I struggled throughout the day.

When people ask me to summarize my experience, I say that homeschooling felt like stepping out of a dark, dreary box into a sunny, warm field of flowers.

Socialization: Positive and Negative Effects of Home Education

Some people believe homeschoolers have inadequate social skills. But, after closely examining the definition of socialization, I’m persuaded they have no worse (and probably better) social skills than traditionally schooled children.

Peabody researcher Joseph Murphy wrote a book called Homeschooling in America, which was a result of a three-year study into home education. In this book, Murphy disposed of the socialization argument, saying:

A common worry is that home-schooled children will not be socialized, but Murphy found that most of these [homeschooled] students have vibrant social networks“Homeschoolers are successful, and they don’t perform worse than other students or seem to be disadvantaged in any way,” Murphy said. “If you have one teacher dedicated to one or two children, it’s a success equation, and so it doesn’t surprise me [home education] works.” [Source]

Other research says the effects of homeschooling lead to children who are well-adjusted and happy in their social lives.

Socialization in Homeschools – Positive Effects

If parents homeschool for the right reasons and if they do this because they love their children and want to improve their education, the psychological effects of homeschooling later in life can be excellent for the homeschoolers and their progeny. Statistics say homeschoolers:

Home education can provide an environment where children flourish under their parents’ care and moral guidance.

Socialization in Homeschools – Negative Effects

Suppose parents homeschool for the wrong reasons and only educate because they want greater control over their children and abuse them. In that case, the psychological effects of homeschooling can be disastrous.

Some problems I’ve heard about and seen include:

  • Lack of motivation
  • School withdrawals
  • Parentified daughters
  • Parent stress from lack of rest or breaks
  • Loneliness (tied to a lack of socialization)​
  • Homeschooling becoming school at home (you can see these points enumerated here)

This said these children are in a small minority (Penelope Trunk has said the bar is set so low in public schools that you don’t have to provide much more of an ideal environment to beat public schools).

I haven’t met many children who have disliked home education. The only common downside I have seen is that it’s frustrating when homeschoolers try to relate to schoolchildren on some topics, as they’re not always as versed in popular culture.

This may be an issue when homeschooled students attend college or high school later in their life. This funny homeschool video below exhibits the point.

However, I don’t see the failure to notice and relate to pop culture as an issue I would want to change in my children. Many parents discern negative influences in pop culture and want to keep their kids away from them by home educating!

Socialization in Public Schools – Should We Be So Keen on It?

I’m happy I didn’t go through socialization in a public school because here’s what the experts say the stages of socialization involve:

  1. Investigation – whereby an individual sizes up a group and tries to see if it will be a good fit for them. The group does the same. The end of this stage is when the group asks the new person into their group, and the person accepts.
  2. Socialization – the new member accepts the group’s culture, whether good or bad! They assimilate into their desired group and adopt their values, norms, and beliefs (whether good or bad)
  3. Maintenance – the new member and the desired group negotiate what the group expects of the new member (i.e., how they should act or contribute to the group). The individual can be ejected from the group if they don’t meet expectations, or they can renegotiate terms and come back into the group.
  4. Resocialization – depending on the outcome of the maintenance stage of socialization, the disgraced member will be received back into the group’s fold and learn to act accordingly, or they will be thrown out indefinitely and have to learn to live outside the group.
  5. Remembrance – ex-members recall their memories in the group. They make sense of their departure and figure out their reasons for leaving. [Source]

That sounds harsh.

Do children need to go through this process to be socialized?

The psychological effects of homeschooling later in life are positive. Socialization is not an issue.

Positive Effects of Homeschooling Later in Life

Some people will argue that homeschooling is a bad idea based on faulty evidence.

They think home educators cannot instill good social skills.

But, many believe this because they’ve been sold the lie that school is the only place that allows children to socialize appropriately and with enough breadth.

But, I think the evidence shows there are a lot of positive psychological effects people fail to account for that happens in a homeschool.

Academics: Positive Outcomes of Homeschooling

Academically, there have been so many positive psychological effects of homeschooling for me.

When I went to school, I consistently scored poorly and had many social hang-ups due to negative peer pressure around me.

I felt like I was an academic failure at school, which seemed to be backed up by constant tests and quizzes.

When my parents homeschooled me, I didn’t feel pressured, and I wasn’t competing with anyone.

I only had to get my work done for the day.

Consequently, I performed much better in my homeschool and was very motivated.

When I reached university, I found home education had helped me motivate myself to study, and I excelled, despite not being the brightest in my primary school classroom.

I soon scored in the top 10 percentile and ended up studying for a medical degree for a year.

There’s also a lot of evidence that home-educated students academically do at least as well as traditionally schooled students in their studies and academically do at least as well as traditionally schooled students in their studies and college

The Brian Ray Study

The study most quoted on this topic is by Brian Ray, author of the Worldwide Guide to Homeschooling.

The article says American homeschoolers perform on the 80th percentile, whereas their public school peers perform on the 50th percentile. And:

The home-educated typically score 15 to 30 percentile points above public-school students on standardized academic achievement tests. (The public school average is the 50th percentile; scores range from 1 to 99.) A 2015 study found Black homeschool students scoring 23 to 42 percentile points above Black public school students (Ray, 2015). [Source]

See this article on home-educated students’ test scores vs. public school students’ test scores for more information on academics.

Home Education Can Give Children Great Social Lives

When I Went to School…

I mostly socialized with my peers and teachers when I was at school.
But, I only associated with my parents in the mornings and evenings and on weekends. I didn’t get too much time to spend on extra-curricular activities outside of school, and when I did get this time, I felt exhausted.
I had only a small opportunity to interact with people outside of my age group at school. After I finished my day, I often returned weeping from pure exhaustion and had to sleep for an hour until I was content again.
I didn’t feel like socializing with anyone after school either – this included my siblings and parents. Consequently, I fought with my brothers more and found it difficult to answer my mother civilly when asked about my day.

When I was Homeschooled…

When I was homeschooled, my social circle widened. Instead of spending most of my social time with my peers at school, I spent time at athletic groups, art groups, singing choirs, and charity shops.
The people I socialized with included babies and significantly older adults. I interacted with others in my church and those from different faith groups. As a result, I acquired a broad worldview at the end of my homeschooling life.
Our family interacted, on average, four times a week with different social groups. We weren’t socially isolated at all.

Psychological Effects of Homeschooling Later in Life: My Experience & Evidence. This is why I loved homeschooling...#ilovehomeschooling #psychologicaleffectsofhomeschooling #howdoihomeschool

As I read studies and statistics on homeschooling, I realized most home-educated students were similar and attended four different social interactions a week on average.
Indeed, one mother testified to the effectiveness of homeschooling socialization as opposed to school socialization, saying:

My kids were much better at getting along with people of all ages when they were homeschooled and were able to be cheerful and outgoing in public and get along with their peers and friends. They learned to interact with the world in a much more natural way than expected, only to know how to communicate with other kids their age. [Why on Earth Homeschool]

Homeschooling can help families interact more harmoniously.
This was certainly the case in my family. My brothers and I had better relationships with our parents when we were homeschooling than when we were in school.

Life Skills

There are also life skills.

Many homeschoolers may not perform above average on IQ tests, but they almost always come out with more hands-on knowledge of things like cooking, cleaning, and general house maintenance.

That’s because they’re around home for so much longer.

Their parents are at their elbows, teaching them skills constantly.

Consequently, they tend to learn more life skills.

General Negative Effects of Homeschooling Later in Life

My article The Potential Problems with Homeschooling previously ranked #1 worldwide on this topic.

The article is a well-thought-out blog on what can go wrong when parents abuse and neglect their children when home-educating.

It is not about what is wrong in every household that tries to educate its children.

On the contrary, I believe (from experience and from the extensive amount of research I’ve done) these problems are present in very few homeschools.

This seems to be backed up by a study from the National Home Education Research Institute:

“The limited evidence available shows that homeschooled children are abused at a lower rate than are those in the general public, and no evidence shows that the home educated are at any higher risk of abuse” (Ray, 2018; Williams, 2017) [Source]

Then, Why Do Some People Say Homeschool is Bad

The reason you hear people saying, ‘homeschooling messed me up,’ or ‘homeschooling ruined my life‘ is that has happened in some homeschools because of:

Unfortunately, these things can result in:

Psychological Effects of Homeschooling Later in Life: My Experience & Evidence. This is why I loved homeschooling...#ilovehomeschooling #psychologicaleffectsofhomeschooling #howdoihomeschool

  • school withdrawals that are poorly handled
  • child loneliness (from lazy, fearful, or rural home-educating parents)
  • lack of child motivation to do bookwork
  • no sufficient break for parents, often because they feel like they need to do too much and they get burned out
  • homeschools becoming like school-at-home – another thing that leads to home educator burnout
  • parentified daughters – children (primarily daughters) who are leaned on so heavily by parents that they ‘lose their childhood.
But, in the Gen2 Study on Millenials, 82% of home-educated students plan on homeschooling exclusively or part-time.
This suggests many enjoyed their education enough to homeschool their own children again.

Want to Learn How to Homeschool?

There are two great ways t learn more about homeschooling: one is free, and one is a $67 fundamentals course.

The $67 Course

Looking to take your homeschooling to the next level? Join Rebecca Devitt’s online Homeschool Parenting Program and learn the strategies and techniques needed to make homeschooling a success! Learn more about the HPP here and signup here.

The Free Youtube Channel

Also, make sure you join the How to Homeschool Youtube channel, which will give you a fun and exciting look into the homeschool world and help homeschool your children. Check out the channel here, and don’t forget to SUBSCRIBE.

If you’re not sure where to start, start with the following playlists:

You’ll love it and find it helpful and entertaining! Discover the channel here.

Conclusion

Long-term studies suggest the psychological effects of homeschooling later in life are generally positive. Home-educated students are doing well and are certainly no worse off than their public school peers. Whil,e some people may talk about homeschool neglect and abuse, statistics don’t indicate anything of the sort, far from it. My experience and the studies that I’ve read over many years, which are recorded in my book, show the opposite is true and homeschooled children are happy and well-adjusted individuals.

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Rebecca Devitt

Most adults don't particularly want to relive their schooling experience on a daily basis. They would gladly move on to a new life devoid of homework and teachers. Very, very few adults will passionately blog about their schooling some 15 years after graduating. This makes Rebecca Devitt somewhat unique. As it happens, she was homeschooled. And she loved it. Still does. And she wishes every kid could get a taste of homeschooling at its very best. Her website How Do I Homeschool, is a springboard for parents to see what a life of homeschooling could be for both them & their children. When she's not blogging Rebecca is still homeschooling her-adult-self by learning Latin, growing weird vegetables and most importantly looking after her two children Luke & Penny. She has a husband Tristan and is a participant at Wollongong Baptist Church. She's also written a book about why parents should homeschool called 'Why on Earth Homeschool'.

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3 Comments

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  1. I think the bottom line is abusive parents abuse no matter what the school situation. It’s absured to think homeschool increases that risk. And as far as socialization goes, there is unfortunately many isolated and lonely children in the public schools.

  2. I was homeschooled Pre-K through 12th grade. I probably received a better-quality education than most public-schooled children (as proof, I am now a junior premedical student at a top college and my GPA is 3.8). Homeschooling can be great, but there are so many ways to unintentionally mess your kids up that way. I knew many homeschooled kids who “graduated” high school with well-developed dramatic and artistic ability, very little practical education, and no social skills whatsoever (and their parents were completely unaware of the depth of the problem). There is no bright future for such children; I’ve seen them end up cashiers at Dunkin Donuts.

    Even when homeschoolers escape the danger of a global education deficit (all subjects), there is always the danger of a focal deficit (one subject, usually the one that the parents are least equipped to teach). Although my parents were highly intelligent and took great care in choosing curriculum for me, I discovered in college that I was incapable of doing basic algebra. I attribute this to never having attended a live lecture or taken a live test during high school. It’s taken years of stress and self-study to try to remedy this serious deficit. If you homeschool, make sure to identify your child’s academic weaknesses on an ongoing basis. I highly recommend giving them live classroom experience as soon and as often as possible (i.e., live online classes or enrolling them at a community college in high school). I do not recommend homeschool co-ops, which tend to foster weak academics and tepid culture.

    Also, be aware of the effect that isolating your kid from his peers and their families will have in the future. There’s something irreplaceable about being integrated into your local community, knowing people in your town, playing sports with kids who live on your street… I missed all of that because I spent 18 years in the backroom of my parents house. I have no ties to the town where I grew up, so I most likely will not go back.

    The social isolation of homeschooling has other serious effects on my personality. My parents unintentionally taught me to view everything youthful or romantic as “shallow.” As a result, I have no capacity for or interest in friendship with my peers. Because most of my early education consisted of self-teaching from textbooks, I struggle to carry on conversations with my college professors (even though I’d like to talk with them, I find it extremely difficult to turn my thoughts into words). I never interacted with boys growing up, so I have no capacity for or interest in romance (besides, why would I want to have children, when my parents have taught me that public schools are a cesspool of evil? I spent 18 years at home; I don’t want to spend more of my life cooped up in a house homeschooling my own kids).

    All I know how to do well is study. I’ve tried counseling, but my social intelligence is so fundamentally warped that I’ve despaired of fixing it. Please don’t let what happened to me happen to your kids. No one deserves to be this isolated.

    If you’re going to homeschool, please, please make sure your kids get out of the house every day. Don’t supervise them 24/7 (I know it’s hard, but if you try to engineer their lives they will grow up to view you more as jailers than parents…even if they don’t have the guts to rebel against the people they have to live with 24/7. They need to take risks early and often, because real life is full of risks). Also, know that they are going to need other adults in their lives besides you. They will need teachers and coaches and friends’ moms to talk to. Growing up, I found that there were things I desperately wanted to talk about with an adult but was afraid to bring up with my parents because I had to live with them 24/7. Sometimes it’s much easier to discuss things with a person you only see once a week than with a person who is always there.

    I’m sorry for rambling. I wrote this post because I want you to learn from the mistakes my parents made. Homeschooling can be a great way to transmit your worldview and raise well-adjusted, polite, intelligent children. However, if you homeschool your kids, make sure they have friends, community, freedom, and purpose. Do not let them become brilliant, disconnected loners like me. On the surface, I may be my parents’ dream come true: I continue to accumulate academic accolades, work part-time in a medical environment, and am well on my way to becoming a surgeon. However, even though I can discipline myself and function at a high level, I have an intense, life-long existential pain and emptiness that just doesn’t get better.