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Is home-schooling a better option than public school? Add to ...

It may come as no surprise to any parent who has watched her child squeeze into an overcrowded classroom, but getting the lessons at the kitchen table from mom or dad appears to push kids ahead academically.

A new study, published in the Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science, found that students between age five and 10 who were home-schooled with a structured curriculum surpassed the public school peers on standardized tests.

Conducted by researchers at Concordia University and Mount Allison University, the study assessed 74 children living in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. (In Canada, it is estimated that about one per cent of children are home-schooled.)

The public school students were performing at or above grade level. But when tests scores were compared, home-schooled children were found to have a half-grade advantage in math, and an average of 2.2 grade levels in reading.

Although lead author Sandra Martin-Chang, an education researcher at Concordia pointed out that school provided an important environment for social skills, she suggested several factors might give home-schooling the learning edge “including class sizes, more individualized instruction and more academic time spent on core subjects such as reading and writing.”

A key point, though: the home-schooling program had to be structured and follow a curriculum. A smaller group of “unschooled” students, a theory of home-schooling that allows for independent learning without teachers or textbooks, scored the lowest on the test in all measures, in some cases as much as four grades behind.

Tell us: After the first week of school, do you think classes remain too large? Would you home-school your children if you could? Or do you think the social benefits of school outweigh other concerns?

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