Seventeen year-old Alicia Gibson hadn't taken a standardized test since elementary school. So this year, when she scored well enough on the sat for élite colleges to come courting, any lingering doubts about her academic achievement were put to rest. Not all homeschoolers are wooed by the likes of Cambridge and Yale as Gibson has been, but as a group, they do tend to outperform their peers on standardized tests. For example, the 2001 average ACT score for high school students enrolled in a traditional college prep course of study was 22.1 while homeschooled teenagers scored, on average, 22.7.

Whether it's Alaska, Tennessee, or Pennsylvania, states that track standardized test scores among homeschoolers all report above-average results. The Homeschool Legal Defense Association funded a study of more than 20,000 Iowa test-takers in 1998. "In every subject and at every grade level," Dr. Lawrence Rudner concluded, "homeschool students scored significantly higher than their public and private school counterparts." Even students with learning disabilities make "significant academic gains" at home, according to another researcher, Dr. Steven Duvall.

Still, many homeschooling families are committed to an alternative education paradigm that they believe is inconsistent with institutional analysis. J. Gary Knowles, from the University of Toronto, reported a different set of findings in 1991. Knowles interviewed adults who had been educated at home. Nearly two-thirds reported that they were self-employed, while none was unemployed—suggesting a highly autonomous crowd. Forty-two percent had pursued higher education. An overwhelming majority had a positive view of their homeschool experience, saying it had produced strong family relationships, ...

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