When it comes to grades, new research suggests that homeschooling is superior to public-school education -- most of the time

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PROBLEM: The murky debate on whether home schooling leads to poor social skills may never be resolved. But when it comes to more objective measures of performance, such as grades, how do home-schooled children fare against kids in public school?

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METHODOLOGY: Researchers assessed the academic aptitude of 74 Canadian children between five and 10 years old using standardized tests that involved reading, writing, and math, among other skills. Half of the participants were enrolled in public schools while the other half were educated at home. Among those who were home schooled, 12 were taught in an unstructured manner or without teachers, textbooks, and formal assessment.

RESULTS: Public-school children performed at or above expected levels for their ages, but children who received structured home schooling scored highest. They exhibited a half-grade advantage in math and were more than two grade levels higher in reading. Children in the unstructured home-schooling group, however, performed the worst across all seven academic measures.

CONCLUSION: Children taught in a structured home environment may have an academic edge over their peers in traditional schools. This advantage, the authors say, may be due to smaller class sizes, more individualized instruction, or more academic time spent on core subjects, such as reading and writing.

SOURCE: The full study, "The Impact of Schooling on Academic Achievement: Evidence From Homeschooled and Traditionally Schooled Students," is published in the Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science. It was coauthored by Odette Gould and Reanne Meuse of Mount Allison University, and Sandra Martin-Chang of Concordia University.

Image: AP/Charlie Neibergall.