Beyond Homeschooling NZ 2013 by Jenny Barkley

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Beyond Homeschooling NZ 2013

Homechooling/home based education has grown in New Zealand from a few isolated families in the 1980s to hundreds of families in 2013. In the early days 99% of homeschooled children had been to school, and it had failed them for some reason, so the parents were forced to homeschool. Currently many parents choose to homeschool for philosophical reasons, and their children have never been to school. Homeschooling is now seen by many to be an acceptable option, but does it work? What are the results and how do adults who were homeschooled compare with their schooled contemporaries?

Such results can only be measured in retrospect. This survey was conducted in order to generate some local statistics as we have been dependent on the results of studies from the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia. I hope that the results from this limited and imperfect questionnaire will alert people to the scope of study opportunity that exists in this field, and stimulate further research. Also I hope it will reassure parents, grandparents, relatives and neighbours that children who are homeschooled cope fine as adults, and that they are not narrow minded, over protected geeks with bleak life prospects. To the contrary the results of this survey portray highly confident achievers likely to be happy, involved in their community and highly educated. The findings indicate that children are not disadvantaged by being homeschooled and in fact compare favourably with their institutionalised contemporaries over a wide range of criteria.

At the outset I wish to thank Dr Brian Ray, author of “Home Educated and Now Adult” (2004), for permission to use his questionnaire, and many of the questions used were lifted directly from there. I recommend you read his very comprehensive survey covering over 7,000 respondents, conducted in the United States of America.

I also want to thank Oliver Fisher, who sorted Google documents and got the survey on line, and Michael Redepenning, who has been my local computer consultant for the purpose of editing, monitoring and downloading the results, (both ex-homeschoolers). Belinda Osgood encouraged me to get started, and let me sit on her computer and telephone. The ongoing support and encouragement from all my homeschooling friends has kept me moving. My husband and children have lived with this in the background for a year now and will be glad to have it completed so we can get back to tramping and other fun weekend activities. I am grateful for their support.

I have appreciated the feedback offered by many who viewed or completed the survey. Of course there are many things I would change if doing it again. However at the time it seemed better to start somewhere than not at all. I should certainly have registered the time lag since Dr Ray’s survey, (nearly ten years) and realised that many of the internet related questions are now superfluous. Thank you to all who persevered through the questions and completed the survey.

Originally this was to be my 25th-anniversary-of-homeschooling project. I would write out the questions, email it out, and voila, done! However the more I looked into the process the slower it got. Going online, has meant even more time spent at the local library… it appears we are the only homeschool family in NZ who don’t have internet access at home.:) The staff at the Hurunui Library in Amberley are wonderful, always ready to help and they have been very generous with their computer time allowance.

It is great to see what homeschoolers have done, and to receive their feedback. And this is not all of them. I am guessing that this represents ~¼ of the possible eligible respondents. It is heartening to see how many adults are glad they were homeschooled, and are now homeschooling their own children.

For those who don’t know me: I was born and raised in Whangarei and came south to Canterbury University where I completed a BSc (Hons) in Chemistry. Instead of going teaching I married Ross Barkley and became a housewife, as was normal at that time. When our eldest son began school we were very excited. However when subjected to the teaching methods and social environment at our
only local school, combined with the two hours of daily travel, he rapidly began to unravel. After several months of searching we were directed to Dot Brown, who had recently begun homeschooling, and she encouraged us to begin our own homeschooling journey. We went on to have seven children, currently aged 32 to 12. Homeschooling has been both challenging and rewarding. It has defined our lifestyle for over 25 years. We have made so many wonderful friends, and we are delighted with how our children have turned out, by the grace of God.

Method: Throughout this survey I have used the term “homeschooling”, rather than the more popular current definition of “home-based education”. Personally I like the English definition of “education otherwise”. However when we started it was called homeschooling so I have stuck with that.

I used a questionnaire format posted on Google documents, and the link was sent to national and local homeschool groups, passed on by personal contacts and placed on Facebook.

Reaching those who had left homeschooling was problematic, as old address lists were of limited use, and we are talking of the times before email. For that reason I assume that the number of siblings per respondent is likely to be higher than the average among homeschoolers, because adults who have younger siblings still being homeschooled were more likely to hear about the survey.
Smaller families who have long exited the homeschool scene had less chance of being contacted.

The survey remained open online for six months. The results were downloaded and compared with best comparable data. Where not otherwise specified data is from the NZ Census 2006. The graphs reproduced are generated by Google Documents. With the pie graphs, some of the labels are truncated. They came that way but the full label is to be found in the accompanying text. Numbers on the graphs refer to the number of people who marked this answer. However in the discussion I usually refer to percentages, so be aware of that. Not all the questions asked in the survey are addressed in this summary of results. This covers those areas of most interest to the homeschool community, particularly where comparable data could be found. People interested in the responses to particular questions can contact me directly.

These results were collected and compiled principally for the NZ homeschool community. I have sent them out in good faith, but do not profess to be infallible or an expert in data collection or analysis. Permission needs to be sought and acknowledgement given if you intend to publish these results. I can be contacted at

This survey is not large enough to be definitive, nor to draw sweeping conclusions. However it does clearly show that adults who were homeschooled have not been disadvantaged, and have performed well in adulthood.

Demographics of respondents: Females 62%, males 36%. Presumably 2 percent did not answer this question.
Ethnicity was NZ European 91%, Maori 1% and other 8%.
Age, spread was 16-37 years and an average of 24 yrs.

Length of time homeschooled: Of the 162 people who responded to this survey, 63% of them had been homeschooling for ten or more years and 95% for five or more years – so most of the responses come from people who were homeschooled for all or a significant amount of their schooling.

Family Size: Homeschoolers on average have bigger families. (Spot the rows of vans at conferences.) Less than 1% of the responses were from an only child, and yet in the general population 17% of women have only one child. Whereas only 11% of the general population have 5 or more children, that figure is over 55% for our sample. Bear in mind that the census figures measure how many children a woman has had, rather than how many children in a family. Remember also the comments above referring to the difficulty in making contact with the smaller families.

Parents’ qualifications: Homeschooling parents are significantly more highly educated than the general population. While 54% of the general population leave school without a level 3 certificate, only 19% of the mothers and 9% of the fathers of our homeschoolers were in this position. At the other end of the spectrum 29% of homeschool parents had a Bachelors degree, compared to 12% of the general population. 7% of homeschool mothers and 9% of fathers had a Masters degree compared to 2% of the general population. So homeschool parents have a higher than average level of education.

Interestingly, 23 respondents (14%) had fathers and 31 (19%) mothers who were or had been registered teachers. (The estimate I got from Statistics NZ figures was 3% of adults are teachers.)

Networking:93% of the families belonged to local or national homeschool organisations, and 91% were involved with combined lessons or activities with other homeschoolers. Children had been heavily involved in music, church, sport, service groups and other special
interest groups.

The service groups include St John’s, Guides, Scouts, Girls’/Boys’ Brigade, Forest and Bird etc. Hobbies could be chess, photography, etc. The x axis is number of respondents who were involved in these activities. Obviously some were involved in more than one activity.

From this it would appear that homeshooled children were not socially isolated.

A retrospective view:
Of great interest to homeschooling parents is how these children view the impact of their being homeschooled in retrospect.

I am glad that I was homeschooled.

Of the 162 respondents, a resounding 85% are glad they were homeschooled, 65% of them very glad. In comparison 6% are not glad but only 2% strongly so. The remaining 7% were neutral. The graph shows the results where 1 signifies strong agreement with the above statement and 5 is to strongly disagree.

Similar numbers believed “having been homeschooled is an advantage to them as an adult”, with 80% agreeing (49% strongly)
and 6% disagreeing (only 1%) strongly.

On whether “being homeschooling has limited my educational opportunities” 82% don’t believe so, again more than half of them strongly. 6% of them did feel limited, 1% strongly.

“Being homeschooled has limited my career choices” sees similar responses with 87 % disagreeing, more than two thirds strongly, while 4% believe it has, half of them strongly.

So these adults are largely very glad that they were homeschooled, do not believe it has limited their educational opportunities or career choices and in fact have found it an advantage as an adult to have been homeschooled.

In response to the statement “I would homeschool my own children”, 1 is strongly agree through to 5 strongly disagree.
66 respondents (41%) definitely want to homeschool their own children, and a further 34 (21%) will probably homeschool. 40 (25%)
are waiting, probably to see how their spouse feels about it, 11 or 6% will probably not homeschool and the remaining 9 or 6% certainly do not intend to homeschool.

Conclusion: Most homeschooled adults are glad they were homeschooled and do not feel it has been a disadvantage.

Life now:

As a general comment about their lives, the homeschooled adults were 54% very happy, 42% pretty happy and 2% not too happy.
This compares with the general population, according to the NZ General Social Survey 2010, where 33% of the population are very satisfied with their life, 54% satisfied, 7% neutral and 6% dissatisfied or very dis-satisfied.

From this we can say homeschooled adults are on average more satisfied with their lives than the general population.

Respondents qualifications:

• While 20% of the schooled population leave school with no qualifications, only 10% of the homeschoolers were in this position.

• Fewer homeschoolers got level 1 or 2 certificates, but a surprising 14% got NCEA level 3 certificates or equivalent, compared with 17% in the general population.

• However 24% homeschoolers attained a Bachelors degree, compared to the national average of 14%, and 2% got Masters degrees – equal in both categories.

• While there were no homeshoolers surveyed who held a PhD, one person was working on one. At the general rate of 0.2% for PhD, we needed only a third of a person with one to match the national figures.

It should be noted that during the period surveyed 47% of the respondents were full or part time sudents and a further 6% were in apprenticeships. Also, the average age of respondents was 24 years, so we would expect still higher levels of qualifications in years to come. A lot of the respondents indicated that they planned to study further.

From this it would appear that we are fulfilling the Ministry of Education’s brief, and that our children are being educated “as well as” they would be at a state school (indeed better than!).

Access to tertiary education:

Parents may well like to know how these students gained entrance to tertiary education. I am sorry I didn’t have a box so that “other” could be specified given that it was 38%. The category options were a) by normal entry requirements, eg NCEA levels achieved at school or correspondence school b) by completing a bridging course, eg through Open Polytech c) by presenting a portfolio of my own work d) by qualifying on age, eg at 20 you can attend university e) other. The numbers in brackets are the number of respondents who chose this option.

It is also interesting to see what influenced our students in their career pathways. Here the options were a) family advice, suggestion b) a long standing interest c) a “chance” encounter or opportunity d) friends are doing it.

Current occupation:
When asked for their current occupation, there was a wide range of answers, with the three highest being “other”, “full time student” and “homemaker”. Included at the end is a list of all the jobs that our respondents have held for a year or more. It is a wonderfully varied list and I know of many further occupations filled by ex-homeschoolers who did not fill in the survey.

Have you ever? %            yes no
worked                                    96 2
owned a business               22 77
been self-employed            40 59
are self-employed now      22 77

As a comparison, over the full age range for the NZ population 19% either employ others or are self-employed. (NZ Census figures) Given the young age of our respondents I find it remarkable that they are doing so well in the area of self-employment and business ownership.

Despite the high number of students, also a factor in the general population for this age group, the respondents show higher than average income levels. The census figures are for 15-34 year olds and would contain a higher percentage of people in their thirties than the survey sample did.

Income levels                  Homeschool %            Census %
loss                                                          1                                 1
zero income                                        6                                15
$1 – $5,000                                       12                               25
$5,001 – $10,000                          14                               15
$10,001 – $15,000                        12                                 5
$15,001 – $20,000                          7                                 5
$20,001 – $25,000                         7                                  5
$25,001 – $30,000                          6                                 5
$30,001 – $35,000                          2                                 4
$35,001 – $40,000                          9                                 4
$40,001 – $50,000                       10                                 6
$50,001 – $70,000                         4                                  6
$70,000 – $100,000                     4                                   3
$100,001 or more                           2                                   1

You may be interested to know what factors most influence the respondents in their choice of jobs. They are fairly evenly split between; more intellectually challenging, a higher income and more leisure time, with a few looking for higher status.

In answer to the question “on the whole how satisfied are you with the work you do?” most of the responents were very or moderately satisfied.

This graph shows satisfaction with one’s present financial situation, which is looking surprisingly positive given that nearly half of the respondents were students. The response options were: pretty well satisfied, more or less satisfied, not satisfied at all or don’t know.

Other Interesting Statistics:

  • Community involvement amongst the survey participants was very high. 67% of them were involved in volunteering, compared with around 30% for the general population over this age range.
  • 81% belonged to various community and professional organizations.
  • 70% played a musical instrument.
  • 91% had read books in the last six months. 55% used a public library in the last six months, 75% in the last year. These figures may be misleading, one person pointed out that although they did not use the public library at all, they visited the university library daily.
  • Newspapers and magazines were used in roughly similar amounts, with around 1/3 of respondents reading them daily, 1/3 hardly ever and the rest more weekly than monthly. There was a similar three way split for keeping up with the national news on TV or the radio.
  • A significant number are interested in local and national issues. 21% had attended a civic or politcal meeting in the last year and over the same time 14% participated in a protest or boycott and 56% signed a petition or wrote to or contacted an editor or public official over an issue of concern to them. A number were politically active with 5% giving money and 8% working for a candidate or political party or cause. I do not have any comparable figures for the general population.
  • 83% of those eligible had voted in national or local body elections. This compares with 68% of the voting age population for our 2011 national election. (TV3 News 27.11.11)
  • 90% of our respondents believed in freedom of speech, yet half did not think that books, for instance, that said domestic violence was ok should be available in our public libraries. 90% believe they can understand the processes of parliament and 92% feel confident they could write to someone in government clearly stating their opinion. Furthermore 42% would be confident to stand and speak at a public meeting. While 7% would not and 1% would never want to, the balance of 48% would be confident to speak if it was an issue they felt strongly about.
  • In answer to the ability to converse about a lot of everyday things in another language 4% could converse in Maori, 3% in NZ sign language and 12% in other languages.
  • An astonishing 86% have travelled out of NZ. It would be interesting to know the % for the general population.

It would appear that homeschooled adults are more likely than their schooled peers to be politically and socially involved in their communities, hence refuting the commonly held concern that they will end up out-of-touch with the real world.

Digital Age: Most of the questions about internet usage were superfluous. It appears we are the only homeschool family in NZ who do not have internet access at home. Everyone has computers and all use the internet, email etc. for a wide range of purposes. For your interest 37% do not read blogs, 33% read 1-4 and 14% read more than ten regularly.

Home ownership: The Census figures for tenure of household are not available broken down by age. However it is interesting to see that a quarter of our respondents own their own home, with or without a mortgage, especially considering their average age is only 24 years.

                                                  Homeschoolers %          Census (total age range) %
live in own home                                25                                                    55
rent                                                          42                                                     29
other                                                        32                                                     16

Married status:

                                                    Homeschoolers %              Census 15-34 yrs %
Never Married                                     68                                                     76
Married                                                   32                                                     20
Separated                                                  0                                                        2
Divorced                                                    0                                                        1

From these figures it appears that homeschoolers get married earlier than the general population, and for this sample no separations or divorces are recorded. 8% of the respondents have lived in a de facto relationship, I can find no equivalent figures for the general population.

Of those who were married, most were very happy and the rest pretty happy. None were unhappy or undecided.

21% have children with an average family size of 2.5 children, so far.

Worldview: 81% of respondents classified themselves as Christian, 15% as no religon and 4% as other.

Religious beliefs are important to homeschool families. In response to the statement: “My parents/caregivers wanted me as a grown adult to hold basically the same religious views as they held”, 75% of the respondents agreed, most of them strongly, (1 is strongly agree, 5 is strongly disagree).

It appears that homeschooling delivered in this area, as 79%
agreed (28% of those strongly), “That their religious beliefs are
basically the same as those of their parents/caregivers”.

Lifestyle choices: 2% of respondents smoke cigarettes regularly (that is one or more cigarette daily). This compares with 19% of the general population at the last census.

Drinking statistics were also well below average. None of the statistics I found were exactly comparable to the questions in the survey. However below is the best match using figures from 2007/8 NZ Alcohol and Drug Use Survey, Ministry of Health 2009. This site made fascinating reading.

Frequency of drinking alcohol in the last 12 months

                                            Homeschoolers %        Total Population 16-64 yrs %
daily                                                           1                                                    5.8
3-6 x week                                                7                                                 18.7
1-2 x week                                              14                                                 27.4
1-3 x month                                          25                                                  17.6
<1 x month                                           53                                                   30.5

Best and Worst Aspects of Homeschooling
When asked about the best and worst aspects of homeschooling the response is both interesting and heartening. From 162 respondents, many could not limit themselves to one best thing and made 288 points – yet for the worst thing only 128 replied and 13 of those wrote “nothing”!! So 47 respondents could not think of a single bad aspect.

Overwhelmingly most people saw the best thing about homeschooling as the freedom to learn at their own pace and in their own style, with the flexibility to indulge their interests and make the most of outside opportunities that presented, such as, but not limited to: community involvement, vocational training, travel and entrepreneurial enterprises. Being able to take as long as needed to grasp a new concept, as well as not being slowed down by other students or institutional beaurocracy, were valued aspects of homseschooling. Others commonly voiced were the closer family bonding, lack of peer or institutional pressure and the ability to relate to people of a wide age
range. They also mentioned that they had a great lifestyle, got to play more, read more, cook more, had great friends and better access to the local community – all up resulting in a life-long love of learning.

What about the worst thing? The answers showed less interest and concensus, but nearly a quarter commented on wanting more friends, a wider social network or some positive peer pressure. The next most commonly expressed concern was missing out on group activities, such as sports teams, orchestra, school productions, a school formal or overseas trips. Interestingly the third most common “worst thing” was the stigma of being homeschooled, and the public reaction to that. The feeling of being a misfit was a factor for several respondents, but clarified by others who pointed out that their higher maturity level made mixing with their peers awkward (yet as adults they could see this as an asset). Others mentioned an inability to escape stresses within the family unit, feeling insecure about their standard of education and difficulty in accessing tertiary education.

So while particular difficulties were acknowledged by some of the sample, most were very positive about their homeschooling experience and appreciative of the opportunities it had given them.

Homeschoolers Have Done It
landlord, horticulturist, interior designer, builder, mechanic, farmer, lawyer, car groomer, tractor driver, IT technician, printing assistant, sales, receptionist, domestic cleaning, viticulture work, horse trainer, ski field worker, carpenter, university lecturer, DOC research field work, customer service, office manager, website design, accounting clerk, library assistant, author, outdoor education instructor, horticulturist, bank teller, retail sales, data entry, legal executive, publisher, behavioral therapist, usher, property manager, personal assistant, baker, political watchdog, hotel front desk, IT consultant, marketing manager, law clerk, administrative assistant, freelance writer, tutor, caterer, child carer, fitness instructor, primary teacher, communications adviser, graphic designer, dish washer, laboratory scientist, nanny, industrial cleaner, bar manager, community support worker, dancer, music teacher, waitress, assistant occupational therapist, factory worker, mystery shopper, sports coach, dental assistant, director, postman, chef, lifeguard, midwife, textile designer, caregiver (rest home, at risk youth, in home care, ihc), youth pastor, artist, ESOL teacher, house keeper, cake decorater, checkout operator, barista, public relations, farm worker, professional rugby player, business owner, art teacher, field engineer, project manager, assistant physiotherapist, fast food worker, cabinet maker, factory manager, librarian, copywriter, builder, architectural/engineering draftsman, floriculturist, landscaper, cruise boat crew member, barrister, events coordinator, geopolitical journalist, preschool teacher, advertising and promotions coordinator, engineer, student services advisor, swimming instructor, trans-Tasman distribution planner, purchasing officer, health and safety manager, teacher aide, dispatch manager, tyre fitter, CNC lathe operator and programmer, mother, design engineer, furniture designer, missionary, fire fighter, fitter and turner, farm manager,
secretary, fitter/welder machinist, conservation ranger, gymnastic coach, stable hand, cook, census delivery person, retail assistant, labourer, sales representative, company manager, optical assistant (for optometrist), marketing executive, community TV broadcast
manager, copy room operator, orchard worker.

Published with permission.

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