At this site you can find, front and center, the dueling statistics:

94% of homeschooled Christian kids remain Christian as adults,

75-85% of public-schooled Christian kids fall away

The former comes from Brian D. Ray, who asked about 7000 homeschool graduates to agree or disagree with “My religious beliefs are basically the same as those of my parents.” You can find a number of other statistics from Ray’s research at this page which summarizes his book Home Educated and Now Adults. I also got a copy of a summary pamphlet Homeschoolers Grown Up: What Do the Facts Show? from, hoping to chase down the statistic on the other side. Unfortunately, the pamphlet just cites “Many surveys conducted by Barna Research, Dobson, and others,” but a little web searching hasn’t turned up those numbers yet.

Although I do think there is something very significant going on, it seems pretty clear that these numbers are not directly comparable. For one thing, there is a serious self-selection bias in that families get to choose for themselves whether to put their children in homeschool or public school. And the type of family that chooses to keep their children out of public school so they can have more control over their education, is highly correlated with the kind of family that behaves in other ways that are likely to preserve their kids in the faith. A more useful (but completely infeasible) study would start with Christian families who are willing to let random sampling decide who sends their kids to public schools, and who homeschools, and measure the difference in ‘retention rate’, given that each group has a similar mixture of committed vs. nominal Christian families.

Another feature of Ray’s study is that about half the homeschool alumni were full-time college students. While this bolsters Ray’s statistics that homeschoolers are attending college at higher rates than the general population (which comes as a surprise to many), it also takes some credibility from the 94% statistic, since these college students are barely out of their homeschool; if you want to determine whether Christian kids are staying Christian, you have to look further out than just a few years away from home.

Finally, I wish I could find a comparable statistic for the third wheel of educating Christian children; namely, Christian schools. If you know of any, drop me a comment!

8 Responses

  1. Of course, it can’t exactly be said that your statement of ‘the type of family… preserve their children in the faith’ is exactly an arguement against homeschooling :)

    It would be good to have the various statistics.

  2. It’s not an argument against homeschooling, just an assertion that the type of family that self-selects to homeschool would have a higher retention rate than other types of families, even if they were somehow forced to use public school. Another way of saying it, it’s not homeschooling itself that completely explains the higher retention rate, but also the beliefs that lead families to homeschool.

  3. The groups doing the research are pro-homeschool groups so I’m sure they are trying to find stats that support their view and leave out stats that support the opposing view. Also, being a Christian is a very loose concept these days with the new, hip mall themed, comercialized, entertain-me, High Def PowerPoint Sermon, rock’n’roll concert, romantic worship, ghostbusting, demon-on-your-sholder, casino style churches. One can never be too sure as to what types of Christians they are sampling. Are they sampling certain kinds of Christians in certain parts of the U.S.? As far as the public school sampling are they sampling certain schools in certain areas? Is there any randomness involved? I don’t trust it and public school didn’t mess me up too bad.

    Anyway, a Christian who went throught the trials of real-world high school is going to be much stronger than one who was almost do I dare say “brain-washed” into believing the gospel?

  4. That’s why I wish I could find the studies on the 75-85% number, to find out what kind of “Christians” are involved here; I suspect much of this is due to not just the shallow evangelicals you so colorfully mention, but also shallow mainliners, who don’t have any real beliefs to transmit to their spawn anyways. The type of “Christian” that might be likely to say, “Well, I’m a Christian, but I’m going to let my children choose for themselves.”

    Public school didn’t mess me up too bad either, nor did secular/liberal university, because I had strong Christian fellowship (InterVarsity). However, I didn’t do so hot in grad school because I despaired of reproducing the fellowship I had in college, nor did I find a good church.

    But as for trial by high school fire vs. brainwashing the gospel, it is obviously true that those that can withstand brainwashing of humanism are stronger Christians than those who can’t.  But doesn’t that imply that the weaker should be protected, instead of thrown to the wolves? Is a believer in truth any less a believer for never having been exposed to falsehood?

  5. But as for trial by high school fire vs. brainwashing the gospel, it is obviously true that those that can withstand brainwashing of humanism are stronger Christians than those who can’t.

    This rather misses the point. Children are given to parents who have the responsibility to train them in the knowledge of the Lord (voluminous scripture available upon request). It is that training that makes a stronger Christian, and that training that cannot properly happen if the children are sent away for hours at a time to be brainwashed in atheism. Obviously if two sets of parents both send their children to government schools and one set of children fall… that set was weaker. But if one set trains their children in the Lord while the other set sends them away; it is the set that was trained that will be stronger.

    4Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: 5And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. 6And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart:
    7And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.

  6. All Christian parents are charged with educating their children properly, and when some chose to send them to public schools, you have to assume (at least initially) that they did so in consultation with the Lord and are walking with their kids every step of the way. I realize that’s idealistic, but it’s what should happen. Our philosophy of this is that each child is different and there’s no one-size-fits-all answer for all children. Parents who listen to the Lord and their own children will know best in which atmosphere their children will thrive and grow into the people God wants them to be. I would hate for this to become an area of some Christians judging others as not faithful enough for whatever decisions they have made.

  7. I would hate for this to become an area of some Christians judging others as not faithful enough for whatever decisions they have made.

    Too late! I see it every day…

    That’s a little flip, but truly when a Christian brother judges the Lord to be irrelevant to the school-selection process, and does not walk with their children every step of the way, but rather dumps them off to swallow whole anything and everything they hear, then his other brothers are required to charitably hold him to account. And would be uncharitable to that brother (and his children!) to not do so.

  8. […] and Classical Christian Education (that last is more about content and methodology than mode)), and a post about the misleading conception that homeschooling guarantees perseverance for your […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: