Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

How Homeschooling Breeds Broader Minds

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

How Homeschooling Breeds Broader Minds

Article excerpt

Study finds greater political tolerance outside formal education

Young people who are homeschooled are more politically tolerant than their state-educated peers, according to new research suggesting that children become more open-minded the longer they are taught at home.

The findings contradict the stereotype of marginalised and isolated home-educated students who lack interaction with different types of children. Instead, homeschooled students were found to be more tolerant than young people at state schools towards social and political groups whose views they did not share.

The personalised nature of home education enables children to become "comfortable with their identity", the researchers suggest, which helps them to accept different kinds of people. Political correctness in schools may also be hampering genuine and open debate, preventing young people from developing more tolerant attitudes, according to Albert Cheng, who led the research project for the University of Arkansas in the US.

The study provides a rare insight into the minds of homeeducated students, who are difficult to assess as they are taught outside formal school systems.

In 2009, a government-commissioned review estimated that the number of home-educated children in the UK was anywhere between 20,000 and more than 80,000. The Badman review of home education, which was prompted by safeguarding concerns, recommended that parents of homeschooled children sign up to a formal register. But the suggestion of a register was vehemently opposed by the home education lobby and was never implemented.

In the US, parents who homeschool their children are often thought to be political or religious fundamentalists who reject state involvement in raising their children, experts have said.

The new research questioned more than 300 undergraduate students at a Christian university to gauge their tolerance, defined as the "willingness to extend basic civil liberties to political or social groups that hold views with which one disagrees". The results show that students taught at home are more tolerant of people with different views participating in public life by, for example, working as teachers or running for political office.

"One reason for the result would be because homeschooling is so individualised," Mr Cheng told TES. "It might be that the teaching is so personalised and focused on them becoming who they are that it promotes self-actualisation, and therefore they are very comfortable with their identity, so they might be happy to deal with people who are different from themselves. …

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