As part of our ongoing efforts to support our homeschooling families, Seton Home Study School recently commissioned a survey to try to discern the factors that contribute to success in the Seton program.
The questions we asked were meant to determine if there are attributes or habits which are shared by families who do very well homeschooling with Seton.
In fact, we did find shared habits and attributes of very successful families. We found that some attributes and habits have a small impact on success, while others have a huge impact.
Among the factors we looked at were
- number of homeschooling students in the family,
- level of support from both parents for homeschooling,
- use of Seton-provided resources,
- organization and scheduling,
- student gender,
- parental supervision, and
- hours per day spent homeschooling.
1. Number of Homeschooling Students
We wondered whether families homeschooling only one student would do better since the parents could focus all their attention on a single student. Or, would several students homeschooling together be able to help each other and so be more successful?
Our study found that families with more students tend to do at least as well as families with only one student enrolled. The spreading of parental attention to several students does not negatively impact homeschooling. In fact, families teaching three children tend to do even better than those teaching only one.
We suspect that teaching more than one child often allows the students to help each other, either because they are at the same grade level, or because an older child might help a younger child.
Whatever the reason, our study suggests that success in homeschooling does not require “starting slowly” with only one child. Parents who start out with two or three children homeschooling can do just as well.
2. Level of Support from Both Parents
Our survey found that strong support of homeschooling from both parents is a critical component to homeschooling success. Our survey found that the mother’s level of support for homeschooling is extremely high in virtually all families.
This makes sense, because in almost all families, it is the mother who does the bulk of the actual schooling. If the mother is not supportive, homeschooling is not likely to start at all.
However, the level of support from the father varies, and is a huge factor in success. The most successful homeschooling families have a father who is very supportive.
It certainly is helpful to the educational process if the father’s support translates to active involvement, such as teaching some of the classes.
However, many mothers reported that simply having the strong support of the father is very important to the process.
If the father does not support homeschooling, this attitude is no doubt passed along, even subconsciously, to the children, who can then use the lack of father’s support to undermine the homeschooling.
Without the support of both parents, homeschooling is less likely to be successful.
There are many reasons why a parent may not be supportive of homeschooling, but we think the main reason is lack of information about homeschooling. Some parents simply don’t have enough information about the impressive track record of homeschooling, and the impressive accomplishments of homeschoolers, over the years.
Whatever the reason, it is crucial that both parents understand and support the homeschooling decision, and at least are united when dealing with the children.
3. Use of Seton-Provided Resources
We found that the use of Seton-provided resources—such as grading services, counseling, online supplemental materials—plays a very large role in homeschooling success. Families who used Seton’s resources the most tended to have the most educational success.
Also, these families viewed the grading services as very important to a student’s motivation and progress.
Insofar as perhaps some families did not know enough about what Seton provides, this finding leads us to the conclusion that Seton needs to do more to put the proper resources in front of families at the proper time.
Seton being more proactive in offering services may lead to more successful enrollments.
We wondered whether the gender of the students, or the gender of the primary teacher—mom or dad—would make a difference to educational outcomes.
It did not. Our survey found that both dads and moms can successfully teach either boys or girls.
5. Organization and Scheduling
We found that having and keeping a schedule is vital to homeschooling success. Besides the homeschooling schedule, it is important to schedule other activities, such as children’s chores. We found that a high level of organization helps families to schedule more activities and get more done.
For example, families who reported a high level of organization are much more likely to have family prayer time, more likely to attend daily Mass, and more likely to participate in parish activities.
The children of very organized families are more likely to have a part-time job and they are more likely to play team sports.
Success in homeschooling is clearly compatible with the scheduling of outside activities. One does not need to be a hermit to homeschool.
However, having and sticking to a schedule is of the utmost importance. In our survey, we asked parents what one piece of advice they would give to other parents and students. Most often, the advice from parents was, “Stick to a schedule.”
6. Parental Supervision
We found that parental supervision, at least as far as keeping track of student work, is important to homeschooling success. Students who are primarily self-supervised tend not to do as well as those students with more parental supervision.
However, we also found that the level of parental supervision needed varies greatly depending on the student. Self-supervision works well in cases when a student is highly motivated and organized, but not so well when a student is lacking in motivation and organization.
Interestingly, we found that the enthusiasm and confidence level of the students in their educational abilities did not affect their performance.
Most students are confident they can succeed, but students without solid study skills are sometimes too confident. It needs to be impressed upon students that when they are struggling, they need to ask for help, either from their parents or from Seton counselors.
Our survey found that some students and families are hesitant to ask the counselors for help, even when they are having significant difficulties.
Does the level of parental education matter to student success? According to our survey, it does not. We found little to no correlation between parental educational achievement and successful homeschooling.
7. Amount of learning time
We wanted to know if more time each day devoted to homeschooling translates to more educational success. While the amount of time needed to homeschool varies widely based upon circumstances and abilities of the students, our survey indicates that more time does make some difference to success.
This may be for two reasons. First, because students may learn more and do better on their assignments, which can lead to higher motivation going forward. Second, the extra time may mean that students are better able to stay on their projected schedule and not fall behind.
However, we did not find any straight line improvements. A twenty-percent increase in time does not always yield twenty-percent greater results. In fact, simply adding more time does not necessarily mean any greater educational achievement. What seems to be important is that families take enough time.
Of course, what is enough time can only be determined in an individual case. Plus, more organization can mean less time is needed to accomplish the same outcome. Because organization and scheduling are so important, we would suggest that a family first look at those aspects before thinking about spending more time homeschooling.
In summary, we found that the main factors affecting student achievement are:
- Parental support and supervision by both parents
- Scheduling and organization
- Use of Seton support services
- Right amount of time spent on schooling
Families in which both parents are committed to homeschooling, in which the parents take the time to supervise the work, in which a schedule is made and adhered to, who use Seton’s grading and counseling services, and spend a sufficient amount of time each day homeschooling are maximizing their likelihood of success.
We hope that understanding the factors that contribute to success can allow each family to consider its own situation, to see whether any changes might be made to create a better homeschooling experience.