Home-schooled students may have the academic edge over their public schooled peers, according to a new study from the Canadian Journal of Behavioral Science.
The study, which examined the test scores of 74 students ages 5-10, found that kids educated in structured home school environments actually outperformed their public school counterparts in math and reading.
Researchers found that public school kids tested either at or above their grade level, while home-schoolers tested about a half-grade higher in math and 2.2 grades higher in reading.
"Structured home-schooling may offer opportunities for academic performance beyond those typically experienced in public schools," author Sandra Martin-Chang, a professor at Concordia University, said in a statement about the results.
While public school might help kids develop social skills, the advantages of home-schooling -- including smaller class sizes, individualized attention and more time spent on core subjects -- can accelerate the learning process, Martin-Chang said.
The test score differences remained even after researchers controlled for income levels, the mother's education, employment and marital status.
Still, home-schooling didn't beat public schooling across the board: The study included 12 students educated in unstructured home-school environments -- known as "unschooling," which uses no teachers, textbooks or tests -- who scored between one and four grade levels below the public school and structured home school groups.
As the Associated Press reported in August, "there's no fixed curriculum, course schedule or attempt to mimic traditional classrooms" with unschooling, and parents serve as "facilitators," with materials and other resources, rather than top-down "teachers."
Department of Education statistics show an estimated 1.5 million U.S. students – 2.9 percent of the school-age population – were home-schooled in spring 2007, up from 1.1 million four years earlier. According to the AP, the number of home-schooled students in the U.S. could now be up to 2 million.