Occasionally a news outlet makes it a point to associate a teen’s schooling type with his evil behavior. My experience is that you will (almost?) never see a headline that reads “Public-school teen shoots a peer” or “Public-school teen rapes neighbor girl.” Several days ago, however, the world was faced with “New Mexico homeschooled teen … accused of murdering family.”[note 1]
If you read the Internet for news, it seems that so many tragic stories are right in front of your face and on your mind. It appears evil is ubiquitous and you must worry all the time. And if you are part of a minority group – for example, homeschooling – then you might feel extra-sensitive or defensive about your group.
A news story like the one out of New Mexico begs the question, Are homeschoolers more or less violent than others?
Simply put, there is scant research available to answer this question. A little digging, however, might tell us something. During the years 2000 to 2005, homicide offenders ages 14 to 17 comprised 10 out of 100,000 in the general U.S. population. [note 2] That is, there were 10 of teens ages 14 to 17 who committed murder (per 100,000 total general population in the nation).
Before advancing in this brief article, it should be noted that the following statistics related to home-educated youth are not rock-solid-substantiated statistics so one should be careful using them. Since claims are made and questions are asked about homeschooling, however, it seems valuable to consider the little we know.
Discussion with leaders in the homeschool movement of the past several years of news and careful Internet searches reveal 2 and possibly 3 homeschooled teens (ages 14 to 17) who were accused or convicted of homicide during the past 8 years.
One might say, Well, not so fast, I remember hearing X, Y, and Z news stories about homeschoolers and violent acts. First, this part of this article is about homicide and not about violent behavior in general. Second, one should consider a person to be “homeschooled” if the majority of his school years were in homeschooling or, perhaps, if the past three or more years of his school years were in home education. It does not make much sense to label a teen “homeschooled” if he is in the 10th grade and was pulled out of a complete history of public schooling half way through the 9th grade.
If home-based education of teens of ages 14 to 17 comprises 3% of that age-group population and calculations are adjusted for number of homicide offenders and number of years (with a liberal estimate of 3 during 8 years), then homicide offenders of homeschool students ages 14 to 17 would be about 0.004 per 100,000. If true, this would mean that the general-population teen of this age is 2,500 times more likely to commit homicide than a home-educated teen.
Many factors may be are a part of why a teen commits a violent act. Only knowing what type of education/schooling he has received for most of his school years does not conclusively predict behavior. Youth from all educational backgrounds do bad things. At this point, however, very limited data suggests that the rate of committing homicide is notably higher among the general teen population than among the homeschool teen population.
One advantage of home-based education is that it offers parents and children more time together (than does institutional schooling) to talk, work out problems, explore questions and doubts, and generally have stronger and healthier parent-child relationships. [note 3] This does not mean that all parents and children take full advantage of this potential, but it would be wonderful for them, their churches, their communities, and their nations if they were to do so.
–Brian D. Ray, Ph.D.
National Home Education Research Institute
P.S. Please feel free to send us your questions about homeschooling and we will try to answer them in upcoming messages.
If you would like to tangibly support our work reporting on think tanks, professors at university schools of education, court decisions, doing research, collecting research, disseminating research, and helping homeschool families around the world, please see “Two ways to help” below.
Two ways to help:
1. Send a check to: NHERI, PO Box 13939, Salem OR 97309 (using a check puts the largest percent of your gift to work at NHERI)
2. Donate online.
NHERI, PO Box 13939, Salem OR 97309, USA
 “New Mexico homeschooled teen … accused of murdering family,” retrieved January 21, 2013 from http://www.nydailynews.com/news/crime/n-m-teen-accused-killing-family-quiet-article-1.1243888#ixzz2IePSOUYH
 Retrieved January 24, 2013 from http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/homicide/teens.cfm.
 See, e.g., Hold on to Your Kids by Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Maté, as discussed in a previous message from NHERI and Dr. Brian Ray at