The Placebo Effect: Homeschooling Works

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In Blink, Malcolm Gladwell discusses how asking a student to select a nationality often decreases the student's performance. This is linked to a study that shows students do better on tests if they imagine being a doctor instead of a basketball player. Think about that: Simply imagining you're smart makes you better at tests; associating yourself with underachievement needlessly reduces your ability to perform.

I don't recommend visiting the site to try to diagnose an ailment, but WebMD defines the Placebo Effect as any treatment that does "not contain an active substance meant to affect health." Like the impact of saying I'm "Caucasian" or imagining I could actually jump, the change in test scores has nothing to do with my education. There is no "active substance" meant to affect my knowledge.

But I am affected anyway.

And the effect is real.

Seth Godin just released a fun little document about placebos in marketing (I haven't finished it yet, but it's been interesting thus far). I was surprised to learn that acupuncture, for instance, is more effective than Western medicine at easing back pain. Godin says the impact is real, but still labels acupuncture as a placebo ... partly out of cultural bias, but also because of a fascinating twist in the study!

And perhaps the real impact of placebos sheds light on something I've been thinking about for a few years now. Homeschooling is good choice, but the results aren't statistically superior to any other educational approach you could have selected. But we homeschoolers love homeschooling. It's the best! Our kids a thriving under it.

And we homeschool kids do. We thrive. In large part because we're awesome (and beautiful). Another big factor is that you help your children succeed. But, perhaps -- just maybe -- there's a placebo effect in being active in your student's education.

And if there is, jump all over that!

Because, really, I don't care if there is something actively trying improve my education. I care about what works.

And homeschooling works.

Placebo or no.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Filmmaker, Writer, Guardian

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