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For the week of Oct. 13, 1999 through Oct. 19, 1999

In defense of home schooling

Commentary by LORI WILLIAMS


As a home school parent I’ve found that public perception of home schooling is largely dictated by a lack of knowledge about the movement itself. A valid educational option, it is creating students who love learning and young adults who are well prepared for a bright future.

In 1998, the Virginia-based Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) where based commissioned the largest research study to date of home education in America. It was conducted by an impartial third party and involved seven times as many home schooling families as any previous study of its kind, with data compiled from test scores of 20,760 students. In every subject and grade level of the Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS) and the Tests of Achievement and Proficiency (TAP) batteries, home school students scored significantly higher than their public and private school counterparts. On average, home school students by the 8th grade performed four grade levels above the national average, according to HSLDA data.

On C-Span, Aug. 24, 1999, Eric Hirsch, Senior Education Policy Specialist for the National Conference of State Legislatures, said that the number of home schoolers in America is estimated at 1.5 million with exponential growth. Why? Because academically, it’s working.

Many colleges and universities actively recruit home educated graduates because of their maturity, independent thinking skills, creativity and extensive academic preparation. Blaine County’s own Michael Albrecht, formerly home schooled, is in his senior year at the United States Naval Academy.

As for the "socialization" myth, it is quite possibly the most misunderstood aspect of home schooling. Popular opinion assumes that children need periods of interaction with a group of peers to acquire social skills. In contrast, many believe that extensive peer contact during childhood can lead to undesirable choices through peer pressure. The opposite can be found in a healthy interaction with committed parents, self-confidence, independent thinking and the ability to relate to people of all ages. The HSLDA found that the average home school student participates in a very adequate 5.2 activities each week. On a local level, Blaine County home school classrooms are alive and well and prospering in a valley rich with extra-curricular activities and interaction, from sports to technology to arts. Because a one-to-one teaching style is more efficient than institutional instruction and thus takes less hours each day, the time is there for those opportunities.

Unfortunately, if you dig deep enough, you could probably find the home schooler who isn’t consistent or committed, and whose child will likely fall through the cracks. In any system there will be children falling through the cracks, as none are perfect. But with results mentioned above, there should be resounding approval for an educational option producing such success.

Instead home schoolers find themselves up against a wall of negativity and a push for government involvement and regulation. In states where there is a low level of regulation (including Idaho), research shows home schooled children scored as well as those in states with a high level of regulation. We can confidently assure policy makers that this system delivers solid academic results, and that home education works well for the majority of those who choose this form of education. Parental involvement and hard work—not government involvement—are the keys to educational success.

The success of home education will be seen in the individual lives of young people who grow up and impact our nation and the world. Lives that are part of a literate population that can speak and think for themselves, which is the very strength of a democracy.

Lori Williams, a Ketchum resident, is a homeschooling mother of two.

 

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Copyright 1999 Express Publishing Inc. All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited.