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September / October 2005

You can homeschool through high school
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Public education isn't preparing teens

J. Michael Smith, President of Home School Legal Defense Association

Bill Gates has declared American high schools "obsolete." In a February 26 speech to the National Education Summit on High Schools, he said "our high schools-even when they're working exactly as designed-cannot teach our kids what they need to know today."

These criticisms are not new, but the fact that America's most successful businessman is concerned about how America will survive in a world that requires educated workers should cause people to take notice. Mr. Gates went on to say he was "terrified for our workforce of tomorrow."

The problems of high schools are well documented-low graduation rates, graduates who require remedial classes in college, billions spent by businesses in retraining to bring employees up to a basic level of English and math. However, there is an alternative, as the burgeoning numbers of homeschoolers (2 million children, or 4 percent of the school-age population) attest.

One of the goals of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is to dramatically improve the public school system. The foundation's website describes the ideal school this way: "Successful schools combine rigor-high expectations and a meaningful course of study-with relationships-powerful, sustained involvement with caring adults who mentor, advise, and support students throughout their high school careers." This sounds like a typical homeschool program!

Interestingly, many parents intend to homeschool only until 6th or 7th grade. It's a strange paradox. Many homeschool families plan to stop homeschooling right at the time when there is the greatest need for the one-on-one tutoring and high-quality education homeschooling provides.

Why don't these parents have a vision for homeschooling through high school? The main reason is a concern about the ability of parents to teach high school-level classes. There is a feeling of inadequacy, doubt, and fear.

We need to be reminded that fear is not from God. The opposite of fear is faith-not any faith, but faith in God. It's okay to feel weak and inadequate for a moment because if we trust God to bring about the result, we become strong. He will intervene by filling in the gaps and providing creative ways to finish the course.

We don't have to be experts in every high school subject. There are many resources available, such as homeschool co-ops and online resource centers, to augment our high school program.

Homeschool parents should think carefully about sending their teenagers to public school. If the homeschool alternative has worked for your family up to 6th grade, it can be successful in the all-important high school years, too.

We at Home School Legal Defense Association believe so strongly in the importance of children being home educated through high school that our board of directors has approved the hiring of two high school coordinators. These two moms have graduated their last homeschooled child, but they desire to share their knowledge, experience, and excitement about homeschooling with HSLDA member parents who are home educating their high schoolers.

With these enthusiastic veterans on our team, we will continue to brainstorm materials and programs to assist parents in teaching a high school child at home. We would love to hear your suggestions! Please email your ideas and thoughts to highschool@hslda.org. Your input will help us to serve our member families with high schoolers more effectively.

It's our hope and prayer that by initiating this new aspect of HSLDA, we can lessen the number of horror stories we hear from parents who have enrolled their homeschooled children in public high school. My wife has told me many times that toddlers and small children demand more of our attention, but that teenagers need more of our attention. Our ultimate goal in initiating this new service is to provide the vision and necessary tools that will help every HSLDA member family homeschool their children through high school.

About this article

The above editorial is based on Mike Smith's article by the same title, published in the Washington Times on March 21, 2005.