The Home School Court Report
Vol. XXII
No. 5
Cover
September/October
2006

In This Issue

SPECIALFEATURES
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by Scott Somerville
- disclaimer -
New Tools for Homeschools

In 1983, when Home School Legal Defense Association first started, homeschooling through high school looked like a big risk. There weren’t many homeschool textbooks to choose from, nor many homeschool graduates to look to. Parents who homeschooled through high school were walking by faith, not by sight.

Today, however, homeschooling through high school is obviously the right choice for more and more families. Academic research shows that homeschooling really does work at the high school level. In addition, new technology is resolving common hindrances to high school at home. Through computers and the Internet, the spectrum of academic and social options for homeschooled teens is widening.

Computer-aided academics

What comes to mind when you think about computers and education? Math drills? Language courses? Those are the old standbys, these days. The variety of programs for computer-aided learning is increasing every year.

Many well-established software packages provide effective help with teaching high school material. PowerGlide and Rosetta Stone have demonstrated that it is possible to learn foreign languages on a computer. Math software is getting better all the time, with new vendors like Sabouri. HSLDA’s high school coordinators maintain a long and growing list of high-tech courseware that might be right for your family. (Visit www.hslda.org/highschool for this list.)

While computers can present and drill the information for some subjects, other subjects demand a human touch. Homeschooling parents provide the ultimate in hands-on instruction—except for the subjects Mom and Dad never mastered. What do you do if you majored in politics and your child loves Shakespeare—or vice versa? Don’t worry! The Internet lets homeschoolers learn from world-class teachers anywhere in the world.

Homeschoolers have created an exciting new market in online instruction. Organizations like Escondido Tutorial Service and the Potter's School have put new technology to work serving families around the country-and the world. Services like WriteAtHome are providing specialized helps for parents who love homeschooling but feel weak in some areas. Patrick Henry College offers advanced courses for students who are interested in classical liberal arts or government studies.

These online courses are cheap, compared to traditional private classes. But if money is a concern, it’s hard to beat Generation Joshua (GenJ) for low-cost high school value. HSLDA provides high school government credits online for the cost of membership in the Generation Joshua program ($10-20!). There’s more to Generation Joshua than value for money, though. GenJ is designed to help homeschooled teens make a difference in our country. Not only will your children learn history from a patriotic perspective&mmdash;they may wind up making it!

Countering the culture

Generation Joshua isn’t the only option for teens who want to change the world. New media—especially blogs—offer new options for student activists.

You’ve probably heard the word blog, although you may not be able to define it. Blog is short for web log, and refers to a web page (like an online journal) that is easy to update. Each time an author writes a new entry on a blog, the previous entries move down the page, which makes it easy for regular visitors to check up on the latest post. Most blogs allow visitors to comment on an entry, making for fascinating conversations between readers and writers.

In the debate over whether Christians should pull their children out of public schools, blogs offer an innovative solution. Some parents are asking, shouldn’t Christians send their children to public school to be “salt and light” in a dark and decaying culture? Or is the spiritual risk too great? With the new media, homeschoolers can engage the culture with maximum impact and minimal risk—and more and more teens are seizing the opportunity to do so.

A popular cartoon shows two dogs hunched over a keyboard as one remarks to the other, “In cyberspace, nobody knows you’re a dog.” That’s certainly true of Agent Tim Online. Tim isn’t a dog, but he established a reputation as a political blogger well before he turned 16. Other websites like Beauty from the Heart speak out for modesty and feminine virtue, while The Rebelution harnesses politically active teens across cyberspace. The Regenerate Our Culture network “consolidates the best from the teen blogosphere all in one place.”

If parents are willing to act as guardians and guides, homeschooled kids can communicate a message of hope to their peers in public school. Their research and writing skills will skyrocket as they use them to reach out to real people, and they may also deserve a credit in civics, government, literature, or another elective.

Conclusion

The point of getting an education is to do something with it, not just to satisfy some government requirement. Homeschoolers have turned their backs on public schools—last century’s education—in search of something better. With faith and a little work, your children can get the best education ever. Computers and the Internet provide new tools for homeschooling parents, and unlimited opportunities for their kids to make history, not just study it.


About the author

As a staff attorney at Home School Legal Defense Association, Scott Somerville has successfully handled thousands of legal contacts on behalf of families in 38 different states. Scott was a homeschool dad before he was a lawyer: he was president of the Christian Home Educators of New Hampshire before he left to attend Harvard Law School. Scott’s wife Marcia has taught all their children at home from the beginning, and now that five out of six have graduated, she serves other homeschooling families as a speaker and author. Scott has served as the executive director of the Center for the Original Intent of the Constitution, where he wrote “friend of the court” briefs for the United States Supreme Court, and has spoken and written extensively on parental rights and the history of American education law.

Scott Somerville