The Washington Times
September 1, 2003

Editorial: Back-to-School

The Washington Times
September 1, 2003
by J. Michael Smith
HSLDA President

It's that time of year. Back-to-school season, when parents scramble to supply their children with all the latest school accessories. After the long summer break, many parents no doubt are relieved to send their children packing and return to the school schedule. Parents will be asking some or all of the following questions during this season: How much academic progress will my child make this year compared to last? Will my child grow in character and maturity? Will my child have good teachers who will provide challenging academic courses? Is the school providing a safe environment where my child can learn without negative peer pressure?

In today's world, more and more parents are finding it increasingly difficult to answer these questions to their satisfaction. It is one of the reasons why the school choice movement, which includes homeschooling, has been growing so rapidly over the past 15 years.

The back-to-school season is the time many parents make a choice about their children's education. Large numbers of parents are desperate to find alternatives to failing public schools. Homeschooling is not the only education choice, but it is fastest growing one. The best estimates find that homeschoolers have reached the 2 million mark, which is the equivalent of the entire New Jersey school system. Homeschooling is growing at an average of 15 percent per year.

Parents who already have chosen homeschooling avoid the back-to-school drama because most operate on the basis of continuous learning. Many homeschool families follow a four weeks on/one week off schedule. This type of schedule helps children keep a constant pace in their academic studies rather than taking an extended break where children can fall out of the habit of learning. Of course many families succeed with different schedules, which is one of the advantages of homeschooling. There's no need to follow someone else's schedule. You can make your own to suit your family's needs.

Homeschool families often cite flexibility as one of the key advantages. Families experience success with a variety of methods. This is to be expected because each homeschool program is tailored to the child's needs rather than the one-size-fits-all instruction of the schools. One on one tutoring will always have a significant advantage over 30-1 or 25-1 ratios. It's parents who are in the best position to know what their child needs and how their child learns.

Parents can confidently answer yes to the questions they have to face during the back-to-school season by choosing homeschooling. Will my child have good teachers? The answer is that parents are the child's best teacher. Who knows your child better than yourself? Also, parents will be able to spend the time necessary to advance their child socially and academically.

Where is the best learning environment for your child? One of the main reasons parents choose homeschooling is the elevated levels of crime, drugs and other negative peer influences present in public schools. The home is the safest learning environment where a child can pursue his own interests at his own pace. Will the child develop character and maturity? The answer is yes again. The homeschool environment provides far greater time for interaction with other adults. When a child becomes an adult he will spend the majority of the time surrounded by other adults. Conversely, a child in the typical school setting will mostly interact with his own peer group. Homeschoolers develop the habits they need in adult life at an earlier age. Who do you want influencing your child? You as the parent or your child's peers?

The back-to-school season is a time of choosing. Which path will you take? Increasingly, parents are saying they want alternatives to institutional schools, and many are making the ultimate school choice and turning their own homes into schools. For those interested in finding out more about homeschooling, www.youcanhomeschool.org will provide valuable information on how to get started.