The Washington Times
December 3, 2003

Op-ed: Close-knit families, successful children

Washington Times
December 3, 2003
by J. Michael Smith
HSLDA President

Parents choose home-schooling for a variety of well-documented reasons. A 2001 study by the U.S. Department of Education discovered that 'giving a child a better education at home' and 'religious reasons' came in first and second with 49 percent and 38 percent respectively. In the same study 17 percent of parents chose 'family reasons' as part of their decision to homeschool. A similar pattern was found by Brian Ray of the National Home Education Research Institute (NHERI) who discovered in a 2003 study of thousands of home-school alumni that 'giving a child a better education at home' and 'religious reasons' scored 80 percent and 77 percent, respectively, as reasons they were educated at home. The Ray study also found that 56 percent of the home-schoolers' parents had desired more 'parent-child contact' and 38 percent wanted to see more 'sibling-sibling contact.' Both studies allowed more than one choice to be selected.

Although home-schooling continues to grow, public schools have been the more popular method of education for almost a century. A normal public school day lasts from 8:00 am to 3:00 pm. This amounts to roughly 35 hours per week where children are separated from parents, not including transportation time. It should not be surprising that some families are seeking to regain this 'lost' time. Families are finding that the bonds between children and parents weaken if a child spends a great deal of time away from home.

It's a known fact that most people desire to be part of a happy and secure family and in the midst of this holiday season many people regain a focus on their families. It's during this time that many families have made their decision to home-school.

Home-schooling greatly strengthens the family for many reasons. Chief among these is the extra time home-school parents have to interact with their children. Many home-schooling parents have decided that those 35 hours can be put to better use by teaching their own children at home. A consequence of home-schooling is typically the development of a greater bond between the children and their parents, which extends throughout a lifetime.

Home-schooling enables parents to become closer to their children and vice versa. Families work and grow together and hopefully develop mutual trust and respect through this experience. Most home-school families focus intently on the moral development of their children and religiously motivated parents teach them the timeless truths of the Bible. This type of training provides a solid foundation for a child to tackle the world he or she will eventually join.

A large body of evidence points to the success of this parenting choice. A little noticed fact in a 2003 study by NHERI discovered that 59 percent of home-school graduates described themselves as 'very happy' compared with 28 percent of the general U.S. population. Being part of a secure family significantly contributed to this result.

Almost all social commentators agree that children face far greater challenges than previous generations did. The breakdown of the nuclear family has greatly contributed to this trend. The desire for a stable and secure family is one of the key reasons people home-school. This decision will not go without reward. Many home-school parents, after years of hard work, reap the reward of having produced happy, successful children who will contribute to society rather than becoming a burden on their fellow citizens. This holiday season, let's take this opportunity to reflect on the importance of the family and how home-schooling is contributing to strengthening the family and, by extension, the rest of society.