The Washington Times
June 26, 2006

Washington Times Op-ed—Parents Delivering Quality Education

by J. Michael Smith
HSLDA President

Homeschooling is thriving across the country as more parents choose to take personal responsibility for their children’s education. The rapid growth of homeschooling caused homeschool critic Rob Reich to say in the April 18 issue of Family Circle magazine, that “today everyone knows someone who’s homeschooling.”

As a result of the growth of homeschooling, more people are coming into contact with homeschooled children. Consequently, it is likely that homeschooling will continue to gain acceptance as a viable education alternative.

Critics often object to this method of education by claiming that home education cannot produce a well-rounded and effective adult. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the state has a legitimate interest in the education of its citizens, including the goal of literacy and self-sufficiency. Homeschoolers are excelling at both.

Academic excellence is a hallmark of homeschooling, but how do homeschoolers perform on the self-sufficiency aspect? Research can help, and a glimpse of the success of homeschoolers can be found in the study “Homeschooling Grows Up,” conducted by Brian D. Ray of the National Home Education Research Institute, which shows the average homeschool graduate is more involved in his community than the average public school graduate, and more likely to attend college.

Ultimately, homeschoolers will pass the test as more and more homeschoolers are observed by the general public. These young people are making a positive impression on employers and higher-education administrators alike. This is gradually eroding the perception that homeschooling parents are protecting their children too much and consequently not allowing them to mature into responsible adults.

Homeschooling families across the country know that their children are well-rounded and well-socialized because the evidence is constantly before them. The goal of every homeschooling parent is simply to raise well-educated, responsible adults. One way some homeschool families have chosen to assist them in this goal is to urge their children to participate in academic and athletic competitions.

Homeschoolers traditionally have excelled in the Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee and the National Geographic Bee. Three spelling bee champions since 1997 have been homeschooled and there have been two homeschooled geography bee champions since 2002. Both these national competitions are open to all students, but homeschoolers also have developed their own national events through an extensive network of parent volunteers.

One athletic event is the National Christian Homeschool Athletic Association Basketball Tournament, which attracts numerous teams from around the country. Homeschoolers gravitate toward basketball because it is relatively easy to form a team and there are many facilities to use.

An academic event is the National Christian Forensics and Communications Association Debate Tournament. This year, more than 2,000 people spent a week on the campus of Patrick Henry College in Purcellville, Va., for the NCFCA tournament. Homeschooled high-schoolers debated topics including whether the United States needs medical malpractice reform.

This activity requires a tremendous amount of research and oratorical skill, and it trains students to think on their feet while being observed by a panel of judges. Competitions like these are designed to prepare homeschoolers to be effective communicators.

The overwhelming majority of homeschool parents are forward-looking and desire for their children to be active and make a positive contribution to society. As time goes by, and as homeschooling continues to grow, people will come to a greater understanding of the benefits of this method of education.

Michael Smith is the president of the Home School Legal Defense Association. He may be contacted at (540)338-5600; or send email to media@hslda.org.

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