The Washington Times
November 20, 2006

Washington Times Op-ed—Thanks Due for Educational Freedom

by J. Michael Smith
HSLDA President

The homeschool movement offers long-term hope for the advancement of American values. It is one of the bright spots where the ideals articulated by the Founding Fathers still are being taught. More than 2 million students are homeschooled, and this number continues to grow by 7 percent to 15 percent each year. A new generation is being raised to respect the founding beliefs of America. One of those beliefs is a recognition that God governs the affairs of man.

This week, the country will express its thanks to God for the many blessings that have been bestowed on America. We at the Home School Legal Defense Association believe the nation should be thankful hundreds of thousands of parents are willing to make the considerable sacrifice to educate their own children.

It is a sacrifice that falls squarely on the individual family rather than society, and it does not cost the taxpayer anything. In contrast, it costs the taxpayer an average of $8,044 per child per year to educate a child in public school, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

Even though a homeschooler creates zero cost to the taxpayer, homeschooling would not be beneficial if the homeschooled child did not receive an adequate education and consequently became a burden on society. Fortunately, homeschoolers have proved to be academically and socially successful.

The success of homeschooling over the past 10 years has caused a response from public schools. Many public schools accept the idea of phonics as the first step to successful reading. Schools also emphasize parental involvement as one of the keys to a child’s academic progress. They also recognize the value of unit studies, in which a range of subjects is taught under a general topic, and hands-on learning, in which children experience practical application rather than simply looking at words on a page.

All of these ideas are being discussed seriously within the public school establishment. They have re-emerged, many homeschooling experts say, because of the growth and success of the homeschool movement. Homeschooling has raised the bar for public education.

Just as society should be thankful for this movement, homeschoolers recognize that they should be thankful that they live in a country that acknowledges parents’ right to homeschool.

Homeschooling has been recognized formally by all 50 states. Unfortunately, many other countries make it very difficult for parents to exercise this right.

Our Constitution and belief in liberty and freedom enable parents to make the choice to homeschool. It is a right parents hold dear because they can see the direct benefits. While children are home, they are developing stronger bonds with their parents and other family members.

Parents are able to have more oversight over their children’s choice of friends and can delay the discussion of personal and controversial subjects until a child is ready.

Allowing parents to do what is best for their children, and by extension their families, has proved to be the best policy not only for homeschooling families, but also for America. Homeschooling is the most energetic and exciting method of education available today.

We all should be thankful for this movement. The basis of the upcoming holiday is thankfulness to God for providing for the early settlers. Most homeschoolers can relate to the early settlers as they also rely on God for provision as they raise their children with godly principles. The founding ideals of our country are timeless, and a new generation is being prepared to carry forward the American experiment.

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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