The Washington Times
February 4, 2008

Washington Times Op-ed—Meeting Challenges of Teaching

by J. Michael Smith
HSLDA President

If you’re a football fan, on the day after the Super Bowl you’re probably reflecting on the past season as well as looking to next season. With the big game decided, every team except one has failed to attain the prize they spent all year working toward. For the legions of disappointed fans, however, there is hope. It’s the hope that next year might be the year their team comes through to win.

During the off-season, teams will reflect on what went right and what went wrong. They will make adjustments, hire new staff and players, and put together a game plan for the new season. It’s a challenging process, and successful teams are not built overnight. It takes time, patience and perseverance to achieve success.

In a similar way, the process of education, and in particular homeschooling, follows this path. Parents, who have the right and responsibility to raise their children, are building from year to year on their child’s development. The typical homeschool family has a goal that their children will become mature, thoughtful and productive citizens.

Like coaches, parents are focused on improving their family. With dedicated parents at the helm, the rest of a child’s development falls more easily into place. But parents, and in particular homeschool parents, do not raise their children alone.

Most homeschoolers rely on support systems. They may belong to homeschool co-ops where parents pool their time, resources and talents. Many homeschoolers attend church, which, again, provides a social network. Often, extended family plays an important role.

Sometimes it’s difficult to break stereotypes, but one, which the overwhelming majority of homeschoolers find laughable, is that homeschooling is simply mom teaching the children around the kitchen table.

Not true.

The typical homeschool family often finds it difficult to keep up with all the choices and opportunities for social interaction.

Change and activity are natural in a homeschool environment. Because football is competitive and dynamic, there are many changes that occur during the off-season.

Similarly, because homeschooling is the ultimate in school choice, and provides unparalleled flexibility, parents can try new ideas and see how they work. If something does not work, it can be changed quickly.

Homeschool parents are not locked into a static system that repeats the same mistakes year after year after year. They have the flexibility to address each child’s education individually. Homeschoolers can change their methods until they find the right mix for their child's particular learning style.

Like building a football team, homeschooling is a long-term endeavor. There will be challenges along the way because it’s not easy, but in the end, the testimony of hundreds of thousands of families, and the incredible results, demonstrate that this method of education will continue to be a growing force on the educational landscape.

The growth of homeschooling is assured, provided that parents remain in charge, and are able to freely build from year to year.

At the risk of overdoing the football analogies, homeschooling constantly reminds us that parents are the most important players in a child’s life.

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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