The Washington Times
September 21, 2009

Washington Times Op-ed—Programs Suit Needs of Students

by J. Michael Smith
HSLDA President

By now, most of America’s schoolchildren have returned to school. Despite the fact that most parents choose to send their children to a public school, more and more are recognizing the need for more parental involvement with their child’s education.

Educators are admitting that parental involvement is the key to a child’s educational success, even in a public school setting. Even President Obama in his recent mass broadcast to public school students in America sounded more like a parent than he did the president of the United States as he encouraged each student to be conscientious in their attendance at school, their studies and their personal life.

As more parents recognize the importance of their role in the education of their children, an increasing number of parents are choosing not to send their children to an institutional school, choosing instead to teach them at home.

Over the past 30 years, the number of homeschooling parents has risen dramatically. In 1979, there were around 10,000 homeschool families; today there are an estimated 700,000 homeschooling families, with an average of three children per family. The National Center for Education Statistics, part of the federal Department of Education, reports that homeschooling has been growing at 7 percent per year during this decade.

Let’s look at four of the most profound and important reasons parents are choosing homeschooling in increasing numbers.

Academic development: Parents who have high academic goals for their children recognize that a more individualized form of education is in the best interests of their children. The most recent academic study of homeschooling showed that homeschoolers, on average, scored 37 percentile points above the national average on standardized achievement tests. Furthermore, ACT released its 2009 results, which showed that the average homeschooler scored 22.5 while the national average was 21.1. These types of results give parents confidence they can successfully educate their children at home.

Religious values: Parents motivated by religion are concerned public schools are becoming more hostile to their religious beliefs as they observe things such as the teaching of evolution without creationism and the focus on teaching values that contradict their own.

Safe environment: Increasing violence and other negative peer influences in or near public schools often prompt parents to try homeschooling. Then, as they see their children thriving in a loving, nurturing environment, their primary motivation often switches to the social and academic benefits of teaching their children at home.

Family time: Many parents recognize that with both parents working outside the home—often more than 40 hours per week—the time needed to properly train a child is being hindered. It’s almost impossible to find enough hours in the day to successfully work full time and give children all the attention they need.

In addition to these four basic reasons, families choose to homeschool because they have children with special talents, such as gymnasts, ice skaters, musicians or artists. As a result of homeschooling’s flexibility and efficiency, these highly motivated and gifted children have the abundance of training and practicing time they need to achieve great things in their area of specialty.

In short, homeschooling enables parents to provide a tailor-made education program to suit the individual needs of their child. It’s perhaps the key advantage of homeschooling.

Only time will tell how much impact the hundreds of thousands and, if current trends prevail, millions of homeschool graduates will have on the culture of America. Watch this space.

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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