The Washington Times
October 13, 2009

Washington Times Op-ed—Take Advantage of Co-op Options

by J. Michael Smith
HSLDA President

Typically, when parents first consider homeschooling, they have some confidence they can teach their children through grade school. Many parents, however, begin to wonder if they are capable of educating their children through high school.

Homeschooling through high school certainly presents many different challenges. The main concern voiced by parents is the ability to teach all subjects to an adequate level. Fortunately, due to the rapid growth of the homeschool movement, there are many resources available. The Internet has many high-school-focused programs to help parents through these years. Many more parents are homeschooling their children through high school today, which means more parents are available to pool their skills and abilities into co-ops.

While co-ops come in many shapes and sizes, they essentially are groups of parents who divide the teaching responsibilities among themselves. Consequently, each parent can teach in the area where they are strongest. Sharing the load can make all the difference in a high school program, but is there evidence parents can successfully prepare their children for adulthood, college or both?

Two recent reports show that parents can indeed educate their own children to a high level. Homeschoolers scored an average of 22.5 on the 2009 ACT college entrance exam, compared with the national average of 21.1. Only 38 percent of students scored above a 22, so it’s fair to say the average homeschooler scored in the top third of ACT test takers. These results were achieved by parents with varying educational backgrounds.

It’s not just the ACT. Results released recently by the National Merit Scholarship Program showed that 363 National Merit Scholarship semifinalists were homeschooled. The scholarship is highly competitive. Approximately 1.4 million initial entrants are screened per year and about 16,000 students nationwide qualify as semifinalists, which is less than 1 percent of high school seniors. In the spring, about half this number will qualify as finalists and receive the scholarship.

These high school students compete for the scholarship by taking the PSAT/NMSQT and by presenting a detailed list of their writing, leadership and community activities.

Homeschooled children are competing successfully for these scholarships, proving the validity of homeschooling. It is a testimony to the homeschool method of education, which focuses on one-on-one tutoring and allows students to advance at their own pace, and to the incredible sacrifice and dedication shown by homeschooling parents, which makes these results possible.

Everyone should be encouraged by these achievements, because it shows homeschool parents they can educate their own children through high school. It also should save taxpayers millions of dollars because homeschooled children are not educated with taxpayer monies. There are an estimated 2 million homeschooled students not attending public schools.

There are, however, other reasons for homeschooling through high school. Children really blossom in these years. New options, choices and activities become available for young adults to assume more responsibility. Homeschooling parents are positioned to help their teens make wise choices and perhaps avoid some of the pitfalls facing high school students.

As homeschooling continues to grow (at 7 percent per year, according to the Federal Department of Education) it is establishing itself as a mainstream educational alternative. Choosing to homeschool is a big decision. It’s one that should be carefully considered because of the commitment involved. The results outlined above, however, show homeschooling parents already have proved it is possible to successfully prepare a child for college, which may greatly encourage anyone thinking about making this choice.

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.

 Other Resources

Family Times Column