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J. Michael Smith, Esq.

Michael P. Farris, Esq.

Critique of “Unschooling” Misses Point

May 20, 2010

Note: The following letter was sent in response to the Biloxi, Miss., Sun-Herald’s editorial of May 12, “ ‘Unschooling’ is a Lazy Parent’s Idea of Education.”

Dear Editor:

It was with shock and surprise that HSLDA read the Wednesday, May 12, “Unschooling” editorial by the Sun-Herald. After speaking with one of the editorial board writers we can confirm that the criticism extends to homeschoolers.

Regrettably, the Sun-Herald has chosen to attack all home educators by choosing to demonize the smallest and least understood part of the homeschool movement.

Amazingly, there were no facts or evidence to back up the board’s claims about parent-directed education.

Here is just a small sample of what the Sun-Herald editorial board missed. All the academic research shows that homeschoolers significantly out-perform their public schooled peers on standardized achievement tests by at least 30 percentile points.

Another important overlooked fact is that despite some states (New York, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts) heavily regulating homeschooling, and other states respecting a parent’s fundamental right to educate their own children (Texas, Illinois, Indiana, Alabama and many others), homeschool results on standardized achievement tests from all 50 states are identical. For example, in the latest academic study of over 11,000 homeschooled students (Progress Report 2009) homeschoolers from high regulation states scored in the 87th percentile and those in low regulation states also scored in the 87th percentile. HSLDA has consistently argued before numerous state legislatures that regulating homeschooling is simply a waste of taxpayers’ money and parents’ time because government regulation does not improve the results of homeschool students.

It was disappointing to see the Sun-Herald make sweeping accusations against hundreds of thousands of families and millions of homeschooled children without making an attempt to discover the truth about homeschooling.

If the Sun-Herald had looked they could have found the Colfax family from California whose four children attended Ivy League colleges. Each has developed a successful career in the legal, medical, and technology fields. The parents, David and Micki Colfax, in their book Homeschooling for Excellence describe their approach to education this way: “We did not attempt to implement a particular educational philosophy, but, rather, attempted to respond to the evolving needs of the children more or less in an ad hoc fashion.”

We hope the Sun-Herald decides it’s worth finding out the truth about home education. One-on-one tuition, which allows children to proceed at their own pace, is the genius of homeschooling. By applying this method, which has been used since the beginning of recorded history, homeschooling has become the most dynamic and successful education movement in the United States today.


Ian Slatter
HSLDA Director of Media Relations