The Washington Times
December 27, 2004

Washington Times Op-ed – Competing with the Best — and Winning

by J. Michael Smith
HSLDA President

Few doubt that homeschoolers receive an excellent academic education. Some of the best universities seek out homeschoolers because a home education prepares a student for the rigors of college.

The reason most homeschoolers succeed in college shouldn't be a surprise. Homeschoolers already are accustomed to self-directed learning and are able to take advantage of a flexible education plan given by people who are in the best position to train them -- their own parents.

One-on-one instruction is the genius of home education. Students can excel in areas where they are strong and spend extra time in areas where they may have more difficulty. No child is left behind when the parents are committed to education.

Typically, homeschool parents will allow their children to progress, within a broad curriculum, at their own pace and pursue subjects in which they're interested. There's more freedom in homeschooling, and far fewer distractions than in institutional schools. The homeschool method mirrors the college environment in that the students who do best often are self-directed learners.

A love of learning already has been established in most homeschoolers, and almost all homeschool parents teach their children to conduct independent research. Consequently, the homeschool method has led to many high-profile successes.

Homeschoolers make headlines when they win national competitions such as spelling and geography bees. Despite being an estimated 4 percent of the school-age population, homeschoolers typically make up 15 percent of the competitors and often finish among the top three. These results are a snapshot of homeschool success. They show that a parent-directed education is able to produce children who can compete nationally.

High-profile homeschool success is a leading indicator of wider success in the homeschool community. Academic research shows that the average homeschooler is roughly one to two grades ahead of his public school peers. Large numbers of homeschoolers graduate from high school when they are 16.

Education doesn't stop when a child has completed high school, however. Many homeschoolers go straight to community college at 16. Consequently, they have completed half their undergraduate program by the time they're 18.

One college that is geared toward homeschoolers is experiencing incredible success.

Patrick Henry College (PHC) is a four-year undergraduate Christian liberal arts college. Founded in 2000 by the Home School Legal Defense Association, it is 50 miles northwest of the District in Purcellville, Va. The college's mission is to prepare Christian men and women to lead our nation and shape our culture with timeless biblical values and fidelity to the spirit of the American founding.

PHC students are pursuing this goal. Recently, a PHC moot-court team was sent to England. A moot-court team learns a court case before arguing the case in a mock trail before a panel of judges.

The four-person team from PHC competed with the best students at Oxford University. The cases argued were run according to the British legal system, and the subject was British contract law, which the PHC team had to learn for the trip. The final rounds of the tournament were judged by Lord Tom Bingham and Lord Brian Hutton. Mr. Bingham holds the title of senior law lord, a position equivalent to a U.S. Supreme Court justice, while Mr. Hutton serves as a lord of appeal.

Against the odds, the four seniors who made up the PHC team defeated Oxford.

Homeschool students are breaking the mold. Patrick Henry College is only four years old. It's privately funded, and it's taking on the world.

Homeschool parents are succeeding beyond all expectations. Students are thriving in homeschool. Slowly but surely, more people are recognizing that homeschooling is a viable educational alternative. The achievements of Patrick Henry College are simply the latest stage in the homeschool success story.