The Washington Times
January 7, 2005

Washington Times Op-ed – Homeschooling Comes of Age

by J. Michael Smith
HSLDA President

We're now a few weeks into 2005. The New Year will likely bring many opportunities and challenges. Opportunity and challenge is a fair characterization of the homeschool movement over the past ten years.

We are now midway through the first decade of the 21st century. Homeschoolers have come a long way since the mid 90's, just 10 years ago.

In the mid 90's people questioned the socialization of homeschoolers. That myth has now been put to rest. Homeschoolers generally grow up to be mature productive citizens.

Homeschooling has grown from roughly 1.2 million children in the mid 90's to just over 2 million today.

Homeschoolers continue to gain entry to college and succeed in the workplace.

Homeschooling has come a long way in 10 years. Homeschoolers regularly score higher than their public school counterparts on standardized tests and compete successfully with the best students in the world. An objective observer should conclude that the private one-on-one tuition of a home education is one of best educational options available today.

In the mid 90's it was difficult to find a full range of curriculum providers. In 2005, there are literally thousands of providers vying for a piece of the $750 million market. If the growth in homeschooling continues at its 7 – 15% per year rate, in a few years the homeschool market will break the $1 billion barrier.

Opportunities are opening on every front. In the mid 90's there were only a few fledgling sports teams and hardly any organized leagues. Ten years later homeschoolers have two national basketball tournaments, a small football league and a softball league. Several homeschool athletes are competing for positions in college leagues.

Ten years has made a tremendous difference. More parents are considering homeschooling and seeing the results of a home education. In the mid 90's there were only a small number of homeschool graduates since many children were still in homeschool. In 2005 there are over 50,000 homeschool graduates who are working in a wide range of jobs or continuing their education in college. These graduates are succeeding and are the final proof that a home education works.

Despite this incredible progress there remain challenges for homeschoolers. Education authorities continue to harass homeschool families. School districts lose an average of $7,000 per child per year once a child is removed from public school. Regrettably, many school administrators are motivated by money rather than the educational attainment of children. Consequently, many families turn to Home School Legal Defense Association in order to smooth their transition from public school.

Many social services agencies are also pre-disposed against homeschoolers and regularly attempt to make unconstitutional intrusions on the family. HSLDA fields hundreds of calls per month from member families who have negative contacts with state authorities.

The last 10 years has seen many changes. Homeschooling is coming of age. It seems that it will take much longer for entrenched opponents to realize their error. When state agencies uniformly recognize the success of the homeschool movement then America's parents will have increased confidence in this method of education and America's children will be educated in a way that will prepare them for both the opportunities and challenges of the 21st century.