The Washington Times
September 10, 2007

Washington Times Op-ed—Education Extends to 12th Grade

by J. Michael Smith
HSLDA President

This back-to-school time of year is different for homeschoolers because most homeschoolers do not follow the traditional school schedule, nor are their children sent “back to school.” For parents educating their own children all the way through high school, it’s even more true, because one of the hallmarks of homeschooling teens is the flexible schedule. But is homeschooling through high school desirable?

It is well-known that many teens are troubled and often exhibit antisocial behavior. Robert Epstein, former editor in chief of Psychology Today, recently argued in the Scientific American Mind that the peer culture of schools and the entertainment media are the main culprits that have contributed to the poor behavior of many teens.

His observations are echoed by millions of parents who are concerned about the environment of public schools. In fact, a survey by the National Center for Education Statistics, which is part of the Department of Education, found that 30 percent of parents identified the problems of crime, drugs and gangs as the reasons they chose to homeschool.

For families that still believe high school is too difficult, I would like to share several reasons my wife often gives for teaching teens through high school:

  • Builds relationships at a critical time in the teen’s life,
  • Provides excellent learning environment,
  • Provides individualized instruction,
  • Teens can accelerate progress, and
  • Protects teens from negative peer influences and provides a safe learning environment.

Assuming you take the challenge, is there a place where you can turn for help? Yes. The Home School Legal Defense Association has seen tremendous growth in the number of homeschooled teens and we have responded to our 80,000-member families by hiring two high school coordinators, Diane Kummer and Becky Cooke. These ladies, who have educated their own children through high school, are available to help with any high school-related problems you may encounter.

Despite the inevitable challenges, high school is an opportunity to allow your teen to flourish. Almost all teens have a talent, gift or area of interest. The high school years are an excellent time to pursue those interests, and with the flexible schedule that homeschooling provides, you have a chance to really develop some expertise in a subject area.

High school is also a time to gain real-world experience. Many homeschooled teens start their own business, or work with their parents if they have a home-based business. They also have the flexibility to complete internships and volunteer for local nonprofit groups. This real-world experience, interacting with adults in professional environments, is invaluable.

Of course, traditional academic knowledge is also important and homeschoolers have excelled in this area. For the past 10 years homeschoolers have scored above the national average on the ACT. This means parents are succeeding and can teach their children to the level of the local high school.

Aside from academic success, we should always remember the socialization benefits of homeschooling. Interacting with adults is the key. Mr. Epstein correctly defines socialization as “a process by which we learn to be part of a community.” Homeschoolers are learning to be part of the adult world rather than chasing the latest fashion or behavior served up by their peers.

Homeschooled teens are well-positioned to have a tremendous impact on the culture and they are only in this position because their parents decided to finish the job and raise their own children all the way into adulthood.

Michael Smith is the president of the Home School Legal Defense Association. He may be contacted at (540)338-5600; or send email to

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