The Washington Times
January 19, 1999

A Peerless Method for Transmitting Values

By Michael Farris
The Washington Times
January 19, 1999

About 500,000 families in the United States home school their children. Accordingly, there are a half million stories of why parents embarked upon the adventure of educating their own children. I thought it might be appropriate to tell you why Vickie and I began home schooling way back in 1982.

I have a genuine public school pedigree. My dad is a retired public elementary school principal. Both my older sister and her husband are public school teachers. My dad urged me to become a lawyer for school districts.

His desire was for me to be able to defend public schools from attacks by the American Civil Liberties Union. With that idea, I did my undergraduate honors thesis in school law under the tutelage of a professor who was also an attorney for the state school boards association. My wife majored in elementary education and was planning a career as a public school teacher—at least until we had children.

A funny thing happened along our journey. As Vickie and I prepared for a career in public education, it became apparent to us that the direction that the public schools were headed was going to make life increasingly difficult for people who believed in traditional religious and moral precepts.

Values clarification was all the rage when we were still confused college, but by the time we had children the situation had become clear. The values we embraced required us to give our children a Christian education.

So in due season, our oldest daughter, Christy, was enrolled in a good Christian school for kindergarten and first grade. By April of her first grade year, Christy had started to develop an inappropriate dependence on the opinions of her friends at school. When confronted with decisions about behavior and choices and tastes, she showed more reliance on the views of her friends than on the views expressed by Vickie and me. It was our first real taste of the effects peer pressure and we didn’t like what we saw.

That same April, Vickie and I, in separate places, learned about home schooling. When we heard it said that our child would get her values from the people with whom she spent most of her time and that if she spent more time with her peers than her family, she would get her values from her peers, that rang true with what we were already seeing in Christy.

Even with Christy in a Christian school, we saw traits and values deriving from peer influence that we didn’t like. And we had the audacity to believe that we were smarter and wiser than her fellow six year olds and would do a better job of transmitting appropriate values.

Although we didn’t start home schooling for academic excellence, we found out that it was a great way to have our children maximize their academics.

Nor did we really start because we wanted a Christian education: Christy was already in a Christian school. We simply wanted the benefits of spending more time with our daughter rather than giving her a 12-year dose of peer influence.

The real questions for today are: Did home schooling work? Did Christy develop the right values and avoid the traps that are inherent in peer-dependent relationships?

The answer is: Absolutely. Home schooling worked better than our wildest dreams could have envisioned—not only for Christy and her two sisters who are also graduated and grown, but for tens of thousands of other home school alumni as well. To answer the academic question, Christy graduated summa cum laude from college. To answer the question, “Did she learn to get along with her peers?” let me tell you that she was elected student body vice president.

Christy is 23, married, and expecting her own child in May. Because Vickie and I still have six children of school age, plus a 20 month old baby, some of our children are just beginning their home schooling. We have confidence that it will turn out well for our younger children, because we have already seen home schooling work.

If you have started home schooling or are considering it, you can also be confident that your children can develop successfully during the years of childhood and adolescence without the turmoil and pain that comes from peer dependency.

Fathers and mothers are still smarter than 6-year-olds. Don’t let Bart Simpson try to convince you otherwise.

Michael Farris is the father of 10 home-schooled children and chairman of the
Home School Legal Defense Association

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