September 23, 2004

HSLDA Responds to Hostile Letter in the Holland Sentinel

Margaret W. Boyce expressed her opinion of homeschooling in the Holland Sentinel. Unfortunately, Ms. Boyce does not have an accurate picture of homeschooling.

Home-schooling robs children


I read with interest the recent article in The Sentinel about home-school families. I find it strange that we send our young men and women to help assure that children can go to school in Afghanistan, yet we allow parents in Michigan to keep their children at home.

One of the best and brightest moves that our Founding Fathers made was to make it possible for all children in America, not just the rich, to be educated. Eventually, all children were expected to attend. If they did not, they were considered "truant" and parents were held responsible and could go to jail. This public education still is the very cornerstone of democracy. This strange phenomenon called "home schooling" at best undermines these principles. For many children, it is far worse. Who is monitoring these families? Many a child of abusive parents has an observant teacher to thank for a rescue, some for their very lives. To whom can these children turn when they are kept at home? They are being denied a basic right, which has been fought for all the way to the Supreme Court -- the right to attend school.

We don't allow people to play doctor or nurse without a license, nor can one play lawyer without passing some rather rigorous tests. But today, anyone who wants to "play school" can do so, regardless of their educational background. Recently, some parents have been jailed for withholding medical treatment for their children, yet we are almost making heroes of these parents who do the same with their children's education.

Some parents of home-schooled children speak glowingly of the "wonderful imaginations" developed by their lonely child, who, being surrounded always by adults, has little opportunities to develop friendships with real children. Others associate only with small groups of like-minded people. What happens when they enter the world and cannot control everything, as they do in their sheltered home environment?

What an ego trip for a parent -- to be all things to your children, to control every thought, every concept that enters their world. Is this education, or programming? To deny them the stimulation of working and playing with their peers is unfair. It's far better to send them out into the world for brief forays, such as the school day, and then discuss the day's adventure while they are still young enough to want to work out values with their parents.

There are other losses, such as never being "on the team," never cheering for "our school," never being in a class where the interaction of ideas is more important than the text, or doing any of the myriad of things that make up the process of "belonging," from the first day of school to the 50th class reunion. There is far more to an education than a curriculum -- it includes summer break, Friday nights and graduation.

I have met and talked with a variety of home-schoolers, both children and parents. Many have great gaps in their knowledge. Many are incredibly naive. Some do quite well -- they would have been superstars in school. Others can't wait to leave home, knowing full well that they have been cheated. Parents often believe that they are protecting their children from the "evils" of life. However, children cannot be brought up in a bell jar. Remember that the school day is only six hours long, five days a week. That leaves many hours during the week and summer for the parent.

Give your child the wings needed to grow outside of that jar. If parents wish to be involved in the education of their children, there are many opportunities to be part of the school day. Volunteer to be a lunch or recess monitor. Offer to tutor children in reading or math. Help the art teacher. Be a part of the process of building your community, not a member of the opposition.

A recent Harvard study following home-schooled children over many years found that these children did not do better at the college level than traditionally educated children. The real trip was for the mothers, who received the big emotional rewards. My response is: Mothers, get a life. How unfair it is for you to take away your own child's life in order to gratify yours? Is this what we must expect from the "me first" generation as it raises their families?

The role of a parent is vital in a child's education. However, without all four of the pillars provided by home, school, church and community working together, we have a precarious foundation for the next generation. The public school system is the very cornerstone of democracy in America. We need to cherish it and nurture it.

Margaret W. "Peggy" Boyce is a resident of Saugatuck.

HSLDA responds:

Wednesday September 22, 2004

Dear Editor,

Margaret Boyce makes some interesting observations in her attack on homeschooling. Unfortunately, they're almost all incorrect. Ms. Boyce's only correct observation is that "some" homeschoolers would be superstars in school. That's true. In fact, most homeschoolers are way ahead of the average public school student because the parent is teaching the child individually and not with the one size fits all program of the public school. Where Ms. Boyce displays her ignorance is in her knowledge of history, the courts and homeschooling. Newsflash – the majority of the Founding Fathers were homeschooled. Those that weren't attended small neighborhood schools. The public system we see today began gaining steam in the late 1800's and was fully established by the early 1900's, not in the 1700's, as Ms. Boyce seems to believe. Ms. Boyce also claims that the Supreme Court only favors the right to a public education. In reality, the Supreme Court guarantees parents the right to direct the education of their children. See Pierce v. Society of Sisters 1925. But perhaps the most egregious errors were in Ms. Boyce's assessment of the life of the average homeschooler. A new study from the National Home Education Research Institute shows that homeschoolers are more actively involved in their communities than the average public school student. It's homeschoolers which show more commitment to their communities, and to use Ms. Boyce's phrase, building their communities, not opposing them. Since when did homeschooling become opposition to the entire social fabric of the country? It isn't. It is however, one of the best ways to raise a child into mature adulthood. As many public school parents have discovered, when their child is at school surrounded by negative peer influences and the bright ideas of the average nine year old, it makes the task of raising their child extremely difficult. Homeschoolers, on the other hand, do not have to waste valuable time and emotional energy navigating the average publc school social system. They learn directly from responsible older children and their parents, as well as other adults. Is it better for a nine year old to learn his socialization skills, which he will use in a life of adulthood, from other nine year olds in a peer segregated school? Of course not. Homeschoolers are succeeding in all walks of life and will continue to succeed despite the ignorance of some casual observers.


Ian Slatter
Director of Media Relations
Home School Legal Defense Association