Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Ed Secretary John King: Homeschooling deprives kids - By Cody Holt

Decades of positive results from homeschool families still haven't stopped their critics from repeating outdated, debunked myths.  Education Secretary John King recently told an audience he worries that most homeschool students aren't "getting the range of options that are good for all kids."  He went on to state that he is concerned that homeschool students are not getting the "rapid instructional experience they would get in school" unless parents are "very intentional about it."

King must not have seen the recent report by the National Home Education Research Institute showing that homeschool students outperform their peers by an average of 40 percent on the SAT.  If he had, he probably wouldn't have joined the countless politicians, bureaucrats, teacher unions, and lobbyists who insist that the government knows how to educate children better than their own parents.  Despite government's best efforts to drive it out of existence, homeschooling is more popular than ever as generations of success stories prove the benefits of tailoring education to a child's needs.

My parents made the bold decision to homeschool in the early 1990s.  Back then, scrutiny from well-meaning but misinformed officials was the norm.  It wasn't uncommon for parents to be investigated for criminal truancy or even abuse.  For years my mother kept the phone number of a homeschool legal advocacy group taped by the front door in case a social worker appeared on our doorstep.

But as times changed, homeschooling exploded in popularity, and bureaucrats had to admit that parents like mine might actually know what they were doing.  Between 1999 and 2012, the number of homeschoolers in the U. S. more than doubled to 1.8 million.  Homeschoolers began winning spelling beesstarring in hit Disney Channel shows, and taking home Heisman Trophies and BCS championships.

Meanwhile, homeschool students were quietly proving we were getting a quality "instructional experience" even without the traditional classroom.  A 2009 study by the Home School Legal Defense Association found that homeschool students scored around 30 percentile points higher than average on standardized achievement tests.  Seventy-five percent of homeschoolers attend college, and those who do earn higher grade point averages and graduate at a higher rate than their peers.

This is really no surprise: homeschool parents spend extensive one-on-one time teaching their children and can purchase or adapt curricula to meet their children's specific learning styles.  When my high-energy sister struggled to read, my mom was able to identify the problem and adjust her approach.  Letting my sister pace the room while tackling Dr. Seuss may not have been feasible in a classroom of 30 students, but the flexibility of homeschooling helped her succeed.  This year, she is completing a master's degree in education.

Despite the stereotype of the socially awkward misfit, multiple studies have found that homeschool students are as active and socially adjusted as their peers.  In high school, I played on a volleyball team, sang in a choir, joined a community theater group, took piano and guitar lessons, interned at a local newspaper, volunteered at church, worked a part-time job, and took classes with other homeschool families.  If that's not a "full range of options," I don't know what is.

Homeschooling is not the right option for every child, but it is the best option for many.  Families should be free to choose the education that will help their child succeed – be it home, private, public, or charter school – not forced into a one-size-fits-all system.  Instead of casting doubts on their efforts, Secretary King should champion the hardworking parents who sacrifice daily to ensure that their children receive the best education possible.

Cody Holt is a homeschool graduate and works as a field director at Americans for Prosperity Foundation.  He and his wife live in Northern Virginia.
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