A Clayborn Hall Review

Learning at Home:
Does it Pass
The Test?

A review of the report in Newsweek written by Barbara Kantrowitz and Pat Wingert

Following a title in very large   print, the lead of this comprehensive and lavishly illustrated Newsweek report states:

"More and more parents are taking over their children's education with help from the Internet and each other. But critics worry kids aren't getting what they need."

And in a highlighted box opposite this lead:

"When I pulled my sons from school, it was like
I was given my children back. It was a gift."

The thrust of Newsweek's report is a question: Are parents able to provide an adequate home education education to their children? And, after many words and seven pages, Newsweek's answer seems to be: It depends.

Kantrowitz and Wingert begin with a lengthy and detailed discussion of why families elect to remove their children from the public school systems and take on the challenge of home-schooling. According to the authors, the primary reasons, in no particular order, are:

1. Because teachers aren't helping enough.
2. Because parents want kids to have the chance to follow their own interests.
3. To solve short-term problems and find long-term challenges.
4. To instill (religious) values in their children.
5. To reclaim family closeness.
6. To meet the special needs of gifted, learning-disabled, and emotionally-troubled children.
7. To avoid the problems of drugs, alcohol, sex, and violence.

Enforcing these reasons, the article quotes Chester Finn, a senior fellow of the Hudson Institute, a Washington, D.C. think tank, who states, "Americans are becoming fussy consumers rather than trusting captives of a state monopoly. They've declared their independence and are taking matters into their own hands."

The reasons home-schooling's critics take exception to these reasons is given equal time and space in the form of quotations by educational leaders:

Daniel Kessler, a Phoenix pediatrician: "Kids need to be successful in three overlapping spheres -- at home, at school and with peers. home educationing compresses all that into a single setting that can be very difficult for kids."

Ronald Areglado of the National Association of Elementary School Principals: "After all, if home educationing fails, we pay the freight."

"The National Educational Association," states the article, ". . .backs more rigorous regulation."

Christopher Klicka, executive director of the National Center for Home Education (an advocacy group) claims that only 37 states now have statutes that set standards for home educationing. About half of those demand some kind of annual testing or evaluation; the rest require only that certain subjects be covered.

The Newsweek report does not neglect the opinions and findings of home educationing parents, and gives ample coverage to those who have had good experiences and those who have had bad. It is interesting to note that the report uses many highlighted boxes, each containing a quote of a home-schooling parent or child, none of them negative, each of them a positive confirmation of the worth of homeschooling. The contents of each of those highlighted boxes follows:

"'In Scripture, it's pretty clear that parents are the primary educators of their children' Frances Martin, Lake Arrowhead, Calif. The Martins were also worried that schools couldn't give Seth, 7, and Hannah, 11, the same kind of attention they'd get at home. Hanna already tests beyond high-school levels."

"'In school, you're told what to study. I discover my own interests and pursue them.' Charlie Loyd, 14, Not Back to School Camp. Established three years ago in Oregon, the camp brings together home-schooled teens -- no parents -- to share their resources and get a week's worth of moral support."

"'Unschooling is not letting them do whatever they want. It's a controlled environment.' Marcy Kinsey, Westlake Village, Calif. Fearing that Evan9, Justin7, and Adam 11. . . would lose the thrill of learning in the classroom, their mother kept them home, or, as she puts it, 'unschooled' them."

"' You can delegate algebra. I don't do it at all. But I'm responsible for their education.' Joyce Burges, Baton Rouge, La. The Burgeses educated five kids at home, tailoring the lessons to each child's interests. When Lawrence, 15, and Candace, 14, wanted music lessons, the family hired outside teachers."

The following home-school statistics are provided in the article:

  • In 1990, about 300,000 students were being home educationed in the United States.
    Today, there are about 1,500,000.
  • In the 12 states with the best records of home educationers, it is estimated that 1.5% of all elementary and secondary-school students are home educationed.
  • The average ACT score for a traditional educated child is 21.
    The average ACT score for a home educationed child is 23. (An ACT score of 23 qualifies a student for a "selective" college.)
  • 41 states have no academic requirements for parents who home education.

Perhaps alarming to many potential parents considering home education, is an insert by the authors titled

Will It Work for You?

In this insert is a bulleted list of what it takes to be a good home-schooling parent and a good home-schooled student. The authors site no authorities, nor do they offer credentials suggesting they are qualified for the assumptions in their "guidelines."

Are you a good candidate?

  • You're well organized, patient, resourceful and enjoy being with your kids.
  • You can afford to lose income and won't mind sacrificing professional goal.
  • You put family togetherness at the top of your priority list.

Is your child a good candidate?

  • He's generally outgoing and makes friends even in informal settings.
  • She'll be able to respect you as a teacher and still love you as a parent
  • He sees home educationing as a positive thing, not a punishment for academic or behavior problem

Included in the article is a list of notables who were home educationed. Well, they may have stretched the definition of home education just a wee bit.

George Washington
Queen Elizabeth II
Theodore Roosevelt
Thomas Edison
Jessica DuBroff
(who, at 7, died in the crash of a plane she was flying to
the youngest trans-America pilot)
Rebecca Sealfon
(winner of the national spelling bee)
(the 3 brothers from Oklahoma who made the"Weird" video)

Perhaps the entire theme and tone of the Newsweek report can be summed up in this one phrase by the authors:

". . .what unites these parents is a belief that they can do a better job
than trained educators in a conventional school."