A Clayborn Hall Review
Learning at Home:
Does it Pass
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
"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
"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
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
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
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
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
- 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
- You put family togetherness at the top of your priority
Is your child a good candidate?
- He's generally outgoing and makes friends even in
- 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
Queen Elizabeth II
(who, at 7, died in the crash of a plane she was flying to
the youngest trans-America pilot)
(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."