August 29 - While the cost of education in the United States has increased and academic performance has fallen, a bright star shines over America's academic landscape: home education.
While government schools spend an average of $5,325 per student per year to attain a 50th percentile performance ranking among the states, $1.5 million home-schooled children cost U.S. families only about $400 per student annually, to achieve test scores averaging 25 percent higher at the 75th percentile.
In the largest research study to date, completed this year by Dr. Lawrence Rudner of the ERIC Clearinghouse on Assessment and Evaluation, the average eighthgrade homeschooled student performs four grade levels above the national average. This outstanding academic performance by home-educated students makes homeschooling an attractive alternative to the traditional classroom.
A major factor in this achievement is intense parental involvement - a known key to exceptional academic performance. As a former teacher, I can attest that it is very difficult to achieve success in education without cooperation, reinforcement and abiding interest from the parents.
Home-schooling involves one-on-one instruction - known to be an ideal format in which to learn. With the efficiency of individual instruction, and without the distractions of a crowded classroom, parents often find their children accomplish more academic work in less time.
Cutting-edge technologies like CDROM, interactive video, satellite feeds, and on-line tutoring are bringing the best teaching tools and methods right into the home, increasing parental options exponentially. Home education may be a tried and true historical method of teaching, but it is now the wave of the future. Our top universities are actively recruiting home-educated students because of their love of learning and mature study habits.
A third advantage to home education is the opportunity to maximize the individuality of each child. As government education becomes increasingly centralized and bureaucratized, the inevitable result becomes a one-size-fits-all curriculum and classroom structure. Conversely, just as the small business can be more responsive to consumer needs, the home school can be incredibly flexible and adaptable to meet the needs of each child. Every individual child has his or her learning style, interests and abilities. With the individual attention provided by a home education, each student's curriculum can be tailored to help him reach his fullest potential. There need not be any common denominator to which all students are reduced.
Not only does home schooling provide an excellent, individualized education, it also allows parents to determine the values on which their children's learning is based. All education is based on basic presuppositions, such as the origin of man and his nature, the purpose of life, and what constitutes proper human behavior. The predominant view of modern education places man as supreme over his own destiny, with a relative and changing set of ethics. For many families this undermines a strong faith in God. For them, home education provides the opportunity to pass on their family's faith and values to the next generation.
An issue closely related to family values is the socialization of the children. This question of "socialization'' is the most frequently leveled criticism of those not familiar with home education. Ironically, the negative aspects of socialization, such as behavioral problems and unsavory peer groups, are driving increasing numbers of families toward home education. When you understand what it truly means to be socialized, this question readily answers itself. It has less to do with surviving in a room full of first graders, and more to do with honesty, respect, and the maturity to relate people of all ages and backgrounds.
Home-schooled children often have regular interaction with adults and siblings of various ages. Dr. Larry Shyers, in a 1992 study, found that the child's social development depends more on adult contact and less on contact with other Swanson children.
Not surprisingly, a nationwide study by Dr. John Wesley Taylor (Doctoral dissertation, Andrews University) revealed that, according the Piers-Harris Children's Self-Concept Scale, the self-concept of home school students was significantly higher than that of public school students.
Proper social skills, making one fit for living in civil society, are not learned in large age-segregated classrooms, or in random contact with other people. They are the result of proper training, in which the parents play a crucial role. In fact, family socialization can be more effective in the long run than institutionalized socialization. Opportunity for teaching social skills can come through family interactions, community service, and extra curricular activities. A recent study showed that 98 percent of home educated children are involved in two or more social/community activities outside of the home each week.
Not only is home schooling reinventing education, it is reinventing families. Families have become so fragmented in our modern society, it is unusual for them to even eat dinner together! Home schooling reverses this trend and brings families back together. One mother told me, "Since we've been home schooling, I can actually talk to my teenage daughters.'' Since families are the foundation on which our society rests, they are well worth strengthening! There are numerous support systems for parents interested in home schooling.
Here in Colorado there are state conventions, workshops, news magazines, local support groups, graduation ceremonies, curriculum fairs, video and reading materials, and much more. Many of these resources can be accessed through the web site www.chec.org.
Home education is setting the new standards for academic achievement, character development, social skills, creativity, family, and responsible citizenship. The true impact of home education on our country's social, business, and political institutions will only be felt 20 years from now. Home education is definitely a bright star in America's future!
Kevin Swanson is Executive Director of Christian Home Educators of Colorado. He can be contacted through CHEC at officechec.org or 303-393-6587.