My mother and I have hired two home schooled youths to do garden and farm work in recent times. The young man who helps my mother is 14, and my helper is 17. Both work very hard and display excellent manners. What do I consider so remarkable? Almost every home schooled youngster of either gender I’ve met over recent decades has been exceptionally polite, centered, knowledgeable, and each in possession of communication skills. Their expertise unilaterally measured far above that of their peers educated in public school.
Of course, my experience may not represent yours, but some of you may have noticed the same phenomena. I believe those noticeable skills are a direct result of their parent’s training. Since only 3.4% of school age children are home schooled, I suspect few parents have the wherewithal to provide it. Home schooling requires a large investment in time, resources, support, and above all, a unflagging desire to mold youngsters into adults they can be proud of, reflecting their values.
I’ve spoken with parents who’ve home schooled. Their primary reason for doing so is that they consider their public school system is an unacceptable environment for learning. That may be due to the prevalence of drugs, sexual activities, gangs, or other distracting behaviors. It may be that academic standards of the schools are brought down to the lowest common denominator, leaving no challenge for gifted students, or that their child’s particular talents are not addressed within the curriculum. In some cases, parents want their child taught within the guidelines of their faith.
I admire parents that are willing and able to home school, but some must weigh that need of the child against the other needs of the family. The first duty of any parent is to provide good nutrition, shelter, clothing, love, and a safe environment. Until those needs are met, there’s no room for anything else. If the parent does not have a demeanor or background conducive to helping their children through the curriculum, some students may be better served in a public school. It depends on the quality of the school and its curriculum, skills of the teacher or parent, and the needs of the child. I do believe that any parent, no matter their skill set, should consider guiding their child at home, especially if the designated school system is rife with negative influences where moving to a better school district is not reasonable or affordable.
I’m in favor of vouchers for home school parents within certain limitations. It would be appropriate for parents willing and able to home school within state guidelines. I am not suggesting anyone receive enough remuneration to make it attractive as a financial motivation. If the guidelines I detailed in my earlier column were followed, it would only make home schooling attractive to those most qualified to supervise or provide it.
Recently, I viewed a twenty-minute TED (Technology, Education, Design) talk by Salman Khan. He runs a non-profit company providing videos to bring the level of education on certain subjects to 100% understanding, each student learning at his own pace. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nTFEUsudhfs) In his plan, advanced students mentor those having difficulty. His system reminds me of how the old one-room school houses of times past were run successfully. Although his system being introduced to public schools, those same tools would be a real boon for home schooling as well.
For those of you who make the sacrifice to home school, I salute you!