Opinion

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Education: The Homeschooling Option

|
Posted: Jul 29, 2018 12:01 AM
The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not represent the views of Townhall.com.
Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Education: The Homeschooling Option

Americans have lost faith in the public school system. Only 36 percent of U.S. parents have a “great deal” of support for public schools, according to a 2017 study by Gallup. But despite this dismal reality, more than 90 percent of American children remain enrolled in public schools.

There is, however, a growing contingent of parents who are rejecting government schools and instead choosing to educate their own children at home. Although homeschoolers only currently make up about 3.4 percent of the total student population, homeschooling is a shining example of what education freedom can deliver. When it comes to standardized testing and other educational benchmarks, there is no denying that homeschoolers fare much better than their public school counterparts. After examining a compilation of nationwide studies, Dr. Brian Ray of the National Home Education Research Institute revealed that, “The homeschooled have consistently scored in these studies, on average, at the 65th to 80th percentile on standardized academic achievement tests in the United States and Canada, compared to the public school average of the 50th percentile.”

Another study validates homeschoolers’ exceptional academic achievement. In a poll conducted by Ray, homeschooled students achieved scores in the 86th to the 89th percentile, compared to the standard 50th percentile for those enrolled in government schools. Interestingly, the homeschooled students who had neither parent certified as a teacher performed as well as those who had a parent that was a certified teacher, by a margin of 88 percent to 87 percent.

Furthermore, on college entrance exams, homeschoolers routinely score higher than public school students. On the 2014 Standardized Achievement Test (SAT), homeschoolers on average scored a 567 in critical reading, 521 in mathematics, and 535 in writing. How did the public school students perform on the same test? Quite a bit lower, as the national average for all public school students was 497 in critical reading, 513 in mathematics, and 487 in writing.

Unlike public schools, homeschooling inherently meets the unique needs of each child. Who else, besides a parent, knows what is best for their own children? Certainly not government bureaucrats and teachers, who work at the mercy of state and federal regulators, many of whom have no idea how to educate kids!

Homeschooling accommodates a wide variety of personality and learning differences, a stark difference from the traditional public education system. Thanks to Common Core, much of the classroom time spent in public schools is now unnecessary and pointless. On the other hand, homeschooling allows parents to optimize their schedule and curriculum based on a student’s individual needs. A class of one maximizes customization and minimizes standardization. In a homeschool environment, if a student excels at history but struggles with mathematics, he or she can cruise through the former and slowly absorb the latter.

Some parents might feel intimidated at the prospect of educating their own children, especially if they don’t have a background in education. But homeschooling is more accessible today than ever before. Since homeschooling’s humble beginnings in the 1970s, there has been a wealth of educational resources that have been published for home educators. In fact, there are more than 30 nationally recognized homeschool curriculum providers offering services to U.S. parents today.

Further, parents avoiding homeschooling because they doubt their ability to educate their children should remember that polls show most parents don’t trust publicly certified teachers, either. For example, one study found 75 percent of Americans believe accreditation for teachers does not ensure quality education.

The best evidence for accreditation skepticism comes from a study conducted by Eric Hanushek at the University of Rochester. Relying on data from 113 other educational studies, Hanushek discovered that for 85 percent of the students included in the study there was no correlation between the accreditation of the teacher and the success of the student. Further, educational expert Donald Erickson of the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) says accreditation is vastly overrated. “Some of the worst teachers I’ve ever seen are highly certified,” Erickson said. “Look at our public schools. They’re full of certified teachers. What kind of magic is that accomplishing? But I can take you to the best teachers I’ve ever seen, and most of them are uncertified. … We don’t have evidence at all that what we do in schools of education makes much difference in teacher competence.”

Teaching a child at home is not an easy task. It takes time, effort, and, most of all, love. However, the advantages often outweigh the difficulties. If a parent is unsatisfied with his or her child’s public school education and has the ability and interest in homeschooling a child, he or she should feel confident that providing a superior learning environment through homeschooling is both possible and often an incredibly rewarding experience.