WorldNetDaily ExclusiveHOME SCHOOLING - Part 1
This is the first of a two-part series on the home-schooling phenomenon. Part two will be published in WorldNetDaily tomorrow.
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What's so unusual about Brad Faas?
First impressions may tell you, "not much." The 18-year-old lives at home with his parents. He loves computers. He's been teaching himself blues and rock standards on his new electric guitar. Recently he has developed an affinity for motorcycles -- which doesn't thrill Mom and Dad.
Yet Brad's ventures into common youthful hobbies belie the enormous responsibilities he holds. Despite his teen-age years, Brad has found himself employed by Blue Cross/Blue Shield as a computer network analyst, earning $38,000 a year. He also works part-time for Prince George's Community College in Maryland as a network specialist. He's currently in charge of all their computer systems, until they find somebody full-time.
What do Brad and his family believe contributed to his early career and financial success? Home schooling.
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The Faases (Brad has three siblings who are also educated at home) are among the estimated 1.23 million children who are home schooled in the United States. That statistic, and others about home schooling, was provided by the National Home Education Research Institute. The institute, based in Salem, Ore., is engaged in the ongoing process of collecting and distributing research data about home schooling.
The institute is a non-profit, 501(c)3 corporation, and its existence depends on private contributions and subscriptions to their publication, the Home School Researcher. It is also commissioned on a regular basis to perform research for state and local home school organizations.
The data the institute has compiled universally favors home schooling, demonstrating the positive results of those parents who have educated their own children. Not surprisingly, the institute is led by two home schooling families.
"Personal experience backs up what we've seen in the (research)," says William Lloyd, Washington, D.C. branch manager of the institute. Lloyd also works for the U.S. Census Bureau as a statistician.
According to Lloyd, stories like Brad Faas's are unusual even for home schoolers. However, for home schooled students to excel in their studies is not out of the ordinary.
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A 1997 national report by the institute found that home schooled students scored 30-35 percent higher on standardized achievement tests than the national average for all students. The results were consistently higher for each school subject individually as well.
"The numbers are startling when you first look at them," says Lloyd. "But these are essentially the same numbers we had in our 1990 study. Same for our 1994 study in Canada. It's not that we have a mistake with our computers. It's just the kind of thing we're finding in the home schooling community. Kids are doing extremely well in terms of their education."
However, the success data doesn't seem to be the reason most parents give for home schooling. Lloyd says they do so for one or all of the following reasons:
- philosophical or religious reasons.
- desire to focus on higher-level academics.
- desire to control the kinds of social interactions that kids have at school.
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The home school movement is largely a Christian one. Better than 85 percent of
home schooling families classify themselves as evangelical or born-again
Christians. The remaining families vary among Jews, Muslims, New Agers and
"They all tend to have that same kind of motivation: They want to be personally responsible for teaching their kids," says Lloyd.
Mike and Donna Splaine, of Granada Hills, Ca., have taken control of their childrens' education. They are the parents of a second-grade son and kindergarten-age daughter. They are evangelical Christians, and decided to home school primarily for their religious beliefs.
"We were likeminded in the fact that the fight for the soul was the issue," says Mike. "It seemed to be the only option."
Reading, writing, and arithmetic, while important, weren't the highest priorities for the Splaines. Their greatest concern was to instill biblical truths in their children, and to inspire inner convictions. Imparting academic knowledge ranked third on their list.
"We felt like that was not going to be met in public or private (school), because those classroom situations have 25 to 30 children," says Donna. "A teacher can't possibly work one-on-one with a child to inspire their convictions and instill that biblical foundation, even in a Christian school."
William Lloyd also likes to emphasize the benefits of a one-on-one teacher/student relationship. He points to his own family as an example. His 19-year-old daughter, Christina, is a student at Prince George's Community College, and is a member of Phi Beta Kappa. They began to home educate her in elementary school.
The Lloyds began to realize the shortcomings of public schools during Christina's elementary years. She was enrolled in a program in the Washington, D.C., area, and doing well, but spending 45 minutes to an hour on a bus each way to school. They also were uncomfortable that she was spending six to seven hours a day in a group of about 30 students.
"She was getting a lot of clues and cues for social behavior from them primarily, as opposed to someone older and wiser," says Lloyd.
The Lloyds, like many home schooling parents, questioned whether their child was being educated in the best possible way. The answer seemed obvious. "We felt like we could do at least as good a job, if not better," he says.
Apparently home schooling parents are doing as good a job as public schools. According to the institute's statistics, 69 percent of home school graduates continue on to postsecondary education, while 31 percent enter the work force. These percentages almost mirror the results for public school graduates.
Advocates also tout the fact that students can pursue their career goals more easily when home schooling. It allows for greater flexibility in study, and creates more time for the student to devote to such efforts. Brad Faas liked that aspect.
"With home schooling, we definitely had a lot more freedom to tailor my curriculum to what I wanted to do," says Brad. "So if I was interested in a type of math, we went with those types of math books. One of the things I liked about home schooling was you weren't stuck with those stock curricula."
"It's a lot of self-motivation, actually. You want to learn the stuff, as long as you get to explore. I was given the opportunity to figure out what I wanted to do, and had a lot of fun doing it, too."
Lloyd says that flexibility is crucial throughout the child's entire education.
"A one-on-one teaching method ensures the child gets the curricular goal," he says. "If Johnny doesn't understand two-digit subtraction, we don't go on to three-digit subtraction until he gets two-digit, and then you move on."
Lloyd says the flexibility is advantageous for the gifted student especially. Often the "busy" work that is required to be completed in a conventional classroom setting can be reduced for many students in a home school.
"What you find is, the teacher is giving Johnny 50 questions to do, 10 of which he really needs to do. The other 40 are there to keep him busy, because Mrs. Jones is busy trying to teach Jimmy Slow, who's having a real hard time with it."
"That's why Johnny gets 50 questions in a public or private school. In a home school he gets 10 or 15 questions. If he does the first 15 and gets them all right, there's no point in going on. You move on to something else."
As a result, the boredom factor is diminished.
The institute also measured the effect of teacher certification on home schoolers. The results remained consistent with the overall data. Children of non-certified home schooling parents still ranked 35 percent higher then public schooled students on standard academic tests. Nor have the parents' educational levels hindered the success of home schooled students.
"One of the things is that, even among parents who don't even have a high school diploma, we find that the process of home schooling actually teaches the teacher," says Lloyd. "High school diploma'd or less, the child does just as well as the child where the parents are college educated."
The Splaines are a good illustration of parent motivation. Although she graduated high school, Donna was admittedly a poor performer in public schools.
"I detested going to school," she says. "I didn't want to learn. I didn't have a reason; nobody was giving me a reason. They just told you what to do."
Now she says her 2nd grade son is reading at a 5th grade level. Her own perspective and attitude towards education have changed drastically. She has even become the head of an independent study program, or ISP, of 70 home schooling families.
"Donna's gone from a person who, back in the mid-1980s, did not want to read more than one verse in the Bible at a time," says Mike Splaine. "Now she's not only well-read, and has read the scriptures many times, but is now educating her own children and running a 70-family ISP to boot, which shows that it can be done."
Perhaps the most common criticism of home schooling is childrens' lack of social development, resulting from less interaction with other schoolmates. Parents often fear that a withdrawn, non-communicative adult is the natural result of a home schooling environment.
Again, the institute's research refutes the common thinking. The institute found that 98 percent of home schoolers are involved in at least two activities outside the home that involve interaction with other people. These include group sports, church activities, volunteer work, and field trips.
"The idea that home schoolers are out there isolated, with their parents throwing them into a closet, tossing them lunch at noontime, and keeping them locked up for six hours, is a huge fallacy," says Lloyd.
Lloyd contends that home schooled kids are just as socialized as public and private schooled children. "They're just not spending six hours a day with children, learning their behaviors from the pack," he says.
Home schooled children generally perform better than conventionally schooled children on behavioral tests as well. They have lower problem behavior scores, which home schooling supporters attribute to the parents' involvement in their childrens' socialization.
"Home schoolers are less peer oriented," Lloyd says. "They're not dependent upon wearing a shoe, or hairstyle, or something to have to fit in to a social clique. They don't have to do that, because they've gotten their sense of personhood, well-being, and esteem from within and from external sources which are older and more mature."
Mike Splaine challenges the theory that any socialization occurs in a classroom.
"Socialization? With 35 kids in one room? What socialization? They're all trying to concentrate with one teacher. The only thing that can go on there is disruption."
"Since when have kids learned from kids? What they do is learn all the wrong things. That is the single biggest dumb-down question asked by the people who don't know the first thing about (home schooling)."
Brad Faas doesn't feel like he missed anything by skipping the traditional school setting. He has all the friends he wants, and says that he was "perfectly content."
He feels home schooling allowed him to develop and pursue his passion for computer work. He was able to discover what he loved to do at an early age, and made an easy transition to the work force.
He still considers computers as just a hobby. "I don't know why -- working
doesn't feel like I thought it would," he says.
"I'm definitely having fun and getting a paycheck, too."