HOME SCHOOL: FOOL HARDY OR GODSEND?

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The debate of home schooling versus traditional schooling has been on the lips of many for decades. The battle lines are still being drawn and people are taking sides. But is home school really as terrible as many are making it out to be? Are those children who are being home schooled really missing out on the idea of being young? Or are people that are not aware of the benefits making snap judgments? Some 15 years ago the only parents that could home school their children were those who were certified teachers for a particular state. Now, any parent, whether they are certified or not, is legally allowed to home school. The whole idea of non-professionals teaching the future of America frightens many people, but those who are home schooled are proving themselves in the “real world.”
Take 24-year-old Scott Finman, an engineering major at John Hopkins University, for example. He received an $80,000 merit-based scholarship after being home schooled for his entire life. And then there is Ariel Lopez, 18, who was recently awarded a national merit scholarship and began attending DePauw University in Indiana this past fall.

Obviously, there are success stories of home schooled children and teens. But there are downsides as well. One of the most used justifications to not home school is the notion that it fabricates non-social students. Mark Mazzatti, a guidance counselor at Hilton High School in Hilton, New York, agrees:
I believe that high school provides students a strong social experience that cannot be matched by home schooling. High School enables students to learn team work and learn how to get along well with different types of people. Home school students have limited interaction with peers. Therefore, it is leaving teens at a possible disadvantage when it comes to using coping/social skills in the small and large group college environment.
However, Nathan Gregory, a present college freshmen at Finger Lakes Community College in southern New York, who was home schooled from grades first to twelfth, believes he missed out on only a few aspects of a classroom education, but continues to bolster the choice his parents made. “I was able to study without many distractions and teaching was focused directly to me…I feel I did miss out on a little bit though, but in the long run it really doesn’t matter.”

Natalie Moore, a journalist for Pioneer Press in Minnesota agrees: “Home school students now have their own prom, graduation, and theater classes.” They are having just as many options as the children who are conventionally schooled.
Evidently the socialization issue can be combated with the straightforward idea of enrolling the student into other programs such as work or a rapidly developing trend of co-op. Co-op is a form of group education in which parents pool their resources together and the pupil can chose which “elective” he or she wishes to pursue. This radical form of education has been on the rise for many years, Michelle Fraley said. She heads up a co-op program called Hope at Home in Clarksville, Tennessee. There, they amalgamate socialization with learning in a way that students take pleasure in. It is designed to “improve what is being taught at home.
There are varying statistics as to how many children are currently home schooled. Low estimates are from one to two million. That is only about 2% of the school-aged population in the United States currently. The choice to home school is an individual one. Nathan Gregory says his family chose to home school because they didn’t approve of the school district they were in and they sought to give him a “Godly” education. Another popular reason for home schooling is the parents’ wish to instill specific values into the curriculum without paying that pretty penny for a private school education. This isn’t rare when it comes to home schooling. There seems to be an overwhelming consensus to the reasons for choosing the home school route. Whether it is religious values or safety issues, many parents keep their children out of public schools for the sole reason of values.

Yet another reason for home schooling is to make the process of learning more one-on-one. Parents want their children to succeed and in their eyes the personalized aspect will help facilitate that goal. Many parents believe the public schools just “skim the surface.” Often times parents feel, for the personalized reason, that they can provide a sounder education without the distractions commonly experienced in the public school setting.
It is often claimed that college entrance exams and achievement tests scores are significantly higher for home schooled children than those of their public school counterparts while, in actuality, the scores are only minimally better than those of the pubic or private school equivalent. When given the Scholastic Aptitude Test, or SAT, home schooled students score, on average, only 70 points higher than their public school peers.
Christopher Keffer, the Assistant Director of Admissions for St. John Fisher College in Rochester, New York states that the choice to home school does not hurt the pupil in the long run: “We review the same credentials for home schooled students as we do for traditional students; that is, standardized test scores, course work, grade point average, extra curricular activities, etc.”
Keffer also believes the final choice lies with the parents:

For some families, home schooling can be a good idea and works within the dynamics of the family. For others, career demands and other considerations make home schooling more difficult and/or impossible.”
Home schooling initially began in the early 1600’s when the more affluent families would bring in private tutors to educate their children or they would instruct their children in the basic facts of living and working. But with the current options and advancements in both technology and learning styles, home schooling is a much more accepted form of education today.
It is estimated that 75% of universities and colleges have formal application policies for home schooled students. There are also programs set up to aid parents in filling out high-school transcripts and preparing the college applications to ease the burden of doing it all themselves. In addition, there are packages that are available that are filled with the resources needed to prepare the pupil for standardized tests.

There are also laws that are assisting home schooled children to get their fair-and-balanced education. In 2003, the Home School Non-Discrimination Act was passed. This bill states:
Young people who have been educated at home are proving themselves to be competent citizens in post-secondary education and the workplace. The rise of private home education has contributed positively to the education of young people in the United States.
This law basically gives the children whose parents choose to home school them the same rights as those who are in public schools.
Home school has become less of a taboo subject, but those who are home schooled are still being looked at as social pariahs. In our time, children can have that personalized education so many long for, and not miss out on the ever-so-important “teen years.” Parents are taking control of their children’s education by placing it in their own hands. Roger Schurk, the Minnesota Association of Christian Home Educators president, sums it up best: “Kids aren’t born in a litter. Why do we have to raise them that way?”
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