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Crash Course on Homeschooling for Bill Clinton
by Isabel Lyman
2 June 2000

Isabel Lyman Dear Bill Clinton,

Thank you for making a speech about home education during your recent school reform tour.

You were correct when you said home schooling is “going to happen anyway.” But your other remarks, Mr. President ... well, they reveal how misinformed you are about home schoolers.

You need a crash course. Take a seat at the front of the class, sir. Home Schooling 101 is about to begin.

You said: If parents are going to teach their children at home, those youngsters have to prove they are learning on a regular basis.

The reality is this: If you measure “learning” by the results of standardized test scores, home schoolers are surpassing students enrolled in public schools.

Patricia Lines, a researcher with the Education Department, notes that “virtually all the available data show that the group of home-schooled children who are tested resembles that of children in private schools.”

Brian Ray of the National Home Education Research Institute concurs. Regardless of income, race, gender or parents' level of education, home schoolers consistently score between the 82nd and the 92nd percentiles on achievement tests.

Home schoolers aren't slackers when it comes to getting into college or winning academic awards, either. The Chronicle of Higher Education has reported on the rising number of home-schooled students' gaining admission to selective colleges, and the Wall Street Journal has noted that Harvard University each year accepts “up to 10 applicants who have had some home schooling.”

The National Merit Scholarship Corp. selected more than 70 home-schooled high school seniors as semifinalists in its 1998 competition, 137 in 1999 and 150 in 2000.

You said: Home schoolers need to get organized.

The reality is this: Large home-schooling networks exist in every state. For instance, home schoolers in the Southwest can join the Oklahoma Central Home Educators Consociation or the Texas Home School Coalition. Those organizations' leaders offer plenty of services to home-schooling families, such as newsletters, Web sites, field trips, local support group information and conferences.

Richard G. Medlin, writing in the Home School Researcher, surveyed 1,500 home schoolers about their attitudes toward such support groups. A whopping 85 percent said they belong to such a group or intend to join one.

My own 14-year-old son participates in the Edmond Home School Cooperative. The Co-op, as it is nicknamed, has 200 students and a waiting list of more than 100. Twice a week, students take academic classes. Co-op organizers even are sponsoring a chartered bus trip to Washington this summer.

You said: I wouldn't have home schooled Chelsea, because I wanted her exposed to a wide range of students and experiences.

The reality is this: Home schoolers receive a more varied education than a child who is conventionally schooled.

Public schools, no matter what the National Education Association preaches about the advantages of a racially mixed student body, are rigidly conformist institutions. Students submit to a predetermined curriculum and grading policies and are expected to arrive and depart at the same time.

Home schooling, on the other hand, is based on the principles of liberty. Families enjoy the freedom to teach what they want, when they want. Parents can advocate for evolution, or they can create a “boy-centered” curriculum without fear of offending a special interest group. Teenage home-schooled students have the luxury to pursue more than academics, like managing a goat farm, training for a triathlon or volunteering to build a church in Mexico.

Home-schooling parents don't take taxpayer money and don't impose their educational methods on others, and their children aren't shooting other students or teachers.

If a Home Schoolers Hall of Fame existed, it would showcase a rainbow coalition of talent. Accomplished home schoolers include NFL player Jason Taylor, Grammy award winner Christina Aguilera and National Spelling Bee champion George Thampy.

Home schoolers, according to conservative estimates, account for only 1 percent of the school-aged population (about 1 million students). Given their small numbers, I think those acomplishments are quite impressive.

Don't you agree, Mr. Clinton?

Class is dismissed. When we meet again, please have your homework done.

This column appeared in the Dallas Morning News on June 11, 2000.

Isabel Lyman lives in Edmond, Oklahoma. A former editorial columnist for the Daily Hampshire Gazette of Northampton, Massachusetts, her views have appeared in various national publications, including the Wall Street Journal and Investors Business Daily. She holds a doctoral degree in Social Science and is currently completing a book, “The Homeschooling Revolution.” Ms. Lyman may be contacted via e-mail by clicking here.
Click here for an index of other Isabel Lyman columns.
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