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Attending school is not the only way to become a scholar. It has been shown that home-educated individuals are just as successful, if not more than those who receive a public education. I understand the relationship between the two as a difference in my educational background and that of my younger brother. I enjoy being a student and learning! Growing up, I was often sad when I got sick because I would miss school, not my friends or an important test, but the fact I missed the opportunity to learn something new. As a student in the Louisiana public school system, I received an above average education compared to the classroom norm. I was a true learner. I wanted to gain knowledge and understanding of everything by study, instruction, and experience. I am not the only member of my family that feels this way. It seems that my parents raised me to yearn for knowledge, even though my father had only a high school degree and my mother a GED. Despite my wonderful experience in public school systems and the increase in educational government funding, children may be educated just as well, if not better through the parents in a home school program through intense personalized programs. (1)
Home school has its proponents, and its critics. I attended a regular elementary, middle, and high school. Public schools are a wonderful social and educational environment for children, or at least they were when I was in elementary school. As I progressed through the grades, the focus remained on the social aspects, not learning. I find however that my experience in upper level classes is not standard. I was challenged by my teachers to learn everything about everything. I was in a gifted/talented program in Louisiana, which is recognized as one of the best in the nation. On the other hand, my little brother Logan attended school in Texas, where the focus is to earn the best scores on TAAS, the standardized tests.
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According to a federal report released in 1999, at least 850,000 children are now learning at home. (2) The largest estimates put home educated at 4% of the entire K-12 population. That may seem like a small amount, but that is more than all of the students in Alaska, Delaware, Hawaii, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming, COMBINED! Home schooling also continues to grow at about 11% a year. As a home schooler, Logan worked at his own pace, surpassing the levels the local district had for each grade. On average, home schoolers score 1100 on the SAT, compared to the national average of 1019 for the general population. Lawrence Rudner of the University of Maryland showed that the average home schooler scored in the 75th percentile on the Iowa Test of Basic Skills, whereas the national average was the 50th percentile. (2)
At this point in time, there are many universities who actively recruit the well rounded home taught students. Three quarters of universities have specific policies for dealing with home-schooled applicants. Harvard admission officers recruit at home school conventions, while Rice and Stanford both admit home schoolers at rates equal or higher than those for public schoolers. This is not the only data that shows the home educated are well integrated into society. Many home schoolers are involved in different extracurricular activities, just as their traditional counterparts. The parents who home school are just as likely to be a soccer mom or a Cub Scout Den leader. Their children can be involved in anything from 4H to music classes, volunteer work, or group sports. Ninety-eight percent of home-schooled children are engaged in at least two of these activities with people other than family members. One in five home schoolers also takes at least one class at public or private school. A 1992 study at the University of Florida compared 35 home-schooled children with 35 public schoolers. The home-schooled children were found to be more patient, less competitive, more prone to exchange addresses and phone numbers, more willing to introduce themselves to others, and also found to fight less. Children who are home schooled often achieve more academically and economically in the long run, and become very active citizens in their respective communities. (2)
Logan was not only taught by my mother, but also through the local home school group. In this group, my mother would teach a group of fourth graders grammar, social studies, and arts. On Tuesday or Thursday, Logan would switch with another mom, who would teach science and mathematics. Some critics of home school, claim that these children lack social skills and are denied the opportunity to socialize and develop personal identity in an environment outside the boundaries of the family. Home school groups invalidate these criticisms.
Charter schools are an innovation that provide a private school environment under the guidelines of a public school. Logan, now 11, attends Lakeside Learning Center, a school in The Colony, TX, which has a charter from the state government recognizing LLC as a public school in the Lewisville Independent School District. LLC is absolutely free, like public schools; however, it is not funded by taxpayers. LLC is an independently funded program that receives grants from local corporations. LLC still has requirements for admission. The students must interview to be accepted into the program and then go through rigorous testing to be advanced into each successive grade. LLC is in its inaugural year; however, it has a waiting list including more than 100 students. This waiting list is one witness to the effectiveness of the program. LLC may have some location and administrative issues to resolve; nevertheless, it allows 200 students to work at their own pace in a social environment. Logan is in sixth grade, but he walks down the hall to the ninth grade classroom to get his books for daily work. He enjoys being able to learn about different things than his classmates, who all happen to be on different levels of reading, science, social studies, and mathematics. Logan may still be the exception in his classroom, like he was in the local elementary school, but he achieves his personal goals to excel in his studies, receive rewards, or sometime to simply avoid homework. At LLC, Logan is not a "discipline problem" as his third grade teacher at Camey Elementary labeled him; instead, he is an "exemplary student, who also encourages his peers to accomplish their goals."
Parental involvement can be beneficial to the learning environment. I believe that parents do not get involved as much as they should with activities such as school organizations (PTA), class projects, trips, and even career days. While my mom continues to teach my youngest brother at home, she is still involved with LLC and Logan's class. Three times per week, she will go to help Logan's teacher with science activities and projects, eat lunch with his class, or even give the teacher a break for lunch. I think that this involvement is not limited to charter schools and home schools. When I was elementary school, my mom was the room mother from first to fifth grade. She would come in at least once a week to help my teachers with activities that they had planned. This not only made my classroom experience enjoyable, but also that for the other students in my classes.
Through personal experience, I have learned that regardless of my wonderful experiences as a student, there is another world beyond the classroom. William Bennett, former U.S. Secretary of Education, promotes home schooling, even to go so far as to say at a home-schooling conference in Denver, "maybe we should subcontract all of public education to home schoolers." It may seem strange that the man once responsible for federal aid to public schools urge people to desert them, but maybe he understands the true strength of home schooling. Skeet Savage, a mother of six home-schooled children, said, "graduation is not the ultimate goal for my children, learning is." It is no wonder then that many students of home and charter schools go on to achieve success just like those who attend regular schools. Home school is not the answer for everyone, but it should be an open option to everyone.
1 Ayers, David. "Public Education is Doomed - Part I." http://www.home-school.com/Articles/PubEdDoomed1.html
2 Cloud, John and Morse, Jodie. "Seceding from school." Time Vol. 158, No. 8. August 27, 2001. http://www.time.com/time/covers/1101010827/covers.html