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Dana Hanley - Christian Homeschooling, Home Education

Declaring His Power to the Next Generation Part 1

  • Dana Hanley Contributing Writer
  • 2006 11 Nov
  • COMMENTS
Declaring His Power to the Next Generation Part 1

Declaring His Power to the Next Generation Part 1
By Dana Hanley

Jennifer Morrison’s parents made the decision to pull her out of school and educate her at home the summer before her fifth grade year.  She was not in agreement with the decision at all.

My objections were numerous, I had no idea how my parents thought they were going to teach me--after all, what could they possibly know?  Secondly, I was objecting to the loss of all my friends from school.  Another qualm that I had was merely a fear of the unknown.  I had friends who were being homeschooled, and although they seemed normal and happy enough, I knew very little about homeschooling.  Overall, I really did not think homeschooling was the education for me, though I knew how much I hated the public school system.

Her concerns echo those of committed parents considering homeschooling.  All want what is best for their child, but many are uncertain about the idea of homeschooling which at times seems so radical. For most, it is a journey into unknown territory. Parents have many reasons for homeschooling. But many also have concerns regarding the academic, social and spiritual benefits. What about when their kids grow up? What kind of adults does homeschooling produce? What impact can homeschoolers have on the world around us? Despite these questions, many have pressed diligently on, possessing the conviction and faith of those who have the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Today, with thousands of home educators completing their homeschooling journey, this revolutionary approach to education has reached the end of one era and the beginning of another. Homeschooling is no longer a grand educational experiment with a question mark at the end. As this first generation has graduated, is moving on to college and is entering the workforce, the most pressing question for many at the start of this journey is,   Did it work? 

There are three main areas of concern to most parents regarding the educational decisions for their children: academic, social and spiritual. The good news is that we now have research data to examine each of these areas and the results are very encouraging. To answer some of these questions, Dr. Brian D. Ray, president of the National Home Education Research Institute (NHERI), researched some of the practical benefits of homeschooling by surveying homeschool graduates. He published the results of this study in Home Educated and Now Adults:  Their Community and Civic Involvement, Views About Homeschooling, and Other Traits  This research, commissioned by the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) in 2003, is the largest research study of homeschooled adults. There were over 7,300 respondents, most of whom had been homeschooled seven or more years (Dr. Ray’s report on his findings focuses on the 5,254 respondents that fit within this category). This research confirms what homeschoolers have long suspected: homeschooling produces well-educated, well-socialized adults who are competent in their careers and in their homes.

Academic concerns rank high on the list of reasons to homeschool. Even if academics are not the primary reason for choosing to homeschool, it is still a concern for most. Many parents feel unqualified to teach their own children because they do not have a degree in education, they do not feel they did well in school themselves, or they worry that they have forgotten most of what they would need to teach. One myth I first heard in a college English course and have heard repeated frequently when the topic of homeschooling comes up is, Parents make the worst teachers. Is there justification to these concerns?  It is difficult to compare homeschooled students to public schooled students in this regard, because they do not receive the same kinds of instruction and often do not take the same tests. College entrance, however, has long been an expected next step after high school, and many at the beginning of their homeschool journey worry about the possibility of their children’s acceptance into college.

This next step, according to Dr. Ray’s research, is taken by approximately 74% of homeschooled adults ages 18-24 as compared to only 46% of the general US population.  More homeschool graduates had obtained a degree of some sort during their time in college, and nearly half of the respondents to the survey were still in college. What was their college experience like? Overall, it appears homeschooling prepares students well for the rigors and self-discipline of college work.

Caorlyn Morrison, an 11 year veteran of homeschooling who has graduated both her children after homeschooling them since fifth grade, shares her personal reflections after an orientation day at the university her son was enrolling in.

It seems that the stereotypes we have all heard attributed to homeschooling are true--in some respects The stereotypes addressed were all things that have been actual problems at the university: the ultra-shy student who has no clue how to talk to people or make friends, the student who cannot get himself up in the morning and off to class on time, the student who is confused by the class material and cannot or will not ask questions of the professor, the student who has never taken notes in class, never studied for a test, never written a paper, never experienced   real   school. However, these stereotypes were not pointed at homeschooled students but at the public school students!

Some of the most common fears shared by the beginning homeschooler regarding how homeschooling will prepare children for college-level work in reality describe the average college freshman.

The difference between public schooled and homeschooled students has also been noticed by universities. According to Jon Reider, Stanford’s senior associate director of admissions, Homeschooling brings certain skills--motivation, curiosity, the capacity to be responsible for their education--that high schools don’t induce very well. (Golden, Daniel. The Wall Street Journal, February 11, 2000) According to a 1996 survey of over 60 colleges and universities by the National Center for Home Education, many universities have taken notice of these skills and have begun actively pursuing homeschooled students.

These same character traits of motivation, curiosity and personal responsibility are paving the way for homeschoolers in their careers, as well.  When asked about the benefits of her education, Sara Lewis, homeschool graduate and co-founder of The Learning Umbrella, an internet mail-order company for homeschool curriculum, describes the character her parents instilled in her.

I have my curiosity intact, which a lot of people seem to lose in school.  I know how to be self-directed, and that applies to a lot more than just school or even learning.  Homeschooling really taught me to approach life as a project, and dig in to whatever I’m doing at the moment.  Entrepreneurial activity comes naturally to me, because it was a part of my life and my education growing up.

Despite these qualities in homeschoolers, not all employers welcome homeschool graduates in the workplace. Progress still needs to be made in this area to gain complete acceptance. Sometimes prospective employers are simply misinformed about what the law actually states with regards to diplomas, falsely believing that the diploma must be state certified.  More often, hiring a homeschooler would require the manager to change internal policy to allow for the acceptance of alternate forms of education.  In 2004, two homeschool graduates applied to PepsiAmerica, Inc.  The company refused to recognize a diploma signed by a parent, however, so neither applicant was hired.

[Editor's Note: This is part 1 of a 3 part series. In the next part Dana continues to address how homeschoolers are entering the workforce with courage and determination.]

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Dana Hanley is a homeschooling mother of three.  She holds a B.S. in Education from the University of Kansas, but feels like her true education began when she began preparing to homeschool.  You can join her on her journey and learn more about her thoughts on education and family life at her blog, Principled Discovery, at http://gottsegnet.blogspot.com.

This article was originally published in the Sep/Oct ’06 issue of Home School Enrichment Magazine. For more information, visit http://HomeSchoolEnrichment.com