I have been teaching a group of homeschooled high school kids a Constitutional Law course this semester. Early on, it was apparent to me that these kids have not been shorted in any way education-wise. Indeed, I even wrote an article about my pleasant surprise. Simply put, these kids are smart and able to formulate logical arguments that leave their government-schooled peers in the dust.

Fast-forward to the middle of the semester (as in last week). After being exposed to a non-lecturing, Socratic method style of teaching, they were given their first “real” assignment, as in a graded assignment. Each student chose his or her own Constitutional Law topic related to the semester’s materials and then wrote a five- to seven-page research paper.

I began grading the papers this week, not sure what to expect. Well, that is not entirely true; as the submission deadline approached, I was getting nervous...Should I have lectured instead of used the Socratic method? Was I expecting too much from kids aged 14–18? Am I in way over my head?

One other thing raised concern in my mind. Unlike government-schooled kids who are told how great they are despite their clear deficiencies (if your average math or science score is last among other industrialized nations, you are not “the best and the brightest”), a couple of my students had sent me email messages telling me that they were not sure if they were “getting it,” and one even mentioned that he was thinking about dropping the class before it was too late. Another told me that he just did not think he was a good enough writer to get to the then seven-page limit, which led me to adjust the assignment slightly. Simply put, unlike their government-schooled counterparts, these students have also been raised to be humble. They should know that this is a good thing, not bad. “When pride comes, then cometh shame: but with the lowly is wisdom” (Proverbs 11:2).  

I take some blame for their cold feet. We have not had any tests or quizzes all semester, and the final grade is based on the mid-term paper and a final exam, so at this point the students can gauge their performance based only on their responses to the questions posed in class, which I assured them have been quite logical and indicative of smart, prepared students (prepared in general—you know if you are not one of these!). With this writing assignment, the rubber meets the road.

Halfway through grading the papers, and after I have scanned all of them, I have concluded that all these kids “get it.” Granted, I am overlooking some of the grammar and spelling errors, since the purpose of the paper is to determine if they understand the constitutional principles they are discussing, but the quality of their logical arguments and support of their positions with case law, original intent documents, and even contemporary source material is quite good. In some cases I would even call it excellent. There are even a few really good writers in this class, kids who will blow away their peers when they go on to college. I would never have such a large number of these types of students in a government school high school class unless I were dealing with a speech and debate course in which all the students had been trained to be argumentative and to question everything.

In summation, the parents of these students did the right thing when they decided to homeschool them. So much for the need to rely on so-called “professional” educators.

Kevin Mark Smith is an attorney in Wichita, Kansas, where he lives with his wife and three daughters. He writes often on the law, homeschooling, and issues of importance to Christians, families, and conservatives on www.kevinmarksmith.com

Copyright 2013, used with permission. All rights reserved by author. Originally appeared in the March 2013 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the family education magazine. Read the magazine free at www.TOSMagazine.com or read it on the go and download the free apps at www.TOSApps.com to read the magazine on your mobile devices.

Publication date: April 25, 2014