WHAT ARE HOME-SCHOOLED CHILDREN BEING TAUGHT?
By EDWIN D. REILLY, Jr.
For The Sunday Gazette
Hankin likes to show off her home-schooling program. Not only do her
children stay occupied all day, but the five of school age seem to
her regimented rotation covering earth science, reading, math, and even
practice. Yet despite pride in the program, Mrs. Hankin is suing the
"We have a religious obligation to not have anything to do with the ungodly public school system," says Hankin… "These children are not Caesar's. They belong to God ... My husband is the one God put in charge of these children, and for him to have to surrender that authority is wrong."
"Christian Science Monitor," August 30, 2004
Reports of the infamous debate have shocked me to the core. Not the debate itself, but rather the composition of the audience. I have certainly been aware that there is such a thing as home schooling, and that there are many fundamentalists who, though adherents of the moral precepts of the New Testament, choose to believe in the literal translation of the Old. But it had never dawned on me that the two practices were so highly correlated.
My vague impressions of home-schooled children had been that they were champion achievers when tested, especially during spelling bees, and that they were being taught by parents at least one of whom had the luxury of being able to stay home during the daytime. Also, my conception of such parents was that they felt that their net acquisition of knowledge and their prowess as teachers exceeded that of the many people to whom they would otherwise have to entrust their children over eight to twelve years of traditional school. (Up to thirteen if they started by cultivating ein garten für der kinders.)
Indeed, I found stats on the Web that indicate that what I just described was the primary reason parents elected to home-school their children. When interviewed for a study conducted by the U.S. Department of Education, fully 49% said that their primary motivation was “to give my children a better education at home” and only 38% said that they home-schooled for religious reasons. Percentages for some of the other factors, which do not add to 100% because respondents were allowed to cite multiple reasons, were: poor learning environment at school, 26%; fostering morality and character, 15%; objections to what schools teach, 12%; and student behavioral problems, 9%. Because of the way that last factor was expressed, I cannot tell whether more parents were concerned about the behavior of their own children or those with whom they would otherwise have to associate, but I suspect the latter view.
Less than two percent of American children are home-schooled, but the number is growing. And 85% of home-schooling parents either belong to a
One thing that comes to mind in contemplating the merits of home schooling is the social adjustment of the children. Do not children greatly benefit from gamboling with peers other than their siblings? Is it not wrong to spare them from having to cope with at least a few slings and arrows of outrageous fortune—nonviolent, of course—before ejecting them into the cold cruel world to try for fame, fortune, and survival without the requisite sociological body armor?
The ardent home schoolers say that “this is not a problem,” or that exposing their children to the iniquities and inequities of the public school system would corrupt their morals to the point where they would need a neural chiropractor to adjust their backbones and their brains.
However pupils are housed and taught, the testing of their progress and achievement is another matter, and a very important one. At the 2001 Washington Correspondents Dinner of 2001, President Bush, who does not believe in either syntax or evolution, said "Rarely is the question asked, is our children learning?" Rarely, indeed.
Edwin D. Reilly, Jr. lives in