Saturday, November 20, 2010

Is Homeschooling Still An Option In My District?

The superintendent of schools for Poudre School District (where my family lives) recently sent us a large packet of material in the mail, explaining all of the educational choices that our family has in our district. Curiously, though I looked at every paragraph of the ten-page glossy brochure, plus the three loose pages that were included, there was not one mention of homeschooling as an option in our district. I decided to write and send the following letter.

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Dear Dr. Wilson,

While I appreciate your attempt to inform me of my educational options in the Poudre School District through your recent mailing of “Educational Choices”, I note that you left off one very important option – homeschooling. While it is true that this option requires very little of your staff or time, I think it should be made a visible option to those parents who are considering both the education and the maturation of their children.

Our family is now in our seventh year of homeschooling. It has been the single best decision that we have ever made as a family. Our children continue to amaze and bless us with their growth and leadership – both academically and emotionally. While we sent them to public schools for the first six years of their academic journey, we eventually decided to keep them at home and educate them ourselves.

I humbly ask that you consider the following reasons why homeschooling should be on your list of options for parents in our district to consider:

1) Academics – while this is actually not the main reason that we homeschool our children, I recognize that academic achievement is the first and foremost goal pursued by PSD. Our children have enjoyed a three-to-one student-to-teacher ratio for some time now. As I get more involved with the higher subjects along with my wife’s daily teaching duties, this ratio is approaching three-to-two. You simply can’t argue with the results and efficiency of what is essentially a private tutor – and one who is emotionally invested in the children for the long run. Though we add many non-traditional subjects to our class list – such as Bible, Scripture memorization, and Biblical manhood/womanhood courses – our children still score in the ninetieth percentiles on the standardized tests for math, science, reading, etc. Per district requirements, these tests are administered every other year. Our oldest daughter is now taking college credit courses as a high-school junior and is achieving the highest grades in the class. You may be aware of the National Home Education Research Institute’s study showing that homeschooled students score a composite 87th percentile on standardized achievement exams, compared with 50th percentile for public-schooled students (see the graph above).

2) Maturing – our primary purpose for homeschooling is to give a very specific focus to education – one seasoned with the spiritual beliefs shared by our family. Our Christian faith is important to us, but it is unfortunately not allowed to be taught in the public school setting, so we choose to spend time doing so in our living room. Each day begins with Bible reading, Scripture memorization, and Christian topical discussion. Our children can quote whole chapters of the Bible, but more importantly, they can apply what they read and memorize to situations that they encounter each day. This is the single most important reason that we choose to educate in our home. I know many good and faithful public school teachers who would love to lend aid and wisdom to their classes using their Christian faith, but they are unfortunately not allowed to do so. I find it curious that our society accepts this model as more “correct” than a simple sharing of faith and truth. If we were to speak in a completely candid fashion, you and I both know that “political correctness” and “religious tolerance” are the reasons that our public schools have arrived at this state. Our founding fathers would be appalled.

3) Miscellaneous Benefits – There are so many other reasons that district parents might want to consider homeschooling as an option. As parents, we have been able to spend literally thousands of additional hours with each child before they leave the home. This has cost our family many dollars – both in a lost second income for the family and in the expense of home teaching materials – but we would not trade the outcome for any amount of money. Additionally, we like to start school a little early each year, and we rarely take school holidays off in our homeschool so that we may vacation in the fall. You would be amazed at how empty Disneyland and other resorts are in October. We’ve had some of the best vacations we could ever imagine because of this option. Finally, we have met some wonderfully mature children in the various homeschool programs and circles which are available. Our family has been blessed by these interactions.

I respectfully ask that you consider placing a paragraph about homeschooling in your next “Educational Choices” issue. In addition, I would like to volunteer myself and my wife to be “consultants” for the district if you would like to have someone to contact parents who are considering the homeschooling option. Homeschooling has blessed our family richly – and we would like to share this discovery with others.

Respectfully yours,

Alan Metzger

2 comments:

Joshua said...

Just as a rejoinder to your testing statistics:

It's small wonder that home-schooling students do better on standardized tests and education than the norm. First off, it's the norm. By statistical definition, the norm has to be 50%. That's the norm!

Second, studies have shown that the greatest single indicator of student success, by a huge margin, is parent education. Running an extremely close second is parent involvement. Students with involved parents do better in school. Since homeschooling parents are, by default, more involved, it's not a big surprise that they do better on the tests.

But what about parents that can't afford to homeschool? They have jobs that barely pay enough to live on? Homeschooling isn't really even an option for those families. And pulling higher-achieving kids out of the schools, in essence, 'dumbs-down' the classrooms of public schools, which restricts the learning that those students can receive because of differing life experiences.

Now, granted, you don't have to concern yourself with other peoples' children. You can do what you feel is best for your own kids. But since some people don't have that choice, at what point is it important to look out for the society as a whole, and not your own little corner of it?

Teachers may be restricted from sharing their faith in schools, but students are not. Consider that as Christian students are encouraged to flee the public schools.

(Remember, you told me you like it when I respond with something to think about.) ;)

Alan Metzger said...

I do like it when you respond – believe me.

And yes, I knew that the norm had to be 50% for the great mass of publicly schooled students in the sample. I didn’t see it as a coincidence that EVERY bar on the public school side was at 50%. BUT…the key is that the homeschool students average 37% MORE on these tests than the norm. Poorly schooled students could just as well score BELOW the norm, right? My point being – the homeschoolers had to score somewhere that was likely different than 50%, and it just happens to be higher, not lower. I imagine kids who just stayed at home and received no education would score below. That would make for an interesting study, eh? I wonder who would volunteer……

You bring up the single most important point that I’ve dealt with internally many times. Is it selfish to pull my own kids out of public school, to the possible detriment of other kids and education as a whole? Maybe it is – but I’ve decided that I’m willing to be selfish, as I am unwilling to take the chance that they will lose their soul in the public school foray. We homeschool, not for academic reasons, but for spiritual reasons. I believe that my kids have a better chance to receive the grounding in faith that they need to make a difference in the world AFTER they graduate. In all honesty, I have little interest in thinking that they need to make a huge difference NOW. I choose to get them ready, and then send them out. Pretty blunt – but you and I can be that way, right?

Interestingly enough, my blog somehow got placed on a Twitter feed devoted to homeschooling tonight, and I got a letter from a guy who writes for World Net Daily – he’s a homeschool supporter. He sent me a link to one of his recent articles. I’m attaching it here – bold stuff - http://www.wnd.com/index.php?fa=PAGE.view&pageId=227001. The part that gets me are the statistics of how many kids walk away from their faith in the first year of college. The Barna Institute has done studies on this, too, and Ken Ham wrote a book about the results - http://www.amazon.com/Already-Gone-your-kids-church/dp/0890515298/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1290317482&sr=8-1

I admire all of my friends who work in the public school system – you included. I pray for you and the kids in your classes almost every day on my way to work. Keep the faith, my friend.

Alan