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Homeschool Fact:
Boys and girls respond well to homeschool education. Only one percentage point separated male and female students in standardized test scores with boys averaging 87% and girls 88%.

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Why do you homeschool?

Some days, this question can send a homeschooler over the edge. On those days, the children may have been whiny, the school work drudgery, the house chaotic and the schedule unrelenting. If pressed, you may answer "I don't know!" Family members and non-homeschooling friends seem to have a knack for asking this question on the days we feel least able to give a good answer, especially at the end of the school year. For purposes of self-protection, I encourage a humorous response on those days. Some possible answers are, "Do I homeschool? No wonder the children are always home!" "I'll do anything to get out of helping with homework.", or "I had too much free time."

Once the momentary hysteria passes, and you are able to seriously reflect on the question posed, maybe your answer will sound something like this: "I homeschool because I love my children, and feel that this is the best learning environment for them." Though most people won't quibble with the first part of your answer, they may take issue with the second. So that you can better make your case to those with the view that institutional education has to be better, let me share something based on educational training and experience: The most effective learning situation is a one-to-one student teacher ratio. (I learned that in college.)

Presenting a concept and then looking into a student's eyes provides the most immediate and accurate feedback. Testing is a substitute for this superior form of evaluation. As the students respond to you one on one, you have the greatest predictor of comprehension at your fingertips. In short, you know immediately if they understand.

Let me give you an example of this superior method of evaluation. I have administered standardized tests for many years. When giving an individual achievement test, I may ask a child how many bushes I would have if I had 3 rows, with 2 bushes in each row. Looking at the four choices, the student may give a quick confident response: the answer is 6. I can assume that the student has some knowledge of repeated addition, or multiplication. If, however, the student looks at me as if I have spoken in a foreign language, I have also gained information. If after a few seconds of counting on fingers, wiggling in the chair, looking out the window and then saying "6" with a questioning tone, I have also gained information. He or she probably has not mastered the concept.

The student described above may be able to give the correct answer on paper or in a testing situation, but my first hand experience tells me that this area needs more work. How many times has a student supposedly covered something in school, only to be unable to actually use the skill. When the human element is present and intimately acquainted with a student's work, the likelihood of this happening is greatly diminished. So I feel that homeschooling is an academically superior approach.

What about the ability to work with a group? (This is a highly touted educational catch phrase, mentioned frequently by the opponents of homeschooling.) If you have more than one person in your family, your child is developing the skills to work with a group. To borrow a show business phrase, those in your own home make up "the toughest room to work." We all marvel at how sweet our children can be at other people's houses. To be able to cooperate at home is the highest level of these skills, not the lowest level. Among the many examples for honing group skills are: making lunch; helping with family chores or projects; and making time and space for brothers and sisters. Homeschooled children also learn to become part of groups during their involvement in sports, scouts, church activities, support groups, etc.

This leads into the ever popular concern about socialization. Again, among the first problems cited by the uninformed, socialization seems to be of dire importance. Ironically, when I was a classroom teacher, it was my job to prevent socialization. The focused, well-ordered classroom was highly prized, with student exchanges being allowed only on the highest of levels: ("Hey, Bobby, how do you think the solar system was created?" "Oh, I don't know George, I just can't get comfortable with the Big Bang theory.") As any parent or teacher knows, conversations of this type are extremely rare.

The most frequent kind of socialization is not the kind we want to encourage. Studies done at the University of Florida and the University of Michigan have confirmed what we believed all along. These studies have shown that homeschooled students are better socialized than their public school or private school counterparts. Why? Because homeschooled students spend the majority of their time with positive role models (parents) instead of with their peers. Someone believing that large groups of same-age peers are good for socialization must not have spent much time on a playground with 30 five-year-olds, or on a field trip with middle schoolers. These kids do not, by nature, encourage each other toward positive socialization. This is not a negative comment about the children, it is just an observation of reality. Group socialization of this type is more a survival technique for a negative situation. The problems in public school classrooms with discipline and violence reflect this. More role models (not more peers) produce better socialized people.

What about dealing with "the real world?" Fortunately, most children do not have to make a living or live by themselves until after age 18. Prior to that, wisdom suggests that parents bear the major responsibility for decisions made by young people. This is not to usurp or overprotect, but to train and nurture, so that when called upon, these young adults will be equipped and mature enough to deal with "the real world." There are too many examples of children being left on their own with real life issues such as sexual relationships, substance abuse and violence. It is time for parents to continue the job of parenting until their children can truly be expected to cope with adult -size pressures.

There are many other answers to the question "Why do you homeschool?" Some examples are: to develop godly character; to impart religious values; or to promote the highest level of individual achievement possible. My answer would involve all these aspects, but the most common areas of challenge are those I've already mentioned. It is my hope that you can take this information and use it to share with those who come your way.

People who sincerely ask about homeschooling, are often supporting you in a matter of minutes. Once a saleslady in the mall asked my daughter where she went to school. My daughter smiled at me, to which I nodded, giving her permission to answer. She then answered that we homeschool. Fully versed by the many times I had answered these questions in front of her, she fielded her questions kindly and thoroughly. At the end of the chat, the saleslady said how wonderful she thought homeschooling was and how well it was obviously working. Her questions faded as my daughter spoke with respect and enthusiasm.

Our goal must not be to convince people to see our point, but we can purpose to give the best account possible for our decision to homeschool. We will then fulfill our obligation to "be shrewd as serpents, and innocent as doves" when we seem to be "sheep in the midst of wolves." (Matthew 10: 16.) It is my prayer that we may give an answer that will point to both the godliness of what we do, and the wisdom of why we do it.

" ...always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;" I Peter 3:15

This article is reprinted with permission of the author, Debbie Strayer. Visit to find out more about other available materials by Debbie Strayer.

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