preparing for the “real world”

Acceptance grows but myths persist
By Michael Smith
May 19, 2008
from the Washington Times
[ http://www.washingtontimes.com/article/20080519/FAMILY/532085759/1016 ]

How we see ourselves and how others perceive us can be very different. That’s one of the lessons from a recent survey by Ellison Research that looked at public attitudes toward various education options.

On a five-point scale regarding the overall quality of education, public school received a 3 and home-schooling a 3.14. According to Ron Sellers, president of Ellison Research, one of the surprises of the study “was the fact that home-schooling is becoming more of an accepted form of education in the U.S.”

Count the Home School Legal Defense Association as one group that is not surprised. HSLDA has more than 80,000 member families and is the largest organization in the home-school community. We have seen tremendous growth and development of home-schooling over the past 10 years. Two million children are being home-schooled in the United States; every kind of curriculum is available online; and numerous home-school support groups and co-ops make home-schooling much easier than it was just 10 years ago. It should be gratifying for all home-schoolers to see that this sample of the general public acknowledged the educational value of a home-based education.

Though the debate over the quality of home-school education has largely been settled, the Ellison survey showed a significant disparity on the question, “Which is most likely to prepare students for life after graduation?” On this question, 42 percent chose public school and just 6 percent chose home-schooling.

Mr. Sellers described this result as a “bit of a head-scratcher.” How could people see public schools and home-schools as essentially equal regarding the overall quality of education but also think public schools best prepare students for life?

Perhaps the respondents were viewing home-schooling as isolating, discouraging interaction with the world. This is a myth. Home-schooling is not, as the name may suggest, confined to the home, but is a practical education based in the real world. Life in the adult world is full of diverse people and is largely unrelated to the peer-segregated environment of an institutional school. Being outside the institutional school environment speeds up the maturing process, thus preparing the home-schooler sooner and better for the adult world.

This is borne out by a 2004 study, ‘Homeschooling Grows Up,” which was designed to find out how home-school graduates are faring in society. Commissioned by HSLDA, this study surveyed more than 7,000 home-school graduates, and the results showed they were more involved with their communities than the average public school student and also were found in all types of employment.

Home-school students have many opportunities to learn in the “real world,” the place where we spend most of our lives, and do not see themselves as socially unprepared. In fact, just the opposite is true. Home-schoolers have myriad options when it comes to extracurricular activities. They go on field trips, socialize among home-school support groups and participate in sports leagues.

HSLDA is confident that with the passage of time, more people will come to understand the wisdom of preparation for life through home-schooling. An estimated 100,000 students graduate from home-schooling every year. As more people meet well-educated and socially prepared home-schoolers, the attitudes toward home-schooling will continue to improve and perception will be brought closer to reality.

Michael Smith is the president of the Home School Legal Defense Association. He may be contacted at 540/338-5600; or send e-mail to media@hslda.org.

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