- The Washington Times - Friday, September 29, 2000

PURCELLVILLE, Va. The first college for home schoolers in the country will open its doors Monday, with a focus on God and government, restrictions on dating and 90 students who want to bring morality back to America.

"In everything we teach, we will ask questions like, 'What do the Scriptures say about this issue?' or 'What would God say about it?' " said Bob Stacey, assistant professor of government at Patrick Henry College in Loudoun County.

Students will also take classes in Latin and rhetoric, Mr. Stacey said during a meet-the-press event yesterday, the first day of orientation for students.

The college aims to give a religious direction to the students' personal as well as academic lives: They will follow an honor code that says they cannot drink, use illegal drugs or cheat on exams. They will attend mandatory chapel services every morning and will have to show "evidence of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ."

Male and female students at Patrick Henry will not be allowed in each other's dorms and will need parental consent for any kind of romantic relationship, said college President Michael P. Farris.

The bright red bricks leading to the new building are inscribed with the names of some of the 4,000 families whose donations contributed a large chunk of the $6 million raised to build the college. The college did not seek government aid because of its emphasis on religion.

The school currently has just one major government but Mr. Farris said he wants to expand the curriculum to include business, journalism and law. He also plans to seek accreditation for the university from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

Although home schooling is not a prerequisite for admission, 80 of the 90 students at the college have been home schooled, said spokesman Rich Jefferson. Two students are from public schools, Mr. Farris said. The most important criterion for attending the college is values like religion and morality, he said.

California sent the most students to the college, followed by Virginia. The college hopes to expand to 1,000 students over the next 10 years, Mr. Jefferson said.

"There was a void a lot of families of home-schooled children felt," Mr. Farris said, adding that his college will try to fill that void. "The values we stand for are very popular" in families of home-schooled children, he said.

The student body is predominantly white, and Mr. Farris said he did not know if there were students of other races in the college. "There could be some Hispanics," he said.

Patrick Henry is the brainchild of Mr. Farris, a lawyer who has fought several cases for home schoolers over the past 24 years. He heads the Homeschooling Legal Defense Association in Purcellville and has 10 children, all of whom were or are being home schooled.

His 16-year-old daughter, who is now in high school, will take some classes at Patrick Henry this year at a special program designed for high schoolers, he said.

Mr. Farris' group estimates that there are 1.5 million home-schooled children in America, and the number grows by 15 percent each year.

The home-schooled students who gathered from around the country for orientation yesterday said they were not too worried about missing out on the experience of tasting the real world at a larger university.

"My friends who go to other universities say they know only about 50 to 100 people personally," said Sarah Cooke, 17, a freshman who came here from Pennsylvania. "They also say they hate sitting at the back of a large lecture hall."

At Patrick Henry, she said, "I am going to get to know everyone, get involved."

She said the college attracted her because it had the "right combination" of a good academic program, a high-tech campus and religion.

Being present at the college's opening, she said, was also exciting. "We get to pick our school's mascot and the school song," she said, adding that she was pitching for the Patriots for the mascot.

Already, she said, she is at home in her new surroundings. The group she is having lunch with appears pretty close-knit as they swap stories, although many met just hours before.

At a neighboring table, someone breaks into a birthday song for the sister of one of the students. Everybody in the room joins in.

Some of the students here already knew each other via e-mail because the college sent out a contact sheet with the names of all students and their e-mail addresses in May.

Michael Daniels and Jeremy Sewell hooked up via computer well before they met in person. They later talked over the phone. "Now that we are here, we have been making more ties," Michael said.

The students appear very clear about what they wants from their experience at Patrick Henry. "We are unabashed conservatives … we want to bring morality back to the country," said Michael, who is from Fairfield, Calif.

"This place has a vision: to put into government people who are godly," said Jeremy, a Falls Church, Va., native who chose Patrick Henry over the College of William and Mary.

Michael has put some of his feelings about his college into a song he wrote that he hopes will be accepted as the school song.

"It outlines our mission to go out, do what we have got to do, and change the way the country is going right now," he said.

Parents said they are happy with the school's religious focus. "Everything my son learns here will come from a biblical point of view," said Christine Schanzenbach of Minnesota. "They will take what God says about a subject and go from there, instead of starting with what man said."

Her son, Daniel, said he was attracted by the college's conservative values, even the ones promoting courtship rather than dating.

"It promotes self-control and takes the pressure off," he said.

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