- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 5, 2004

With the election behind us, many political commentators have settled on the view that “values voters” played a significant role, maybe even the decisive one, in the outcome.

They’re right, and the growing home-school movement is evidence that the country is trending in a conservative direction.

Values voters cite moral issues, which include such topics as abortion and same-sex “marriage,” as their motivation. Overarching these issues, however, are the beliefs that social conditions are deteriorating and that the nuclear family should regain its prominence in society.

Studies show that home-school parents point to these values when describing their reasons to home-school.

The U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics reported the following reasons for families who chose home-schooling: 31 percent cited the negative social environment of public schools, 30 percent said they wanted to provide religious or moral instruction, 16 percent said they were dissatisfied with the academic instruction of public schools, 9 percent wanted more family time, 7 percent said their child had a physical or mental health problem, and 7 percent said their child had other special needs.

Though the two top reasons concern the negative social environment of public schools and the desire to teach values at home, 9 percent of home-school parents surveyed cited a desire to have more family time as their primary reason to home-school.

All the home-school families I know place the family at the center of their reason for home-schooling. It’s the driving motivation for the majority of home-schooling families, even if other reasons can be given.

Home-schoolers have experienced the pressures in today’s world. Parents often work into the evening, have long commutes and spend little time with their children. It’s a constant battle to balance work and family.

It’s not surprising that many parents with school-age children feel isolated from them: Their children are gone most of the day.

For many, home-schooling is a response to the trend in society toward materialism and moral decay. Also, as a bonus, the children are receiving an excellent parent-directed education.

Though home-schooling isn’t easy, it’s rewarding. Families are drawn together. Parents spend more time with their children.

A supportive family is often the key to success, and most home-schoolers have grown up with a network of family support. At least one family member has dedicated his or her life to ensure that the child is a positive influence in a free society.

It’s working. Home-schoolers are breaking the mold and proving that parents can provide a quality education.

With Thanksgiving behind us and Christmas around the corner, we are in the midst of the holiday season. For many home-schoolers, this is a time of reflection and thanksgiving.

God brought them through another year of home-schooling, and they are able to see their children growing stronger and stronger as they avoid some of the pitfalls so readily available to young people in our world today.

Contrary to the belief held by some critics of home-schooling, the desire of the overwhelming majority of home-school parents is to produce active and engaged adults who rely on the character training provided in their homes. Home-schooled children are not being left to fend for themselves; they are being trained to be good citizens.

This holiday season, let’s all take some time to reflect on our families and determine whether home-schooling is the answer we’ve been seeking to train our children to be the sons and daughters we want them to be.

Home-schooling isn’t magic, but it does provide the opportunity for the quality of life many families desire. Home-schoolers are responding to the world by living their values within their families.

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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