- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 25, 2007

If I told you that intelligent, mature, socially involved, well-educated teens, just 15 years ago, were being denied entry to college you would not believe me.

Unfortunately, it was true. Many of the nation’s burgeoning number of home-school graduates had, and on many occasions still have today, a very difficult time navigating the college admission process. Fortunately, in 2007, the situation has dramatically improved, but just 15 years ago home-schoolers faced huge obstacles accessing college.

Although a legitimate criticism of colleges is that they were relatively slow to react to the growing numbers of home-school graduates, it is fairly easy to sympathize with their situation.

Home-schooling began its resurgence in the 1980s. Consequently, the first wave of home-school graduates was ready to enter college in the early 1990s.

For decades, colleges had been focused on traditional high school applicants from both public and private school. Procedures, experience and expectations were firmly entrenched. When a home-schooler knocked on the door, with a diploma signed by his parents, colleges did not know what to do.

Home School Legal Defense Association, founded in 1983, intervened on behalf of home-schoolers and showed that a parent-signed diploma was valid. HSLDA, however, recognized that any college would need more information about whether an individual home-schooler was ready for college level work before it could make an informed decision. We suggested that a policy which focused on the SAT or ACT scores plus references and portfolios of work would satisfy any reasonable entry requirements.

Over the past 15 years, many colleges have developed either a home-school admissions policy or hired a home-school admissions officer. In fact, today, 85 percent of colleges have one, or both, of these in place. But some colleges have gone further and chosen to actively seek home-school graduates. The most recent example is the University of California at Riverside, which last year changed its policy to allow home-schoolers to submit a portfolio of work.

“We are excited about the positive response from home-schooled and nontraditionally educated students and their parents,” said Interim Director of Admissions Merlyn Campos.

Frank Vahid, professor in the Department of Computer Science, said: “It looks like we’ve tapped into a pipeline of great students.”

It is no surprise to home-schooling families that their children succeed in college. The genius of a home education is an individualized learning plan. The education is tailored to the child. In addition, most home-schooled children are encouraged to work on their own. To get the most out of college, a student needs to be self-directed, which is the methodology that home-schoolers have been using for years.

Every year, the total number of home-school high school graduates increases. The best estimate for the numbers of home-schoolers is 2 million children spread relatively evenly across the grades. Therefore, we can expect to see around 100,000 home-schooled graduates per year. A significant percentage of these students will seek college admission.

College entrance, and subsequent success in a college program, helps complete the education picture for home-schoolers. For many, it is the final step on a long educational journey.

But the home-school story will not stop with college. It’s after college that a further test of the home-school alternative will occur as graduates find their place in the world of work.

It will take time, but success in college opens the door for graduates to fully convince the general public that home-schooling is a viable educational alternative. Once home-schoolers enter the world of work, more and more people will come into contact with both home-schooled college and high school graduates.

Fortunately there is evidence that home-school graduates are finding employment across all types of work. In the study, “Homeschooling Grows Up,” more than 7,000 home-schooled graduates were surveyed and home-schoolers were foundin all types of employment.

There is much riding on the next generation of home-schooled graduates, and so far the news is good, both from the willingness of colleges to seek home-schoolers and the performance of home-schoolers when they get there.

The days are coming when hundreds of thousands of home-school college and high school graduates will apply what they have learned and transform the culture.

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 [email protected]

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