Sunday, October 11, 2009

Typically, when parents first consider home-schooling, they have some confidence they can teach their children through grade school. Many parents, however, begin to wonder if they are capable of educating their children through high school.

Home-schooling through high school certainly presents many different challenges. The main concern voiced by parents is the ability to teach all subjects to an adequate level. Fortunately, due to the rapid growth of the home-school movement, there are many resources available. The Internet has many high-school-focused programs to help parents through these years. Many more parents are home-schooling their children through high school today, which means more parents are available to pool their skills and abilities into co-ops.

While co-ops come in many shapes and sizes, they essentially are groups of parents who divide the teaching responsibilities among themselves. Consequently, each parent can teach in the area where they are strongest. Sharing the load can make all the difference in a high school program, but is there evidence parents can successfully prepare their children for adulthood, college or both?

Two recent reports show that parents can indeed educate their own children to a high level. Home-schoolers scored an average of 22.5 on the 2009 ACT college entrance exam, compared with the national average of 21.1. Only 38 percent of students scored above a 22, so it’s fair to say the average home-schooler scored in the top third of ACT test takers. These results were achieved by parents with varying educational backgrounds.

It’s not just the ACT. Results released recently by the National Merit Scholarship Program showed that 363 National Merit Scholarship semifinalists were home-schooled. The scholarship is highly competitive. Approximately 1.4 million initial entrants are screened per year and about 16,000 students nationwide qualify as semifinalists, which is less than 1 percent of high school seniors. In the spring, about half this number will qualify as finalists and receive the scholarship.

These high school students compete for the scholarship by taking the PSAT/NMSQT and by presenting a detailed list of their writing, leadership and community activities.

Home-schooled children are competing successfully for these scholarships, proving the validity of home-schooling. It is a testimony to the home-school method of education, which focuses on one-on-one tutoring and allows students to advance at their own pace, and to the incredible sacrifice and dedication shown by home-schooling parents, which makes these results possible.

Everyone should be encouraged by these achievements, because it shows home-school parents they can educate their own children through high school. It also should save taxpayers millions of dollars because home-schooled children are not educated with taxpayer monies. There are an estimated 2 million home-schooled students not attending public schools.

There are, however, other reasons for home-schooling through high school. Children really blossom in these years. New options, choices and activities become available for young adults to assume more responsibility. Home-schooling parents are positioned to help their teens make wise choices and perhaps avoid some of the pitfalls facing high school students.

As home-schooling continues to grow (at 7 percent per year, according to the Federal Department of Education) it is establishing itself as a mainstream educational alternative. Choosing to home-school is a big decision. It’s one that should be carefully considered because of the commitment involved. The results outlined above, however, show home-schooling parents already have proved it is possible to successfully prepare a child for college, which may greatly encourage anyone thinking about making this choice.

To learn more about home-schooling, visit

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

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