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Home Schooling: An American Tradition

 by

Dr. Edward A. Rauchut, Associate Professor of English
Dr. Judd W. Patton, Associate Professor of Economics

     Home schooling is the educational reform initiative that has always worked. It is the quintessential back-to-basics movement, a return to an educational system that has always taught children best – a return to the family. Home schooling is the effective, traditional “break-the-mold” school that many education reformers have yet to discover.

     Home schooling is here; it is growing; and it is working just fine. About 1.5 to 1.9 million students in grades K to 12 were home schooled during 2000-2001, at a cost of $450 per student compared to $6,000 per student in public schools and $3,100 in private schools. Not only is the cost of American education being slashed by the growth of private schools and home schooling, few realize that the current movement is in the great tradition of America’s founders and leaders.

     According to Christopher J. Klicka in The Right of Choice: The Incredible Failure of Public Education and the Rising Hope of Home Schooling (1992), “at least ten Presidents were substantially taught through home schooling.” George Washington received most of his education at home by his father and mother. Thomas Jefferson was taught to read by his father at home. John Quincy Adams was completely home schooled until age 14, when he entered Harvard (and Harvard today welcomes home schoolers). Abraham Lincoln received all his education, except for one year, through home instruction.

     Benjamin Franklin, one of the greatest inventors-scientists of his day, and one of the era’s greatest businessmen, writers, and political leaders, was almost entirely self-educated. He spent a year in a local grammar school, became a dropout, studied one year with a private tutor, and ended all formal education at the age of ten.

     Thomas Edison had even less formal schooling than Franklin. Whereas Franklin lasted only one year in a one-room school, Edison lasted only three months. At age seven he was expelled from school for being “retarded.” His mother then taught him the basics and he later went on to teach himself science. More recent members of the home schooling hall of fame include: Albert Einstein, Ansel Adams, Agtha Christie, Pearl S. Buck. Irving Berlin, Andrew Wyeth, C.S. Lewis, and William F. Buckley.

     Literacy in colonial America was in fact nearly universal. Educated for the most part at home, “many a farmer read Greek, and frontiersmen recited the poetry of Ovid and Donne. Thomas Paine’s Common Sense sold 600,000 copies to a population of 2.5 million, twenty percent of which was slave and another fifty percent indentured” (Rhodes, 1992).

     Today, after over a hundred years of compulsory schooling, nearly 90 million Americans, about half the adult population, are unable to comprehend an article in a newspaper (U.S. Department of Education, 1993).

     Despite what people who run them may claim, America’s government schools are failing to educate America’s children, which is why the home school movement continues to grow. How ironic it is, then, that home-schooling parents must demonstrate the integrity of their child’s course of study to the very educational bureaucrats whose time has come. Simply put, most parents are their child’s best teachers, and home is often the best place for kids to learn, as was the case with many of America’s leaders.

     For those home schooled students looking to further their education at the collegiate level and in the tradition and values of America’s founders and leaders, please check out Bellevue University. With classes such as American Vision and Values, Freedom and Responsibility, Economics From a Biblical Perspective, as well as undergraduate and graduate courses and programs in Business, Computer and Information Technology, and Arts and Sciences, one can find the majors, minors and online programs tailored to meet one’s educational goals. Again, check us out.

     For more information or any suggestions on how Bellevue University can better serve home scholars, call Joannie Harmon at 1-(800) 756-7920 or go to the Bellevue University Web site at: www.bellevue.edu/homeschool.

More Info on Home Schooling

     Many good sources of information are available on the worldwide web. Two good general information sources are the American Homeschool Association, www.americanhomeschoolassociation.org, and the National Home Education Network, www.nhen.org.

Additional Home School Data

  • Families choose home schooling for many reasons. In a 1999 study by the U.S. Department of Education, parents listed multiple reasons, the top five being:

  1. Can give child better education at home - 49% of respondents

  2. Religious reasons - 38%

  3. Poor learning environment at school - 26%

  4. Family reasons - 17%

  5. To develop character/morality - 15%

  • Precise data on the total number of home-schooled students is difficult to establish. The Department of Education estimated 1.5 to 2% of school-age Americans, age 5-17, were home schooled in 1999, equivalent to 700,000 to 1,000,000 students. Other estimates put the number in the 1.5 to 2 million range, up to 4% of school-age population.

  • Homeschoolers have won three of the last five Scripps Howard National Spelling Bees since 1997 and swept the top three places in 2000 and 2001.


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