This blog represents most of the newspaper columns (appearing in various Colorado Community Newspapers and Yourhub.com) written by me, James LaRue, during the time in which I was the director of the Douglas County Libraries in Douglas County, Colorado. (Some columns are missing, due to my own filing errors.) This blog covers the time period from April 11, 1990 to January 12, 2012.

Unless I say so, the views expressed here are mine and mine alone. They may be quoted elsewhere, so long as you give attribution. The dates are (at least according my records) the dates of publication in one of the above print newspapers.

The blog archive (web view) is in chronological order. The display of entries, below, seems to be in reverse order, new to old.

All of the mistakes are of course my own responsibility.

Wednesday, May 30, 1990

May 30, 1990 - Home schooling

What do the following people have in common: William Penn, Abraham Lincoln, Douglas MacArthur, Agatha Christie, Pearl Buck, astronaut Sally Ride, and Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor?

None of them went to school. Or to put it more correctly, they were schooled at home.

Based on the people my staff and I see using the library, there are more and more families practicing home schooling. Others have questions.

First of all, is home schooling legal? Yes. According to Colorado Senate Bill Number 56, which was effective as of July 1, 1988, "The general assembly hereby declares that it is the primary right and obligation of the parent to choose the proper education and training for children under his care and supervision. It is recognized that home-based education is a legitimate alternative to classroom attendance..."

Do parents have to be certified teachers? No. Then how do we know if the child is learning anything? Home school students have to take nationally standardized achievement tests in grades 3, 5, 7, 9, and 11 - just like the kids in regular schools.

How well do home school students do? Based on numerous studies, they do at least as well as public school students, and tend to average better.

Why do parents decide to teach their children at home?

There are probably as many reasons as there are parents. But generally, the concerns seem to fall into one of several camps: religious, academic, medical, and philosophic.

Religion is a chief concern of about 40% of the people doing home schooling. These parents feel that their values, typically Christian values, are not emphasized sufficiently in public schools. In fact, some believe that American textbooks are specifically DESIGNED to "undermine religion and traditional values."

Other parents get into home schooling because their children just aren't doing well in their studies. According to one woman I spoke with, her child kept falling behind in school and couldn't seem to get the help she needed to catch up. But when she was taught at home, she caught up, stayed caught up, and started to pull ahead.

The medical theory, put simply, is that children just aren't ready for school at the age today's society dictates. Citing research on brain and body development, they argue that real physiological damage can occur by shoving small children into school too soon. To quote educator Raymond Moore, "the eyes of most children are permanently damaged before age 12." Moore and his associates at Hewitt Research Foundation also concluded that "thoughtful learning" was not possible - due to the rate of brain development in most children - until the age of 8 or 9.

Some parents become home teachers simply because they are opposed to what they see as the incarceration of their children in a totalitarian environment. Let children be children! they argue, instead of trying to forge them into super-geniuses. While "thoughtful learning" in the sense of classroom reasoning may not be productive at early ages, children naturally soak up a great deal of information about the world just by playing in it. To quote Moore again, "...to attempt to institutionalize all young children because a few are disadvantaged...is like trying to hospitalize all because a few are sick."

What kind of guidelines exist for home teachers? I recommend Mary Pride's books on home schooling (available through the Douglas County Public Library System). Her books, such as "The New Big Book of Home Learning," are arranged in a catalog format, and provide near-encyclopedic surveys of what's out there.

What other kinds of support are available? Well, there's a Colorado Home Educator's Association and a Home School Legal Defense Association, to name just two.

Is home schooling a significant educational trend? Could be. I know one thing: home schoolers really use the library. For that alone, I give them an "A."

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