Advocates Say COVID Letting Parents See All the Benefits of Home Schooling
Home school advocates say the forced shutdown of nearly the nation’s entire public school system has created a unique opportunity for parents to weigh the benefits of joining the millions of American students already doing their learning at home.
Further, proponents say this unprecedented occurrence offers a window for parents into some of the pitfalls of public schooling, including weak academic standards, ideologically driven curricula and the over-sexualization of the nation’s youth from an early age.
“The number one hardest decision to make has been made for 55 million children,” longtime home-school advocate and founding board member of Public School Exit Ray Moore told The Western Journal regarding parents making the switch.
“That’s always the barrier that’s hardest for us to break, but now [the kids are] home,” he added.
The former U.S. Army chaplain, along with his wife, Gail, became a home-schooling movement pioneer when in 1977 the couple decided to pull their son from public school.
According to the National Home Education Research Institute, there are about 2.5 million Americans being home-schooled, making up just over 4 percent of the nation’s 57 million K-12 students.
The total has more than doubled from the 1.7 percent learning at home in 1999, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
Moore and his fellow leaders at Public School Exit are hopeful that millions more parents will decide to continue home schooling when the fall rolls around.
Alex Newman, the group’s spokesman, said, “This coronavirus crisis is a really good time for parents to figure out what their children are being exposed to in government schools and to take back their rightful authority as parents and try home schooling.”
Newman said one of the top reasons families should make the move is the poor academic outcomes of public education.
He argued the government-run system “is deliberately dumbing down America’s children” and is getting worse every year.
Newman pointed to the latest data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress showing that over two-thirds of eighth-graders haven’t reached proficiency in any subject, including reading, writing, history and math.
Dran Reese, Public School Exit’s director of operations, also pointed to the public school system’s overall poor outcomes.
“We have spent so much time trying to reform public education, but it doesn’t seem to be translating down to the kids,” she said.
Diane Douglas, who completed a term as Arizona’s Superintendent of Public Instruction last year, recently joined Public School Exit as a board member.
In 2014, Douglas ran for the office out of her concern over the Grand Canyon State adopting the Common Core standards.
As superintendent, she was able to push some revisions through the State Board of Education, but she now sees public education itself as the problem.
“What I learned from [my time in office], I truly believe God put me in the superintendent’s office to learn that there’s really no fixing the system,” she told The Western Journal.
“The system is what the system is and nobody wants it to change,” added Douglas, who previously served eight years as a school board member of Peoria Unified School District (in the Phoenix metro area), including two years as its president.
She contends that people on both sides of the political aisle make reforming public education very difficult.
“The left wants to use the public education system to change America, to change our society,” Douglas said. “They were very blatant about it.”
“The right just wants to use it for workforce development,” she continued. “Well, workforce development is not the same as education.”
Testing shows that students in Arizona, like many in the rest of the nation, are not being served well by public education.
Over half (54 percent) of third-graders in the state did not pass the AzMERIT reading proficiency test in 2019, The Arizona Republic reported.
The statistic is even worse in high school, with 66 percent of 11th-graders not proficient readers.
Math proficiencies were equally poor, with half or more of students in the various grade levels unable to hit the mark.
“Yet we have plenty of time for social-emotional learning,” Douglas said. “We have plenty of time for sex ed. We have plenty of time for all those things. But parents who truly want their children educated need to find another direction than the government education monopoly.”
Rather than having “students acquire academic knowledge, discern truth and wisdom,” public schools are “forcing more of a social agenda on kids,” she believes.
Reese, who resides in southern California, says part of that agenda is to “sexualize” kids at a very young age.
“It is mandated by the states to teach these kind of alternative lifestyles, and I find that criminal,” she said. “Because a little child, when you are trying to program them at an early age like this, you are desensitizing them.”
The Los Angeles Times reported in May 2019 that California was adopting a “controversial sex education framework” that provides guidance for instructing students from kindergarten through 12th grade.
“It’s just scary what they are going to be teaching. It’s pornography,” Orange County resident Patricia Reyes told CBS News. “If this continues, I’m not sending them to school.”
The curriculum guidance includes teaching kindergarteners about transgenderism.
“It’s not about gender identity. It’s about acceptance of people for who they are,” Stephanie Gregson, director of the Curriculum Frameworks and Instructional Resources Division at the California Department of Education, told The Times.
“Kindergarten is the foundational grade level to create understanding with all of our students and create an environment that’s bullying-free,” she added.
Newman, who is a private school teacher, lecturer and journalist, believes many parents are seeing for the first time what their children are being taught, and it is causing them to rethink whether to keep them in public schools.
He said he spoke to a mother recently who told him that after learning of her son’s sex education curriculum, she “decided right then and there we’re done.”
“They literally that day sent a letter to the superintendent, unenrolled the child from public school and officially started home schooling now,” Newman recounted. “And I think that is going to happen a lot all over the country.”
“We’re hoping that millions of new families will be coming into the home-school movement,” he added.
Jessica Parnell, president of the Bridgeway Homeschool Academy in eastern Pennsylvania, told The Western Journal her organization has seen an increase in home-schooling inquiries.
Bridgeway has been working with parents and students to help set up a program for the last quarter of the year.
“The reality is what a school is sending home is designed to complement what a teacher is instructing in the classroom. It’s not designed for independent study, so that’s been a challenge for the kids,” Parnell said.
Bridgeway — which is a Christian company, founded in 1989 with 30,000 alumni — offers both religious and secular versions of their curriculum.
Parnell, herself a home-schooling parent, says many parents like her think, “I want to make sure that I’m infusing my family values and my faith values in my kids, and so home schooling becomes a fantastic way to do that.”
Regarding common questions she gets about home-school kids learning to socialize with their peers, the educator said that because of the growth of the movement over the years, that is really not an issue anymore.
Parnell noted that most areas with home schooling have ways for kids to get together for periodic activities, or even group instruction one or two days a week.
Additionally, home-schoolers can interact with their peers through sports, church youth groups and other non-school clubs and activities.
Former NFL quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow told ABC’s “Good Morning America” in a 2018 interview that he did receive some guff from his high school football teammates, but he credits home schooling with contributing greatly to the success he has enjoyed.
“It never really affected me, but I know it affected a lot of home-school friends of mine and some of my siblings,” he said regarding his experiences as a young person.
“You can break the trends and show that yeah, you’re different, but in a good way,” Tebow added.
Moore likes to flip the question around when asked about the topic of socialization, asking parents whether they are concerned about the social lessons their kids are receiving though the public school system.
The 76-year-old is gratified to see how the home-school movement has matured in the 40-plus years since he and his wife decided to home-school their kids.
“The bonding and the emotional stability that a family gives children is intensified or strengthened through home schooling,” he said.
The former chaplain, who served in the Persian Gulf War, argued that when all is said and done, it is the parents who have the responsibility to raise their children.
“The Scripture of God has assigned the education of children to the family with assistance from the church and not government,” Moore said.
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