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School Reform:
Integrating the Resources of Public Schools and Home Schooling
   
Periel Kaczmanrek

The resources of public schools
and benefits of home schooling could be integrated, providing children with a dynamic education. Rather than diploma mills that stress rote memorization, schools could become 'learning centers', where students would be allowed to study their choice of a variety of
subjects offered: the subjects that interest them the most!

Students would have at their disposal books, videos, CD ROM's and the
internet.  Teachers would serve as facilitators, rather than lecturers, and would give guidance to students when it was requested.  There would also be a program in which students with an interest in a particular area or discipline would be able to observe - either in person, via the internet, or through videos - adults working in that industry or business, thus helping to bridge the gap between the classroom and the real world.

Two arguments are frequently made against home schooling.  One is that parents are not as qualified to teach as professional teachers are.  The other is that home schooled students do not have enough opportunity for socialization with their peers.  By applying the home school model to public schooling, students can study the subjects that interest them, socially interact with their peers, and take advantage of a qualified teacher's expertise in a particular subject while enjoying the freedom of a more flexible and tailor- made curriculum.

There are many parents who would like their children to benefit from home schooling, but simply cannot afford to take the time off of work that would be necessary to personally instruct their children.  The public/home schooling model affords such families the opportunity to get the best of both worlds.  In making a case in favor of the home schooling model being applied to public schools, one must first make the case for home schooling.  Empirical evidence shows that the home schooling approach produces students who excel both in the academic world and the real world.  Students to have had the benefit of home schooling are given the opportunity to progress more quickly in the subjects for which they have a natural aptitude.  By the same token, they are given the luxury of progressing slower in those areas in which they have an interest, but are not naturally gifted.

In the traditional school system, students who would like to progress more quickly in a given subject often get bored waiting for slower classmates to comprehend the material.  Similarly, students who may lack a natural aptitude for the subject are pressured to keep up with their quicker peers, and end up getting frustrated.  With the home schooling model, everyone can progress at his or her own pace.  As a result, many home schooled students advance to college, while their public schooled counterparts - who may be just as intelligent, but are restricted by the system - are still in high school.

A 1999 University of Maryland analysis of the nationally recognized Iowa Test of Basic Skills confirmed that children who are educated at home perform exceptionally well on national achievement tests.  Home schooled students scored well above average on the SAT in the year 2000, and on the ACT in the years 1997, 1998, 1999, AND 2000.  Studies have shown that home schooled students excel in college as well, exceeding their college's average GPA.  They have traditionally exhibited excellence in academic competitions, as demonstrated by home-schooled students finishing first, second, and third in the 2000 Scrips-Howard National Spelling Bee and second in the 2000 National Geography Bee, sponsored by the National Geographic Society.

      
No one will argue with the
idea that students will, at sometime in their lives, have a use for some subjects of study such as reading and writing, and basic math, science, and social studies. But if a student wants to become a lawyer, how much value should be placed on that student's learning algebra?
While it is certainly true that not every student has a clear idea of what career path he or she plans on pursuing, most students do have a definite opinion on which subjects or occupational fields are of little or no interest to them.  Rather than trudging through classes that will have no bearing upon their future, students would be allowed to customize their studies to maximize their potential for success in their chosen field.

One could perhaps question such emphasis on career.  After all, there are many situations - in a non-occupational setting - that students must be equipped to handle, if they are to thrive in modern society.  Personal development and goal setting are concepts that would, no doubt, enhance the lives of any student, but are rarely taught in the public schools.  Most people have to learn these skills in their adult life, often through trial and error. Furthermore, the traditional education system often fails to prepare students for such realities as job searches, interviewing, and personal finance management.

Another important element that should be addressed is the development of interpersonal skills.  We need to consider the brutal teasing and bullying that tends to occur in traditional public school settings.  The schools tend to tolerate animosity among students, defending bullying with a 'kids will be kids' nonchalance.  But the emotional scars that are inflicted by cruel classmates can often last long into adulthood, and have a deleterious impact on how an individual is able to function in our society.  Sometimes a student may feel as though he has been pushed beyond his limit, and will resort to retaliation.  Columbine.  Santee.  School violence is on the rise, as has been so dramatically demonstrated by the wave of school shootings.  An obvious reason for some parents' choice to home school their children is to protect them from being subjected to such brutality.

The home school model as applied to public schooling would provide students with a program that encourages tolerance and teaches interpersonal problem solving and cooperation skills that will last a lifetime.  This approach exemplifies the value of a home school model for public education.  It benefits both the individual and society at large.

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