By L.A. Williams, Correspondent
Christian Action League
RALEIGH — Back to School — the end of summer rush that marks late August and conjures up images of big yellow buses, long cafeteria lines, rows of desks and bustling hallways — is a bit of a different story for a growing number of Tar Heel students who are being educated at home.
A report released this month by the N.C. Division of Non-Public Education shows an estimated 81,509 children were home schooled in North Carolina during the 2009-2010 school year, a nearly 6 percent increase over the prior year and almost three times as many as a decade ago.
“The most encouraging part of this growth trend is that about two-thirds of home schools in this state are religious schools,” said the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League. “This is, I hope, an indication that a new generation is being raised up — one in which faith is fully integrated into all aspects of life.”
Brian D. Ray, president of the National Home Education Research Institute, said “concern for developing children’s values, beliefs, worldview and way of life is a key reason for homeschooling.”
Other often cited reasons include the desire to customize the curriculum and learning environment for each child, to accomplish more academically, to enhance family relationships, to provide guided social interactions with peers and adults and to provide a safer environment (sans violence, drugs, unhealthy sexuality, etc.) than that which is sometimes associated with institutional schools.
A study conducted for the Home School Legal Defense Association and released last year showed that homeschooled students outscore their public school counterparts by wide margins (an average of 37 percentile points) on standardized tests. A more recent study by a Minnesota researcher showed that once in college, home schooled students earned higher first-year and fourth-year GPAs.
Spencer Mason, president of North Carolinians for Home Education (NCHE) recently told the N.C. Family Policy Council that whatever their reason for home schooling, those who do it successfully inspire others to follow the same path.
“I think the primary reason (for the growth) is that parents have seen home-schooled children being raised and they like what they see, and they want the same for their family,” Mason said during a radio interview for “Family Policy Matters.” “They’ve seen the results of home-schooling, and of course the more it grows in the state, the more people see its results.”
Some of those results have been documented in Ray’s study, “Home Educated and Now Adults,” a look at more than 7,000 grown-ups from across the United States who were home educated. Ray found that home schooled adults were more likely to have attended college than the general population; more engaged in their communities; more civically involved; and more likely to report being “very happy” with life.
Further, they were keepers of the faith — whatever that faith may be — as 94 percent of those surveyed either “strongly agreed” or “agreed” to the statement “My religious beliefs are basically the same as those of my parents.”
Being able to incorporate their worldview into daily curriculum gives homeschool Moms and Dads a better shot at handing down a holy heritage.
“Home schooling is now proven to be superior in many cases to a public school education in terms of academics, socialization and especially the transmission of the Christian and moral values of the family and Church,” E. Ray Moore told the Christian Post.
For more than a decade, Moore, founder of Frontline Ministries’ Exodus Mandate, has challenged parents to take their children out of government schools. He said the Bible, in Deuteronomy 6, Proverbs 22 and other Scriptures, presents education as the job of the family with help from the church as opposed to today’s system of relying on the state and federal governments.
Moore said pastors, who sometimes fear they will alienate public school supporters, should exhort their parishioners to home school their children or at least move them to private Christian schools.
Cultural apologist Voddie Baucham Jr. said God has designed “your family — not the youth group, not the children’s ministry, not the Christian school, but your family — as the principle discipling agent in your children’s lives,” and that abdicating that responsibility to the government is virtually guaranteeing that your children will adopt the philosophical mindset presented to them by the government school.
“From kindergarten through 12th grade children spend 14,000 seat hours in school,” he said. “Whoever controls those 14,000 hours controls our children’s worldview.”
The Rev. Creech agrees.
“While I acknowledge there are many dedicated Christians working in the public schools, parents must consider what will happen when their child is exposed seven hours a day, 180 days a year to a philosophy of education that essentially says God is irrelevant,” he said. “We are blessed in North Carolina to have favorable laws and strong homeschool organizations. We hope even more families will follow this mandate to educate at home with a faith-based purpose and vision for their children.”
Home schools have been recognized in North Carolina since May of 1985 when the State Supreme Court ruled in favor of parent Larry Delconte, who had been accused of violating compulsory school attendance laws. Within three years, the General Assembly had passed a law to define home school as “a nonpublic school in which one or more children of not more than two families or households receive academic instruction from parents or legal guardians or a member of either household.” Instructors must have “at least a high school diploma or its equivalent.”
When the state first began tracking homeschools in the mid-1980s, there were only about 800 students in 380 schools. Now, more than 43,300 families report they are schooling at home with more than 65 percent registering as “religious” home schools.
Take Christian Action: To find out more about legal requirements and how to get started home schooling, see the North Carolinians for Home Education web site at www.nche.com or the N.C. Department of Administration’s Division of Non-Public Education site at www.ncdnpe.org.