Education secretary’s comments rattle homeschoolers

Homeschooling | John King said homeschool families aren’t giving their children the range of options best for all students
by Samantha Gobba
Posted 9/27/16, 10:33 am

U.S. Education Secretary John King created a flurry of frustration and fear among homeschool advocates last week with comments viewed as ignorant at best or, at worst, hostile toward alternative education.

“Students who are homeschooled are not getting kind of the rapid instructional experience they would get in school,” King said in a press conference hosted by the Christian Science Monitor, adding that’s true unless parents are “very intentional about it.”

But homeschool advocates say students’ performance proves homeschooling’s success—homeschoolers perform better than average on standardized tests and in college.

“We’re hopeful that the remarks are born out of ignorance, rather than out of antipathy toward us, but the silence is beginning to feel like, it’s ill will rather than, he just doesn’t know what he’s talking about,” Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) chairman Michael Farris told me.

Farris said he is personally reaching out to King’s office in hopes of swaying him in favor of homeschooling.

King did give a nod to homeschooling’s success, noting some families are “doing it incredibly well.” He also acknowledged parents are free to choose homeschooling for their family.

But he said those children probably aren’t “getting the range of options that are good for all kids.”

Brian Ray, president of the National Home Education Research Institute, told me contrary to King’s belief, homeschooled students have a vast array of curriculum and extra-curricular activities available to them.

“If he’s thinking options like science—beakers and Bunsen burners—that’s all available to homeschool families. If he’s thinking about instruments, like musical instruments, it’s all available,” Ray said. “You can find homeschool orchestras and bands and quartets and quintets. I think he probably doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”

Even if state-run schools do provide more “options,” they don’t produce the same academic results as homeschooling.

Homeschooled students consistently score far higher on standardized tests than the average college-bound high school senior, and a University of St. Thomas study shows homeschoolers have higher college GPAs and are more likely to graduate than public school students, with a graduation rate of 58.6 percent for public school students and 66.7 percent for homeschoolers.

Meanwhile, just over one-third of public school eighth-graders can read at their grade level.

“Whatever the range of options is [for homeschooled students], they seem to be doing really well,” Ray said.

King’s remarks worry HSLDA, which opposed his nomination in March based on his firm support for Common Core State Standards.

“We believe his comments are paving the way for more government oversight to make sure that parents are being intentional,” HSLDA said in a statement.

Farris is further concerned the anti-homeschooling sentiment will seep into the next administration, should Hillary Clinton win the election in November.

Clinton has been a staunch supporter of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, a treaty under which, should it be ratified in the United States, parents would have little to no authority over their child’s education.

“It’s really clear that any theory of parental control of education is antithetic to the central premises of the treaty, that is that the government gets to decide in every case what is best for the child,” Farris said. “It will be a tremendous attack on every parent in this country, especially those who choose educational alternatives—Christian schools, home schools—and any parent that wants to teach their children that Jesus is the only way to God.”

Samantha Gobba

Samantha is a former WORLD correspondent.

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  • Harlan Paulson
    Posted: Tue, 09/27/2016 11:42 am


    King did give a nod to homeschooling’s success, noting some families are “doing it incredibly well.”

    And I (Harlan Paulson homeschool dad of over 20 years) reply: some are doing it well, some are doing it fairly well, and some are doing it poorly. But even if poorly we must presume that they are acting in the best interest of their children unless Mr. King can prove otherwise.

  • dcb
    Posted: Tue, 09/27/2016 02:30 pm

    "But he said those children probably aren’t “getting the range of options that are good for all kids.”"

    Well we really need that clarified as Brian Ray indicated. Perhaps we should also point to the reality: the lack of options in public school's one-size-fits-all method of teaching. Between there being no consideration for the fact that not every child learns the same way to being stuck in a single grade for all subjects, the idea of public education offering options really doesn't conform to reality. And I haven't even mentioned the lack of school choice and the blanket standards that get smothered over every child in every school in every district. What you end up with is no 'options' at all. 

  • Slava Tebje Gospodi
    Posted: Tue, 09/27/2016 02:31 pm

    Although I am a retired public school teacher, I am a firm believer in home schooling. I good friend of mine home schooled her daughter through 8th grade. During that time, her daughter took piano, violin, and dance lessons, went on field trips with other home schoolers, attended special educational events at a local theater that were mostly attended by public school students. After grade school the daughter was accepted into a an exclusive high school for academically gifted students. Loss of options? I certainly don't think so.

  • MTJanet
    Posted: Tue, 09/27/2016 02:34 pm

    Oddly enough, the answer to poor homeschooling for the public ed. crowd is to enroll them into public ed.  No one has bothered to find out what the plan is for all the students failing public ed...where are they suppose to go?  We had creation science for our K-8 science program.  And what did that foster?  One of my kids is in medical school, two are registered nurses, and one is a microbiology major.  I can only conclude that public ed. people are scared to death of homeschoolers and their success despite our lack of "rapid instructional experience."  Most of us do ed. at home FAR better than the public school, and we get to keep it Christ centered.  

  • Auslander
    Posted: Tue, 09/27/2016 02:49 pm

    We are a home-schooling family.  The only option I see my daughter missing out on is the option to care more about what her peer group thinks than learning the curriculum.  She is in extra-curricular activities all week, has lots of friends, and is allowed flexible time and scheduling to develop her strengths.  What in the world is wrong with this?  As a family, we reject macro-evolution, the normalization of sexual perversion, and the lack of emphasis on rigorous, critical thought in general that permeates the public school system.

    The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.  Today's world has rejected this as is evidenced by Common Core.  So you get a generation that has a lot of knowledge - they know a bunch of facts - but have no wisdom.

  •  Brendan Bossard's picture
    Brendan Bossard
    Posted: Wed, 09/28/2016 01:39 pm

    Well said, Auslander.  My sister has done the same with her children, and they are *very* sharp!

  •  FreedomInTejas's picture
    Posted: Tue, 09/27/2016 05:50 pm

    "Students who are homeschooled are not getting kind of the rapid instructional experience they would get in school"

    Brian Ray correctly identifies "rapid instructional experience" and "range of options" as the operative phrases needing definition in this statement by King. Even though homeschool students perform above average and even excel in standardized tests, this alone should not be the measure of education. Not every student will take the SAT or ACT, and not every student goes to college. But every student should be prepared to be a thoughtful active citizen.  One of the stated objectives commonly found in state education codes is something along the lines of:

    "Educators will prepare students to be thoughtful, active citizens who have an appreciation for the basic values of our state and national heritage and who can understand and productively function in a free enterprise society." Texas Education Code,Title 2, Subtitle A, Chapter 4. Sec. 4.001 (b) Objective 5

    Using this objective alone as a standard to compare the successes of "instructional experience" in public government schools vs. private homeschools, Mr. King would do well to direct his concerns at the former. 

    Can recent (within the past 7 years)  high school graduates be considered  "thoughtful, active citizens" if they are not registered to vote, and, actually participate in their local, state and federal elections and government?  The 25 and under demographic had less than a 20% turnout in most state primaries this year. That dropped to less than 1% in run-off elections. 

    Specific example: Williamson County, Texas has 15 public high schools and 290,908 registered voters, of whom 28,626 are under the age of 25.  These are only those sub-25 year olds who bothered to register to vote.  Of the 28,626 registered voters born since 1990, less than 16% voted in any party's primary, and less than one-half of 1% (or 136 voters) voted in the primary run-off elections. Of those 136, at least a third were private homeschool graduates. Statistically speaking, public school graduates 25 and under had zero participation in the run-off elections. These statistics are not isolated to Williamson County or to Texas.

    What kind of grade should Mr. King assign to public schools who are turning out "thoughtful, active citizens" at this rate of "rapid instructional experience"?  Could the fact that families who homeschool are turning out an exponentially higher percentage of "thoughtful, active citizens" than public schools be the reason they are in Mr. King's crosshairs for government control?


  • stephenc
    Posted: Wed, 09/28/2016 09:46 am

    Your analysis is perfectly correct. Remember, though, that inevitably government funded education is going to value, not the training of "thoughtful, active citizens", but the fabrication of superb technicians who will make plenty of money to be taxed and otherwise be unthinkingly obedient to the government. Whatever King says, that's what his bosses want, whether they've fully articulated it or not even to themselves. See, for example, all the emphasis on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) education - that's an emphasis designed to keep the economy strong, not generate thoughtful, active citizens.

  • JerryM
    Posted: Wed, 09/28/2016 07:50 am

    Is it ignorance or blindness due to the union influence on the Democratic Party.  As someone with almost 2 decades of experience working in public education, I agree with dcb: So much of the public system operates like an industrial complex where children and adolescents, at the school level, and now young adults, in higher ed, are like widgets on a conveyor belt which often appears focused on idealogical indoctrination.  In most homes, and from more than the "educational outcome" perspective, I believe home education is far superior.

  • JerryM
    Posted: Wed, 09/28/2016 07:51 am

    Is it ignorance or blindness due to the union influence on the Democratic Party. 

  •  FreedomInTejas's picture
    Posted: Wed, 09/28/2016 11:01 am

    @stephenc "Whatever King says, that's what his bosses want"

    You are spot on.  Could those bosses have names like Bill Gates (among other tech leaders), David Coleman (President of College Board and architect of Common Core...with Gates' backing), Walt MacDonald (President/CEO of Educational Testing Service), Former Sec. of Education Arne Duncan, Sen. Lamar Alexander-TN who pushed for King's confirmation along with the following Republican senators who joined with the Democrats to approve King: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell-KY, Bill Cassidy-LA, Susan Collins-ME, and Sen. Jon Cornyn-TX? 

    Eleven senators did not even vote: Sherrod Brown-OH, Ted Cruz-TX, Jeff Flake-AZ, Mark Kirk-IL, John McCain-AZ, Rob Portman-OH, Marco Rubio-FL, Bernie Sanders-VT, Jeff Sessions-AL, Pat Toomey-PA, and Mark Warner-VA.


  •  William Peck 1958's picture
    William Peck 1958
    Posted: Wed, 09/28/2016 12:24 pm

    so 37% of homeschoolers don't graduate ? That does not compute . . .