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The Washington Times
December 16, 1997

What sort of education is best for our children?

By Michael Farris
The Washington Times
December 16, 1997

Christmas vacation is a good time to evaluate how your child is progressing for the current school year. If your child’s situation is totally unacceptable, this is perhaps the best time for a mid-year switch. Others will want to watch the situation more closely with an eye toward a possible change of schools next fall.

Let me suggest five questions that all parents—regardless of religious motivation—will want to consider as they weigh their child’s current educational placement.

1. Is my child getting strong phonics-based instruction?

The most crucial part of education is learning to read. Readers succeed, nonreaders fail.

If your child is learning to read Chinese, Japanese, or some other language where the words are essentially pictographs, then the look-say method of reading instruction is perfectly appropriate. But in any language, including English, where the letters represent sounds, not pictures, phonics is the clearly the superior method of instruction.

If your child is in kindergarten through third grade in a school which uses “the whole language method” or if the school says that “phonics is a part of our reading program,” your child is being subjected to educational malpractice. You should run, not walk, to a different method of schooling.

My wife has used the 134-page Handbook for Reading (published by A Beka Books) to teach our seven oldest children to read very successfully. This book is based on Noah Webster’s famous Blue-Backed Speller originally published in 1783.

With a fourth grade education the average person in 1783 could read the Federalist Papers. Today the average student struggles to read the funny papers with a high school diploma.

Phonics is the way to go.

2. Am I spending enough time with my children to shape their lives and influence their values?

Children get their values from the people with whom they spend the most time. If your child spends more time with his classmates than with you, his classmates collectively will have a greater influence than you in the long run.

In the hectic world we live in, after school hours rarely produce much time for private family interaction. While standing on the sidelines of your child’s soccer games is quite important, you will influence your child’s values much more during real conversation. When do you talk to your child? If it weren’t for home schooling, I do not believe that either my wife or I would spend anywhere near a sufficient amount of time talking with our children after they reach age 9 or 10.

3. How safe is their current school environment?

Parents in Paducah, Kentucky buried three children earlier this month. I am sure they thought their children were in a safe environment in the local public school.

Dozens of local governments have considered enacting daytime curfews under the theory that if we keep children in school they are less likely to commit a crime during the day. However, in Monrovia, California, a city praised by President Clinton for its model daytime curfew, juvenile daytime crime statistics show that more juvenile daytime crimes are committed on school grounds than off school property. In other words, the most likely place for your child to be a victim of another juvenile’s daytime crime is on school property.

4. Will I be able to influence decisions in my child’s school?

Even if you don’t home school your child, as a parent you want to have a meaningful voice in your child’s education. For example, if the school is teaching a radical sex education program, you want to be able to decide whether or not your child attends.

Some local school officials will let you have some influence over your child’s education. But often, their hands are tied as a result of regulations imposed by federal or state education bureaucrats. If for any reason the school officials are unable or unwilling to honor your request, these professors are correct—your parental rights are “almost extinct.”

5. Will my child learn to honor and love America?

We are all too familiar with the grip that the philosophy of political correctness has upon the educational systems of this country. Children are taught that it is wrong to believe that men and women are different, wrong to believe that private property owners have rights, wrong to believe that homosexuality is wrong, and wrong to believe that anything is always right or wrong—except moral orthodoxy. Saddest of all, politically correct education teaches children that is it wrong to believe that America is good.

Children are taught more about the Klu Klux Klan than about George Washington Carver. Children are taught more about the significance of whites breaking treaty with Native-Americans than the significance of the First Thanksgiving where Pilgrims and Indians dined together in harmony.

Accurate history gives both the good and the bad the place they deserve. In reality, there have always been far more good Americans than bad. But if your child reads politically correct history, the balance is purposely skewed to give your child an uncomfortable feeling about America, and a positive yearning for world citizenship.

Put your child’s school to the test. If it comes up short, maybe home schooling is just what you need to get the kind of education you want for your children.

Michael Farris is the father of 10 home-schooled children and chairman of the
Home School Legal Defense Association

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