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The Washington Times
June 2, 1998

End of Term Warrants Report Card on Schools

By Michael Farris
The Washington Times
June 2, 1998

Within a few weeks, most schools will be winding up the academic year. Children generally are looking forward to the summer escape to freedom and fun. But for parents, this should be a time to reflect on the school year and to assess how well their children were served by their school.

Did my child show real academic growth using traditional measurements?

For younger students, answering this question should consist mainly of evaluating their reading and math skills.

For elementary reading, ask your local librarian for a book that is appropriate for the grade level your child has just finished. Sit down together and have your child read out loud.

You should notice two things if your child has been receiving good instruction. First, your child should read smoothly most of the sentences in the selection. Second, when your child comes to a word he or she doesn’t recognize, your child should attempt to sound out the syllables rather than just sit there stumped.

If your child doesn’t read smoothly or lacks the ability to sound out unfamiliar words, the kind of reading instruction being offered in his or her school is subpar. You should look for an alternative.

For elementary math, ask your child to respond orally to basic math problems that are suitable for his or her grade. First-graders should be able to add and subtract single-digit numbers without hesitation. Second-graders should be able to do the same for two-digit numbers. Fourth-graders should have memorized both multiplication and division tables.

Again, if your child is not able to do the math problems you present and you believe he or she is of normal intelligence, it is time to find a different school.

Other areas you will want to consider are history and geography. By the fourth grade, every child should be able to name all 50 states and the capitals as well as identify the states on a map. Your fourth grader should at least know and be able to tell basic facts about George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, the Civil War, World War II, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights—just to list the most obvious.

Children of this age who are unable to get the dates of the Civil War or World War II within 10 years or so have been served poorly by their schools.

How has my child’s behavior changed?

Home schooling parents generally find that by the time their children are 10 or 11 years old, episodes of deliberate disobedience are relatively rare. Their children are not perfect, but open defiance and rebellion against parental rules are uncommon among 10- to 13-year old home schooled children.

If your child is in this age group, ask yourself: Is he or she getting better or worse in terms of normal behavior?

If your child is getting worse, it is fair to assume two things: First, your child probably is falling under the significant influence of peers who are moving collectively into premature and excessive youth rebellion. It’s not just a matter of the wrong associating of children, however. It may be that your child spends too much time with children and not enough time with you.

A sure sign of submersion in the peer-dependent culture of youth is growing rebellion. Unless you want increasing rebellion for the next few years, you will want to consider a form of education that delivers academic instruction without excessive peer dependency.

 You want children who are becoming smart without becoming smart alecks. Do your own check-up and see if you think your child has been well served by the educational choice you followed this past year. Perhaps home-schooling is an alternative your family may want to consider.

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

Copyright 2000 News World Communications, Inc. Reprinted with permission of The Washington Times. Visit our web site at