I sometimes introduce myself as a “public school counselor who was originally opposed to homeschooling but is now homeschooling my own children.” Initially I thought home schooling could not possibly work because of the importance of highly qualified teachers to the learning process. It took a lot of reading, home school conferences and talking to home school parents for me to reorganize my thinking. The more I learned, the more favorable the concept became.
I have been a public school educator for 21 years. The last 10 years I have been a senior high school counselor (including 6 years as head counselor). Previously, I taught secondary mathematics and special education.
During the summer of 1984 I (and with the help of many others) conducted a survey of Washington home schoolers regarding the acceptability of various possible provisions in home schooling legislation. 441 families responded. In 1985, Washington passed a home schooling law – some aspects of the law were based upon that survey.
Since the passage of the law, I have continued to donate some of my spare time to home schooling. My interests center in two areas:
1. Facilitation of public school-home school cooperation.
2. Research regarding the academic achievement of home schoolers.
I have observed that while home schooling frequently connotes a negative first impression among educators, the second impression is almost always positive. The challenge, therefore, is to create the conditions whereby others are willing to take the second look. I view this as primarily a task of providing information.
In the Fall of 1985, I wrote a paper entitled “One educator’s observations about homeschooling.” It describes my own personal views regarding a number of issues related to home schooling. Topics include reasons for home schooling, academic achievement, socialization, legal basis, dealing with resistance, stereotypes, values in conflict, public school response to home schooling, and others. The primary purpose of the paper is to help the uninformed reader (educator, judge, relative, or neighbor) past the often negative first impression and create a willingness to take a (often positive) second look.
Consistent with my second interest, I have, with the help of Richard Wheeler, initiated something I call the Washington Homeschool Research Project. The goals of the project are (1) to provide base line information about the achievement levels of Washington home schoolers, (2) provide information about some specific topics (e.g. reasons for home schooling, socialization, students who score low, students who discontinue home schooling), (3) provide longitudinal information about some home schoolers, and (4) identify home school parents who are willing to participate in research conducted by others.
The method involves the use of a written questionnaire td be distributed by mail and filled out by parents of selected students. Test scores will come from the annual assessment done by home schoolers (a requirement under Washington law). A random portion of scores reported by parents will be verified by direct contact with the person administering the test. Families may participate anonymously if they wish.
The sampling will be conducted by 10 “local coordinators” around the state. They include people who are offering testing services for home schoolers, instructors of classes in home based education (a class created by Washington’ s home schooling law), support group leaders and others.
The first sampling is taking place this summer (1986) with a second sampling involving as many as 20 local coordinators during the summer of 1987. this should result in base line information from a reasonably good sample size. A longitudinal follow-up on those who participate in the 1986 and 1987 sampling will take place at two-year intervals starting in 1989.
Home schooling friends sometimes ask why I am undertaking this project. It is not, for example, the basis for a master’s or doctoral thesis. I offer several reasons:
1. I find the topic absolutely fascinating.
2. I enjoy research in the same way as others enjoy fishing or crossword puzzles.
3. I have found home schoolers to be uncommonly good people. It is personally rewarding to know and work with such parents.
4. I genuinely believe home schooling to be a legitimate educational option and that good information is the best way to produce understanding and acceptance by others.
Editor’s Note: You can contact Jon Wartes at Washington Homeschool Research Project, 16109 N.E. 169 P1., Woodinville, WA 98072.