Running Back to Egypt
Ruth R. Martin, M. Ed.
You know the story. The Israelites were headed for the Promised Land (via the scenic route) and were being supplied with everything they needed to survive on the way. They grew discontent with God’s provisions and started longing for the good old days in Egypt when they had a roof over their heads and tasty food to eat. Sure, they’d been in slavery, but even THAT was better than what they had in the wilderness! What, you may ask, does this have to do with homeschooling?
The analogy of homeschooling in Georgia to the Israelites leaving Egypt is an appropriate one. Think back to the story of the Israelites and their desert trek. They were leaving Egypt. What is our Egypt in Georgia home education? Our Egypt is the traditional school system, be it public or private. Our Egypt offers education in classrooms of 25 – 30 students where parents have no control over what their children learn or how they learn it. Our Egypt has developed all sorts of issues to which many of our students fall prey: drugs, alcohol, sexual identity issues, peer pressure, secular humanism, and socialist ideals, to name but a few. Our Egypt has an inflexible calendar with rigid hours, increasingly difficult rules and ridiculous regulations which now stretch beyond common sense! Our Egypt has teachers who are overworked and overwhelmed with mounds of nonsensical paperwork. In our Egypt kids fall through the cracks, get frustrated, and drop out. They can be suspended and/or expelled. Our Egypt is in a constant state of experimentation: Math drills? Calculators? New math? Integrated Math? Inventive spelling? Printing? Italic? D’Nealian? Cursive? No cursive? The list goes on and on. But, in this Egypt, we’re comfortable. We understand it and all its faults. Most of us parents were raised in this system and it’s all we know. As bad as it is, it’s our comfort zone.
So, why did we leave the relative comfort of our known Egypt and travel out into the wilderness of home education? In the early 80’s, a few of us did just that. We ventured out into the wilderness called homeschooling. At that time, it truly was a wilderness. No leaders had emerged yet. There were no used-book sales because there were no used books! Curriculum dealers would not sell to us because we weren’t “real” schools! There were no classes, no sports, no arts programs. And, yet we continued to wander. Eventually, our path became clearer and we realized that we had a good thing going. Our students were not only doing well on standardized tests, but also getting into colleges and universities around the country and receiving excellent scholarships based on college entrance exams and our non-accredited transcripts. Back in those days, NONE of us were accredited! We couldn’t have been even if we’d wanted to! The “system” looked on us as “deficient” (their words, not mine). Our “deficient” students were finishing up homeschooling and moving on into colleges and universities all over the U.S. Unaccredited homeschoolers were welcomed at Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Stanford, and MIT. I know students who have attended all these institutions. The ONLY schools homeschoolers had trouble getting into at that time were the state colleges and universities associated with the Georgia Board of Regents. Private schools in Georgia were lapping up our students. Some of the state schools caught on and began utilizing every waiver they could find to admit homeschoolers into Georgia public colleges, in particular Kennesaw State and Georgia College and State University in Milledgeville. Homeschoolers in Georgia enjoyed a brief period of acceptance.
Then, the Board of Regents (BOR) got wind of these rogue homeschoolers and their academic records and decided that we needed to be regulated. The Board of Regents has never been on the side of homeschooling. They decided to label us “deficient.” We were, according to them, “deficient” in seven areas, each of which needed to be tested by proficiency tests, the SAT-II subject tests. For those of you who may not have been around at that time (mid-90’s), a group of Georgia homeschool leaders met for almost two years drawing up a proposal for the Board of Regents asking them to waive the seven SAT-II requirement for admission to state colleges and universities. (Remember, that private colleges and universities are not under the mandate of the BOR and weren’t asking homeschoolers to shoulder that tremendous burden that involved massive amounts of time and quite a bit of money.) This group (called the Coalition for Equitable Admission to Georgia State Colleges and Universities – we never did come up with anything clever!) also fought to have our transcripts accepted at face value and challenged the BOR to allow homeschoolers to enter state schools on a level playing field with other students. (Interestingly enough, one of the people on this coalition was the president of the state college student body presidents and was president of the student body at Kennesaw State University – himself a non-accredited homeschooler!) The BOR changed their policy and the seven SAT-II requirement was lifted! All the while, several state colleges and universities had been recruiting our homeschooled students and finding ways to admit them around the BOR’s regulations. They even hired homeschool recruiters and admission counselors! It was a beautiful moment. All was going along fairly smoothly, and, sure, there were glitches from time to time. But, now colleges were telling us that our students were “the cream of the crop” at their school (a NE GA private college admissions director), were the top students in each of their programs (a middle GA state college and university admissions director), and that they loved working with homeschooling families (a south GA state college recruiter).
During this time, along came a “new kid on the block” – the accrediting center. Started by a man who wanted his homeschooled grandchildren to be able to go to UGA (a difficult school to get into at the time), these accrediting centers started popping up all over the state and have since morphed into the hybrid school. The hybrid school is an interesting phenomenon known ONLY to the homeschoolers of Georgia. We are the ONLY state in all 50 to have these centers. The Georgia Home Education Association has contacted state leaders across the nation about these centers. No one has ever heard of anything like them! These hybrids go beyond just accrediting transcripts. They spring up all over the state offering classes for students of all ages, some as young as kindergarten! They are particularly attractive to people homeschooling through high school. Some offer accredited and/or non-accredited programs. Some offer classes a la carte (just chemistry or just English, etc.); some require a full program. Some meet once per week; some as often as FOUR days each week from 9 – 4! Why should these accrediting centers cause a problem in our state? What’s the big deal?
The accrediting centers are perfectly legal and are a big help to some people whose kids may need help in certain subjects. Beyond that, they offer an accredited transcript upon completion of their program. But, what else do they offer? They offer the opportunity for parents to give up their right of control over what their children learn, when they learn, individualization in learning, and flexibility in learning. They are based on a system that has failed students throughout the years. Remember our Egypt? It is the traditional school system. These hybrid programs more often than not (not ALL of them, but most) are based on the traditional school system that continues to turn out mediocre students. They offer the prospect of children once again learning in a way that does NOT take into account child development theory and methods that actually work with kids! Most of them are based on the teacher-centered model complete with textbooks, workbooks, and tests. Many of them have classes that have 30+ students. Isn’t that what we were trying to get away from? We left that Egypt years ago because it was a failing system that didn’t work. It continues that way today. Why then are we running back to what didn’t work? Why do we feel the pull to a system that turns out students who regurgitate information for tests and aren’t able to think for themselves, are more interested in their peers and what THEY think than in their families, and who are subjected to the same situations as they would have experienced had they remained in Egypt? Is it because that system offers more? Is it because our kids can go to prom? Play football? Get drugs? Is it to teach them to tolerate bullying? Yes, it happens even to nice homeschoolers and it happens anywhere there are groups of kids gathered together. What is it that draws us to that failing system? Is it the promise of the HOPE scholarship for that first year of college? If that’s it, then consider this:
Programs that provide accredited transcripts are not cheap. I checked quite a few to be up to date and accurate in writing this article for 2011. They range in cost from about $250/course to as much as $1000/course (sites checked 10/26/2011).
Let’s examine the cheaper one: If a student takes FOUR (4) courses (usually considered a full load) per year = $1000 per year X 4 years (typical high school) = $4000 (the cheap one)
HOPE scholarship payment for 2011 – 2012 (sites checked 10/26/2011) were averaging $900 – $1300/semester to $1800 - $2600/year.
Now, I hate math, but even I can figure this one out!! It’s a no brainer! Even if you go the cheap route, you’re spending $4000 to gain a possible $2600!! Does that even begin to make sense? I’ll leave it to you math scholars to figure out the bigger numbers.
On top of that, you’ve given up control over your child’s education at the most crucial time possible!
By the way, some of these programs have courses that cost as much OR MORE than college classes! Why not take the college courses instead? Now THAT’S a transcript!
Are hybrid schools really home schooling? That’s a loaded question. But, it’s one we have to consider for the future of home education in Georgia. Many of these programs offer sports, prom, yearbook, pep rallies, student council, and certified teachers. What’s different about that than what we supposedly left behind? Actually, it’s sounding more and more like the Egypt we left behind!
One more point needs to be emphasized. Accreditation isn’t required in Georgia for admission to ANY college or university! If the center you’re using is telling you that it is, then they have information that is in error. But, that is rapidly changing! Based on calls to GHEA, more and more colleges are jumping on the accreditation bandwagon. While we have had fairly open (some more than others) admission for the past 15 years, the more these accrediting centers take hold, the more the colleges are going to require accreditation for admission. If more and more parents voluntarily give up control of their children’s education, accreditation will be required and control of education will be turned over to these centers rather than the parents. The Georgia Home Education Association steadfastly supports home-based, parent-directed, privately-funded, Christ-centered education. The hybrid school/accrediting center shifts the balance toward center-based, center-directed, privately-funded (no tax dollars as yet), may or may not be Christ-centered (many use secular materials).
Finally, is accreditation all it’s cracked up to be? Have you ever checked the accreditation standards for the Georgia Accrediting Commission? Google it. When you get to the website, go to the bottom of the list to Non-traditional Education Centers. Check it out for yourself. How many of those standards have anything to do with the students’ education? Most of them have to do with the facility, extending to Fire Marshall codes and fire drills, record-keeping, monetary funding, etc. There is very little about the students and their academic performance. That’s accreditation! I checked the website. It’s interesting to note that each student is assigned an adult mentor. One of the reasons my husband and I chose homeschooling is so that WE could be our children’s mentors. Now, maybe some of these centers ARE assigning the parents as mentors, but, also note, that if that mentor does not have a college degree, then they are required to have 8 hours of instruction in mentoring. Who’s in control?
As an educational consultant, I have worked with students throughout the college application process for the past 13 years. Last year alone, I wrote transcripts for students who graduated from non-accredited home-based programs that used non-traditional methods of teaching (more unit studies than textbooks). One student was accepted on scholarship to Vanderbilt University, one received a full scholarship to the University of Georgia. Others were accepted at Furman University, Kennesaw, Anderson College, Georgia College and State University, Valdosta State University, Piedmont College, Georgia Gwinnett College, Perimeter College, the University of Taiwan and others.
Education should always be moving forward. Georgia homeschooling, however, is moving backward. This march back to accreditation, back to a failed system, back to Egypt is just that: BACKWARD! We headed back to where we were 15 years ago! Accreditation is a short-sighted solution for some, but will affect ALL Georgia homeschoolers. I’m concerned for the future of traditional home education in Georgia. The greatest threat to that traditional homeschooling is the accreditation movement and hybrid schools. Homeschoolers, what are we doing? Are we really ready to go backwards? Are you running back to Egypt?
For another viewpoint on the same topic, visit the articles library at HYPERLINK "http://www.ghea.org" www.ghea.org. Find the article on accreditation by Dr. Mary Hood written several years ago, but still valid.
Ruth Martin is an educational consultant in private practice, specializing in the college admissions process and learning disabilities. Ruth is currently completing her dissertation for a Ph.D. in Christian Counseling. Ruth and her husband homeschooled their three children for 22 years. All graduated with non-accredited diplomas and have gone on to college and beyond. Her oldest is a corporate attorney and college professor, her second has completed his Master’s Degree and teaches at a local private school, and her daughter is a student at Le Cordon Bleu studying to be a chef. Ruth teaches classes for home schooled high schoolers. Contact Ruth at HYPERLINK "mailto:email@example.com" firstname.lastname@example.org or HYPERLINK "mailto:email@example.com" firstname.lastname@example.org.