“Christian … was allowed to explore reading, math, history and science at his own pace and to develop a great passion for learning. However, he worries that this may not be true of all homeschooled children. He especially worries for the girls he knew that were being told as young as five that they would not go to college because their duty was to be a good wife and mom.”
I home schooled my son Christian in Florida from 2004 to 2009. I was, perhaps, a unique homeschool mom in that I had never actually intended to homeschool my son. Instead, we chose to do so as he began reading at a very young age and was so very curious about things he simply would not get a chance to dive into in a traditional public school setting.
In the state of Florida, we were required to file a letter of intent to home educate. Subsequently, each year we were required to provide the county with either a letter stating that he had passed a standardized test or that he had a portfolio reviewed by a certified teacher.
While home schooled children had the option of taking the state test at no charge alongside their public school peers, we never even considered using this option. The FCAT was a dirty word among homeschoolers. We did, however, test annually. Unlike many of my friends who bristled at this requirement, I welcomed testing. It was proof that my child was thriving—that my decision to educate in this manner was working. Each year, he did exceedingly well on whichever test he took. I was always so proud of these scores.
I did have other friends who also tested. I imagine most of the kids who did were also succeeding academically. However, I did know some who upon underperforming on a test then turned to the portfolio review. Others only ever considered the portfolio review. Can this type of review be done effectively? Perhaps. From what I could tell, though, these “reviews” often consisted of very little beyond finding a sympathetic teacher who was willing to sign your form and perhaps showing them some of your child’s best work. How else can I explain the sixth grader who could not read the word “house” or the high school student who struggled with basic math concepts but whom both always had their portfolio approved?
When Christian got older, it became apparent to us both that his passion for math and science was outpacing my ability to instruct or challenge him. In addition, we were troubled both by our difficulty finding unbiased curriculum and by social challenges presented by the heavily evangelical homeschool population in our area. He enrolled in the local public school in 5th grade. My decision was not welcomed by those I had considered friends for years. I was considered a traitor to the movement. A sinner. Christian was shunned entirely.
We worried about the transition. We had spent the last many years hearing such horrible stories about public schools. Imagine our surprise when Christian loved it. While a little bored initially, he was placed in increasingly challenging classes all the while earning perfect grades and near perfect test scores. His biggest fear the first year was the dreaded FCAT. He was so surprised to find that it was actually quite simple compared to tests he had taken previously and he struggled with the notion that so many feared it.
Christian believes homeschooling did benefit him. He was allowed to explore reading, math, history and science at his own pace and to develop a great passion for learning. However, he worries that this may not be true of all homeschooled children. He especially worries for the girls he knew that were being told as young as five that they would not go to college because their duty was to be a good wife and mom.
For this reason, Christian would like to see all homeschoolers in the state of Florida take the FCAT. We both believe that unless fundamental math and reading skills are lacking it is very unlikely that a homeschooled child would have difficulty with the exam. We believe that homeschoolers should be held to the same standards as their public school counterparts. A proper education is so important for our children—regardless of how they are educated. Neither Christian nor I can see how ensuring that a minimum bar of achievement is met constitutes an intrusion on parental rights. If anything, it is parents’ duty as parents to ensure that our children receive the best education they can.
Lara Condor homeschooled her son in Florida from 2004 to 2009. For additional thoughts and experiences from other homeschool parents, see our Testimonials page.