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Letters to the Boston Globe following an article about Patrick Henry College

On December 14, 1999, the Boston Globe printed an article about Patrick Henry College, an undergraduate program founded by Michael Farris. The article characterized homeschoolers in inaccurate ways, and Massachusetts homeschoolers were motivated to send letters to the editor. We understand that the more letters editors receive on a topic, the more likely they are to print at least one. Thus, it's always helpful to write, even if your particular letter does not appear.

MHLA Letter to the Editor

Dear Editor,

Your recent article, "New college eyeing political lives for the home-schooled" (12/14/99) wrongly implies that homeschoolers, in general, agree with Michael Farris’ educational and political views. A large segment of today's homeschoolers choose home education not for religious or political reasons, but because homeschooling offers a rich and varied educational experience. Rather than hiding from reality, as you indicated, these families homeschool so that their children can experience more real world learning through internships, community service, travel and other activities that are limited within the confines of a school’s four walls. In fact, many homeschool families facilitate their children's education by providing access to a multitude of people, perspectives and worldviews.

Further, the number of homeschool children has grown so large, that homeschoolers now enjoy an extensive network of activities offered by many support groups and outside organizations. In fact, the Globe wrote on 1/20/97 that homeschoolers "have invented a network of activities, supportive groups and get-togethers that has become so expansive that it rivals what the best schools have to offer."

Because these homeschoolers have extra time to move about and pursue their interests, they have the opportunity to develop a network of friends that spans a broader socioeconomic, religious, political and ethnic spectrum than is likely to be found in their neighborhood schools.

For more information on this all-inclusive approach to homeschooling, readers can contact the Massachusetts Home Learning Association or MHLA, PO Box 1558, Marstons Mills, MA 02648.

Patrick Farenga of Holt Associates Letter to the Editor

Dear Editor,

Anne Kornblut's sweeping generalizations about homeschoolers ("New College eyeing political lives for the home-schooled" p. 1, 12/14/99) shows sloppy research. All the issues she raises by unnamed critics, particularly that homeschoolers are deliberate isolationists, may apply to some, but hardly to all. The questions she asks, "How do they make that transition [into the world outside their home]? And what kind of adult lives will home-schooled children be prepared to lead?" have been answered by research and adults who were homeschooled themselves for some time now. Research, case histories, and anecdotal evidence exists for all the questions above, and lists of famous homeschoolers, grown-up homeschoolers willing to speak about being adults who were homeschooled, and colleges and universities that have accepted homeschoolers, are readily available. My company, which is nonsectarian and advocates homeschooling as a way to involve children in the world rather than isolate them in homes or schools, publishes such information, and has done so since 1977. These lists include scientists, athletes, artists, politicians, business people, etc., all of whom were homeschooled for all or part of their childhood. They are not social illiterates, nor are they all right-wing conservatives. Homeschoolers have been getting into Ivy League Universities and other colleges and we - and even the Boston Globe - report it (for instance, see the recent Globe article about the author Jedidiah Purdy, who was homeschooled ). Homeschoolers also find work worth doing without conventional high school or college degrees.

The Globe needs to be more aware of the history of homeschooling: while there are 1.5 million homeschooled children in America now, a large number of homeschooled children passed into adulthood in the eighties, making the nineties the "second wave," not the first wave as the article says, of homeschoolers to attend college and/or enter the workplace. Most importantly, homeschooling is a very diverse movement that includes far more people and attitudes than the Globe's article would lead a reader to believe.

Michael Farris has a right to promote his religion and politics by creating a college in the tradition of Jerry Falwell or Oral Roberts. But not all Christians, and in particular not all homeschoolers, plan to attend his school or need his assistance.

Patrick Farenga
Publisher, Growing Without Schooling

Alysa Dudley, editor of Snail Mail, Letter to the Editor

Dear Editor:

I am writing in response to the 12/14 article “New College Eyeing Political Lives For The Home-schooled”. I strongly object to your characterization of homeschooled students as being separated from the “real world”.

Homeschooling provides the flexibility that allows students more exposure to the world than they have when they are in an institution for 30+ hours a week. In my experience, homeschoolers regularly interact with people of all ages and in all kinds of situations. Compare that to children in classrooms with one adult plus a room full of agemates.

Many homeschoolers belong to support groups which include families of different religions, cultures and ethnic backgrounds. They frequently participate in community activities including scouts, sports, and performing arts. Community involvement and family relationships allow homeschoolers to learn from adults in real settings and provide opportunities to develop relationships based on interests as well as age.

In conclusion, it is important to understand that there are many homeschoolers who interact just fine with the real world, who do not agree with the views and religious dictates expressed by Michael Farris and his colleagues, and who have no need or desire to be associated with a school like Patrick Henry College.

Alysa Dudley
North Billerica

Massachusetts Home Learning Association

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