There is one thing I always tell all new homeschooling parents: “The single most important thing you can do to succeed at homeschooling your child is this: Read, read, read.”
Okay… that’s three things.
At any rate, the ability to read well is, in my opinion, the single largest predictor of not only academic success, but personal success. Period. Teach your child to read and everything else will come in its own good time.
I can’t think of any other intellectual human ability that is more important than the ability to read; can you?
Here’s the Prime Directive: Read… Comprehend… Communicate. Teach your children to read. When they get that, teach them to write. Toss in some math so they can balance their checkbook. (Bonus: Teach them to balance a checkbook while you’re at it.) After that, the rest will follow.
Some of the schoolish things that we [homeschooling parents] fret over the most, are those things that are secondary, or tertiary to the Prime Directive. They are the things that we assume makes schooling work. After all, we were schooled as children; this must be how this education thing works.
But we forget that schooling only works when you have a mass of children to manage. Homeschoolers don’t have a classroom full of students; we have a family with children to raise. Part of that rearing, includes learning. In spite of the title, homeschoolers aren’t really “schooling” their children. What parents do with children is raise them, prepare them, foster within them a personal self-interest in learning more and more about the world in which we live and the history that got us here.
You need only one thing to accomplish 90% of this rearing thing: Literacy.
Seems to me, most public schools are attempting to teach too many things to too many children who have been damaged from the start by not having been taught to read and comprehend properly.
Here are some literacy stats that don’t give much hope for the way the State is educating our future citizens. Whenever you or another homeschooler is accused of somehow damaging our children by not forcing them to attend a State School of Communal Instruction, refer the inquisitor to this information… if they can understand it.
From Alliance for Excellent Education:
• More than eight million students in grades 4-12 read below grade level. Most are able
to sound out words—the challenge isn’t to teach them to decode text but, rather, to
help them comprehend what they read.
• Only 31% of America’s 8th-grade students—and roughly the same percentage of 12th
graders—meet the National Assessment of Educational Progress standard of reading
“proficiency” for their grade level.
• Among low-income 8th graders, just 15% read at a proficient level.
• A mere 3% of all 8th graders read at an advanced level.
• On average, African-American and Hispanic 12th-grade students read at the same
level as white 8th-grade students.
• The 25 fastest-growing professions have far greater than average literacy demands,
while the fastest-declining professions have lower than average literacy demands.
• Roughly 23% of high school graduates are not ready to succeed in an introductory level
college writing course.
• About 40% of high school graduates lack the literacy skills employers seek.
• Employment projections indicate that jobs requiring only a high school degree will
grow by just 9% by the year 2008 while those requiring a bachelor’s degree will grow
by 25% and those requiring an associate’s degree will grow by 31%.
• Male and female students with low academic achievement are twice as likely to
become parents by their senior year of high school compared to students with high
• For juveniles involved in quality reading instruction programs while in prison,
recidivism was reduced by 20 % or more.
• High school dropouts are 3.5 times more likely than high school graduates to be
arrested in their lifetimes.