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Putting cool in homeschool

"Putting cool in homeschool" Continued...

Issue: "Rathergate," Sept. 25, 2004

The duo recently took a road trip from Indiana to Milwaukee to see Aliyah's favorite band, Evanescence, perform at a rave. They stood in line for five hours to ensure a place in the front row. While Aliyah rocked away, Mr. Davis grasped the front rail with both hands and girded his 6-foot-3-inch frame around her, protecting her from the crush.

If either of the two was a teenaged dork, it is the public-schooled dad. "I was a social hermit-a marching band geek," said Mr. Davis who, unlike his daughter, didn't come to a saving faith in Christ until college.

Believing that it was "what God wanted us to do," Mr. Davis, a college math instructor, and his wife Dana, a former punk-rocking pastry chef who now works at a Christian bookstore, have homeschooled their children for 12 years. That put them at the forward edge of a movement that encompasses about 2 million children-a six-fold increase since 1994 and growing 15 percent annually.

Often stereotyped as a movement of conservative Christians at the fringe of society, homeschooling is now receiving what amounts to high praise in secular media. Time recently said homeschooling is "diverse" and "gets results." A University of Maryland study, among others, found homeschoolers scored 25 percentiles higher than public-school students on standardized tests and 80 points higher on the SAT.

Aliyah and her brother Noah, 17, increasingly pursue independent study while their younger brother Simeon, 8, benefits from more one-on-one attention with Dana. The children belong to two co-ops that allow them to study a variety of subjects with other children whose parents have expertise in different fields. Mr. Davis, who taught in a public high school for several years, said in comparison public schools are like "factories."

Homeschooling still faces accusations that it deprives children of socialization, but most families are diligent about making sure their children are engaged in a range of activities with other children. Like other homeschoolers, the Davis children play on homeschool sports teams. Aliyah takes music lessons and participated in a city-wide youth chorus. She and Noah are taking classes at the local community college to prepare them to enter Purdue University next fall.

Despite the concern over socialization, studies show that homeschoolers have equal or better social skills than public-schooled peers. A University of Florida researcher found that homeschoolers are more patient, less competitive, less likely to fight, and more likely to introduce themselves to new people and exchange addresses and phone numbers.

During her middle-school years, Aliyah expressed interest in going to public school because she was feeling left out and wanted to be part of a "cool crowd." That's changed since seeing how "mean" high-schoolers can be to each other. "I'd be a little less accepting of people," she said, "and I don't know if people would accept me."

Mrs. Davis is aware of the "uncool" public image some homeschoolers developed by being set apart, but she said it frees children like hers from peer pressure. "They are very much individuals," she said. "If you are an individual in high school, it's looked down upon." As homeschoolers "they can be what they want to be and do what they do best."

The Davises also teach something they say their children would never get in public school-a worldview from a Christian perspective. "They've learned how to look at things critically," Mrs. Davis said.

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