Home-Schooling Drawing More Evangelical Christians
May 1, 2005
NEW HARTFORD, Conn. --Charlie Marsh's home-schooling has included reading, writing and creationism.
The New Hartford boy, who will graduate high school May 21 in a small ceremony at his family's church, is one of a growing number of evangelical Christian students to be home-schooled.
Educated at home by his born-again Christian parents since he was 8, he was taught science from a creationist point of view and history from a Christian perspective.
The Home School Legal Defense Association, an advocacy group, estimates that American home-schooling is a $750 million dollar industry that could hit $1 billion in the next few years. The Virginia-based group says evangelical Christians account for 70 percent of that market.
"The curriculum market even 10 years ago was not that large," said Ian Slatter, a spokesman for the group. "What we have seen is an explosion with the Internet."
There also are more formalized hands-on programs for home-schooling families than were first available to the Marsh family.
One of them, Connecticut's TeenPact -- which gives home-schooled Christian students the chance to spend a week at the state Capitol learning about the political process -- did not exist. The national TeenPact program begun in Georgia in the 1990s and established in Connecticut last year, gave Charlie Marsh a chance to experience the lessons and mock debates -- and to pray for lawmakers.
He said he learned a lot from the experience, as one of 44 students who participated in the program's debut.
The students started each day with a prayer walk on Capitol grounds. Ruth Martin, 16, a participant from Glastonbury, said that she disagrees with the state granting civil unions to same-sex couples, and that TeenPact reaffirms what she can do about it.
"We can pray about it and hope that God can change people's hearts," she said.
Nationwide, about 1.1 million children are educated at home for a variety of reasons, according to the most recent figures available from the federal Department of Education. That survey found that 16 percent of home-schooling parents were dissatisfied with public schools. And 30 percent said they kept their children home to provide religious or moral instruction.
The Education Association of Christian Homeschoolers of Connecticut estimates that there are 3,000 to 5,000 home-schooled children in the state.
Charlie Marsh's mother, Barbara Marsh, said she and her husband made the decision 11 years ago to home-school their children when Charlie was attending the Bakerville Consolidated School down the street.
"We are born-again Christians, and I figured I'd be beating my head against the wall for the next 12 years trying to debrief them," she said.
Mother and son recalled the time when Charlie was very young and challenged what his teacher had said about the development of turtle shells.
"How do you know the turtle wasn't always that way?" he asked the teacher. He remembers the response: "That's your religion, and this is science."
Barbara Marsh has been her son's teacher, curriculum coordinator, field trip planner, and guidance counselor for the last decade. She estimates he will have a high school grade point average of about 3.0, but she can't finalize the transcript until he finishes his last class, chemistry.
Most of his high school classes have been in traditional subjects -- English grammar, earth science, early American literature. He also had a course called study of intelligent design. He also received credit for a course in puppetry and production for his work with shows put on by his church.
All he has left to worry about between now and the start of the fall term is finishing up chemistry and completing his graduation speech. He will be one of three home-schooled students honored in a graduation ceremony at Faith Bible Church in Winsted.
He knows he will get as much time as he wants for his speech.
"I should make it a little bit longer," he joked. "I have to make up for about 100 people."
Information from: The Hartford Courant, http://www.courant.com/