April 19, 2012

Three Statistics to Think About

My two boys with two of their role models: our local Elders
Of the many reasons that I homeschool, the biggest one by far is my concern for my children’s spiritual well-being. I want to do everything I possibly can to raise my children in the “nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4) so that they will be prepared for the storms of life which are beating down on us in ever-increasing severity. I have felt that the public school environment is too spiritually toxic for them to handle when they are young and that they need much strengthening before they will be able be a light unto the world.
I have always believed that by homeschooling I am vastly increasing the odds that my children will grow up to love and live the Gospel like I do, though until a few days ago I never had any statistical evidence that this belief of mine was anything more than just my gut feeling.
In the Fall 2011 issue of The Old Schoolhouse magazine, author Deborah Wuehler quotes some statistics from a study done on the results of homeschooling by Dr. Brian D. Ray, Ph.D., of the National Home Education Research Institute (www.nheri.org). In her article, The Ordinary Homeschooler, she says,
“The study showed that of those who were homeschooled, 93% continue to attend church, and 94% strongly agreed with this statement: ‘My religious beliefs are basically the same as those of my parents.’ This is in contrast to the 75% to 85% of public-educated Christian youth who renounce their faith and/or quit going to church within two years after high school graduation.”
What a dramatic contrast! In my opinion, those numbers say a lot. They made me feel validated as well as strengthened.
I wondered, though, what a similar study among the LDS population would show. I thought to myself, “Surely our retention rate among our youth is higher than 15-25%. We as a people are so committed to our religion and we try so hard to teach our youth. There are so many good parents who try so hard to counteract the poisons of the world with things like Family Home Evening and family scripture and prayer. We have the seminary program, the Scouting program, and all the different youth activities like Youth Conference which caring leaders spend untold hours putting together. Most LDS parents I talk to seem to think that these measures are enough and that homeschooling is unnecessarily extreme. I know we lose quite a few youth but surely not that many.”
The day after I read that article we had Ward Conference where we got to hear from our stake president in Sacrament Meeting. And he said something that absolutely floored me, especially with all this fresh on my mind. He told us that in our stake here in Oklahoma only one in ten young men who reach mission age are going on missions. I was heartsick. This is the goal we are all working toward—what all of us parents want for our sons, what the Prophet has asked for from each young man, and one of the most important ends towards which all our programs for youth are geared, and we, at least in our stake, have a ninety percent failure rate! How incredibly sad!
Our stake president pled with the congregation, especially the parents, to do everything in their power to strengthen our youth and teach our children the Gospel. He then read a compelling list of blessings that come from faithful missionary service—ways in which it strengthens and empowers a young man and enables him for the rest of his life to be a blessing to his wife and children, his community, the church, and his posterity down through the generations.
President, I will do everything in my power. For me, that means I am homeschooling my children. I am simply not willing to risk my children in a system which has a ninety percent failure rate. If having my sons serve full-time missions is my goal, how can anyone call me extreme when I am choosing a course for my children which has a proven record of high faith retention?
I couldn’t help but think of the line I often hear about how we need to send our children to school so that they can be a positive example to their peers. There is no doubt that our LDS youth do good out there in the public schools. But how much more good can they do as full-time missionaries both on their mission and after their mission for their family, community, and the church? And if they could do both that would be great, but according to my stake president that’s just not happening ninety percent of the time. And while I’m sure public school isn’t the only factor in the equation, it is clear that it is a big part of it. So, sure, I may be keeping my children from a small amount of positive influence they could have in the school by keeping them home. But I am strengthening them and preparing them to be a much larger force for good as they fully partake of all the blessings of the Gospel and share them with the world.

Sarah (Birrd) recently moved with her pilot husband (Badger) and their five children to the Oklahoma countryside where they have finally realized their dream of getting back to the land. Sarah earned a Geography degree from BYU and, to paraphrase Marjorie Hinckley, regards the world as her pumpkin: full of magic and wonder. She loves chicken fajitas, blue and white china, Beethoven, and autumn leaves. Read more of her adventures at Tales from Toad Hall.

6 comments - Add a comment below -:

Anaise said...

When I was first committed to homeschooling [when my oldest was 3] after much research and prayer, my Relief Society president at the time announced from the pulpit that we have a responsibility to put our children in public school so that we can establish friendships in the community and so our children can be examples--just like you mentioned in your post. I scurried back to my research and prayer, thinking that perhaps I was wrong. I received exactly the same answer that my children need to be home with me. Perhaps her strong opinion was her special answer for her family.

I am saddened by the statisics you quoted, and I know there are no guarantees about what my children will one day choose, but I am so prayerfully hopeful that my children will choose the Lord and His goodness.

Dana ♥ said...

When I was a youth (20 years ago-ish) my Bishop said that 50% of us at the time would not be active as adults. We scoffed at that idea. But it is totally accurate! That was over 20 years ago! Satan has indeed grown stronger and more clever over the past two decades. Thanks for this post! And WELCOME to the crew!

Erica said...

Thank you for this wonderful post!

Mindy said...

This topic has been on my mind as of late and I was grateful for the validation the statistics gave me. Thank you for sharing your discoveries with us!

my little kingdom said...

Thank you for sharing this as I have been contemplating (struggling with) wether or not to put my children into public school for high school. I don't think finding your article at 4a.m. last night was an accident.

Andrea said...

Wow! Those numbers surprise me a little, although I guess they shouldn't...I know lots of youth who have left the church. If homeschooling my kids will help them stay active in the church, then I'm definitely sticking with it.