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Teachers, not location, are key

Mention public education vs. home schooling in any company, and an earful is bound to follow. Recently, literature promoting home-based education while being critical of public schools has drawn condemnation from State Superintendent for Public Instruction Scott Bean. He said it was inaccurate.

Those most passionate for and against each educational approach are usually deeply concerned about children, though bias and self-interest sometimes cloud their arguments.The fact is teacher competency does far more than educational location to determine the quality of a child's learning experience. Sweeping statements that public or home schools are "best" are fallacious. Plenty of excellent, good, fair and poor educators and experiences exist in each setting. Positive and negative socialization occurs within homes as well as schools.

There are unique individual and family circumstances that may make one approach better than the other for different people at different times. Some youths are taught at home but participate in school music groups or on athletic teams.

One size does not fit all.

This year's National Spelling Bee included 17 home-schooled students of 200 participants. That is not an argument for or against home schooling. It may mean those 200 had dedicated teachers, but perhaps in some instances teachers had nothing to do with success, and committed parents were the key. Several students may have prepared well on their own without any support. Others may have had apathetic parents but splendid teachers who motivated them to new heights in spite of unsupportive family circumstances.

Proponents of home schooling could point to the 17 of 200 figure as evidence that - considering the small overall ratio of home-schooled to public students - these youngsters do comparatively better then their counterparts. Public school supporters could interpret the same figure as meaning an overwhelming 183 of 200 finalists were products of a public education, though some of those contestants undoubtedly came from private schools.

The point is that educational statistics, like test scores, indicate general trends and tendencies but are often far from conclusive. While some aspects of learning may be quantified, many elements are subjective and not clearcut.

What is certain is that skilled, motivated parents and teachers tend to produce accomplished students with a lifelong love of learning - in any setting.