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The EdFly Blog

There’s no place like home for this school

The EdFly Blog

We spent Christmas in the winter wonderland of Maine, visiting my brother’s family. While there, I decided to check out the best K-8 school in the state.

So I walked upstairs.

The classroom was a bit disheveled, with sleeping bags on the floor and a couple board games scattered about. But you can’t judge quality by appearances.

So far all the school’s graduates have gone on to excel in high school and attend college. One scored a 1590 on the reading and math portions of the SAT and earned a free ride to Georgetown. Another is about to graduate from Boston College.

They all had the same teacher. She is not certified. She never went to a college of education. She has a two-year degree. None of her students are in the same grade, so she has to differentiate for each of them.

The teacher is my sister-in-law, Nancy. Her students are/were her nine kids.

None of them believes the earth is 6,000 years old.

They all have wonderful social skills.

Their coursework is orders of magnitude more difficult than the local public schools.

The 11-year-old slaughters me in chess.

I used to consider home schooling a fringe movement — strange people raising strange kids. Watching Nancy in action for many years has changed that outlook. My brother and Nancy’s only agenda is giving their kids a first-rate education, something the local public school did not do.

There are no discipline problems in Nancy’s classroom.

The students are never bored.

Nancy doggedly researches curriculum. She aligns her standards with those of a very rigorous, college preparatory high school where the kids go beginning in 9th grade. They have no problem making the adjustment.

You don’t have to be a teacher to be a great teacher.

This isn’t an argument for home schooling. I am satisfied with our local public schools and have no interest in it, particularly since my kids know they are smarter than me.

This is an argument against stereotyping home schooling. It is a very credible option for motivated parents.

In a 2011 resolution, the National Education Association stated that “home schooling programs based on parental choice cannot provide the student with a comprehensive education experience.’’

That amuses me to no end. I would like to see those kids who are getting more of a comprehensive education experience than my nieces and nephews.

About the author

Mike Thomas @MikeThomasTweet

Mike Thomas serves in the communications department, writing editorials and speeches. Prior to joining the Foundation, Mike worked for more than 30 years as a journalist with Florida Today and the Orlando Sentinel. He has written investigative projects, magazine feature stories, humor pieces, editorials and local columns. He won several state and national awards, and was named a finalist in the American Society of New Editors’ Distinguished Writing Award for Commentary/Column Writing in 2010. As a columnist for the Orlando Sentinel, he wrote extensively about education reform, becoming one of its chief advocates in the Florida media. Mike graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in political science and journalism. His wife is a teacher and he has two children in public schools. Contact Mike at

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