Chat about home schooling

May 14, 2007

This chat has already taken place. Read the transcript below.

Cathy Barfield

Cathy Barfield, a home school mother and co-founder of Teaching Effective Academics in Christian Homes, answered questions from readers about home schooling. The chat is part of the "Learning Outside the Lines" series by the Lawrence Journal-World, 6News and <a href="">See the entire series</a>.


Hi, everybody. Cathy Barfield, one of the co-coordinators of TEACH (Teaching Effective Academics in Christian Homes), is here to answer your questions about home schooling. This is part of our series, "Learning Outside the Lines: Home Schooling in Kansas," which kicked off in the Journal-World on Sunday and runs through Thursday. You can read all the stories and see the multimedia content at


I'm Terry Rombeck, a features reporter here, and I'll be moderating today's chat. To read more about Cathy's background with home schooling, you can read an essay she wrote about her experiences at

Cathy Barfield:



First off, what are some factors families should consider when they're trying to decide if they want to home school?

Cathy Barfield:

It's a time commitment. You have to realize it takes time to pick out the books, to actually sit down with the kids, to grade the work. It's not something to take lightly. When we first started out, we did it one year at a time. It didn't take long before we realized we were going to do it all the way. It's a lot easier to start when they're in the younger grades than when they're in the older grades. It's not impossible to start in the older grades. It'll take more research. When you home school, you're kind of losing a second income if you're a two-income family. Some home-schoolers will continue to work, and sometimes they work from home. Most home-schoolers I know are a single-income family, so there is a financial cost to it.

Cathy Barfield:

It works the best that you've got support from your husband. There are single parents actually home-schooling. Single parents can home-school. It's more of a challenge. It's nice to have another person to feed off of and support you. There are good days and bad days. You both have to be for it for it to work well.


You mentioned the curriculum, and the time it takes to sort through books and choose them. How does someone go about that?

Cathy Barfield:

That is the most overwhelming thing about home schooling, the decision of what to use. There are a few books out there that critique major home school cirriculums. There's one my Mary Pride and another by Cathy Duffy. They can't do all the cirruculum, but they take the most popular and critique them. When I think of books to use or curruculum, I look at those first. I like to go to home-school conventions. There's one in Kansas City and another in Wichita. Those curriculum guides help me narrow it down sowhen I go to those conventions, I can look those curriculum up and look at them.


Do you feel there is an age level (such as high school, when curricula might feature chemistry or physics) where children need instructors with a strong academic background in a subject?

Cathy Barfield:

When they get up to especially high school, they are self-taught. There's many curriculums out there that is written to the student. Even if the parent doesn't have a background in something, there's more and more curriculum that's written for the student. The students are more self-taught, so the parent is taking more of a back seat role and a facilitator. There are times I don't know the answer and look for someone to help -- acquaintances I know who have a background in that area. Usually, the kids don't have trouble doing the material, but it's nice to have somebody in the community you can bounce things off of and ask.


Cathy - Many Christian homeschoolers I know, use as their basis for homeschooling the observation that the Bible gives primary responsibility to parents to educate their children. Most use [Proverbs 22:6 - Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it]; and [Ephesians 6:4 - Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.] as the biblical example. I am aware that there are other examples that can be extracted from various stories and passages in other areas of the Bible as well.

While I do not support homeschooling for my own situation, I do believe that advances have been made from the aspect of "association membership" which allow for better student social interaction and options for sports, fine arts, etc. I also think that instruction at home is critical to enhance and balance the academic experience kids have in public (or private) school settings.

Can you offer comment on your thoughts about what you think the Bible says regarding the removal of Christians out of the classroom - be it teachers or students? What happens when there is no more (or far less) salt and light in the public school?

Cathy Barfield:

I don't think that happens until the child is older. The child needs time to develop their self-esteem and time to mature before they can be a "light," to know what they believe and why they believe. I know interaction with others can help with that, but for a really young child it can be devastating to be in a situation you don't know. It's different with different kids -- some mature faster than others. Even the kids are limited for what they can say in a public school classroom.


What ramifications might there be as far as a potential college is concerned with home schooling? There would be no grades for them to look at. Does this place the child at a disadvantage to other students or are there other things that colleges look at?

Cathy Barfield:

The two primary things colleges look at are the transcript and the ACT or SAT. Most home-schoolers do well on the ACT and SAT, and I think colleges really look at the ACTs and SATs more than the transcript. The transcripts just validate the SAT or ACT. There are times when you may have a student who is not a good test-taker. They don't do as well on the ACT or SAT; they will look at the transcripts. Of course, they need to get the same number as public school kids to enter in, but sometimes they will allow you in as an exception. They allow you in based on the 10 percent exception law. We haven't had any problem entering our girls into college, and we've had two actually graduating, and my last one is entering this fall. There might be a college not familiar with home-schoolers, and then you might need to address the director of admissions and sit down and talk with them.


Have the recent allegations (6-10% of students abused according to a recent federal study) about sexual abuse in public schools resulted in an increase in homeschooling?

Cathy Barfield:

I haven't run into that, talking with other moms and people who talk to me about home schooling.


Especially at the junior high and high school levels, science courses become dependent on laboratory exercises to illustrate and demonstrate the material. Without access to labs, how do you combat the disadvantage the child will face in the chemistry, biology, and physics fields?

Cathy Barfield:

There are curriculum out there that do a good job with labs. They'll have video, they'll have equipment you can easily purchase that you can do at home. Some of the curriculum, you can talk to the author if you have a question and you're doing a lab at home. That intimidates a lot of people, and that's why at TEACH, we've had sciences offered for a group. This year we have biology and advanced biology, and next year we'll have eighth-grade physical science, biology, chemistry and physics, all taught by home school parents.


A followup to the previous question as well:

When an advanced child surpasses the parent in knowledge of a particular field, say, calculus, who does he or she turn to for questions? For that matter, how can a parent select a textbook and resource materials for a field in which he or she is not well-versed?

Cathy Barfield:

There are online classes students can take. They can enroll in a community college. With the K-10 connector now, they can take the bus from Lawrence to Johnson County to take the class easily. KU itself does offer classes for high school students.


Don't forget that for most college admissions, the homeschooled student must complete the GED. Have any of your homeschool associations thought about trying to change that statute regarding recognized high school graduation?

Cathy Barfield:

Home-schoolers are entered in through the 10 percent exception rule for Regents schools, so they don't have to take the GED. It might be if they're a poor-test-taker with the ACT or SAT, they might want them to take the GED, but I haven't heard of that.


In humanities, political science, and philosophy courses in public *and private schools*, children are encouraged to engage others, who often share widely differing views, in intellectual debate. Do homeschoolers get this kind of opportunity as well? What opportunities are there for socialization in a structured setting?

Cathy Barfield:

The best is to be in a co-op, where you can exchange ideas like that. There was a disadvantage with my third child, where I had to find other children for her to talk with. At least find another family or two that have children that age, so they can sit together and talk. If you take online classes, they have chat rooms for classes.


Do you teach evolution to your students?

Cathy Barfield:

I don't avoid that topic. We do talk about evolution. As a Christian, I do have a biblical world view about that, and I will teach that. We do talk about what an evolutionist's views are in science. That's something we do talk about. I think my girls were very comfortable going into a college class, knowing what evolution was. We did both sides in our home school.


That's all the time we have for today's chat. Thanks, Cathy, for coming in today.

Cathy Barfield:



Again, our series will continue in the Journal-World with stories Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Or you can read it all online at the above link.


clyde_never_barks 10 years, 10 months ago

Many homeschooling folks I know do so in part because they seek to shelter their children from certain outside influences. What has been interesting, at least from my observation, is that I have been told first had, or have witnessed personally, things occur from the outside that shatter that bubble these people attempt to place around themselves. I have even seen it occur in the church - a place you would think might be safe. I guess my point is, if you are to be a responsible parent, there is a component of education that must come from the home as well as from the public/private school perspective. You will have to answer the questions anyhow. On an economy of scale, a 6 year old is just as innocent as an eleven year old.

If you think homeschooling is good for your situation - well, good for you. However, I believe that you are shortchanging your child in the long-run. I know many homeschooled products and for the most part they have grown up to have what I would consider normally adjusted lives...about the same as the majority of people I know who were traditionally schooled.

Christian homeschoolers who say that it is their biblical repsonsibility to educate their children may have a point...but when you start picking and choosing what text/curriculum you use based on what parts of history/science/current events are used and not used to conform to your more narrow view, I think you toy with fire. It goes back to my earlier statement - parents have the responsibility to balance the education at home. To me that means, if you do not agree with the way evolution is taught at public school, you supplement that at home. Similarly Bible study would be conducted at home, but not in school (and perhaps there should be historical biblical inclusion in schools - separation of church and state does not mean you do not talk about church and state).

I guess as a closing statement. I think most people would view homeschooling as extremism. Anytime you become a zealot on the far end of an issue, it becomes dangerous.

trombeck 10 years, 10 months ago

As an addendum to the chat...

Someone asked a follow-up question about the 10 percent "exceptions" window cited in the chat, referring to Kansas Board of Regents admissions policies.

The short version is this: Those admitted to regents schools must qualify in one of four ways: 1. have a 21 or better on the ACT. 2. Rank in the top third of their high-school graduating class. 3. Complete the state's pre-college curriculum with at least a 2.0 GPA. or 4. Complete 24 credit hours with a GPA of 2.0 or better at a community college or non-regents university.

For those who don't meet those criteria, universities are allowed to admit up to 10 percent of their incoming class as "exceptions." If you're interested, you can learn more at

Thanks, Terry Rombeck

heysoos 10 years, 10 months ago

Wow. I'm glad she's not teaching my kids English.

yourworstnightmare 10 years, 10 months ago

Unfortunately, Mrs. Barfield confirmed the suspicion that christian homeschoolers teach religious dogma instead of rigorous subject matter.

The fact is that she considers evolution a "view within science". Wrong. Evolution IS science. There is no opposing view in science. Creationism is not science.

Mrs. Barfield said: "As a Christian, I do have a biblical world view about that, and I will teach that." -She will teach creationism masked as science.

"We do talk about what an evolutionist's views are in science." -What is an "evolutionist". Does she mean a scientist? Also, evolution is science. There are not opposing views about evolution in science. Only in religious dogma.

I am afraid that homeschoooling is just a convenient way to instill philosophical and religious dogma into children, bypassing the rigorous studies and analysis of classroom education.

Isaac McPheeters 10 years, 10 months ago

Someone made the comment about teaching English. Perhaps I can add something to that.

Mrs. Barfield's daughter and I both took a class together as home schoolers. A local English professor offered to teach an English class to a group of home schoolers. How many public schooled students have had a class taught by a college English professor?

Also, to Nightmare. Never mind the fact that Mrs. Barfield has has graduated with a degree in biology, and as far as I know, you have not (though if you have, please let me know). You might be surprised to find how much rigorous study there is in science from a Biblical world view. Keep in mind that we don't have different science from the evolutionists. We both believe in natural selection. We both believe in Mendelian genetics. We both believe in micro-evolution. Where we differ is in how we got here, and also, you seem to treat evolution as a proven fact. Prof. Craig Martin who is head of the evolutionary biology department at KU, clarifies in class that macro-evolution is a theory that cannot be proven. Make no mistake, he believes it's true, but he you can't give it the same standing in science as photosynthesis. Oh, and I might add that KU gave me much less rigorous analysis of evolution than my home school education did.

erod0723 10 years, 9 months ago

I have a feeling that the type of people that subject their children to homeschooling were the type of people that were bullied in school growing up. They felt traumatized and are therefore are making their children suffer for this. Also, this is a good way for so called "Christian families" to indoctrinate their children into Jesus. Traditional schooling provides children with better opportunities to grow as a person, outside of their parent's influence. A person must be allowed to grow as a person on their own, or else risk ignorance. I guess this is the only way that the extreme right loonies can keep forcing their outdated and sometimes idiotic value system upon people. Get a life, let your kids go. Your children won't become satanists or murderers in school. Even if the children do become indoctrined to love Lucifer, so what? Isn't life about free will? Sooner or later, the kids will become exposed to the "evils of the world." Waiting until the kids go to college is harmful for everyone involved.

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