This is the story that makes teachers unions cringe. This is the story that proves that depending on government is an error in judgment. This is the story that proves no matter what the question, the answer is more freedom, choice, individuality and personal responsibility. This is the personal story of my daughter Dakota Root.
Dakota has been home-schooled since birth. Since almost the day that Dakota was born, her mom and dad taught her to aim for the sky. We all dreamed of her acceptance at either Stanford or Harvard. For 18 years we talked about it, planned for it, and worked for it. "Homeschool to Harvard" is a story about turning dreams into reality. And it all happened right here in the Las Vegas Valley- without government, teachers unions or education bureaucrats involved. Imagine that?
While other kids spent their school days being indoctrinated to believe competition and winning are unimportant, Dakota was learning the value of work ethic, discipline, sacrifice and personal responsibility. While other kids were becoming experts at partying, Dakota and her dad debated current events at the dinner table. While other kids shopped and gossiped, Dakota was devouring books on science, math, history, literature, politics and business. While other kids came home to empty homes, Dakota’s mom, dad, or both were there every day to share meals, a bedtime kiss, and prayer with our four home-schooled kids.
While others were out experimenting with alcohol and drugs, Dakota was practicing the sport she loves with dedication, intensity and passion- fencing. The result? She became one of the elite junior fencers in America- winning the Pacific Coast Championship and representing the United States at World Cup events in Germany and Austria.
Was all the discipline and sacrifice worth it? A few days ago, Dakota achieved her lifelong dream. She was accepted at both Harvard and Stanford. She was also accepted at Columbia, Penn, Brown, Duke, Chicago, Cal-Berkeley, Virginia, USC and several more of the elite schools in America. She actually had the confidence to turn down an offer from the Yale fencing coach before she had gotten her other acceptances. The kid turned down Yale!
Here is the most amazing part of the story: The first classroom of Dakota's life will be inside the hallowed halls of Harvard. This fall she will fence for the Harvard team- one of America’s best. Out of 3 million high school seniors, only an elite 1% (30,000) of the best and brightest dared apply to Harvard. Virtually every one was #1 in their class, or a world-class scholar/athlete, or had perfect S.A.T. scores. Only 6.9% were accepted- the lowest acceptance rate in college history. To be accepted at one or two Ivy League colleges is rare- to all, an almost impossible feat!
At a time of educational free-fall, it is a remarkable story. With America’s public school system ranked at or near the bottom of the industrialized world (and Nevada near the bottom of that), with record dropout rates, violence, gangs, drugs, teen pregnancies, and the scandal of graduating high school seniors requiring remedial math and reading before starting at college, Dakota’s story offers hope. Dakota proves the American Dream is alive, if only we’d stop depending on government to save us.
Is Dakota's story unusual? Actually no. A recent study proved that home-schooled kids score almost twice as high on exams as public school students. Other studies prove that home-school kids score dramatically higher on SAT exams (Dakota scored multiple perfect 800 scores on her SAT's).
There is no one answer for education- our choice of home-schooling melded parental education with tutoring by hand-picked retired teachers and college professors, combined with a personally-chosen curriculum. That's called parental freedom. By the way, I respect and applaud teachers. I think most of them work hard, sacrifice and care for their students. Dakota owes her home-school success to several retired teachers who are like members of our family. Those same retired teachers are now teaching a new generation of my children- ages 2, 5 and 10.
But teachers unions and education bureaucrats are a far different story. Education in this country has deteriorated for decades under their leadership. Home-schooling worked for our family because we took the best of education- dedicated parents and professional educators, and eliminated the worst- no unions or government bureaucrats involved.
In the end, the power to decide how to best educate children belongs with the parents, not teachers unions or government. The way to force public schools to improve includes school choice; reducing the power of unions so that it's possible to fire under-performing teachers and reward superior ones; and offering vouchers on the state level to give parents the power (and money) to choose education alternatives. Competition works. If it’s good enough for Coke and Pepsi, why not public schools?
Education has been on a downhill spiral since the day that the government and unions took control. Dakota Root proves it doesn’t take a state certified teacher, or a teachers union, or a village to raise a child- what matters most is having two loving parents who give a damn. One home-schooled girl has driven a stake through the heart of the public school education monopoly. “Homeschool to Harvard” is a powerful story that every parent should be allowed to offer to their children.