Sam Sorbo, author of They’re Your Kids, joins the “She Thinks” podcast this week to talk about school choice and her family’s experience homeschooling three children. As the majority of kids head back to school, it’s an important time to champion what we at IWF believe about school choice: educational freedom isn’t suited only for a subset of children, but for all children in all zip codes. The reality is that while 85% of parents send their children to a public school, only 1/3 would choose that option if they had the ability to go elsewhere.
Sam Sorbo is an American actress, author, and talk radio host. She played Serena on the television series Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and hosts the weekday, syndicated radio program, The Sam Sorbo Show. She is married to actor Kevin Sorbo, and they have three children together, whom they homeschooled.
Beverly: Welcome to She Thinks, a podcast where you're allowed to think for yourself. I'm your host, Beverly Hallberg. On today's episode we discuss an issue just in time for back to school, the topic of school choice. At IWF we believe that educational freedom isn't suited only for a subset of children but for all children in all zip codes, because the reality is that while 85% of parents send their children to a public school, only one-third would choose that option if they had the ability to go elsewhere. We have a great guest today to say that you do have that ability, that you can send your child to a school choice option. Her name is Sam Sorbo. She is the author of the Book, They're Your Kids. She joins us to talk about her family's experience in homeschooling three children.
But, a little background on her before we bring her on. Sam Sorbo is an American actress, author, and talk radio host. She played Serena on the television series Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, and hosts the weekday syndicated radio program, The Sam Sorbo Show. Sam, thank you so much for joining us today.
Sam Sorbo: Thanks so much for having me.
Beverly: I kind of want to start at the beginning of this. I do know a lot of people who homeschool their children. One of my sisters happens to homeschool her children, but I think everybody's journey to homeschooling is different. Was this something that you had planned to do, or was this just based on your seeing what the public education was like in your area that you decided that this was the best avenue for your children?
Sam Sorbo: Right. I never planned to homeschool. That was, basically, the furthest thing from my mind. I was educated in public school. They worked for me, even though I, basically, hated every minute when I was in the public school system. But, it only really occurred to me when my son was in second grade, and the school was really doing a very poor job, and we had moved to where we then lived because of the schools. I could really say, "Well, if this is the best that they can offer, I can do better." I could fail and do better, because that's what they were doing, they were failing. That's when I started to consider it. I did a bunch of research, and I went, "You know, I just want to try it for a semester. I'll just do it until Christmas and see how it goes." Then I was hooked, basically, not permanently because I did then when my kid was, let's see, it was about a year and a half later, I put him back into a very small Christian school, thinking that they could do a better job and get it done better, and that was wrong. So, I pulled him out again after six weeks, thankfully. Since then I have never looked back.
Beverly: Out of curiosity, how did your son adjust to it when you first made that change? Was He supportive of this? Was He happy he was gonna have a different schooling system, or was it a challenge?
Sam Sorbo: You know, I love that question because a lot of parents are like, "Oh my child isn't going to go for that. He won't like it. I don't know what to do." Parents, you're in charge. They're your kids, not the other way around. You need to set it up so that you don't get that backlash. So, basically, … Look, I support, to a certain extent, manipulation of the child, so I would say to my kid, "Gee, you know, when you get home from school, you have homework today. But if you were homeschooled, you wouldn't have any homework because you'd be done by 1:00." I would, basically … You point out the benefits of homeschooling. You downplay the, I say so called the "benefits" of going to a public school, like that's where all your friends are.
Sam Sorbo: Mind you, my son was super, super social, but at the same time the argument that the socialization of children needs to take place in a school is so faulty, because goodness knows that if you put a child in a room full of 30 other kids his age it's hit or miss whether he's actually going to make friends, or enemies. You just don't know. So often it turns out that your kid might not be the kid that is the leader of the pack, the guy who everybody loves. So, I set it up that my kids were so eager to start home education. I managed the conversation so that I was on the winning side, if you will. It wasn't an argument, but I just managed the conversation, because if you do your research you can make the argument for why home education is always basically a better choice, especially if you're the parent and you're choosing to do it.
Sam Sorbo: So, get a backbone and make that argument with your child and don't be afraid of the discussion. I would say have the discussion but understand the end goal and be convincing. You should be able to do that with a child, especially if your child's in elementary school.
Beverly: Well, in your book, They're Your Kids, which is, An Inspirational Journey from Self-Doubter to Home School Advocate, you talk about the quote that you hear a lot which is, "Because that's how I grew up." So, when you're talking to adults they think, well public education worked for me? There's almost a nostalgic feeling about the schoolroom in years past and public education. Was public education really ever that good or do we have kind of a rosy glasses appearance of how it was, or has it just dramatically gotten worse?
Sam Sorbo: So, I think it used to be pretty good and it's dramatically gotten worse. I think both of those statements are accurate. Our entire education system has undergone tremendous inflation, so that now we understand that parents could simply buy their child's way into an ivy league school without the grades to get there. That makes you wonder, "Well then what is an ivy league education worth in the long run?" So, there's that. There's also a huge influx of the socialist Marxist indoctrination that has happened in our public schools over the past 50 years, slowly at first, much more heavily and speedily recently. Common core certainly adds to that. But, if you look at the whole system, the system of school, of public school, is a socialized system. It's a socialist system. It's taking money from everybody and then funneling it to parents with kids, so it's a socialist system. Then, you take the children and you put them in a system where you're age grading, so the children are sorted according to age which teaches them that age is important. It teaches them ageism, they can't help it.
Sam Sorbo: Then when you compound that with the idea that, listen, you drop your kid off at school, you are tacitly informing the child you are not capable, the school is; therefore, the school has the authority. When that child comes home and says, "Daddy, Daddy, you have to sign this. Mommy, teacher says you have to sign this," for the school outing, or for the bake sale, or for the reading assignment, that the parent has to sign off on whatever, either the work that's been done or the permission slip, that parent actually comes under the authority of the school in the child's eyes, because the school says the parent has to do something and the parent complies, right?
Sam Sorbo: The whole system is geared against, basically it's geared against the family to a large degree, and it's geared towards the state. It is socialist inits very makeup and in its functioning. Then, you take the authority from the parents, the child goes home and has to do homework. The parent is then tasked being the taskmaster, "Hey you get your homework done, you get it done now. Don't make me come up there. You get back to work," all of those things, right? All of a sudden the relationship between the child and the parent is rent. So, the parent drops the child off at school for seven plus hours, eight hours a day, picks the child up, goes home, becomes the taskmaster for the child, and yet you're still hoping for like a really positive outcome for that relationship? Guess again.
Beverly: As I said at the top of the episode, if parents felt like they had a choice, only a third would choose the option to send their child to public education. I think so many parents out there, even some who are listening to this show, would say, "I agree with you, Sam. I'm on the same page as you, but I work full time. I don't have time, or I don't know where to start." By the way, for those listening, the Independent Women's Forum does have some really great resources on this if you check it out on iwf.org. There is a policy focus on what is school choice and a policy focus on charter schools, both by the Senior Policy Analyst at IWF, Inez Feltscher Stepman, so people can check out the information there.
Beverly: I also wanted to hear from you, Sam, where do people start? So if people are not in … I know you are in the home schooling side of this. Some people are interested in charter schools, but especially with homeschooling I think so many people, so many parents, love the idea but have no idea what their curriculum would be, would say, "I'm not a great teacher," or "I work full time." What do you tell parents who don't even know where to start?
Sam Sorbo:Well, there's so many … I mean, we're so lucky. in these times there are so many resources online. I certainly wouldn't go to the public school online option, because the public schools aren't teaching children what they need to know. They're not teaching children how to balance a checkbook. Look at the government, can't balance its own checkbook. Why do you expect the government to teach your child how to balance a checkbook? Look at our civics, youth growing up today don't know the first thing about how a bill gets made into law, what branches of the government, who is the third in charge if the president and vice president both demise somehow. Our students aren't being raised to understand that our government is for the people, by the people, and of the people, and the reason for that could quite simply be, well, the government is telling them, and the government doesn't want them to know that the power still resides with the people. It's not in the government's interest to teach civics. The public school system is innately flawed. That's number one.
Sam Sorbo: So, then you say, Well, if I take public school off the table, there are myriad options, right? The charter schools certainly, private schools, but you can also hire somebody to home educate your children, and you drive that. You design the curriculum, you pick the curriculum. For that you go online and you say, "What is a conservative curriculum that my child could be taught into?" I've actually had friends who they didn't want to homeschool so they hired … Instead of sending their child to the private school, they hired retired teachers, one for each child which actually turned out to be less than what it would cost them to send their child to the private school, and gave them the curriculum and said, "Okay, we're going to do, …" I can't remember what it was. "We're going to do a Thomas Jefferson curriculum. This is it. Go." They had a teacher in their house every day for each child from 9:00 to 1:00. It was, basically, a four-hour day.
Sam Sorbo: Your older students are going to have other homework to accomplish later in the day, but that includes reading, working on their own, working out the problems on their own. They don't need one on one instruction for eight hours a day. That's number one. You don't have to be instructing your child for eight hours a day. There are parents who say, "Well, I work full time and I can't afford all of that." There are parents out there who have co-op and they will educate your children for you for much less money than if you hire a full time teacher. Then, I just have to say we really need to evaluate our priorities, because the number of parents who come to me and say, "Sam, you wouldn't believe what my child is coming home with from college now," in terms of the indoctrination. I have to spend all of Thanksgiving break deprogramming them from this crap that they're learning at college. Part of me says to them, "And you're paying how much for the pleasure of having to do that?"
Sam Sorbo: I've had parents lose their children, literally, their children are lost to them, because their children are taught, basically, to hate the parents' values. That's where we are today, and that has now trickled down into the lower classrooms, the K-12 classrooms. This is actually something that should be high, high priority. You shouldn't say, "Well, because I can't really find anything better to do. I'll just send my child to public school." You should be thinking of, "How can I educate my child so that they don't go to public school?" There are lots of ways of getting that done. Really what we need in this nation is to rethink education. Because we all grew up in the system, we all went to public school, we all went for eight hours a day. We all changed classrooms at the sound of the bell. It's like Pavlovian. Our response is, "Well, we have to go, my child has to go to school." No, that is not the best way to learn, frankly.
Sam Sorbo: Most people WOULD agree with me that school was not the best way to learn whatever it was that they learned and, in fact, I think most people who are functioning in the world today will tell you that they are pursuing a career that really had very little to do with what they studied in school. It comes down to this, public school's motto, their mission as they say, basically, is college prep and career readiness. Well if the best that you hope for your child is that they get a job, then I suppose that's the place for you. But I don't hold out great hope for you and the relationship that you will have with your child when that child is an adult. If, however, you have higher aspirations for your child, if you value your child's happiness, if you want them to pursue something that excites them, that impassions them, then maybe we should be looking elsewhere for our education opportunity.
Beverly: I can even say personally, I was just with my eight-year-old nephew yesterday, was talking to him about going from public school to being homeschooled by my sister, who does work as well, but she teaches him in the morning and then does half day of work in the afternoon. I asked him personally, I said, "How has it been for you to switch?" He says, "I love it." He said he really enjoys homeschool. He gets to go to the aquarium, and he has a co-op. and he has a nature group, and so he socializes a lot. You were saying there are a lot of options for home schoolers these days when it comes to joining up with other homeschool groups so the socialization is still there.
Beverly: I think you also brought up the important point, this is about the relationship with the child with the family. I think so often families feel, even when they're looking for homes, feel like they have to move to a certain area just so their child gets a chance at a good education, because that's where the good school district is. So, they have to move to a certain area. Do you find that this frees up families in so many other ways when their zip code doesn't determine where their child goes to school?
Sam Sorbo: Well, personally we travel a great deal. My husband's working on sets all over the world, basically. So we're on planes a lot and that was partly the impetus that I had to start homeschooling myself. Yeah, I would say that a lot of families find that. There are a lot of families who homeschool because their child is deeply involved in a sport, for instance showing horses, or some kind of gymnastics, or swimming, or something, and so they just homeschool so that they can travel so that they can devote the hours. There is so much time that's wasted of the child's, right? It's the child's time, the child's in school, and there's so much of that time that's wasted not accomplishing schoolwork, between roll call and just everything else that's done that's not necessary. When you talk about your nephew and he gets to go and he gets to see his friends while he's out on a nature hike, …
Sam Sorbo: In fact ADD and ADHD has now been linked to or it's been linked up that spending time outdoors is actually very beneficial for a child who has ADD or ADHD. I can only imagine that that's because boys really shouldn't be cooped up in a classroom all day. That's more of a girl thing to sit at a desk all day. Boys need to be active, and oh goodness, perish the thought that boys are different than girls. Forgive me for even mentioning that.
Sam Sorbo: Here's the thing, that kind of mentality is rampant now in our schools. Do you want to have that argument with your child when they are nine that boys actually are different than girls, when your child is pushing on you that maybe they're a different gender than you thought when they were born, that kind of thing? Do you really want that coming into your home and having that discussion? I mean, we really need to start waking up to this.
Beverly: I'm curious, what has been the pushback against you and your husband? You're outspoken in your beliefs, yet you work in Hollywood and in the entertainment industry. What has the response been from people that are your colleagues in reference to your beliefs and what you talk about?
Sam Sorbo: Pretty much silence. People who agree with me are very vocal; people who don't, they're probably vocal on Twitter or somewhere on social media. I don't really see that. I'm sure that my views are not terribly appreciated, but we still live in a free country, and I have them. So far nobody's changed my mind. I'm certainly open to it, you know, but I speak the truth and until somebody convinces me that that's not the truth I'll continue speaking it.
Beverly: On that note, just kind of leaving off the school choice topic, any final words that you would like to give a parent or parents out there who are considering making the switch from public education to a school choice option, anything else, encouragement you would like to give to them on that front?
Sam Sorbo:Yes. So, school involves a lot of repetition. I had somebody come up to me and say, "My son's finishing up third grade, and I've decided that I'm going to homeschool him next year because it's just horrible the things that are happening in the classroom." There was some bullying stuff that they've apparently got under control, and there was some other stuff, and the child wasn't performing well because of various issues. They had like a month left in school, and I said to her, "What are you waiting for?" "Well, I'm just gonna let him finish out the year." "Why? Why are you gonna leave him in an environment that is hostile? At the minimum, it's not a friendly environment. He's not enjoying it. It's not good for him. He's not performing." You know what I mean? She looked at me like, "I never thought of that."
Sam Sorbo: Here's the thing. Every state is different. You have to check the laws. You don't want to be written up for truancy and have Child Protective Services come because goodness knows they're ready and anxious to crack down on home schoolers, because the homeschool community is showing up the schools, certainly nationally. I would say almost in every community the homeschool community is getting the job done. My advice is don't wait. So, go online, find a homeschool group, meet some homeschool people. We tend to be very friendly and inclusive, because we like to grow our ranks and because we understand that we have discovered the special sauce, we've discovered the way to get education done in love, to teach a child to enjoy education, to love learning, and become lifelong learners. That is the goal of the home education movement is to raise lifelong learners, so that when your child has to change careers at the age of 30 there's no problem because all they have to do is learn something new, and they don't have a problem with that because they're used to learning. They love learning. It's easy.
Sam Sorbo: That's my advice is don't wait. Start Your research, get your paperwork in order, figure out how to get it done in your state by talking to people, and going online, and all that. All the resources are right there at your fingertips. In fact, there's a great TED talk by, I think he's 12 years old, he's a physicist and he's 12 or 13, and he gives a TED talk about how he hacks his education. He just hacks it. So, if he wants to learn about quantum particles, he just goes online and finds YouTube videos, or whatever, on quantum particles.
Beverly: One of the things I love that you said earlier is that because of your job and your husband's job, you both are traveling a lot so this gives you the ability to travel with your kids, which I think brings up this point that you have a new project that's coming out that I just wanted you to share a little bit of information about. The Steamboat Institute Film Festival is featuring this new film that you had called Miracle In East Texas. Can you tell us all a little bit about the film?
Sam Sorbo: I'd love to. Miracle In East Texas, it's a tall tale inspired by an absolutely true story. It is based on the East Texas oil strike of 1930 that brought prosperity to East Texas in the most unusual way. It's about two scoundrels who are seducing elderly women into investing in their faulty oil wells. It's an amazing story. It is a lot of fun. The movie's a comedy. We don't take ourselves too seriously, of course. It stars my husband, John Ratzenberger, Lou Gossett, Jr. I'm also in the movie. There's Romance in the movie. We've been playing film festivals. We're excited about the Steamboat Institute's Film Festival. By the way, if they want to they can go to steamboatinstitute.org. We're excited about that.
Sam Sorbo: We've won Best Narrative Feature. We've won Best Romantic Comedy. We've won Best Family Film. It's great because it's not a film that you can absolutely pigeonhole. It's a family film. It is for the whole family. It's a lot of fun and very entertaining. I'm excited about the Steamboat Film Festival coming up. We're also going to be at the Liberty University Film Festival, and there are some other ones down the pike, as well.
Beverly: Well, Sam, thank you so much for not only sharing about your new film that's coming out, but also in giving so many parents out there information and hope if they're discouraged with the education that their children are receiving. So, thank you for your efforts on that front.
Sam Sorbo: Thank you. It was a pleasure speaking with you
Beverly: Thank you all for joining us. If you have more interest in the topic we discussed you can, of course, follow Sam Sorbo on Twitter, or you can find her at www.samsorbo.com also at mojofifty.com, that's mojofifty.com. You can find her radio show and that is live weekdays from 3:00-5:00 p.m. Eastern. Again, remember you can find out more information on school choice on IWS' website, so do check it out there. Last, if you enjoyed this episode of She Thinks do leave us a rating or a review on iTunes. It does help and we'd love it if you'd share this episode and let your friends know where they can find more She Thinks episodes. From all of us here at Independent Women's Forum. Thanks for listening.