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Sam Sorbo: Her Crusade to Empower Parents

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When it comes to education, Sam Sorbo doesnt pull any punches.

She is a homeschooling mother of three and tireless advocate for homeschooling, out on a mission to inspire and empower parents.

But 10 years ago, it was a different story.

Despite having studied biomedical engineering at Duke University, having traveled the world and experienced other cultures during her modeling career, and being able to speak five languages fluently, Sorbo felt inadequate to teach her second grader.

Shes far from alone in her fears. For a long time now, its been widely acknowledged that the public education system is failing our students. Parents, teachers, administrators, politicians, and the media all admit this freely, and have done so even more vocally once Common Core was implemented to disastrous effect. Yet, parents are under the illusion theyre unable to do anything about it when they actually hold all the cards.

“What is it about a child turning 5 or 6 that automatically invalidates the parent as the childs primary teacher?” Sorbo asked. Parents who see how well shes done with homeschooling tell her oh, but they could never do that.

“These are parents of young kids who are like, I cant, I dont know how,'” Sorbo said. “The reason they dont know how is because theyve been taught by the school system that they cant do anything that they havent been formally instructed in, by a teacher at a blackboard.”

Shes here to challenge those fears.

Sam Sorbo and Kevin Sorbo
Sam Sorbo and Kevin Sorbo
Sam Sorbo and Kevin Sorbo at the 34th annual Great Sports Legends Dinner, a benefit for the Buoniconti Fund to Cure Paralysis, in New York on Oct. 7, 2019. (Mike Coppola/Getty Images for The Buoniconti Fund To Cure Paralysis )

The Substitute Teacher

When parents sign up for public school, they drop their children off for almost eight hours a day to be taught by someone theyd never met until the day before classes start, but this is normal because this is what were used to.

Sorbo had dropped her oldest off at pre-school, despite the tears, and shed dropped her second off at pre-school a few years later, and felt guilty both times. Then she dropped them off at grade school, in the “good” school district where the family had moved to get into. It felt, as it does for most parents, that the childs education was now in the hands of the institution, as it should be.

But in reality, Sorbo was spending several hours a week volunteering at school. There were bake sales and fundraisers and buying markers and crayons for the classroom, being in the classroom as an assistant once a week, teaching art classes, and even cleaning.

And then once the kids were home, there are the hours of homework wrangling, after the children have already spent hours at school sitting in a desk, and are now tired and cranky and still dont understand the math worksheet, spending their precious few hours of quality time with their parents doing school work.

“This is a scam,” Sorbo said.

Of course, she didnt realize it at the time.

In fact, she spent years making excuses for the school and teachers, even as the evidence piled up.

One day, right by the beach, Sorbo had the horrible epiphany that she was in fact the substitute teacher. When she married her husband Kevin, known for his role in “Hercules” and the star of 50-plus films, she knew that for commitment to work they couldnt be a long-distance relationship, and the couple made the promise to never be apart for longer than two weeks. As a result, the family travels often, and so during the filming of “Soul Surfer,” Sorbo was making sure her sons were completing their worksheets before going out to play.

Her son was complaining that the worksheets werent even important, because the teacher often skipped them, and here she was forcing busywork on her children so the school could check a box and say work was done.

It took yet another event for her to make the decision to try homeschooling.

Her oldest had turned in five book reports by the middle of second grade, and it wasnt until February that Sorbo heard anything about them.

She was helping with clean-up after school one day when she asked the teacher, “Hey, how are Braedons book reports?”

“And without batting an eyelash she said, Oh, not very good, which I found shocking, because I never received anything back,” Sorbo said. She helped out often and spoke with the teacher two or three times every week, but this was the first time shed heard there was a problem.

“So I started to make excuses for her because I liked her, and I wanted to think well of her. And every excuse made her look worse,” Sorbo said.

After a lot of difficult deliberation, she decided to try homeschooling for just one semester. Kevin didnt exactly welcome the idea with open arms; hed had a public school upbringing, and great memories of it. Homeschooling is a vastly countercultural thing for most Americans.

But it was clear the school wasnt getting the job done, so they tried it for a semester.

“Id love to say that I never looked back, but that would be a lie,” Sorbo said.

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LTBL-Kate-and-boys
Shane Sorbo, Braeden Sorbo, and Sam Sorbo in the film “Let There Be Light.” Sam Sorbo co-wrote the screenplay. (Courtesy of Sam Sorbo)

Little Soldiers

In retrospect, her homeschooling had been a tremendous success, but she still carried that feeling of inadequacy. A year and a half later, she sent her two sons to a private school where their placement tests showed that Sorbos do-it-yourself education put them two grade levels ahead in some subjects. Unfortunately, that school let her down as well, when she came in for a parent-teacher meeting six weeks later and realized the school was almost entirely focused on training behavior, not excelling in academics.

“[The teacher] regaled me with how well-behaved my child was … he sits quietly, always raises his hands, he doesnt cause problems, he doesnt cause a ruckus, never interrupts,” Sorbo said. The teacher even proudly told her shed sat him next to a rowdier child in hopes that he would have a calming effect, and it worked.

In fact, it was the opposite of what Sorbo wanted to hear. “Id love to hear that he interrupted, because hes so eager to learn,” she said. And not a word about learning, until she asked, how were his academics? “Fine.” Just six weeks ago he had loved learning.

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“It was actually a wonderful experiment. Because after six weeks, I realized the school couldnt show me anything better than what I was doing. And once I had that realization, everything started to unravel,” Sorbo said.

“I was convinced then, that not only was I adequate, I was, in fact, uniquely gifted to be the educator for my children,” Sorbo said. “That was extraordinarily empowering.”

The following Monday, she went back to homeschooling—but it wasnt easy.

“My middle child, who was a math wizard … I put math in front of him and said, Lets do this. And he started to cry and said No, Mommy, I cant do it. Its too hard, I cant do it,” Sorbo said.

“Ill tell you something—my heart broke,” Sorbo said. Her son Shane is like her in many ways, she said, they both love math. “They somehow had ruined math for him.”

She put it aside, heartbroken, and they worked on other things while they took a week off math. And when they approached it again, she went back to chapters that would have already been taught in school and retaught it to him.

Sam Sorbo and Kevin Sorbo in Miracle in East Texas
Sam Sorbo and Kevin Sorbo in Miracle in East Texas
Sam Sorbo and Kevin Sorbo in “Miracle in East Texas.” (Courtesy of Sam Sorbo)

“And he did it and loved it and it all worked out. But I think that the message is that we are so brainwashed. We put our kids in the system, we do not understand the sacrifice that we are making by doing this,” Sorbo said.

Even though we know the schools are failing, we cant bring ourselves to action, and Sorbo says this is because weve been trained not to blame the schools.

“We buy into this idea that the school is responsible for educating the children, but thats not actually the case,” Sorbo said. “And in court cases, where parents have sued [the schools for not teaching their child to read], parents have lost every lawsuit because ultimately its the parents responsibility.”

Once Sorbo began homeschooling, she started documenting the journey, and a few years in she published the book “Theyre Your Kids: A Personal Journey from Self-Doubter to Home School Advocate.” The first half sounds the alarm to parents, detailing what they need to wake up to, and the second half is the nuts and bolts of her own experience with plenty of advice for parents considering homeschool.

In it, she illustrates that with the public system, “The bar is really low, and you, with your child, can step over it easily.”

Nine-year-olds taking trigonometry, 13-year-olds whizzing through physics—these are common cases amongst homeschoolers, where students typically outperform public students by at least 30 percent.

One of the quotes she leads with is a snippet from a book by Bertrand Russell, who influenced the entire public school movement. Russell quotes a German philosopher in his work, saying, “Education should aim at destroying free will so that after pupils are thus schooled they will be incapable throughout the rest of their lives of thinking or acting otherwise than as their schoolmaster would have wished.” It continues, describing the amount of power a government would amass after just a generation or two of “public school.” Weve borrowed from the Prussian system, which was designed to create little soldiers, ready to obey.

“They are behavior modification centers,” she said.

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Sam Sorbo and Kevin Sorbo in “Let There Be Light.” (Courtesy of Sam Sorbo)

Radicals and Rebels

Sorbo has three teenagers, and often when she tells people this they give her a look of understanding. Three teenagers? Sounds tough, they say.

Its the opposite.

“Its fantastic,” Sorbo said. “My authority at home is not challenged. I dont have arguments with my children. We have a very even-keeled relationship. They know me, I know them, and we work things out.”

After meeting her children, other parents marvel at how well-behaved they are, and Sorbo says this isnt by chance or accident.

Academics aside, she has another big reason you should homeschool: Consider your relationship with your child.

“We are absolutely sacrificing our relationship with our child. You cant tell me your relationship doesnt suffer,” Sorbo said. “If you drop your child off at school every day, and the teacher is telling them things that may or may not agree with the things that youre saying at home, and the teacher has them for seven and a half hours a day. And you have them for, whats left over, three hours? And do you see your child even three hours a day at that point? How can you hope to have the relationship?”

Teenagers have a reputation for disagreeing with their parents, and Sorbo says thats only to be expected if you drop off your kids so that others can deal with them. Kids will also read it as rejection, even if they never voice that.

The problem is compounded: Public school by design doesnt have the childrens best developmental interest at heart, and in recent years they have declined. Parents might remember a good experience with public school, and they arent all wrong. But many schools have since become worse.

In her book, she writes: “They hustle their kids into the wolves den and wonder why their children return home behaving like wild animals.”

Instead of morals, schools also teach moral relativity.

Premiere Of Walt Disney Pictures' "Tinker Bell" Blu-Ray & DVD
Premiere Of Walt Disney Pictures' "Tinker Bell" Blu-Ray & DVD
Kevin Sorbo, Sam Sorbo, and their children at the premiere of “Tinker Bell” at the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood, Calif., on Oct. 19, 2008. (Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)

“We dont teach morality in schools. How can we hope to have a moral public if we dont teach morality? I dont know,” she said. “Its disastrous, what were accomplishing … what they are teaching in school systems today is tantamount to child abuse.”

“And we are so incapable of calling it out and saying No, were going to do something about it. Its discouraging to me, but thats sort of my crusade now. Its not just homeschooling—we need to revamp our schools, and we need to change the way we think about education,” Sorbo said.

Sorbo never thought she was a rebel until just the last few years. She was the anxious straight-A student in high school. She was a calculus tutor in college. Even during her modeling career she was known by the crew as the “good girl.”

It wasnt until she stepped into homeschooling advocacy that she realized she could be considered an anti-establishment radical, but in reality, homeschooling iRead More – Source