Wayne Root: ‘HOMESCHOOL TO HARVARD: A Remarkable Education Story!’

By Wayne Allyn Root – 2008 Libertarian Vice Presidential Nominee and Homeschool Dad

This is the story the teachers unions wish never happened. This is the story that proves all their hysterical demands for more money are nothing but a sham. This is the story that makes the unions and education bureaucrats sick to their stomachs. This is the personal story of my daughter Dakota Root.

In each of the books I’ve written, I’ve taken great care to acknowledge my beautiful and brilliant little girl, Dakota. I often noted that Dakota and her parents were aiming for her acceptance at either Harvard or Stanford and would accept nothing less. The easy part is aiming for gold. The hard part is achieving it. “Homeschool to Harvard” is a story about turning dreams into reality.

Dakota has been home-schooled since birth. While other kids spent their school days being indoctrinated to believe competition and winning are unimportant, and that others are to blame for their shortcomings and failures, 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. I often traveled to business events and political speeches with my home-schooled daughter in tow. While other kids came home to empty homes, Dakota’s mom, dad, or both were there every day to share meals and a bedtime kiss and prayer. Despite a crazy schedule of business and politics, I’m proud to report that I’ve missed very few bedtime kisses with my four home-schooled kids.

While others were out learning to drive using courses like a Defensive Driving Course so they could attend more parties, or 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 Root achieved her lifelong dream. She was accepted at both Harvard and Stanford. She was also accepted at Columbia, Penn, Brown, Duke, Chicago, Cal-Berkeley, USC and several more of the elite schools in America, an unheard of record for a home-school kid. 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. Only an elite 1% (30,000) of the best of the best high school seniors 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. Out of 3 million high school seniors headed to college, and those 30,000 applicants, only 1500 or so will attend Harvard. That is 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, grade inflation, 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.

There is no one answer for education- our choice of homeschooling melded parental education with tutoring by hand-picked retired teachers and college professors, combined with a personally-chosen curriculum which began from an early age with simple things like learning while singing. It’s called parental freedom. The power to decide how to best educate children belongs with the parents, not teachers unions. School choice, encouraging competition for our failing public school system, and offering vouchers on the state level to give parents the power (and money) to choose among charter schools, private schools, parochial schools or home-schooling is the way to force public schools to improve. Competition works. If it’s good enough for Coke and Pepsi, why not public schools?

The sad reality is that teachers unions and government aren’t the solution – they are the problem. Our public schools get worse every year, yet teachers unions demand more and more money. They get their money, it gets worse yet, and they demand even MORE. That is the definition of insanity. This is “Groundhog Day.” It isn’t working- and hasn’t since the day that government took over education in this country.

Dakota Root proves it doesn’t take a state certified teacher, or a teachers union, or a village to raise a child- it only takes two loving parents who give a damn. One home-schooled girl has driven a stake through the heart of the public school education sham. “Homeschool to Harvard” is a powerful story that every parent should be allowed to offer their children.


Wayne Root’s Website:

16 thoughts on “Wayne Root: ‘HOMESCHOOL TO HARVARD: A Remarkable Education Story!’

  1. Chrissy

    As a homeschooling parent, I am thrilled to hear about your daughter achieving so much. Congrats to her and her family! However, I have to disagree with your feelings on teachers and unions. As much as our school systems are failing and I would love to see all parents taking an active initiative in their children’s education, the truth is that so many people are not living up to this hope. Many parents require the child care schools provide because they are financially unable to stay at home. If the parents never had the opportunity or support to go to college, sadly, they may be required to work long hours for little pay and thus may not be able to take such an active role in their children’s education. In all the reading I’ve done in support of homeschooling, one of the biggest arguments I keep seeing is the argument that a child’s family is the biggest indicator of his/her success. Unfortunately, the family needs to have the financial ability and the personal initiative to get there. I personally would rather see more government spending and/or regulation funneled towards helping FAMILIES (so they can in turn help their own children) and less towards expanding on public education (so no year-long 8am-5pm schools!). However, this returns to my feelings on supporting teachers. As long as public education is here to stay, teachers (who work hard within a system that is going in the wrong direction in my opinion) need to make a living wage. Believe me, even as a homeschooling parent, I know many teachers and see them work 8-4, then come home with hours of work every night and many of them are also unhappy with the way the system is requiring them to work. However, these teachers also have families and how could we expect a high school teacher to support his wife and 4 kids on a salary of $30,000, especially when many also have student loans to pay off? If we ensured that every human being was capable through hard work (notice I’m not saying through sitting around) of earning enough to support a spouse and a few kids, then perhaps more families would choose homeschooling. They would be able to take family trips to educate their children, buy books and educational material, and sign their kids up for lessons. I have a college degree and my husband has his doctorate and it is still difficult for us to have me at home. We had a lot of financial support and still can’t afford cable. I can’t imagine how it would be had my husband not had the financial support and encouragement to continue his studies and pursue a high level of education. We don’t need to make it so everyone can drive a brand new car, live in 2000+ sq ft house, or own all new name brand clothing. Frugality is a virtue. We just need to allow people to make living wages so they CAN focus more on their family and less on their work and financial difficulties.

  2. Steve

    Way to go Dakota! The freedom movement is growing, but we’re still a small group, so when one of our own achieves at the highest level, everyone in the “family” can feel proud. Plus Dakota doesn’t come with the Republican baggage of her father. Is it too early to start drafting her for President in 2040?

  3. Mik Robertson

    @2 “We just need to allow people to make living wages so they CAN focus more on their family and less on their work and financial difficulties.”

    I agree. A lot of people disagree on how to do that, though. I have talked to a lot of people who don’t need government intervention for themselves, but the other folks down the street sure need it for one reason or another.

  4. Reality Check

    Congratulations to Dakota Root!

    Chrissy, first off, teachers’ starting salaries in the US are above $30,000 per year in every state. Average pay levels for teachers are over $60,000 in numerous states. Teachers are NOT underpaid.

    As far as the ability to homeschool, if we would just repeal all taxes on income and property in the US, and replace all current taxes with a flat 10% tax on sales, nearly every family could afford to have one parent stay home full time to take care of the kids, homeschool them, or at least assist in and encourage their education.

    Mr. Root, athough US public education is horrible and getting worse as a direct result of its being run by the government, in reality the government schools in many industrialized countries are even worse. They only score higher on the world tests because they have an organized system of cheating to make themselves look better.

    Government schools have failed everywhere. They should all be privatized. The government should be prohibited from making any laws regarding the establishment or regulation of education.

  5. James Oaksun

    As I told Wayne last Saturday night, it is a wonderful achievement and if he is kvelling over it, it is well justified. My daughter is a year younger and just now starting to look at colleges. Kudos to Dakota and the family as well.

  6. Solomon Drek

    So what? I’d actually be more impressed by the street kid with ten siblings raised by his grandmother on AFDC and food stamps who went to public school and became a successful, productive member of society even if they didn’t get accepted into Harvard or Yale.

    The LP is really losing touch with reality if they think they’re going to attract membership and votes by bragging how the home-schooled kid of a multi-millionaire gambling promoter and sports handicapper could get into Harvard.

    I know somebody who is a school bus driver and their kid got accepted into Princeton with a full scholarship and guess what; HE WENT TO PUBLIC SCHOOLS!

  7. Chrissy

    Actually, I have a family member who is a public school teacher. Her school is closing this year (luckily she’s retiring) and they’re talking about starting new teachers in the 30,000’s. She herself makes over 60, but she also has beyond a master’s and has been teaching since the 70’s. Teachers are by no means overpaid.

    I urge you all to look into the history of food safety and how well that went before government regulation. Unfortunately, we do need the government to put certain minimum standards in areas such as food safety and income. I’m not saying people should be making over 100K for flipping burgers, nor that every person should be given huge government handouts so they can homeschool (though a tax break would be nice for those of us who do…). I simply think we need strong regulations and we need worker’s unions because honestly, in the lack of any regulations, how do you think our country would look? Business owners’ first concern is their bottom line and they can bring in more money by demanding more work for minimal pay.

    Reality Check, do you honestly believe a flat sales tax is the answer? First let’s just go on the assumption that everyone who wants a job can get a job (big stretch). Now think about how many working parents make their living working for Walmart or similar jobs. So say you are working hard at least full-time. That’s an annual salary of, what, 20-some-thousand a year? Do you think that’s enough to support a family? It doesn’t matter if they have full benefits and no taxes at all, that’s still just not enough to live on.

    The idea of competing schools sounds good, BUT again it comes down to the fact that it really is about the families, not the teachers. I’d love to see an experiment done in which inner city children who live with a single mom who works 2 jobs and isn’t around to foster a positive educational experience are sent to a top-of-the-line private school with an award winning teacher. It has so much sore to do with the families. Of course these kids are going to fail and the schools are going to fail if the parents aren’t behind their child’s education. So we blame all the teachers? They aren’t miracle workers. So let’s fight this problem at the core and support families.

  8. Nancy Slagle

    I agree with the general sentiment that teachers, for the most part, are there because they believe in what they’re doing. I’m also a certified teacher with 20 years’ experience in public, private, and even homeschool-only classes. In addition, I homeschool my own kids, and currently tutor through Sylvan Learning Center. It’s maddening to hear from struggling students (and their parents) about ineffective teachers still clinging to their tenured positions in the public schools, basically because they don’t want to give up their steady paychecks and let other, more effective teachers take their places. Although I realize that there will always be struggling students, and that not all of their struggles can be blamed on poor teaching, nevertheless there is a high percentage of students seeking our help that can be directly attributed to weak instructional methods.

    Homeschooling is widely popular here in the Atlanta area, with more resources than ever before to assist parents wishing to homeschool. Even here at Sylvan we’ve begun a new homeschool program: beginning in June 2010, there will be a wide variety of academic courses offered during the day for students of all ages, including testing services, consulting help (for new homeschooling parents), etc. Parents no longer have to be “stuck” with two choices: expensive private school or ineffective public schools. I predict homeschooling, in all it’s various forms, will only gain in popularity in the future.

    I’m grateful to Wayne Root for highlighting the effectiveness of homeschooling.

  9. J. Anne Huss

    Congratulations to the root family! I agree 100% about that the teacher’s unions are the main problem with American schools – they care about one thing and one thing only – MONEY. To Crissy who thinks that everyone with a MS deserves $70,000 a year – HA! Who cares what your degree is, it is what you DO with it. I have a MS and you’ll never catch me saying I deserve such and such paycheck for that piece of paper. Get rid of unions, get rid of the government monopoly, and get rid of tenure. Then we’ll see what the public education system has left and the learning can REALLY begin. I have been homeschooling my children for 8 years as a single parent – when there’s a will there’s a way. I am happy to give up luxuries, 6 figure salary, a new car and whatever else it takes to make sure I spend every single day with my children because when they are grown and gone – all we will have left are the memories. And they will be good…

  10. @12 Very well said

    I also want to add, not all the children are at the same learning capacity, some are smarter and and some have disability. I have seen the disability student cast out and insulted by teachers. Some of the students who have disability can be smarter than the average student that would have benefitted by homeschooling and the extra help they don’t get in regular class rooms.

  11. inDglass

    Really amazing story.

    However, W.A.R.’s rip-off of the “Homeless to Harvard” slogan is in poor taste. Don’t diminish the story of that girl, whose accomplishment began with far fewer privileges than Dakota’s beginnings.

  12. KMF

    “So what? I’d actually be more impressed by…” Shame on you for trying to take away the joy and perseverance Dakota’s family have accomplished with Homeschooling to Harvard!

    It doesnt matter what school system our children are in: public, private, home…when they accomplish something as wonderful as that then accolades are deserved. Furthermore, it is understandable to want to show how homeschooling is a benefit and swimming against the stream does reap rewards. Because that is exactly what we are doing when we homeschool. We are swimming against the stream. We are portrayed as strange, extremists, and so many other descriptions that give negative light. Thus when such amazing accomplishments are made they are all the more encouraging that all the hard work and sacrificing was worth it.

    Sacrifice: That is something this country, this society, this generation doesnt understand! It is possible to live on one income and not feel down trodden. And my husband isnt a man who makes lots of money. We make less than $50,000 a year, yet live with great joy, savings, comfort. We just have learned what is truly a priority, what is truly important to live, not survive, but to LIVE!!! It is too easy for us to get caught up in the mainstream and their desire to have what the “Jone’s” have!!!

    Again congrats and blessings to this wonderful family and their accomplishments!

  13. Danica

    Congratulations to Dakota! I agree that anyone who achieves their dream should be celebrated.

    @Chrissy – If we get a tax break for homeschooling our kids the government then has an “in”. That is a huge slippery slope.

    If parents took a bigger role, or in some cases a role at all, in their children’s education and lives our youth would be doing much better. Even the single mom working two jobs can have a meal with her kids and go over their homework with them. If you believe something is important enough, you’ll find a way to make it happen.

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