Dear homeschool parent,
This is something I feel compelled to share. In my 25+ years teaching in a classroom, and my 3+ years teaching online classes for homeschoolers, I have seen a disproportionately large number of homeschooled students cheating in online classes. I have spoken with several other teachers of online courses for homeschoolers, and some have reported cheating by as many as 25% of their students. Most incidents of cheating involve the student either plagiarizing a paper, or looking at the answer key while taking a test unsupervised at home.
Plagiarizing a paper is harder for parents to catch and prevent. But stopping your child from cheating on tests should be easy.
Believe me, I understand how it can happen. An otherwise good child is taking an online course. He is struggling, the other students seem to be understanding the material better than he does, and unlike most of his previous courses, he is (perhaps for the first time) not allowed to learn at his own pace. He is being required to complete a test over material he knows he has not mastered. He also knows where the answer key is kept, and can look at it because his mom is busy and she trusts him. The temptation becomes too strong, he caves and decides to copy the answers, and does not tell anyone.
Thankfully, he is probably bad at it. When children cheat in this way, they tend to use words and phrases directly from the answer key, even when the answers could have been worded in many different ways. They also aim at 100%, of course, not realizing that a perfect score from a struggling student will set off a warning light to the teacher.
Parents, when the teacher claims that your child has apparently cheated on a test or assignment, listen to him! No good teacher will make such an accusation lightly. It is very uncomfortable to charge a student with cheating, and most teachers will err on the side of giving the student the benefit of the doubt.
When I discover a student has cheated on a test, I first send an email to the parent. I express my concern as a possibility, along with the evidence of the cheating. The child is allowed to make a defense, which is usually pretty flimsy. Almost every time, the child admits to cheating. Some confess everything immediately, some at first confess to cheating to a certain degree (“I only looked at the answers for the first few questions”), and some initially deny it, only to admit it later when they realize that the evidence is overwhelming, or (Lord willing) when their conscience smites them. According to other teachers I have spoken with, the only students who steadfastly refuse to confess in the face of overwhelming evidence are those students whose parents “can’t believe Jimmy would do such a thing.” When they are caught and confess their sin, they should be forgiven, fellowship should be restored on all sides, and they should be given a zero on the test or paper.
Here are three easy rules to follow when your child needs to take a test for their online class:
Keep the answer key inaccessible to your children.
Be in the room with them as they are taking a test, and pay attention to what they are doing.
Have them give you the test to send in.
Getting caught cheating is a hard blessing on both parent and child. The child learns that the truth behind the biblical proverb, “Be sure your sin will find you out.” He also learns that there are consequences to cheating. And the parents learn that their child is a sinner who can fall to temptation, just like the rest of us.