Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Regulating Homeschooling

Homeschooling debates come up from time to time on the message board that I belong to, and certain themes seem to repeat themselves. It's frustrating, at times, to have to defend something that I believe is a basic right that I have as a parent and something that I believe has been so good for our family and our children. Especially when I feel that the objections are well intentioned, but not especially well thought out. I thought I'd take a blog post and share a few.

Belief: Homeschoolers need more regulation because children could be abused.

Answer: Children are abused every day, all over this country, and the vast majority of them are in public schools. Many children have gone through public schools without their abuse being caught. So, obviously, if seeing a child every day is not a guarantee that they will not be abused, it seems unlikely that more paperwork or even occasional meetings with homeschooling families is unlikely to prevent or catch ongoing abuse.

Children spend 5 years in the care of their parents before going to school. It seems that to really get the government involved in stopping abuse, mandatory checks would be required for all children in all homes. Otherwise, homeschooling parents are being unfairly targeted.

Spotting child abuse is the work of an entire community. Not just teachers, but doctors, nurses, dentists, neighbors, and all sorts of people. Thinking that it's the school's responsibility to catch child abuse is not fair to the schools, and could allow the rest of us to think that it's not our responsibility when it is.

Belief: Parents haven't been trained. Oversight is needed to make sure that parents are getting the right curriculum and teaching it appropriately.

Answer: I believe that when discussing the need for more government intrustion into my life and that of my family, those proposing it have an obligation to prove that it is necessary. Now, I'll admit, as a Conservative, I'm likely going to bristle at the idea of more government to fix things. But even more so when it comes to my family. And I see no proof that parents are having difficulty finding a curriculum or teaching it. And if they are, there are a ton of resources within the homeschooling community with which to supplement or find something that works better. If the child is in public school and is being failed by the curriculum, they can't change it.

I don't believe that more government is going to help. I have too many public school teacher friends who are frustrated and annoyed by the "No Child Left Behind" laws which, though well intentioned, have gotten in the way of teachers actually teaching the students. Instead they have to teach to the test. That's what our increased regulations have given us in Public Schools. Not what I want in my home, thanks!

I already have to jump through more hoops than other parents because I don't have a college degree. Now, you can have a college degree in anything, not necessarily education, and it cuts down on what is required of you. And what's required of me that is that I provide grades (which I could just make up) and that I have my child tested yearly, though I don't have to share the results with the school district. So what's the point? I have four kids, a job, and I work hard to homeschool. I'm busy enough without having to jump through more hoops to prove myself to the school district.

Belief: Homeschoolers need more oversight so that we can prevent students from falling through the educational cracks.

Answer: The truly awful homeschooling parent (whom I believe is rare but will concede exists) is not going to be deterred by such things as more regulation. They will simply move around and find new ways to avoid the regulations. Those punished will be homeschoolers like myself who are trying desperately to do everything right.

I don't think you can prevent some students from falling through the educational cracks. My father used to get students who, in High School, couldn't read. There are quite a few oversights and regulations on public schools and yet children still fall through the cracks. It's sad, and I don't like it, but I don't think more regulations for homeschoolers is the answer. Yet again, I think it must be proven that this is a problem within the homeschooling community and warrants such intrusion by the state and that such intrusion will make a difference. Less than 2% of America's students are homeschooled at all, so I can't see as there's a big epidemic.

Belief: It is our duty and obligation as a Democracy, and as a community to ensure that all children are educated, and that means making sure that homeschooled children meet certain expectations as well as public schooled children.

Answer: Our Founding Fathers believed that, for a Democracy, an educated populace was essential. However, they trusted the parents to provide that education as they saw fit. None of the Founding Fathers attended public schools, nor were they common in the United States until almost a century later. I will provide an education to my children, and I expect the freedom to do so as I see fit. Freedom being another idea that the Founding Fathers held dear.

I don't believe that it is the job of the community to raise my children. And if you're proposing greater demands or restrictions on me, I think you have to prove that it's necessary. But the research that I've read says that homeschooled children are more involved in the community, statistically speaking, than their homeschooled counterparts:
Dr. Gary Knowles, of the University of Michigan, explored adults who were home educated. None were unemployed and none were on welfare, 94% said home education prepared them to be independent persons, 79% said it helped them interact with individuals from different levels of society, and they strongly supported the home education method.11


  • 71% of subjects were participating in any ongoing community service activity (e.g., coaching a sports team, volunteering at a school, or working with a church or neighborhood association), while 37% of similarly aged U.S. adults and 39% of all U.S. adults did so.

  • The degree to which the respondents thought they could understand and affect society and government was also addressed. For example, fewer of the home educated (4%) than the general public (35%) thought that “politics and government are too complicated to understand.” About the same percent of the home educated (98%) and the general public (94%) thought that they “could write a letter to government official that clearly states his/her opinion.”

  • Statistics on the direct civic involvement of home-educated adults and the general United States population are presented. For all civic activities (e.g., working for candidate/political party/political cause, voting in national/state elections) and at all age groups, the home-educated adults in this study were more civically involved than the general population.

  • Source

    Belief: If teachers have to jump through so many hoops, so should homeschoolers

    Answer : I am not asking to be paid government money to teach other people's children. I am actually paying taxes and spending my own money on top of that while educating my own children. I don't see how the two can be compared.

    In the end, people are going to form their own opinions and have their own ideas about homeschooling, and I believe that those who advocate greater restrictions, oversights, or demands have the best of intentions. They really just want to make sure that kids are getting the education that they deserve. But, in my experience, the parents I've met are very concerned about their children's educations, and devoted to their learning. The community is vast, resourceful, and encouraging to one another. I don't think there's anything to be fixed with homeschooling, because I don't see any proof that it's broken.

    I will never object to the state making resources available for those homeschoolers who wish to take advantage of them. I will always object to their resources being forced upon me, or more government regulation and intrusion being the first resort for a problem that hasn't even been shown to exist.

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