Home is not where the school is

home schoolA recent California appellate court ruling raises major questions about whether parents have the right to educate their children. While the ruling will be appealed, parents who homeschool their children are reacting to their uncertain future.

Seema Mehta and Mitchell Landsberg of the Los Angeles Times wrote up the reaction to the ruling, which states that parents without teaching credentials must not educate their children at home:

The California Department of Education currently allows home schooling as long as parents file paperwork with the state establishing themselves as small private schools, hire credentialed tutors or enroll their children in independent study programs run by charter or private schools or public school districts while still teaching at home.

California does little to enforce those provisions and insists it is the local school districts’ responsibility. In addition, state education officials say some parents home school their children without the knowledge of any entity.

Home schoolers and government officials have largely accepted this murky arrangement.

“This works so well, I don’t see any reason to change it,” said J. Michael Smith, president of the Virginia-based Home School Legal Defense Assn.

While the ruling affects all homeschoolers, the article manages to quote only those practitioners who are conservative and Christian. I come from a huge homeschooling state — Colorado — where all sorts of people homeschool (libertarians, conservatives, liberals, religious, secular, etc.) and it never ceases to amaze me how uniform the group is presented by the mainstream media.

Further, the homeschoolers quoted in the article are not those whose kids are winning all the spelling bees or just generally excelling in their studies but, rather, those who are trying to hide from secularism in public schools. Even among people who homeschool for religious reasons, this isn’t exactly representative.

The article isn’t all bad, and it gets some good information out there, but it just lacks any sense of the debate swirling around homeschooling regulations. Let’s look at a few of the pro-regulation comments from the article:

“Parents do not have a constitutional right to home school their children,” wrote Justice H. Walter Croskey in a Feb. 28 opinion signed by the two other members of the district court. “Parents who fail to [comply with school enrollment laws] may be subject to a criminal complaint against them, found guilty of an infraction, and subject to imposition of fines or an order to complete a parent education and counseling program.” . . .

Teachers union officials will also be closely monitoring the appeal. A.J. Duffy, president of United Teachers Los Angeles, said he agrees with the ruling.

“What’s best for a child is to be taught by a credentialed teacher,” he said.

Even though I’m the daughter of a stellar public school teacher, I can’t be alone in thinking that last line deserves a worthy retort. How many of the world’s worst teachers have been credentialed by governing bodies? If credentials are all that matters, why do so many students in public schools fare so poorly? And yet the only response given in the article is some homeschooling bogeyfather in Sacramento saying he’s worried about his kids being indoctrinated with teachings about evolution and same-sex marriage.

There are so many interesting angles to this discussion but none of the debate is really found in the article. Parents don’t have a constitutional right to homeschool their children? What are the pros and cons of government schools? What are the pros and cons of homeschools? Does the state have an interest in indoctrinating values against the interest of Christian parents? Does the state have an interest in indoctrinating values against the interest of Muslim parents? What rights do children have in these affairs?

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  • Dave

    [...T]he article manages to quote only those practitioners who are conservative and Christian. I come from a huge homeschooling state — Colorado — where all sorts of people homeschool (libertarians, conservatives, liberals, religious, secular, etc.) and it never ceases to amaze me how uniform the group is presented by the mainstream media.

    Right you are! I know a Pagan couple in Ohio who homeschooled both their boys. Under Ohio law they had to come up with a lesson plan vouched for by a credentialled educator, which they conveniently had in the boys’ maternal grandmother.

    How many of the world’s worst teachers have been credentialed by governing bodies? If credentials are all that matters, why do so many students in public schools fare so poorly?


  • Pingback: Homeschooling illegal in CA? « A long and twisty passage.

  • http://rub-a-dub.blogspot.com MattK

    Parents don’t have a constitutional right to homeschool their children?

    Like the Germans who are fleeing to the UK to escape Nazi-era anti-homeschooling laws, will my family have to flee to Colorado? I know what judge I will spend money to defeat when he comes up for re-affirmation. Start packing your bags Walter. We’ll dump you like we dumped Rose.

    I am joining HSLDA today.

  • http://www.LearningByGrace.org Mimi Rothschild

    Judge Creates New California Law Forbidding Homeschooling

    By: Mimi Rothschild

    Not since the time of Hitler’s regime with consul general for the Federal Republic of Germany, Wolfgang Drautz, have we seen such a gross assumption of power and abuse of that assumed power as what appears to be happening with the California court ruling that says that homeschooling is illegal., Without even citing the statutes or constitutional principal on which this opinion is supposedly based, Justice H. Walter Croskey wrote in a February 28th opinion for the 2nd District Court of Appeals, “Parents do not have a constitutional right to home school their children.”

    Judge Croskey’s ruling states “keeping the children at home deprived them of situations where (1) they could interact with people outside the family, (2) there are people who could provide help if something is amiss in the children’s lives, and (3) they could develop emotionally in a broader world than the parents’ ‘cloistered’ setting.”

    Many people believe that sending children to school deprives them of situations in which they can interact with a far broader spectrum of people than simply those with whom they happen to share a birth year.

    Many people believe that the very people in the school who are charged with the responsibility of helping a child if something is amiss int heir lives are themselves not trustworthy or credible and that some children need to be protected from them.

    Many people beliebe that children develop better when not limited to the cloistered government school setting all day, every day for 13 years and that they develop better when afforded the opportunity to learn in and through the entire world.

    The immediate ramifications of this shocking ruling could subject the parents of 166,000 students throughout the state of California to face the state Supreme Court for criminal sanctions. This Judge’s opinion and his abuse and overreach of his power could be a slippery slope for home educators and all those that believe in the parent’s right to raise their children according to their own convictions.

    In addition to the obvious concerns that have rippled throughout the homeschooling community nationwide such as the erosion of parental rights and educational freedoms, my concern today is: At what point did our government change the Job Description of judges? Respectifully, is it within Judge Croskey’s power to create law. Isn’t the power to create laws is a responsibility given to the people by the United States government through the legislators that we elect? What statute or constitutional principal is Judge Closkey basing his interpretation that dictates that children cannot be educated by their parents unless the parent has a teaching certificate?

    Is Judge Closkey creating a new law that could affect the lives of up to 2 million home educators in this country? Is Judge Closkey overstepping the carefully defined boundaries of his duties? I understand that there are concerned California citizens calling for Judge Closkey’s resignation.

    Do you think that Judge Closkey’s personal personal prejudice against the concept of home education has blinded his ability to properly perform his role as an impartial adjudicator of the existing laws.

    God blessed me with my children. He sent them to me and entrusts me to direct their care and education. He did not Cc or Bcc the judicial system on how I am raising them. He did not send them with a book, an amendment or a set of rules that I had to obey to produce a system’d product, to a system that I never believed in! And I know He did not send them to me so a system could hold them hostage from His presence and Truths for eight hours a day, five days a week, a hundred and eighty days a year; unable to even utter His name without a judicial mandate.

    The Lord made me a parent with the right to choose where and how my child will be educated. While we are called as Christians to obey the laws of the land, there is nothing that I can see within the constitution that mandates that a California judge’s opinion on what is best for children become the law for everyone. While Judge Croskey is entitled to express his opinion and to choose how he educates his children (if God entrusts him with them), it is not within his job description to dictate how to educate mine. Unless there is a proven violation of a child’s health and safety as described in the laws preventing child neglect and abuse, this Judge is misguided in forcing parents to choose government school.

    The reasons I believe that this Court’s ruling should be vigorously opposed and appealed are:

    1. There is absolutely NOTHING in the constitution that dictates how I raise/educate my child regarding any aspect of their child rearing,
    2. Personal and family privacy is protected, including the right to privacy about the decisions and rationale for how I raise my child.
    3. Freedom to worship is protected, including the right to guide my child’s religious growth. Few dispute that government schools often have a religious agenda, known as secular humanism, which contradicts the Biblical perspective.
    4. God gave the child to me to raise, not the state
    5. The state has failed in its mission to educate children (the United States ranks lowest of most countries on testing)
    6. One judge’s biases and misinformed opinions cannot create law.
    7. Judge are to uphold only the laws that the legislators (representatives of the PEOPLE) pass.

    We will continue to follow this case, and the new law that many fear Judge H. Walter Croskey has created as this case unfolds in appeals and eventually reaches the Supreme Court. This is obviously an issue near and dear to each of us, so share your thoughts by e-mailing me directly at Mimi@LearningbyGrace.org or reply to this posting.

    Evil flourishes when good people do nothing. Albert Einstein

  • http://groups.yahoo.com/group/NonDualBibleVerses/ Eric Chaffee

    And then there’s the one about the California high school English teacher who couldn’t read! Check it out here: http://www.10news.com/news/15274005/detail.html


  • http://www.postmodernredneck.blogspot.com Phil Hawkins

    When my wife and I began homeschooling in the 1980s, there were seven families doing it in the Greater Cincinnati area. Ohio was not that hospitable a territory then and we eventually moved across the state line to Indiana. Our youngest turns 21 this year, so we’re no longer active, but our daughter is starting in with her children.

    But one thing we saw consistently throughout the years: The real issue is not and never has been the quality of education in homeschooling or even how the kids turn out–it is CONTROL, power, and close behind it, money (in most places, state and federal dollars flow to local schools on the basis of enrollment).

  • Abby

    I would hate to have this couple as the poster children of homeschoolers. This case was initially filed by an attorney representing the interests of two of the couple’s eight children, and this couple has faced multiple abuse allegations (likely why they have an attorney representing the interests of two of their children). If this case goes up, it could well struggle as a homeschooling rights case because of these facts. Bad facts, as they say, make bad law.

  • Matt

    Mimi Rothschild’s post above (#4) seems rather inappropriate. She is using this website as her personal blog to make incendiary comments on the issue, and is saying nothing about the journalistic aspect.

    My understanding is that Croskey is advancing a particular interpretation of existing California law, which according to the LAT report is rather murky on this issue, not “creating law” on his own. I hope his interpretation is overturned, and if it’s not I hope the law is changed, but it’s not clear to me that Croskey is wrong on what the law says.

    On the journalistic aspect, I also was miffed by the poor characterization of homeschoolers that Mollie pointed out. I also am frustrated at the lack of information on what the law actually says and what Croskey actually said. HSLDA says it only just learned of the case, and its response to Croskey is forthcoming, which may be part of the reason coverage on the merits of the case has been unbalanced.

  • http://auspiciousdragon.com/wp/ holmegm

    Teachers union officials will also be closely monitoring the appeal. A.J. Duffy, president of United Teachers Los Angeles, said he agrees with the ruling.

    “What’s best for a child is to be taught by a credentialed teacher,” he said.

    Every Detroit public school teacher is “credentialed”.

    I rest my case.

  • Amani

    I find it interesting that they moved to change the law on homeschooling by this one case that proves that just because they are home schooled they are not hidden from society.
    I would not be so hard on the father that is quoted. You know only have of what you say is reported in the paper.

  • MJBubba

    Journalists just don’t get homeschooling. There is a wide variety of homeschoolers, and I concede that some kids get shortchanged by parents who underestimate their own kids’ abilities. There are at least a dozen different recognizable subgroups of homeschoolers in these parts, and our state is only semi-friendly to homeschooling. You would never know that from regional mainstream media outlets.

    When my older son went off to college, the younger one did not want to be a solo homeschooler, so we let him go to the local high school, which is one of the “better” schools in our region. We have been sorely disappointed in his inferior education, and the bad influences of cliques, juvenile insulting behavior, gossiping, bad influences from sex-charged television that his peers consume, counterculteralism, and the kids’ appalling racist backlash against Black History month that tediously repeats the same indoctrination annually. We have not had much trouble with indoctrination in evolution (it is taught, but with an acknowledgement that there are alternative views (held by a majority of the parents in our part of the world), nor with homosexuality (though my niece’s nearby highschool recently had crossdressing day (“gender blender day”). The heavy hand of school-enforced indoctrination that bugs me most has been over-the-top environmentalism and save-the-planet fearmongering.
    My older son got a far more rigorous and balanced education at home, and without the dysfunctional highschool social culture.

  • http://www.reenchantment.net Ken

    Matt: the decision is online via a California government site that I reached thru HSLDA.org It’s 18 pages and cites the basis for the ruling. Case number is B192878; referral from Los Angeles County Superior Court No. JD00773.

    If you read the decision you will see several citations of state law with respect to the goal of public instruction. “A primary purpose of the educational system is to train school children in good citizenship, patriotism and loyalty to the state and the nation as a means of protecting the public welfare.”

    If the civics tests Frederisk Hess and Intercollegiate Studies Institute have given public high schoolers and college freshman and seniors — tests they fail miserably — are any indication of what the public school has achieved, maybe we all need to file a class action lawsuit and get our money, with interest, back.

    I will send HSLDA some money. But it is important to note as do commentors above that the advocates and participants in home schooling are from a broad and ecclectic group of citizens in this country. Not a bunch of kooks.

  • Chris Chris

    I hope membership in HSLDA skyrockets.

    My (homeschooled) daughter is now graduated and starting college in the fall. So I don’t “need” HSLDA any more.

    But I’m going to send them a check anyway. And I encourage everyone reading to do the same.

    Gotta help preserve homeschooling for those who need it today … and tomorrow.

  • Matt

    Amani makes a good point about the parents. They may have said a dozen reasonable things about why they home-school, but also thrown in a worry about evolution and same-sex marriage and gotten quoted only on that. That may be a journalistic issue, but we can’t know unless someone who was actually part of the conversation gives us more information.

  • Jimmy Mac

    Here in California when class sizes were mandated to be smaller and credentialed teachers were in short supply, substitutes were “credentialled” almost immediately and the problem was solved (?).

  • Bill Logan

    From the LA Times article:

    Phillip Long said he believes the ruling stems from hostility against Christians and vowed to appeal to the state Supreme Court.

    How odd. I believe that the ruling stems from hostility to a father who physically and emotionally abused his children, a mother who didn’t do anything about it, and parents who did nothing when two of their children were sexually abused. In addition to the parents lying to courts and social service workers, and failing to comply with the juvenile court’s case plan. The courts may not “get” home schooling, but they sure as hell “get” child abuse.

    It would be nice if religion wasn’t being used as a pity card by the father to cover up his own actions.

  • Asinus Gravis

    “What’s best for a child is to be taught by a credentialed teacher,”. This is clearly the opinion of the judge, not a legal requirement.

    The article indicates that the legal requirement is that credentialed teachers be involved in the teaching. That–I believe–would be a GOOD thing. The BEST would be for a child to be taught by a teacher or teachers who are very well informed in the subject matter taught, who genuinely care for their pupils, and who have excellent communications skills.

    It is obvious that not all “credentialed” teachers are excellent teachers; that is not an adequate reason to argue for using uncredentialed teachers. It is demonstrable that many credentialed physicians/surgeons make lots of mistakes. But it does not follow that we should just let anyone set up a medicine/surgery shop in their kitchen. I recall that we had a lot of that sort of thing going on before Roe vs. Wade took effect–to the detriment of thousands of women. With both teachers and doctors we need better credentialing and better efforts to weed dout the less competent. That might require paying teachers more like the professionals we expect them to be.

    I think we should all be concerned about people anywhere trying to teach what they do not understand–in history, in mathematics, in science, in literature, in health, etc.

    The rant by Mimi (#5) is pathetic reasoning throughout the piece. Was she home schooled, or did she suffer from incompetent public schools?

  • Stoo

    If homeschoolers aren’t all conservative christians running scared of evolution, they need to speak out. Cos right now their loudest proponents seem to be the MJBubba types.

    Well, ok, the press could help educate us on this too. As in, what is the general breakdown in motives for homeschooling? Are most families religious? Are some secular but just fed up with low standards in local schools?

  • William

    When I was growing up, I had a neighbor of my age who was home-schooled. His parents had eight other kids and his father acted like a cult leader. To be prepared for the future Antichrist-controlled US government, he buried money and weapons in his yard. He also held that a man’s home is his church and that all organized churches are misguided and leading people away from God.

    My neighbor’s mother was much more sane but she was also very cowed and would follow his wishes against her better judgment.

    Nevertheless, such parents could possibly teach their children adequately. Sadly, that was not the case.

    The mother (with help from the older children) taught the younger kids about the Catholic Church’s influence throughout history and how their pernicious ties to the US government would lead to the End of Times. She taught some real history of course but she dutifully interspersed facts with nonsense.

    If history has to be rewrote, biology obviously could lose evolutionary theory. Oddly, she still taught Mendel and genetics.

    Now, the result was not completely disastrous. My neighbor was very naïve and ignorant of some very basic facts but thankfully he was smart and rebellious. In spite of his parents, he understood evolution and ignored most of the nonsense. Once he finished his “education”, he fled and stopped speaking to his parents.

    My experience with this family has always led me to desire stronger regulation or outright banning of homeschooling. You can claim that my neighbor’s case is rare but one case is too many in my view.

    In my ideal society, parents would be required to pass a certification test for every subject that they want to teach their children (i.e., the same tests that teachers take). This won’t block all the craziness or nonsense but it will at least require them to know the basic facts.

    If my neighbor’s mother was required to pass subject-specific tests, she would have failed some and he would have got the privilege of being schooled by some of my excellent teachers without the added blather.

  • http://none John

    I see the illogical fear of the “nannyist leftist” at work here. Create a “need” and fulfill it; demand that it is for the safety of the children. Get off the bandwagon and do something parents!!. I am not yet a parent but da–ed if this doesn’t tick me off! My ears are steamin’ red right now. Recall this “individual” (for lack of a polite word)Send this little god to hell where he belongs. My brothers kids all won the science fairs and played instruments and are well above their peers in education. They were homeschooled. Damn the teachers union. I have 185 college credits and friends want me to be a part-time sub. teacher in Cali. I have my own business. Why should I? So these undisciplined publically schooled GOD-less heathens can attack me? Kids are scary today and a result of the public school, peers and MTV. I don’t want my future kids hanging around with…them.

  • MJBubba

    Professor Mattingly,

    Pardon this whole discussion. It is obvious that the subject of homeschooling is as emotional as any doctrinal dispute.
    John, yes, homeschool opponents frequently throw out the need for socialization as a reason kids need to go to public schools. Well, kids are better-off when they can avoid socialization in modern American high schools.
    Stoo, as a homeschool dad, I assure we did not “run scared of evolution” in my house. We studied it in careful detail. My older son is now a biology major in a large state university. I took paleogeology when I was in college. Going into the class I was one of those “a thousand days are as one day” evolution believers with a position similar to that currently advocated from the Vatican. The more they taught, the more questions I had. The deeper I dug, the more the holes in the science were revealed. I made A in those classes, but came out of the experience rejecting their conclusion and committed to a view that is commonly called “young-earth creationism.” I encourage you to investigate.
    Some journalists give scientists a pass because they worship the god of “Science.” Much of the Theory of Evolution is pretty much backed up only by the “consensus of the scientific community,” which is a way of saying “because we said so.” They police themselves in shameful ways, by character assassination and worse. There is no way for my son to pursue biology into grad school, because there would be a very chilly reception for him there, even though he has the grades and the enthusiasm, and the energy to dig and question the conclusions reached by researchers who stretch to make their findings fit the evolution narrative.

  • Dave

    MJBubba says:

    Much of the Theory of Evolution is pretty much backed up only by the “consensus of the scientific community,” which is a way of saying “because we said so.”

    Only in the sense that quantum electrodynamics or general relativity is also a product of consensus.

  • MJBubba

    Professor Mattingly, it has been a few days since the original post, so hopefully you won’t mind these digressions too terribly much.

    Dave, I disagree strongly. Quantum electrodynamics scientists conduct experiments that measure reproducible results that may indicate support or lack of support for various opinions about prevailing theory as the science develops, and so do proponents of general relativity. More to the point, if a scientist sees a research report and disagrees with the conclusions that are drawn from those findings, he can feel free to write a paper in dissent without fear of being hounded out of his livelihood. Evolutionary sciences squelch dissent in the ranks, and are vigorous at policing their field. If a scientist cannot make his findings fit somehow into the narrative of evolution, he is better off suppressing his work until he can come up with something that fits. (Witness the shameful treatment of Dr. Richard Sternberg as an example.) The way evolution works as a science is that the scientists gather at a conference at which dissenting voices have no chance of approval as speakers, and then they all nod their heads up and down and say, yes, we agree, there is no god. I insisted that my children learn the prevailing views of evolution, expecially the particulars that have been demonstrated about how microevolution works, but I also instructed them that there is nothing in the hypotheses about macroevolution that can sensibly cause an intelligent person to conclude that god does not exist, no matter how many PhDs try to tell them so.
    I strongly resent the field of journalism that gives such pseudoscience a pass, and I have dropped subscriptions to Smithsonian, National Geographic, and Discover because I was tired of identifying and pointing out all the gross examples of extrapolations to athiesm drawn from flimsy bits of field evidence that might indicate that life may be old, or might not. Sometimes you have to dig very hard to find out how small the finding actually is, because the journalists run with the scientists’ press releases without asking any skeptical questions.

  • http://www.ksvaughan2.byregion.net Karen Vaughan

    Okay, I think there is something else missing in the story. Not all parents who keep their children home for homeschooling even bother teaching them. My nephew’s best friend was pulled out of school after he got in trouble for using drugs. He spent all of his days watching TV, engaging in petty theft and smoking dope while his mother, the only custodial parent, was at work. He never had a curriculum, wasn’t instructed during the evening and had no idea what he didn’t know. When my sister complained to the school district she was told that since the boy was nearly old enough to drop out anyway, that the district had no interest in cracking down on his poor homeschooling.

    There are reasons to enforce standards. I doubt that a credentialed teacher is the correct standard, but that doesn’t mean that there should be requirements as to what a child learns. (Belief is optional.)

  • MJBubba

    Karen, regarding standards. I had my boys take standardized achievement tests, which were offered through the homeschoolers’ association. Many homeschool kids take these, but it is a minority. It is not required, and some homeschool parents balk at the cost of the test, though it really isn’t much. It is irksome, however, that I had to pay to have my kids tested, while also paying taxes so the kids in public schools could be tested. My homeschooled kids weren’t allowed to take the tests at the public school they were zoned for.
    The MSM have sided with the teachers’ unions, and so those kinds of unfairnesses never get reported.

  • steve

    A few years ago I was at a community forum on home school. One parent was home schooling because the public schools were too secular. Another parent was home schooling because the very same public schools were too religious. Go figure. I wonder how many arguing that government cannot tell parents how to educate their children would also argue that government cannot tell parents how to provide health care for their children.