Guest Post: Homeschool Regulations and Children’s Rights

A Guest Post by Heatherjanes

It’s hard to figure out where to start when discussing homeschool regulations and children’s rights because it is both a personal and professional issue for me. I am trained as a policy analyst and am also a former homeschooler, so I could write something long and technical, but I won’t, not today anyway. I’ll just tell the general story of what I know about homeschooling regulations.

I will begin by simply saying we desperately need them—formal registration, requirements for some form of standardized testing at some point (or points) during childhood on core subjects, for girls to be mandated the same level and quality education as boys, for homeschool teachers to have at least graduated 12th grade or the equivalent, and for convicted abusers to be legally banned from homeschooling. Obvious stuff, right? Happening already, right?

Well, no. In Missouri if you want to homeschool you don’t have to notify anyone and if your neighbors turn you in for educational neglect, the social worker closes the case. If you are being homeschooled in Missouri, by definition you cannot be educationally neglected.

In Oklahoma if you want to teach your daughter lower level math than your son because you figure she won’t realistically need anything higher to be a wife and mother in an arranged marriage, you legally can and it is in the state constitution that as long as you homeschool as you choose for 180 days of the year, nobody can do anything about it.

In Louisiana if you want to circumvent annual testing requirements, just register as a private school, turn in some paperwork once, and no one will ever check on you again.

If you are a disturbed or violent person who is also a parent in any state, you can pretend to be a fine, upstanding member of the community yet keep your mistreated kid at home so no one will see the bruises or tell of the ways this young person’s body and mind has been invaded. There are no mandatory reporters in a homeschool. Just don’t buy your teenage daughter a video camera.

If you are a convicted sex offender you might be banned from being within 1,000 feet of a public school but you can generally still homeschool your own offspring, whether because its legal in your state or because nobody’s checking. Your spouse and kids may be barred from belonging to a homeschoolers group due to your offense though, as obviously no other homeschoolers want an abuser around their own children.

I remember as a little child when my parents first decided to homeschool, watching them enthusiastically fill out the paperwork to register as a private school in New Orleans, naming it “Cornerstone Academy.” It sounded official back then but soon I realized it wasn’t. We hid in the house during the day because my parents were scared of the truancy police. I was the only one of my siblings to learn how to read. Nobody checked on us, ever, and it took a brief discussion with a neighbor boy who’d found out I couldn’t do multiplication and who I now wasn’t supposed to talk to anymore, who’d said “ha ha, you’re gonna spend your life flipping burgers!” to wake me up to the stark reality of my life trajectory at age 12.

Every day I am thankful that it turned out differently. I have no words for how nice it is that I am not forced to constantly raise babies that just “arrive” whether you desire more offspring or not (I have 9 younger siblings, no children of my own yet), or try to sound like an adult while answering the phone for my Dad’s home business, and that nobody beats me if I break a dish while hand washing them. I am an adult now and not only can I tell time on a clock with hands and know which months come before others, but I even got my Master’s degree in public policy from Brandeis University last year. In one way it might seem odd that I made such a jump, and in another it makes sense. The only way I got out is that I decided I would rather die than live like my Mom, and I was lucky that I had loving grandparents who “interfered.” I worked quite hard to obtain the education that had been denied me. I saw how valuable it was.

My academic interests finally brought me back around to studying where I came from, using research skills to pick up patterns, find stories, collect and interpret data, and the situation I saw was awfully upsetting. It wasn’t just me or those few kids I knew in my local homeschool group who had situations like this (and some of theirs were worse than mine). It was apparently more, a lot more, and there were so many places where the environment was outright conducive to this, where bad things could so easily happen. Where was the push for people’s better natures to prevail?

I have since realized that some people, a small but very powerful group of people actually, are pushing for the opposite. The Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) has given workshops on how to stonewall social workers and used inflammatory scare tactics to work their member families into a tizzy, calling and badgering any politician, civil servant, or researcher who sees the need for change. They have helped create an environment where more kids will grow up like I did and they have held up “parental rights” as some golden calf, the be-all end-all. They apparently believe this so heavily and have had so little real opposition (I mean how much can children themselves fight this?), and they have been so litigious and nasty to the little bit of opposition that they have had, that for now they have won. They have successfully had more and more legislation to this effect passed and they are still doing so right now.

They haven’t done a very good job of sanitizing the stark reality of their position though, and that is that they apparently do not believe children have any rights except the right to be born.

In 2000, Christopher Klicka, the late longtime HSLDA director and homeschooling father of 7 even said “if children have rights, they could refuse to be home-schooled, plus it takes away parents’ rights to physically discipline their children.” Hmm, I wonder why any kid might not want the brand of homeschooling that they are selling?

While plenty homeschoolers refuse to have anything to do with the HSLDA, lots of conservative Christian homeschoolers still pay dues to them for their legal services and the HSLDA uses that money to further deregulate and expand into some even more suspect causes, like ensuring that the United States is the only other nation besides Somalia and South Sudan to have not ratified the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child. HSLDA’s founder, Michael Farris, is even trying to get a “parental rights amendment” put into the U.S. constitution instead.

The thing is, when you don’t have checks and balances you don’t have balance, and when you don’t have standards you have the bad lumped in with the good. Parents’ rights are obviously important and need to be respected, but children’s rights deserve the same level of respect and consideration, and right now that is simply not happening. Total deregulation makes it easy for people to be lazy and not take their responsibilities seriously. It enables people who are more interested in a power trip or a lifestyle than actually doing right by their offspring to jump on the bandwagon. It allows people who simply aren’t prepared or inclined to be dedicated homeschoolers to include themselves in the same group as parents who are hands-on with their children’s education, every day.

In order to assuage such concerns, HSLDA funnels homeschool survey participants to a “research institute” called NHERI run by a man named Brian Ray. Ray’s glowing reports are passed off as quality data and as “proof” that homeschooling is much better than other education methods and not having set standards is not a problem. Many journalists have bought this narrative and used it for headlines, but the truth is if I’d done that kind of research work, ignored such big caveats, and made such sweeping assumptions in a college paper, I’d have gotten a bad grade.

A voluntary survey where the response rate is only 28%, gathered from a select and likely rather elite population of homeschool students, is simply not generalizable to the general American student population, but NHERI and HSLDA certainly hope you believe it is.

What about kids who grew up like me? Well, they will never have to deal with them if they can just ignore our reality exists in the first place.

Such a deregulated stance has worked out well for this fringe group, but their story of some “natural” family hierarchy in a glorified yet unrealistic back-to-basics lifestyle papers over an ugly reality that they have ignored—the fact that absolute power corrupts absolutely.

HSLDA does a lot of fear mongering about a supposed future anti-Christian backlash, a coming persecution of dedicated homeschoolers, and fanning this fear keeps them in business. The fact is, no matter how many press releases they send out, this just isn’t happening. We also aren’t in the 70′s anymore, when pioneering homeschoolers sometimes got threatened with truancy prosecutions. The worry that we need this total deregulation to prevent social workers from snatching up homeschooled kids is not only unfounded, it is elevating a far-fetched dystopian threat while ignoring the dystopian reality that I and far too many other homeschooled children have actually lived.

I know responsible people want kids to have a fair shot and responsible homeschoolers don’t want functionally illiterate kids tainting homeschooling’s good reputation. So we need to do something. For years I’d never told anyone about my past and had hoped to just have a “normal” life, but things happened to remind me of a promise I made as a little kid. At age 8 I had sat underneath the kitchen table with one of my sisters and said “someday when I grow up, I want to help people like us.”

That’s why I did my master’s capstone paper on homeschooling deregulation and it’s why I started blogging and speaking out. I figured if people knew how it really was they’d want to stop it from happening to others.

Our nation is now a place where the right to be a homeschooling parent is protected by law. We must make sure that the right of all homeschooled children to get an education is protected as well.

—————

Heatherjanes recently completed a graduate degree in public policy and she is interested in children’s rights, poverty alleviation, and blogging about being raised in the Quiverfull lifestyle. She is from New Orleans and currently lives in New England. Heatherjanes blogs at Becoming Worldly.

About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • Kelly

    It’s awesome how you overcame your past. Most of the homeschoolers I know seem to be okay. I used to do American Heritage Girls with them. I didn’t know how conservative AHG was because the handbook didn’t exactly say anything about housewifry or creationism. The girls in my age group were not particularly Christian or conservation either. We were in it for the camping, sleepovers in the huge church, and the social aspect.
    Anyway, nice article.

  • swimr1

    I know one religious family where the mom (who came to the US from Mexico when she married, doesn’t speak English very fluently and doesn’t have more than a high school education – maybe less) with 8 kids who all homeschool. Last I knew the mom didn’t even have a driver’s license. Luckily, I think the older 2-3 are now old enough to drive but there was a period when all of them were under 12. It sounds like they do an awful lot of “independent study” on the computer. You can’t convince me they are getting any kind of quality education even if dad does step in from time to time when his job allows…

  • AnonaMiss

    At age 8 I had sat underneath the kitchen table with one of my sisters and said “someday when I grow up, I want to help people like us.”

    Broke my heart.

  • Saraquill

    What is the appeal of ensuring one’s children will be unable to support themselves? There is also the matter of if they want their children to homeschool any possible grandchildren, there will be horrific diminishing returns.

    • BabyRaptor

      Women aren’t supposed to be able to support themselves, remember? According to the bible, we’re supposed to be totally reliant on whoever we marry.

      As for the boys, I can’t really say. I was raised fundie by my grandparents, but I was an only child. I know from spending time with other like-minded families that a lot of parents really pushed entrepreneurship; the Pastor’s only son at my last church had decided that he was going to skip college and set up a business doing handiwork for the local neighborhoods/churches. He honestly believed he would be able to support himself and his oldest sister doing this.

    • Rosa

      If they can never support themselves, you can control them forever. It’s not a theological justification, but it’s an emotional force for many abusive parents.

      • shadowspring

        I think you are right Rosa. My brother-in-law has his grown children all still living with him, grandchildren born on the property. He’s quite proud of his clan. He runs a Christian camp in NC, which I guess he has come to see as his own cash cow, providing for his family for generations to come. But…what happens when he retires? The board members who run the camp now will also leave. And what will his adult children if/when they are turned out, with their large families, and the only work experience they have is that they worked for their dad mowing, cooking for large groups, cleaning cabins and leading Bible studies? I don’t think he cares, to be honest. He just wants to revel in the glory of being the patriarch until he kicks the bucket. Maybe he’ll luck out and that will happen? (yes, both generations are homeschooled, kids and grandkids)

  • http://LyricalPolyphony.blogspot.com mary

    I was homeschooled. Thankfully, my experience was nothing like this- while my parents had a close shave with sine very damaging ultra-conservative teachings, they didn’t swallow them entirely. It was the expectation that all five of their kids would go to college and at least have the possibility of a decent career, even if done of us choose to stay home with our kids. We did well- out of the five of us, we have a musician, grad students in law, business, and physical therapy, and my youngest sister is beginning her undergrad in nuclear engineering next fall. I homeschool my own kids, though I have no intention of doing it forever, and they love it- my six year old is reading the hobbit, unabridged. :) but…..

    Not everyone had my experience. Out of my mom and her three siblings who all homeschooled their kids, my mom and her brother did things one way, and her two sisters another way. One of the sisters’ kids have struggled but most are fairly functional and they range from lawyer to no job at all. The other sister’s kids ”graduated” when they wouldn’t have a prayer of passing their ged. None of them are self-supporting today, though sine are in their late twenties. It’s families like that that make me passionately in favor of some regulation for homeschooling, though, in typical libertarian fashion, I’d prefer it to be on a state rather than federal level. Should parents have rights? Absolutely! Should parents have some leeway in the way the educate their children? Yes! But, um, they should be required to actually educate them. The child, at the very least, should be able to pass a ged before they graduate. Seriously- if homeschooling is better, and homeschooling kids out-perform their peers, we shouldn’t mind proving that, right? :) I wish I’d called cps on some families I knew- I know it wasn’t my responsibility as a kid, but still- a lack of education cripples you in this society. Need a child be well versed in physics, know multiple languages, or be able to keep books for a business in order to graduate? Probably not, but they MUST have good reading reading, writing, and math skills. To deny a child a basic education when you have the power to give it to them is abuse, I think. I cannot imagine any reasonable homeschool parents being opposed to testing/making sure the kids actually know enough to function as an adult.

    • Cathy W

      Hear, hear! (And good luck to your sister in her nuclear engineering program. When I was in engineering school, the mechanical engineers thought the chemical engineers were gluttons for punishment, and the chemical engineers thought the same of the nukes…)

  • Ashley

    When I was home-schooled in Kansas in the 90′s (from 6th grade through graduation) there were no government requirements. My parents purchased the curriculum and set the daily schedule and I mostly went through the course-work on my own, with oversight and help where needed. They choose to pay for a local teacher to administer the official state tests that were used in public school to make sure that my brother and I were keeping up. Again, this was all voluntary and the state had no oversight or standards.

    However, I had several friends within my local JW congregation who were also “home-schooled” and invariably the parents were not even involved. Many of them dabbled in and out of public school, but there was a family whose two children home-schooled entirely. They were often left unattended at home with their books, with no tests and requirements or follow-up. I remember that the younger child was unable to read at the age of 10. Again, no state regulation or requirement.

  • Red

    I have had several friends who were homeschooled, with varying results. Some parents seemed well-suited for educating their kids, and some didn’t. The ones who were good at it would not have balked at the idea that their kids take tests to prove their progress.

    I remember one homeschooled friend telling me that some parents choose to homeschool because they abuse their kids and they know they’ll get busted if those kids go out in public :/ Sad but true.

  • Little Magpie

    Slightly OT (or tangential to the main subject of the post) but this business of being against UN’s CRC and wanting a parental rights amendment. Actually read the post this morning, and followed some of heatherjanes’ links. Didn’t get to commenting til now because it took a while to put my finger on why the whole thing gives me the willies. It’s this, in short:

    If you think that your rights as a parent to dominate your child’s life is more important than your child’s rights as a human being, – indeed, that anything is more important than your child’s rights, happiness, and welfare – you have no business being a parent. IMO.

    • http://AztecQueen2000.blogspot.com AztecQueen2000

      Like x 1,000. Parents should put their children’s needs first, no matter what.

  • http://dandelionhaven.blogspot.com/ Kateri

    Just looked up homeschooling regulations in Michigan where I live and am horrified. No registration, no madatory reporting or testing. This is worse than NY state 15 years ago where I grew up and was homeschooled. Even with the NY states laws at the time, my parents managed to complete neglect their children’s education.

  • http://thewordsonwhat.wordpress.com/ Rob F

    The International Center for Home Education Research has a map that allows you to see details on homeschooling regulations in various countries, including a state-by-state one for the US.

  • Amadna

    We live in Alaska and there are no homeschool regulations. I can choose to enroll under an umbrella school that is state run, but have chosen not to because of the regulations. For us this is helpful because my daughter is working 3-5 years above grade level in everything and in somethings she is working on a high school level at the age of 6. I have had problems in the past with the umbrella school wanting to see work at grade level even though she is bored out of her mind. I have the testing from independent psychologist and educational specialists that show what level she is working at, but they still wanted Kindergarten samples. I myself are thankful for not having to be forced to jump through those hoops, however I worry desperately about some of the other homechoooled children I know who I know are not getting a decent education. Homeschooling the right way takes a lot of work, resources, time and commitment. I have my master’s degree and am now staying home because out local school told us “sometimes gifted kids just have to be miserable in elementary school.” I spend hours planning and preparing everyday but when my daughter at 5 works several algebra problems and runs to her dad the minute he gets home to show him what she did with such a smile on her face and calls it “the fun math” I am glad for my right to homeschool my daughter in a way that works for us. I have a happy, social, and tuned in child that can work at her own pace.

    • Christine

      When the system is horribly broken some kids are going to lose out on their education. If homeschooling was regulated in Alaska, your daughter would be in that group (although she’d probably make it through more schooling than if she was expected to constantly work at her grade level, instead of just enough to demonstrate ability). Since it’s not regulated, other kids are the ones who miss out. The system needs to get fixed to minimize that number, not just change which kids are in it.

  • http://AztecQueen2000.blogspot.com AztecQueen2000

    Anyone who seeks to educate children, whether in a school or at home, needs to agree to have that education regulated. Unfortunately, the First Amendment has been misused and twisted so that any individual or organization that hides behind religion can circumvent the laws altogether. Here in Brooklyn, for example, some of the Jewish religious schools avoid the teaching of secular subjects entirely. There are graduates who have spent a number of years in a building called a “school,” but cannot read or write simple English. This needs to be stopped.

  • Notreligious

    I have seen the educational neglect possible with HS, even when the parents aren’t religiously or abusively motivated. To be fair, I have seen educational neglect in schooled people too. My DH is barely literate even though he graduated HS. No one caught his dyslexia, and passed him even when he was barely reading.

    I think HS is easy to screw up simply because of human nature, as we often do the least amount of work possible to get by. No rules makes the minimum amount of effort near zero, and makes it so easy to say “aw, forget it, we can do it another day” when things aren’t going well, even when that other day never comes. Few kids are internally motivated enough to learn all they need to without some guidance and explanation, so some subjects are lost to them completely.

    We lived with a family w 7 kids and the kids were so poorly educated it was sad. The eldest two (10, 12) had been to school and learned the basics of reading, writing and math, but were easily several grade levels behind, and stagnant. When we were there, the kids were enrolled in a “public school via computer” which followed state curricula. Everyday the oldest 3 (8-,12) had to work independently, while the other kids, plus mine (all under 5, and 2 infants) tore through the house playing and screaming (literally). Mom was there to help, but she was easily distracted, frustrated, and had no clue how to do or explain much of the work (and she is smart and decently educated). The kids were told “figure it out” and they were unable too. They would take the section “tests” over and over, until they got enough of the answers right (by memorization, not understanding).

    After a few months of near daily screaming and misery, the public school stuff was scrapped, and back to workbooks they went. The similarity between public school and this online school was blamed for its failure, along with its “inflexibility” (ie, expecting a certain amount of work in a time period, and an occasional, “live” online class with a teacher. Any pretense of proper education went right along with it, and instead they spent much time on chores around house and farm. DH felt like the kids were being properly educated- if it had been 1850, not 2012. I agreed. I worry more for the younger ones, who won’t have the benefit of learning the basics like the older ones, and a few of which have very unique needs (one is a genius, one has FAS and significant delays).

    They are also completely isolated, and have no friends they see outside the 2hour a week Awana class. Mom think a this ensures they will be best friends, but it seems to make them bored and lonely. I think they are trying to replicate farm life circa 1800, and are doing a good job of it. I find this strange, as dad is a genius tech guy and highly educated atheist, you would think he would know what is needed to succeed. He may have no choice, just like he has none regarding the kids being raised with the moms Christianity (I guess this was non negotiable when she converted!). I think mom knows the education the kids are getting is weak, but is unconcerned. It’s more important to keep them from bad influences (which I understand). No one dares mention it to her either, instead she gets cries of “I don’t know how you do it all! all those kids, babies, a farm and HS, how amazing!”

    Where I live now, the big thing is unschooling,, and radical unschooling. This educational theory is popular enough there’s a public school set up on the same principles, and there are large groups of kids that have both never been in a class, and never required to learn anything specific. As with HS, Im sure US can be done well, but I have noticed that there are a lot of “musicians”, video game players, and wanna be writers, but zero kids into STEM subjects. There is nothing wrong with choosing the humanities, I just think this shows what’s missing learning wise.

    Again, its the lack of standards or any rules often ensures these kids are ignorant of even the basics. A popular RUS promoter even says that by “natural learning” “standards” kids often don’t even read until they are 10-12(!), and don’t sleep independently until 8+. This is considered normal, and any parent that talks of “educational levels” is told that that idea is invalid, that kids will learn what they need, when they need it.

    I find US/RUS families are JUST as concerned with parental rights, freedom from regulation and testing, and CPS checks, as are the Vision Forum crowd. (they also overlap with regard to anti vaxx and home birth, but thats another post.) They believe their way is right, so they should be able to freely pursue it.

    • Christine

      If it makes you feel better – I know that the plural of anecdote isn’t data, and these aren’t great numbers, but a friend is sharing her office with an undergrad who was unschooled and then decided he wanted to go into engineering. (He arranged for the office space himself.) So it can be done, and does happen, at least occasionally. (Now, this is a highly competitive undergrad programme, I don’t know if you’d be able to get into one where grades mattered a lot, but it’s a start.)

    • Rosa

      I know some unschooling kids who are headed toward being STEM superstars. But it’s because their parents are engineers & physicists. They moved into unschooling from regular homeschooling but I think if the kids interests didn’t so mimic their parents, the parents would have stuck with homeschool – one in particular, he loves math so it’s fine but if he wanted to not do math his parents would go right back to the Classics plus math curricula they were doing before.

    • Christine

      I just thought about this recently, and how on earth is it not normal for kids to learn to read before they’re 10, even in that circumstance? That pretty much requires that their parents go out of their way to not teach anything. I thought that the point of unschooling was that you didn’t force the kids to learn anything, rather than you forced them to only learn what they were willing to put effort in to. Because after 6-7 years of being read bedtime stories, and having their parents read interesting things to them, most kids can start to pick up reading, even without their parents switching to the books designed to make kids learn to read.

      • http://bethclarkson.com BethC

        Some kids are just not interested in learning to read until they are older. Our oldest didn’t start reading until age 9, which drove us crazy for a while because it the number one priority for us. But we read a lot of stuff about how homeschoolers who were late readers didn’t seem to suffer from it. They are usually reading at grade level or higher within a year of learning to read. That was true for our daughter. She’s a college graduate now and planning on homeschooling her own daughter.

  • kisarita

    Thanks for posting this. I look forward to reading more of Heather’s blog.

  • http://Love,Joy,Feminism Northstar

    Well. It seems there is no shortage of pious busybodies ready to tell people how they have to run their lives even outside the evangelical community. Those of you who are staunch defenders of a woman’s right to privacy and self-determination when it comes to pregnancy, or a gay couple’s right to privacy about their personal lives should be able to see that a right to privacy extends even to those whose actions you do not personally “approve” of — even homeschoolers!

    Why, pray, must I agree to be regulated? I do not. I see so much face-palming failure to think these issues through, I barely know where to start. OK. Let’s start with my situation. You can’t say, “Oh, we’re not talking about _you!_” because yes, you are: we are real, live homeschoolers. I wish you could see my face when you say we shouldn’t mind testing if we have nothing to hide. Sure. In the same way, you shouldn’t mind peeing in the cup for an employer or state service if you have nothing to hide, and gee, shouldn’t mind intrusive searches of your home or person — if you have nothing to hide. Geez people, how far do you feel the state should be able to intrude into your business? The reason Michigan, my state, has such “lax” homeschooling standards is not because somebody forgot to implement them — it is because parents bit the bullet and went to jail for not filing the appropriate homeschooling paperwork in order to spark a legal case, or had their kids removed, or were harassed by truant officers threatening jail. This is in the 80’s and 90’s– the time I’ve been homeschooling, not the distant past. And in each case, when it was litigated through, the courts came down on the side of the rights of parents to determine the type of schooling their children would pursue.

    Now, assume that my 14 year old homeschooled daughter fails some state assessment — which I will readily admit would probably be the case. Even though a teacher-friend recently described her as “brilliant,” even though with me she reads Voltaire and Shakespeare and writes essays nearly every day, she is severely dyslexic and misspells most words. Bringing her to functional literacy has been a daily, years-long, grinding slog. We’re not there yet. So, say she fails. What then? Does the state force her into public school? Even though I have gone to considerable expense to create a curriculum based on video and audio texts tailored to her needs that I will bet not be the case in public school?

    Oh, did I mention she is also fatally allergic to peanuts and nuts? So when she is forced back into this school, do I go back to trying to train a staff about how she needs an EpiPen injection in a matter of minutes after an exposure (from a computer keyboard? Art supplies?) in order to survive, only to have them look me dead in the eyeballs and say, “Oh, I could never give anyone a shot! I’m too squeamish!” (Yes, this is one of the reasons I gave up my right for my children to have a free, appropriate public education. )

    Ok, assuming these problems have been surmounted, let’s do some fact-gathering. In my local school district — white, middle-middle-class, considered “good” – in 2010 &11(latest stats I could dig up) the percentage of students in 7th & 8th grade who even MET the testing standards recorded these results: math: 28%, reading: 59%, writing: 55%, social studies: 31%, science: 10.9%. Let me repeat that: Science, 10.9%
    Soooooo, all you homeschool haters out there, what is your penalty for the school YOU WOULD FORCE ME TO SEND MY DAUGHTER TO when they fail to provide an adequate education? Is it just so important that we march in lockstep with everyone else that this is just good enough by you?

    And for every anecdotal story that is told of a dumb homeschooler, I’m sure one can find traditionally schooled teens who are dumber than a box of rocks, too. We haven’t got the stupid market cornered, I assure you. And since there seems to be no remedy that can be applied equally to homeschooled and traditionally schooled students, I don’t have a solution for stupid — except in the case of my own children.

    Well, what about abuse? Those homeschoolers can hide abuse, can’t they? Well, good thing there are no traditionally schooled kids are abused or mistreated by their parents!

    Oh, there are? You don’t say.

    Homeschool or not homeschool, there are people who do not treat their children well. But put it this way: if you don’t like your kids around, there’s a place you can send them all. day. long. For free. With pickup and delivery. Homeschooling is demanding and expensive. It’s not something I have EVER seen anyone take on casually.

    Ok, so this turned into a blog post instead of a comment — sorry, it’s just a subject passionately close to my heart and life, and about something that everyone seems to feel the right to dictate how I do it. Thanks if you read it through to the end!

    Here’ s a few sources in case anyone’s interested.

    http://www.hslda.org/courtreport/V9N4/V9N404.asp
    http://quod.lib.umich.edu/m/mfr/4919087.0006.103?rgn=main;view=fulltext

    • Rosa

      Wow, that’s amazingly defensive. You really think that having to register with the state, let your daughter talk to an evaluator once a year, and taking a standardized test – which, if she’s dyslexic, she’d get special consideration on whether she’s homeschooled or in public school – is too high a price to pay to lay out a lifeline to one of the kids who’s abused and neglected under the banner of homeschooling?

      Some of us are out there every day working to improve the schools we choose to send our kids to – not because OUR kids are the ones being failed, but because NO children should be failed by the schools. We cheerfully submit to some basic questioning if our kids show up at school, daycare, or the emergency room with suspicious injuries or bruises, because it’s an important safety net for every child.

      We’re asking homeschoolers to at least not fight against having their community have to meet some basic standards, to protect some of their kids. A lot of the voices calling for this are the grown former children of the bad homeschoolers you don’t want to be lumped into – just like many of the voices for public school reform are the grown former children who were failed by their own school systems.

      And – I’ll go ahead and believe your protestations that you’re a good homeschooling parent in a terrible school system that could not possibly serve your child – so what? Regulations are for everyone. I’m a safe driver. Never been in an accident that was my fault. Yet I don’t lobby against driver’s licensing and testing, because our roads should be as safe as we can make them. How many bad examples – and there are certainly plenty of survivor stories to prove the bad situations exist – does it take? How many kids do we throw away without putting in even the most basic preventative measures?

      • Nea

        Well said!

    • Stephanie

      Northstar- I agree wholeheartedly. I used to live and homeschool in Texas where we had the freedom to do it as we chose. Yes, some people will abuse that freedom, we can’t stop people from doing bad things whether in public school or homeschool. We moved to Pennsylvania about 7 years ago. Nothing changed in the way I homeschooled, except that now I had lots of regulations to fulfill in addition to all the work of homeschooling my children. Quite honestly, parents can still homeschool and not teach their kids very much. I see it more out here than I did in Texas. My husband skipped lots of school (he was in public school) didn’t do well in school, yet has a great career as a software engineer which he thinks is due in part to all the time spent out on the beach instead of in school- it helped his mind to have the freedom to be creative. I see kids who have it all and yet they waste their lives, and other kids like Heather and my husband who start out with very little and are driven to make something of themselves. Changing laws isn’t going to change much in the way people homeschool. We can’t change their hearts that way.

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ M

        Changing laws might not change how people homeschool to start with. What it can do is prevent those who will fail from doing it at all. It’ll stop some of the abusive parents who hide their abuse by “homeschooling”. It’ll expose kids to the real world outside the evangelical bubble, which is a Good Thing(tm) because it teaches them how to interact with those who are different. If your child can’t read by age 8 (assuming no learning disabilities or other mitigating factors), you lose the “right” to fuck your kid over for life. Basic education is a requirement for success in this country, and not all people are or can be motivated to overcome enormous obstacles.

        The goal of homeschool regulation and public schooling in general is to reduce the obstacles so more people can make it. The proper thing to do is NOT to praise the few who overcome enormous obstacles while condemning those who fell off and couldn’t push their broken, bleeding psyches to try again. The proper thing to do is make it easier to succeed and offer help to those who need it.

      • Nea

        we can’t stop people from doing bad things

        This attitude, be it applied to home schooling or gun control, or any other part of life, makes me crazy. It’s outright saying that because a problem can’t be solved 100%, there’s no need to try AT ALL, which is ridiculous and fatalistic… not to mention for some people, outright fatal.

        We can’t stop men from abusing their wives – but y’know what? Domestic abuse laws have made prosecution and justice a little bit easier for women to get. We can’t stop people from driving drunk – but laws, regulations, even advertising of the “dedicated driver” concept have dropped the number of incidents and therefore fatalities.

        LIVES HAVE BEEN SAVED by the attitude of “just because we can’t do everything doesn’t mean we mustn’t do SOMETHING.” So it makes me crazy to see people throw up their hands and say “can’t be fixed, so it’s not worth even trying” It IS worth trying. It is ALWAYS worth trying. To not try is to be complicit in the destruction of the lives that could have been saved.

    • DataSnake

      Well. It seems there is no shortage of pious busybodies ready to tell people how they have to run their lives even outside the evangelical community. Those of you who are staunch defenders of a woman’s right to privacy and self-determination when it comes to pregnancy, or a gay couple’s right to privacy about their personal lives should be able to see that a right to privacy extends even to those whose actions you do not personally “approve” of — even homeschoolers!

      “The right to swing my fist ends where the other man’s nose begins” — Oliver Wendell Holmes
      When your desire to exercise your right to homeschool your kids interferes with their right to a decent education, not to mention their right not to be raped or beaten, the child’s rights take priority.

      Why, pray, must I agree to be regulated? I do not. I see so much face-palming failure to think these issues through, I barely know where to start. OK. Let’s start with my situation. You can’t say, “Oh, we’re not talking about _you!_” because yes, you are: we are real, live homeschoolers. I wish you could see my face when you say we shouldn’t mind testing if we have nothing to hide. Sure. In the same way, you shouldn’t mind peeing in the cup for an employer or state service if you have nothing to hide, and gee, shouldn’t mind intrusive searches of your home or person — if you have nothing to hide. Geez people, how far do you feel the state should be able to intrude into your business?

      If I refuse a drug test, the worst thing I could be hiding is that I got high recently. If I refuse to let my children tell anyone how I’ve been treating them, the list of things I could be hiding is much longer and far more nightmarish.

      The reason Michigan, my state, has such “lax” homeschooling standards is not because somebody forgot to implement them — it is because parents bit the bullet and went to jail for not filing the appropriate homeschooling paperwork in order to spark a legal case, or had their kids removed, or were harassed by truant officers threatening jail. This is in the 80’s and 90’s– the time I’ve been homeschooling, not the distant past. And in each case, when it was litigated through, the courts came down on the side of the rights of parents to determine the type of schooling their children would pursue.

      Now, assume that my 14 year old homeschooled daughter fails some state assessment — which I will readily admit would probably be the case. Even though a teacher-friend recently described her as “brilliant,” even though with me she reads Voltaire and Shakespeare and writes essays nearly every day, she is severely dyslexic and misspells most words. Bringing her to functional literacy has been a daily, years-long, grinding slog. We’re not there yet. So, say she fails. What then? Does the state force her into public school? Even though I have gone to considerable expense to create a curriculum based on video and audio texts tailored to her needs that I will bet not be the case in public school?

      Schools usually have special ed programs for a reason. And if you really think just saying “she’s learning, honest!” is a foolproof system for making sure kids actually get all the education they need, I know a Nigerian prince who’d like your banking information.

      Oh, did I mention she is also fatally allergic to peanuts and nuts? So when she is forced back into this school, do I go back to trying to train a staff about how she needs an EpiPen injection in a matter of minutes after an exposure (from a computer keyboard? Art supplies?) in order to survive, only to have them look me dead in the eyeballs and say, “Oh, I could never give anyone a shot! I’m too squeamish!” (Yes, this is one of the reasons I gave up my right for my children to have a free, appropriate public education. )

      So instead of going to their superiors about this horrendous display of incompetence, you just decided to pull your kid out of school. It’s a good thing she’s the only person in the world with allergies, or your “I’ve got mine so screw you” attitude could have gotten some other kid hurt.

      Ok, assuming these problems have been surmounted, let’s do some fact-gathering. In my local school district — white, middle-middle-class, considered “good” – in 2010 &11(latest stats I could dig up) the percentage of students in 7th & 8th grade who even MET the testing standards recorded these results: math: 28%, reading: 59%, writing: 55%, social studies: 31%, science: 10.9%. Let me repeat that: Science, 10.9%
      Soooooo, all you homeschool haters out there, what is your penalty for the school YOU WOULD FORCE ME TO SEND MY DAUGHTER TO when they fail to provide an adequate education? Is it just so important that we march in lockstep with everyone else that this is just good enough by you?

      Saying “I can teach my daughter better than public schools could!” isn’t really an argument for why she SHOULDN’T take tests to show that you’re doing a good job teaching her.

      And for every anecdotal story that is told of a dumb homeschooler, I’m sure one can find traditionally schooled teens who are dumber than a box of rocks, too. We haven’t got the stupid market cornered, I assure you. And since there seems to be no remedy that can be applied equally to homeschooled and traditionally schooled students, I don’t have a solution for stupid — except in the case of my own children.

      There’s a difference between stupid and deliberately misinformed. If you don’t pay attention in class and you wind up thinking that the sun orbits the earth, you’re stupid. If your teacher TELLS you the sun orbits the earth because “that’s what it says in the Bible”, THEY’RE KIND OF A SHITTY TEACHER.

      Well, what about abuse? Those homeschoolers can hide abuse, can’t they? Well, good thing there are no traditionally schooled kids are abused or mistreated by their parents!
      Oh, there are? You don’t say.
      Homeschool or not homeschool, there are people who do not treat their children well.

      And it’s a lot easier to CATCH those people if someone not in on the abuse can see the kids. It also helps if someone’s TOLD them that it’s inappropriate for their parents to treat them that way and, surprise surprise, diddlers often leave “you should call the police if anyone who touches you the way I do” out of the curriculum for some reason.

      But put it this way: if you don’t like your kids around, there’s a place you can send them all. day. long. For free. With pickup and delivery. Homeschooling is demanding and expensive. It’s not something I have EVER seen anyone take on casually.

      I don’t think anyone’s ever accused parents who homeschool of doing so out of laziness. It’s just that there are plenty of people who, while not lazy , are still very bad people, and as a society we have a duty to protect others (especially children) from them if possible.

      Ok, so this turned into a blog post instead of a comment — sorry, it’s just a subject passionately close to my heart and life, and about something that everyone seems to feel the right to dictate how I do it. Thanks if you read it through to the end!

      No problem. And I don’t think you should apologize for being passionate about your beliefs, even if I disagree with them.

    • shadowspring

      You are all upset about nothing, if indeed you are doing the excellent job home schooling your daughter that you claim to be doing. You would pass any regulation with flying colors, IF you are doing the wonderful job you claim to be doing. So your daughter is dyslexic? Then you know you have a right to have that diagnosis honored at test time, that under the Americans with Disabilities Act signed into law by the first Bush, your daughter has to be given whatever she needs to show her brilliance: the right to give oral answers, have the test read aloud to her, the right to more time. Your outrage is not based in knowledge.

  • http://Love,Joy,Feminism Northstar

    No, Rosa at #23, not defensive. Outraged! Over and over on this thread I’ve seen people who do not have a clue about homeschooling demand we should be regulated, standardized and interfered with. Do you think even in your suggested registration, interview and testing that this is going to solve the problem of inadequate schooling and abuse? What remedy do you suggest? Do you think an abuser is going to conveniently beat the child prior to the interview so they can be checked for bruises? Do you like having your children body checked by school officials? I don’t lay a hand on my kids and I find the idea appalling. I suggest a lot more abused children would be found through lining them all up and body checking for bruises at the public schools — are you ready for that level of intrusiveness? Wow, think of the sheer number of bruises that could be investigated! Probably lots of kids helped (and unfortunately, probably a lot of false leads.) Is it a good idea… or just a good idea for homeschoolers?

    How about testing? Believe me, the local school was calling US to have our eldest tested after she tested “advanced” in all the subjects the prior year. No, I don’t think I’m going to put her through the stress of multi day testing so they can pump their scores. And even if I did, what, now I get to teach to the test in the same way that is despised by so many professional teachers? This is your remedy?

    And what, exactly, constitutes the “failure” that would be the cut-off point to force sending them to public school? Did you even read those stats I posted, apparently missing the whole point that it’s considered a “good” school system? What happens to schooled kids who fall below that failure rate? Obviously we know the answer to that one: nothing. But let homeschoolers — who all, like Lake Woebegonians, must _by law_ have children Above Average or something — match those sorry statistics and we have officers at the door ready to march the kids off to the local public school.

    No matter if you don’t like that people live their lives in ways you don’t agree with, guess what? It’s none of your business. I’d like to quote from one of the Michigan Supreme court decisions on homeschooling:

    >>The Michigan Supreme Court, however, carefully applied the complete “compelling interest test.” The Court acknowledges that although education is important,

    Our rights are meaningless if they do not permit an individual to challenge and be free from those abridgements of liberty that are otherwise vital to society � Hence, Michigan’s interest in compulsory education is not absolute and must yield to the constitutional liberties protected by the First Amendment (Slip. Op., pp. 26-27).<<

    Freedom, to conduct our family lives as we see fit, whether others approve or not — you have it, and as a matter of fact, I have it, too. These are not rights I'll waive to appease intrusive know-nothings who would claim the authority to make decisions for my family.

    • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ M

      Do you have the freedom to force your child to become an 18-year-old functionally illiterate, socially incapable person? Does your child have any rights at all, or do you only have parental rights?

      When I was 10, I still considered myself a person. If my mom had wanted to homeschool me, I would have fought tooth and nail against it. She’s intelligent, well-educated, loving, and altogether a good person, but ugh. No. I had friends, I had different interests from her, and I needed time away from her. She’d be a pretty decent teacher but we have a lot of the same weaknesses in learning style, so she couldn’t help me shore up mine. She has no training to be a teacher. We couldn’t do a lot of science at home- the chemicals are controlled and the lab equipment is expensive. Do her rights to be “free to conduct our family lives as we see fit” trump my rights to a quality education? Why?

    • AnotherOne

      “Over and over on this thread I’ve seen people who do not have a clue about homeschooling demand we should be regulated, standardized and interfered with.”

      There are also those of us who have no shortage of experience with and knowledge about homeschooling–experience and knowledge which have led us to believe that homeschooling needs to be more regulated. I, for one, was homeschooled all my life by parents who lacked the financial, emotional, and educational resources to adequately educate me, and I desperately wish regulation had been in place to provide some accountability. My own children’s experience in a mediocre public school has been far superior to my experience as a homeschooler.

  • http://Love,Joy,Feminism Northstar

    It is not whether a child has rights, which they do, it is whether the _state_ or the _parent_ has the ultimate right to determine the care and education of the child. The premise of your question is invalid. The state may intervene in the circumstance you suggest, as it has always had the right to, if it has determined through administrative review that academic harm is being done to the child. (Unless, of course, it’s being done by the school. Free pass there.) Yep, they actually have to build a case, just like police have to have probable cause to search you or your house. Just one of those freedom thangs, y’know? It has already been litigated by our state Supreme Court that it is the parent’s right to make these decisions unless probable cause has been found to intervene.

    So, I may be creating a functionally illiterate maladapt (who knows?) but today, because we’re having a snow day (yeah, my kids get them, too), I’ll just help her correct the spelling on the 800 word essay she’s written on her own initiative about gender roles in the movie “ParaNorman”, so she can post it on Tumblr, and knock back an hour of Teaching Company lectures on the Neurology of Behavior. Just because we’re taking it easy.

    Oh, and about comparing homeschooling licensing and regulation to driver’s licensing and training. “Stupid” is a hard word, but comparing the supervising the ability and training to control a massive moving object that has the potential to be fatal to multiple persons within *moments* if poorly handled to… educating, perhaps imperfectly, one’s child… well, sorry, that’s just stupid. And “cheerfully” responding to questions from doctors, teachers and etc. about possible abuse? Really? You’ve done that, Rosa… and cheerfully, even? Blood didn’t run cold even a little bit at the pointed questions? Ohhhhhhkay…. Yes, I believe in mandatory abuse reporting laws, as a matter of fact… but those are laws precisely because teachers, doctors and etc. did not reliably report abuse before. It’s no guarantee of finding it now. Even when people don’t homeschool.

    Yeah, I’m pissed. There’s something about the tone of “When did you stop beating/stupidifying/emotionally stunting/ your child?” questions that can get up under the skin of homeschool parents, after a while.

    • Rosa

      Yes, cheerfully. My child ran into a lit cigarette at a parade – he was just the height of a grownups’ hand, and he ran right into one that happened to belong to a smoker. Got a burn mark on his face, about an inch from his eye. I was a little taken aback at first when the daycare teacher asked about it, but then I thought – good! I am so glad she cares about my child!

      And – NO ONE is accusing you of mistreating your child. We’re saying “Some parents mistreat their children. Help us build a system to try to stop them.” Are you asserting that there are not parents who use the facade of homeschooling to further control and isolate their children? There’s quite a bit of testimony from formerly homeschooled children to say they exist.

    • Kat

      “Stupid” is a hard word, but comparing the supervising the ability and training to control a massive moving object that has the potential to be fatal to multiple persons within *moments* if poorly handled to… educating, perhaps imperfectly, one’s child… well, sorry, that’s just stupid.

      I don’t recall anyone here saying that homeschooling is bad because sometimes it’s not perfect. What I’ve seen is people saying that we need to make sure people can’t use it as an excuse to neglect or abuse their children. Which, by the way, can be “fatal to multiple persons,” if the parent decides to beat their children to death. Which NO ONE HAS ACCUSED YOU OF DOING, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t parents who do it.
      Look, I agree with you that there’s a lot of prejudice against homeschoolers. I agree that much of it is invalid. And you raise some good points about standardized tests; perhaps submitting a portfolio of work for individual evaluation might be a better way to go, or maybe there’s a better way to make sure students are on track. But the idea that no one should ever be allowed to check in and make sure that your teenager can read, or that she isn’t being beaten, strikes me as absurd. Just because you’re taking adequate care of your child, we shouldn’t implement any standards to make sure everyone is? Because you’re a good homeschooling parent, we should assume everyone is, and not worry about kids getting screwed over?
      Here’s the thing: homeschooling regulations would AFFECT you, but they are not ABOUT you. They are about protecting kids who aren’t as fortunate as your daughter. Quite honestly, if you think a little extra red tape is too high a price for ensuring that someone else’s kids are safe and not being neglected, then I think you’re being unbelievably selfish. No one wants to take your children away. They just want to make sure they’re being taken care of.

  • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ M

    Northstar, someone checking up on the child IS regulation. It’s exactly what I’m advocating. Right now, a parent can choose to homeschool the child and completely neglect their education. The child has no say in the matter. That is an unacceptable status quo.

    You start with the premise that the parent has the right to choose for the family. I start from the premise that every child has the right to a quality education. These rights conflict. We have come to different conclusions about which is more important. My feeling is, if a family can prove they can and are homeschooling properly, then let them. The burden of proof should be on the parents, not the school/state/government/CPS/whatever. Most parents suck at being teachers because they aren’t trained for it and I’m tired of their children paying the price. Does that mean you suck at teaching? Nope, not at all. I don’t know enough to make that kind of judgment. A bit of regulation to make sure your daughter is getting a quality education isn’t too much to ask to ensure it, though.

    I know the Supreme Court has made that decision. It’s based on the First Amendment religious freedom clause, since the Amish wanted to “homeschool” their kids past the eighth grade. Which means Amish children’s education ceases after 8th grade. On the other hand, allowing homeschooling doesn’t have to mean no regulations on it, as the gun control debate has shown. You can regulate something without banning it.

    • Beth

      The burden of proof should be on the parents, not the school/state/government/CPS/whatever.

      If you put the burden of proof on parents, you are negating the presumption of innocence. I have a BIG problem with that. I agree with Northstar, the burden of proof should be on school/state/government/CPS/whatever, not parents. If abuse or neglect is occurring, that’s justification for intervention. But assuming that such is occurring unless the parents can prove that it’s not, well, I disagree with that approach.

      • Rosa

        Presumption of innocence is for criminal cases. For things like education, in most cases the state puts the burden on the practitioner to prove basic levels of competence – it’s not “anyone can practice medicine, but if we can prove you do it badly we’ll stop you”, it’s “anyone who meets education and licensing requirements can practice medicine, except that if they do it very badly we will stop them.”

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ M

        What Rosa said. We require teachers to have a BA in their subject and pass a teaching test in order to teach- we don’t let random people into classrooms and then fire the bad ones. Parents should have to prove minimal competence, just like teachers, in order to teach anyone including their own children.

    • http://Love,Joy,Feminism Northstar

      >>You start with the premise that the parent has the right to choose for the family. I start from the premise that every child has the right to a quality education. These rights conflict. We have come to different conclusions about which is more important. My feeling is, if a family can prove they can and are homeschooling properly, then let them. The burden of proof should be on the parents, not the school/state/government/CPS/whatever. Most parents suck at being teachers because they aren’t trained for it and I’m tired of their children paying the price.

      Wow. You could hardly mischaracterize what I believe more if you tried, which, uncharitably enough, I suspect you are doing. As a matter of fact I do believe every child has the right to a quality education — and that the venue for this education is the responsibility of the parents. Some choose to turn over the education to public school; ok, not good enough for me, but good enough for most — some choose more expensive private school, and some take the responsibility themselves. These other schools do not have to “prove” they are schooling properly; the evidence is that in many cases they are not, yet you are asking for homeschoolers to prove themselves more than any other form of school. Why? Do private kitchens have to prove they are safer than public restaurants? Do private builders have to meet higher home building standards than industry builders?
      Where we disagree most empathetically is that the burden of proof should be on the parents. I have done nothing wrong. The vast majority of homeschooling parents have done nothing wrong. We are not criminals. We should not have to “prove” we are not

      • http://Love,Joy,Feminism Northstar

        Oh, and “most parents suck at teaching their children”? Really? Please cite the study… or is it just your prejudices speaking?

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ M

        Most people suck at anything they aren’t trained for. I’m a terrible coder because I’m self-taught; I intend to learn more and get better, but I recognize my flaws. An employer SHOULD NOT trust me if I say “well I’ve done projects so I’m good at JS, C++, and HTML”. I’m good at teaching people who want to learn (I’ve worked as a tutor before) and bad at motivating the unmotivated. I’ve met a lot of homeschoolers, and while the plural of anecdote is not data, not one has not had either social issues, education issues, or both.

        I don’t say you have to prove you’re not a criminal. I do say you have to prove you’re a minimally competent teacher at any subject you intend to teach. If you intend to teach biology, than you should by-golly have to prove that you understand evolution, cell division, and species classification. If you don’t intend to teach biology, then you are cheating your child of a solid education.

      • Petticoat Philosopher

        So you believe that every child has a “right” to an education but that it should be completely up to the parents to see that that right is being honored with no oversight at all? Do you feel similarly about, say, employee’s rights? Do you, for example, think that an employee’s right to a safe working environment and a fair wage should be entirely “the responsibility of the employer,” end of story, or do you think there should be occupational safety regulations and minimum wage laws to protect workers, should the employer fail in that responsibility? Are such regulations treating employers like criminals?

        There are certain rights that are important enough that we recognize that the legal system and the government should have a roll in guaranteeing them. In those cases, saying that the “responsibility” of guaranteeing those rights should rest entirely with a private body, with no recourse for the right-holder should they fail to do so, is pretty much just another way of saying that those rights don’t matter.

      • Christine

        I teach, and I would not consider myself at all qualified to teach my own children. Kids have a tendency to believe that their parents are correct when they say something. It’s a horrible dynamic for education. Once they outgrow this it’s a different story, but by that point I would no longer have the background to teach biology, the humanities or the social sciences (and my chemistry would be questionable). A lot of parents who are also teachers prefer that someone else teach their child in a formal setting.

  • Notreligious

    Northstar-
    In what world do we not regulate rights like abortion, marriage, and privacy, etc? ALL of those things are regulated, some extremely so. I don’t see anyone trying to remove the basic regulations and limitations, for example: only doctors can perform abortions, new birth control drugs need to clear safety testing, people cannot marry children, pilots need to be alcohol and drug tested, privacy can be breached when a warrant is procured, felons cannot own guns. I am sure these examples strike you as absurd, but they merely illustrate some necessary basic safety rules, and limits on rights, that exist.

    Why should education be any different? Is it really such an imposition to ask HS parents to ensure their kids can read, write, etc, and prove it on occasion? Most states that have testing do not have any penalties for failure anyway. I also do not see a single person advocating forcing any kid into public school, or advocating banning HS.

    Only in a mindset where regulation of any type = horrible, burdensome, rights crushing, unnecessary, would the lack of any regulation be something to work towards. We may argue about the best way to ensure basic standards are met, with minimal hassle, but to fight for no such standards to exist? I don’t see why anyone would want that.

    I am very glad you never met any HS parents that were lazy, because I sure have. HS does not have to be expensive- in Oregon, it’s free to use online public school, and they ship you boxes of books, supplies, learning tools for free. Workbooks are cheap, and there are many good free resources online. I can’t say that parents chose HS just so they could be lazy, and keep their kids from learning, but that doesn’t mean that’s not the end result.

    I think you are assuming all HSers are like your family, and are extrapolating your experience to the larger HS population.

    • http://Love,Joy,Feminism Northstar

      >>I think you are assuming all HSers are like your family, and are extrapolating your experience to the larger HS population.<<

      Plainly, you do not run in the same circles I do. I think I run a pretty damn good homeschool, but compared to the rigor of some families, I don't even come close. I think you may also be extrapolating your perceptions from the inevitable homeschool horror stories to the larger homeschool community.

      Not to mention, many of the "horror stories" from here involve damage from a parent's excessive religiosity. That is an entirely separate issue from homeschooling.

  • swimr1

    @ Northstar – I don’t think I’d agree with your points anyway, but your tone is a put off from the start. Your high level of defensiveness is making you come off as unreasonable. You may actually be a very reasonable person, I can’t say. But, as someone who has a friend who did a fantastic job homeschooling her oldest because of Asperger’s, and knows the family (above) who homeschools 8 kids where the mom barely speaks english, has only a high school education at most and can’t drive, you’re pushing me toward the “homeschoolers are unreasonable extremists” camp. I know it isn’t true of everyone, but your posts are coming off as anything but calm and well-reasoned.

    • http://Love,Joy,Feminism Northstar

      I don’t feel the need to be considered “nice” by those who would be happy to impose their prejudices on my rights.

      • swimr1

        I wasn’t talking about being “nice.” I was talking about sounding reasonable so that people will take your arguments seriously instead of dismissing you because of tone. Your rabid tone makes you sound unwilling to even consider any viewpoint other than your own. That’s not a reasoned position that’s dogma.

      • Petticoat Philosopher

        To be fair swimr1, I also wouldn’t care if she sounded “nice” or if she sounded “rabid” if her arguments made any sense. They’re the problem, not her tone. Let’s not tone-troll here.

  • Rilian

    Regulations violate children’s rights. The same way that government schools do. The same way that private schools do, if the kid is not attending willingly. Unregulated parenting allows for abuses, but government school is definitely abusive.

    I was thrilled that there were no regulations on homeschooling in texas, because it meant that *I*, the student, the “child” (I was 16.), could do what *I* wanted. It’s true that the government wouldn’t have helped me if my mom had decided to try to force restrictions upon me. But in states with regulations on that stuff, if your parents are ok with you being free, the government still isn’t.

    Children need protections from shitty parents. But regulations on homeschooling and government schools don’t accomplish that and they pile on more abuses.

  • http://equalsuf.wordpress.com Jayn

    “Children need protections from shitty parents.”

    That’s what regulations are for, at least to me. They’re there to stop one person from traipsing over the rights of another person. Without regulations, how would a government agency know when to step in? How would they step in at all? Protocols and procedures are there to outline how a situation is to be handled, to ensure a measure of consistency so that how one case is handled isn’t radically different from how another similar case is handled.

    Can regulation be abusive? Sure. But so can individuals, and there needs to be a way to say, “At this point you’re being abusive and we will step in to stop you.” That’s what good regulations do. You can’t say that ‘children need protections from shitty parents’ without delineating what shitty parenting is and what will be done to stop it.

    I also have an issue with the idea of a child being able to choose what to do. It sounds great on paper, but it requires a certain level of self-motivation for it to work at all. Not all of us are good at that. I, personally, suck at it. I need a structure imposed on me by someone else. As a child the idea of being able to direct my own education probably would have sounded appealing (and school sure was no picnic) but knowing myself as I do now I think it would have been a terrible idea. The outside structure of public school gave me the incentive I needed and couldn’t provide myself* to study and learn. Without it, I doubt much would have gotten done.

    *I tried an online class once in college. It was a predictably bad idea, since it lacked the structured time I needed to accomplish anything and relied on my own self-motivation. I managed a passing grade, but a regular class would have been much better for me.

    • http://Love,Joy,Feminism Northstar

      Perhaps if you had been raised to be self-motivated and self-sufficient in your education, it wouldn’t have been so difficult. Each of my children is required to account for what they’ve done while I am doing one-on-one with a sibling; they know they _must_ pursue another subject if they finish the one at hand. Maybe that’s why the bio teacher wrote in his (glowing) recommendation for my then-14yo daughter, that she “didn’t have any difficulty adapting to college level work like so many of his students.”

  • Rilian

    “I need a structure imposed on me by someone else.”

    So then you can say that and get someone to help you. You are free to do that. That’s what my brother did when he was homeschooled, basically. My mom made suggestions for subjects for him to study, he agreed to it, then she decided his assignments.

    • Petticoat Philosopher

      Because “finding someone to help you” with your education is so totally easy for all kids. Right. Except not. Your view of education presumes a lot of privilege and access to resources that many kids simply do not have.

      • http://equalsuf.wordpress.com Jayn

        It also assumes a certain level of self-awareness. I didn’t fully realise this was an issue for me until adulthood. I probably wouldn’t have asked for someone to help me because I wouldn’t know (or want to believe) that I needed that. I doubt most kids have the level of self-awareness needed to really direct their own education.

  • http://bethclarkson.com Beth

    Rosa said:

    Presumption of innocence is for criminal cases. For things like education, in most cases the state puts the burden on the practitioner to prove basic levels of competence – it’s not “anyone can practice medicine, but if we can prove you do it badly we’ll stop you”, it’s “anyone who meets education and licensing requirements can practice medicine, except that if they do it very badly we will stop them.”

    Education neglect is a crime, just like other forms of neglect are. We don’t impose licensing requirements on parenting to prevent other forms of abuse or neglect, why should educating your own children be handled differently? No one is suggesting regulations that would require parents to prove their younger than school age children are adequately fed and clothed, get proper medical care, etc., yet those things will lead to far worse outcomes when parents are not able to competently handle them.

    Would you be in favor of regulations to ensure that parents are providing proper health care for their children? For example, would you approve of regulations that require all parents to take their children to a licensed medical provider on a regular basis as a way to discover children who are being abused or neglected? If not, what is the key difference you see between such regulations for health care and the type of regulations you are advocating for education?

    M said:

    What Rosa said. We require teachers to have a BA in their subject and pass a teaching test in order to teach- we don’t let random people into classrooms and then fire the bad ones. Parents should have to prove minimal competence, just like teachers, in order to teach anyone including their own children.

    Parents become a child’s teacher the day it is born. They teach them to walk and talk. Should we license them before they are allowed to do that? If not, why not? What is the difference you perceive between what parents need be ‘licensed’ in order to teach and what is fine for parents to teach without oversight?

    Also, what would minimal competence look like? The skills involved in managed the education of child from birth until college are very different from the skills required to manage the education of a large group of children for a single school year with a defined curriculum.

    • Anat

      They teach them to walk and talk.

      No we don’t, and it is either ignorant or arrogant to think that we do. Kids learn these things from being around people that do them, no deliberate teaching needed. Feral children don’t learn these things, so basic human social interaction is required, but kids learn to talk even in cultures where people do not talk to infants until the infant says hir first few words.

      Other things – some parents teach their children, some don’t. So you see kids entering their first group education environment not knowing the colors or the shapes and others with encyclopedic knowledge. I’d say parents have the opportunity and potential to teach their children, but not all of them do so.

      • http://bethclarkson.com Beth

        I have trouble with your claim that parents are not teaching their kids to walk and talk. It may be more unconscious than deliberate, but all parents are teaching their kids. Check out this ted video about a child learning to talk: http://www.ted.com/talks/deb_roy_the_birth_of_a_word.html.

        At any rate, I agree that some parents are not interested or well-suited to homeschool their kids with regard to academic subjects. I don’t see that fact as sufficient justification for imposing regulations on homeschoolers.

      • Anat

        Children learn to talk even when nobody talks to them, as long as they see and hear people talking to each other. There is no necessity for anyone to teach children to talk. Very little of a child’s speech has anything to do with deliberate teaching. As for unconscious teaching – how is doing that any qualification for teaching an academic curriculum?

        At any rate, I agree that some parents are not interested or well-suited to homeschool their kids with regard to academic subjects. I don’t see that fact as sufficient justification for imposing regulations on homeschoolers.

        So you don’t mind that children like Heatherjanes and her siblings grow up with barely any education whatsoever? You think it’s OK to let their families seclude them so no evidence is encountered for this neglect?

  • http://Love,Joy,Feminism Northstar

    Yes, I am passionate about this issue. Yes, I am angry about some of the posts here. It is hard to hear what I consider unreasoned criticism of one’s personal choices and calls for one’s personal life to be “regulated” without becoming justifiably angry. For years family, physicians, random strangers, legislators, shopkeepers — even a teenage ticket-taker at Disney World! — have felt free to voice their criticism and disapproval of what we are doing! This without knowing the slightest thing about me, my family, and our circumstances. If my skin is thin, it is because it has been _rubbed_ that way.

    But so far as being “unreasonable”, I am not. The “reasoned” result of some of restrictions people propose would have direct, negative consequences for my family. My real, actual, non-hypothetical family. One person suggests that people lose their “fucking right” to educate their children if the child can’t read by age 8. Ok, suppose that child has been taken out of school for an anxiety disorder. Reasoned out, how does one address the child’s “fucking right” to learn to read? Do you send marshals to the door? This is not reductio ad absurdum; in Michigan parents have chosen (with their children’s permission, as “government studies” ) to be taken to jail and their children removed to temporary foster care for deliberately not filing the required homeschooling paperwork. And then, if the child, now schooled traditionally, continues to have difficulty reading, what then? Are they sent back home with a “Sorry, we were wrong?” Sent on to… what, some other Uber-school, just as long as it isn’t homeschool?

    Can you imagine the trauma to both family and child in this scenario, so casually and self-righteously tossed out? Can you imagine the anxiety even I have about these scenarios actually occurring? Particularly when all three of my children are particularly vulnerable? This is what I live with: http://www.katu.com/news/local/174446621.html

    Another asks “how many children must be lost?” Hmmm. Looking at my local (Blue Ribbon!) school stats, only 59% or so of the 1,229 students my second daughter’s age are meeting minimum standards of reading. That means some ~504 are not. Now, compare my _one_ daughter to the 504 at the local school. What remedy is suggested for both of those groups? Because if you don’t treat both schools (and legally, homeschools ARE schools) equally, you’re just targeting homeschoolers for some other reason. Ideology, mayhap? Non-conformity? What? Why should my daughter be delivered to that school, and would then her reading problem magically disappear? Is your answer different if I am religious, or non-religious? In the same way, if one wants to find abused children, one could probably find many more by some mandatory testing of both home- and traditionally schooled, instead of just the handful of homeschooled. Why just us? Again, does your answer vary?

    And don’t tell me, “Oh! Well, you’re different! You have legitimate reasons!” It doesn’t matter. Who decides which reasons are legitimate? In the over-eager effort to ferret out those considered… undesirable, for whatever reasons, all must be taken up in the net. My eldest dd, (who tests brilliantly, thank you very much) told me it would cause her considerable anxiety if her ability to continue homeschooling were based on an annual test — and if the test had no remedy attached (as another suggests) then what is the point?

    So far as certifying parents as teachers, in one of those landmark Michigan cases, it was presented as evidence that requiring teacher certification did not make a significant difference in children’s achievement. So confronted with actual facts, pffft went that requirement.

    What it comes down to, and Beth at #46 makes the point brilliantly, is that at a certain point, the government must trust the parents to make the best decisions for their own children, and that we are entitled to these decisons, and that we have the right to privacy in making those decisions without undue interference. The whole idea of the state entitled to “check up on me” makes my skin crawl. Ugh. And if you think that is “selfish” then think about some way that the state could check up on _your_ business and interfere… drinking too much at college? Maybe some mandatory treatment! How about the care of your elderly parents? Are they being… abused? Can we see, and can you prove it? All that poking around in your life still sound so good?

    Oh, and as a postscript, that doctor who confronted me with an angry, “What makes you think you are capable of homeschooling?” is now, bless her heart, offering to do a medical shadowing program with my eldest dd…

    • Noelle

      “The government” isn’t some foreign detached controlling entity. It is made up of people like you. There is no reason you personally couldn’t help set base curriculum and regulations yourself. Heck, there’s no reason your children couldn’t be involved themselves if they’re interested. Most homeschooling parents want to do the best for their kids. Why not aid them in this process? If anyone should be involved with this, it should be educators and parents working together. And who better to do it than someone who already knows the ropes?

      Michigan has its MEAP testing. Why wouldn’t homeschooling parents want to use it? Is it still attached to scholarship/grants for college? Homeschoolers should have access to those funds as well. Yes, MI has many failing schools. They have many mediocre and excellent ones as well. Most of the failing ones are in economically-distressed areas, but there are some poor districts who have found ways to do as well as their better-off neighboring communities. If it were the fault of some abstract “government”, why would you see so many differences? These are local efforts driving change. These are involved parents and teachers. Why should it be so different at home?

  • MI Dawn

    @northstar: While I respect the reasons you decided to homeschool, you *do* come across as defensive and very negative. Perhaps your experiences have led to that. But please don’t negate OTHERS experiences because you have the time, money, and ability to give your children what they need. Not everyone does.

    I was unable, economically, to homeschool my very brilliant daughter. So she had to put up with public school. Yes, she got a good education and yes, she is now an independent, employed adult. But also yes, I might have done things differently. However – I also recognize my own lack of ability. I would not have been able to teach her some of the things she excels in. English, reading, writing, history, etc – yes, fine. Math, physics, etc – no. And I am a college educated, MS degree woman.

    I DO think that homeschooling is a right. But I also think it needs to be minimally regulated. Why shouldn’t a parent at least be able to show their child can read/write? Perhaps not well (with dyslexia), but I know several kids whose parents homeschool for that reason. J. can write an understandable sentence. Xe may not spell all of the words correctly but the SENSE of what they are saying is there and understandable. Can’t we expect your daughter, who appears so intelligent, to do the same? M. can’t take standardized tests – due to physical issues Xe can’t fill in the dots. But oral testing shows how much has been learned. Why don’t you accept alternative ways of showing your daughter’s educational advancement?

    Regulation -with some flexibility – should be required. Not every child can read. Not every child can write. But all children should be helped to reach their maximum ability and the parents/schools/whatever should be held accountable to make sure they are.

    Oh, @ Beth: children do NOT need to be taught to speak or walk. Deaf from birth children will begin to vocalize sounds at the same age as hearing children. They will often cease to do so as they grow as they get no feedback and don’t learn language orally. And children, unless physically unable to do so, will go from non-mobile to mobile, without teaching. It’s physically developmental. Don’t confuse physical development (no one also teaches you to open your eyes, move your hands, etc) with mental development (speaking the language(s) heard around you).

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  • http://daisysdeadair.blogspot.com/ DaisyDeadhead

    This is Bob Jones University country, and I know you know what THAT means. Apparently, BJU press has some kind of monopoly on testing materials for homeschoolers? I even know self-defined progressives who use their testing materials, which is frightening. Because in addition to their creationism, their version of history is really cockeyed and weird. Of the states who do demand some sort of academic testing for homeschooled children, is ANY testing therefore deemed “good” enough?

    The new frontier: homeschool parents agitating for their kids to be able to participate in public school team sports –but **without** their kids actually attending the school in question. Their argument for this is: “we pay taxes too!”–but I find it damned infuriating. Its like saying, well, we need those team sports but otherwise, your kids are not good enough to associate with ours outside of the ball field!

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  • http://themommaknows.com/homeschooling/patriarchy/ Dawn @ The Momma Knows

    I have been a homeschool parent for 15 years, with just a few to go, and it makes me sad that you are dead on the money. We are a Christian family, be we never bought into the patriarchal kool-aid, stay far away from HSLDA, and always encouraged our girls “College before marriage!”. There is just something terribly wrong with an organization (or organizations, as there are several “biggies”, VF among them) who push boys to grow up and be responsible and enter an educational path and career field, yet doesn’t deem girls worthy of the same. All 5 of my kids learned to read when they were 5 but one, who learned when she was 4, because she wanted to. Educational neglect is still neglect. The only trouble with your article here is that your experience, while not totally uncommon, is definitely NOT the norm these days. Painting homeschoolers with a blanket brush either on one extreme side or the other isn’t accurate. In our state we register yearly, standardized test yearly from third grade on, and keep all of our records on hand in case they need to be inspected by someone. It’s never happened to us, but there’s always that potential. And your growing up experiences? There are so many just like you who escaped the QF, patriarchal upbringing. I have a resource page if you’re interested (linked to my name above.)

  • http://becomingworldly.wordpress.com Heatherjanes

    Hi Dawn,

    I wrote this article but have stayed out of the debate as I wanted to hear what others had to say. So far it’s been fascinating and it is heartening to see so much discussion and so many comments from so many different perspectives. I looked at your site and appreciated seeing a homeschooling Mom taking a stand against teachings and policies that have harmed a lot of young people. I only hope as time goes on more homeschoolers can take the same stand because I think it will only help make homeschooling stronger and more respected. If these cases like mine were reduced and fringe groups were pushed aside and told that they do NOT represent the homeschoolers of today I truly think that would be the best thing that could happen to homeschooling, I want to do my part to make that a reality and part of it is raising awareness of why we need change. Most people just don’t know this stuff is even occurring.

    I am not painting homeschooling with a broad brush or saying I represent the average homeschooler. I am simply saying that bad things can happen very easily given current conditions, they are happening, and they happened to me. They happened to several kids I knew growing up too and I think I have a bit of survivors guilt looking back on it, considering that I made it out in (mostly) one piece and some people I care about did not. As far as whether good quality homeschooling or poor quality homeschooling are more prevalent, the truth is we simply do not know. I researched it looking for answers and found that we just do not have the data available to say, although we certainly need it in order to make the best decisions. Meantime we are all just guessing based on our own social circles and what we’ve read and heard in the media.

    Anyway, thank you for raising awareness about the issue from inside the homeschooling world. Perhaps we can end up working together to help all homeschool kids have a better chance of having the kind of education you have been providing to your children.

  • Sia

    Sure…. so long as schools actually have to face up to their obligations, too AND it’s the not the same people who get funded for school attendance and enrollment who decide whether or not to ‘pass’ the homeschooling.

  • T.T.

    Note to blogpost author-
    Your parents were abusive. I’m truly very sorry for you and for that. However, your problems had nothing to do with homeschooling. From your writing, it sounds like you were not homeschooled at all, but rather simply neglected in many ways, including educational. Your problem was your entire family environment. Please don’t throw out generalizations about homeschooling based on your exceptional and sad situation of neglect.

    Children do not *belong* to the government, and the government has no natural authority to oversee a child’s life, much less education. Most loving homeschooling parents educate above and beyond that which is accomplished in traditional schooling ways. Test scores attest to this again and again. More regulation of home schools are simply unjust and a violation of basic Constitutional rights.

    Neglect (all of which should be reported, whether a child lives in the city or country, is home schooled or public schooled or charter schooled or private schooled, or is black, white, red, or yellow or any shade in between) does not, by any means, have more of a stronghold in the homeschooling community than others. Sadly, many public schooled children are also severely neglected, as many public school teachers will attest. My own sister works in the public school system and reports this frequently.

    This negative post reflects a huge bias. Most parents who homeschool are conscientious and caring. I’m sorry this was not your experience. You should not generalized from your narrow point of reference. Again, I am sorry for your childhood experience. No one deserves to be raised in an environment of neglect.

  • T.T.

    **generalize

    • http://BecomingWorldly.wordpress.com Heatherjanes

      Hi T.T.,
      I have to say I find your post a bit patronizing, and I disagree with you on a number of your conclusions. For a long time I too thought it was just my family, even though some bad things happened to homeschool kids I knew growing up. It wasn’t until recent years that I saw the pattern. Also, no, kids don’t “belong” to the government any more than anyone else does. The government belongs to us and it definitely should be used to intervene when kids or anyone else are being abused or systematically having their rights taken away, or otherwise what point would there be in building a government in the first place?
      As far as a lot of your assertions here, I hear them often and disagree, so much so that I wrote a blog post on the “12 reasons my homeschool story doesn’t matter.” Perhaps you might want to read it and consider how many of the 12 you hit on here. http://becomingworldly.wordpress.com/2013/02/10/12-reasons-why-my-homeschool-story-doesnt-matter/

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  • Nancy

    I’ve had friends and families homeschool, and while I think homeschooling is an important option, and one that I might consider under specific circumstances, it is NOT. FOR. EVERYONE. As the HSLDA would have you believe. I had a friend who tried it, and failed at it. And she did it for a few years extra because when she would talk to OTHER homeschooling moms, they would just tell her that if she put her kid in public school, all sorts of horribleness would ensue, and that homeschooling was unfailingly perfect, and public school was unilaterally bad, and that if she would only “try a little harder.” No one will tell a parent that “if you can’t do a, b, and c consistently, you should put your child in school so they don’t fall behind until you CAN do a, b, and c.” I have a set of cousins, and only ONE of them is on his way to being a functional adult. One couldn’t manage liberal arts college courses while working part time at a bakery (I work part time while taking nursing school courses and am getting good grades with my ebil public school education), and is getting married ASAP, and will probably homeschool HER children. One is learning disabled, and was not identified as such until he was 18 and guess what? WAAAAAAAAY harder to treat now!

    In MN, you ARE required to meet milestones, and you can TELL in the quality of the homeschooled students. My family is based in WI, and the MN kids, though lacking in certain areas, are all academically accomplished and moving on to brighter things. In fact, one family lived over the border for a time, and they came back to MN, and said that they just couldn’t fit in with the WI home school families because all they seemed to do was crafts and raise chickens and religious studies.

  • Larry Coons

    Feminist rant

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