Homeschool Regulations: Your Turn

Lately, I’ve been written a lot about why I think there needs to be some reasonable regulation and oversight of homeschooling, but while I’ve made a few suggestions in the comments sections I haven’t really laid out any sort of actual plan of what I think this should look like. Part of the reason is that I’m not completely sure about that myself yet. But just this morning, one of my readers made an interesting request:

Would Libby Anne be willing to open up a post just for debating what regulations are appropriate and which are too prone to problems?

So that is what this is—a post for discussing which homeschool regulations you think are appropriate, which you think would be the most effective, and which you think go too far.

As far as rules go, I ask only that you stick to my commenting policy and stay away from personal attacks (read my comment policy before commenting if you haven’t already). It would probably also be helpful if you would mention if you have ever been a homeschool parent or a homeschooled child. You are definitely encouraged to respond to each other and back up your points, but if you move into personal attacks or character smears, I will delete your comments.

To give you an idea of what I’m talking about discussing here, here are some regulations I’ve seen suggested or discussed:

  • Requiring homeschool parents to register their home schools with the state.
  • Requiring homeschool parents to submit an annual curricular plan for review.
  • Requiring homeschooled students to take some sort of annual testing.
  • Requiring homeschoolers to turn in annual portfolios displaying their work.
  • Requiring that homeschool families have an annual home visit.
  • Barring those currently being investigated for child abuse from beginning to homeschool, or at least requiring that they be monitored if they do so.
  • Putting homeschool parents who have previously been convicted of child abuse or child sexual molestation under monitoring from CPS.

And with that, I’m interested in seeing where this goes!

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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.

  • stanz2reason

    I’m not entirely sure what you had in mind here, but I don’t see any reason why the expected proficiency in any course for homeschooled children should be less than that of kids in public & private schools. A once or twice a year standardized test taken in a controlled environment (ie. not at home where opportunity for funny business is too high) might be the most effective way to demonstrate if the child is learning at an appropriate level while still balancing the parents choice to educate the child at home. If the child is reading at an acceptable level, but thinks humans & dinosaurs co-existed (like that 4th grade test that was circulating a week or so ago), I think it’s appropriate for the state to intervene. There is a societal & governmental interest in not deliberately raising grossly mis-informed children. For me, this sort of viral ignorance crosses a line. I think the desire for homeschooling often comes from some bizarre belief that the outside world is dangerous & morally bankrupt, but if a homeschooled child displays acceptably proficient knowledge, I’d have to shrug my shoulders and say OK.

    • jemand2

      creationism is taught in private christian schools in the US too, it has nothing to do with homeschooling, and so singling out homeschoolers for this is going too far.

      I mean, for what it’s worth, creationism is WIDELY believed by ADULTS in the US.

      • Libby Anne

        I actually think there needs to be greater oversight of private schools too—some states have literally zero regulations or oversight of private schools whatsoever. Regardless, I agree with your point. I think that there ought to be a way to require that, as part of science, students do study evolution, but I don’t think we can require that they not be taught creationism. I learned out of creationist textbooks, and the ones I used did cover evolution. Sure, there was a lot of strawmanning, but I at least had a concept of what evolution was, and I think that’s all that can be required. I do think there is something to be said for setting standards on what subjects need to be covered, i.e., math, science, English, history, etc., but I don’t know that dictating or trying to control the contents of those is a good idea—so long as the kids at least know some sort of basics.

      • Lana Hope

        I was never taught what evolution was. The problem is parents can lie and say they are teaching it.

    • Sally

      I think your main point here is about not teaching real science. But I want to mention that

      “…but I don’t see any reason why the expected proficiency in any course for homeschooled children should be less than that of kids in public & private schools.”
      reflects a view of homeschooling that is called school-at-home. This is where you educate your child almost as if she were at school, but she’s in your house instead. Homeschooling models vary quite a bit, and many models do not fit this at all. On the other end of school-at-home is unschooling (child-led, learn through *rich* life experiences). There’s also one called relaxed homeschooling which is towards unschooling but more parent-directed. There are other models, too. So you can’t just say kids should be doing the same things the same year as their ps peers and we can test for that and provide remediation.

      As far as reading goes, there’s a school of thought (sorry for the pun) called “better late than early.” This suggests that we don’t need to freak out if young children need more time to develop naturally before they’re ready to read. We want kids reading in kindergarten in public schools these days. The better late than early allows kids to start reading at 10 or 11 if they’re not ready before that. The idea is that we create some special needs kids who aren’t special needs at all; they just needed more time to get ready. Meanwhile, you still fill their lives with rich educational experiences.

      So my point is, if we try to overlay public school standards, evaluation, and even the model itself onto homeschooling, we are doing so without realizing there’s a whole other valid world of educational innovation going on that we would squelch.
      That’s not to say we shouldn’t have some oversight for homeschooling. I address that in my own comment in this thread.

      • stanz2reason

        I think my main point is insuring a minimum standard of education for students regardless of how their schooled and that the state is justified in doing this.

        I think there is a difference in the model (how you might teach the child) and setting a minimal standard of knowledge. In other words the state interest should be more along the lines of the ‘what’ rather than the ‘how’. Offering the child an education through ‘rich life experiences’ is great, so long as the kid can also read, possesses basic math skills, and is aware that the world is in fact billions of years old.

        I’m not aware of this ‘better late than early’ idea, but while I can agree on the level of recognizing that kids develop at different rates, that an 11 year old might not be able to read is far beyond a minimum standard I’d set. You’d need a hell of an impressive set of data to make me change my mind on that.

      • Sally

        “I’m not aware of this ‘better late than early’ idea, but while I can agree on the level of recognizing that kids develop at different rates, that an 11 year old might not be able to read is far beyond a minimum standard I’d set. You’d need a hell of an impressive set of data to make me change my mind on that.”

        I hear ya. It freaks me out, too. But that’s my point. “How” and “what” become comingled when the “how” affects the “when.” If we come in thinking like public school teachers, then we stomp all over some innovative ways of doing things that can and do work (said from anecdotal knowledge only at this point :)). I think there will be studies on this kind of stuff. There are already books coming out now based on independent studies now that we have a generation + with larger numbers having grown up homeschooled.

        Just like new ways of doing things in public schools (there’s ALWAYS something new coming down the pike), someone has to try it with sufficient numbers of kids to see how it goes and then decide whether to recommend it to others. A lot of educational trends come out of California public schools (although with their funding cut so much lately that may be changing). Believe me, teachers often feel like their own students are guinea pigs for the next educational trend. Whole language anyone? New, new math anyone? Back to basics anyone? Now, Common Core, shall we? So people are always experimenting in education. I do think some innovations in homeschooling will eventually affect some aspects of public school.

      • Libby Anne

        I do think we should remember that while innovation is good, it’s possible to take the move away from a formal school setting too far:

      • Sally

        That is really sad. I totally agree that not all innovations are good. I have huge concerns about some (not all) forms of unschooling. I thought at some point it would be the unschoolers who really were “not schooling” who would grow up and raise a stink and get laws passed to regulate homeschooling. I now see that it might be other types of homeschoolers as well. If the first large generation of homeschooling parents didn’t want regulation, the first large generation of homeschooled kids grown up might be the ones who change that.

    • MrPopularSentiment

      Who is setting these standards? If it’s a school board with a bunch of Creationists on it, your idea sounds absolutely terrible.

      Also, standardized tests fail in many ways. Test taking is a skill, and it’s quite different from actually learning. Just to give you an example, one of the smartest people I’ve ever met was in the “stupid school” – a school for kids who flunked a standardized test taken at the end of middle school to determine the equivalent of high school placement. She loved learning and she studied hard for all her classes. But her sense of self-worth was so tied into academics that she’d have anxiety attacks during tests and often tested very poorly (even though she always got perfect marks in any other kind of assignment).

      Using tests to determine whether learning is taking place or not is extremely problematic. And I’m not even getting into how test-taking can very easily interfere with learning in the first place.

      • stanz2reason

        I’m confident that in a country of 300+ million people that we can find a handful who can set realistic and reasonable standards for what the average child should be taught, that steers clear of voodoo creationism.

        While there are kids who are better ‘test-takers’ at some point it’s important to verify that students are actually learning the material. If you have a better way to test then then, you know, a test, I’d be happy to hear it.

      • MrPopularSentiment

        My question is not whether someone might be qualified to set standards, but how we go about choosing such a person. Because right now, that power is in the hands of politicians and school boards, both of whom have a rather horrifying track record.

        But also, can we set a standard that takes into account different educational philosophies? Or even just the major ones? I’ll give you an example – my school board has a list of its annual learning goals on its website, and, every single year, there’s stuff in there about Canadian history. That’s all well and good, but both I and my husband are immigrants, and it’s important to us that our son is knowledgeable about his heritage. If I decide to homeschool, I’m of course going to cover Canadian history, but I’d probably condense and delay it so that he gets a bit less (or, given my personal experience with public education, less repetition), especially at the elementary level, while he’s learning more about the other cultures and countries in his background. A standards checklist could very well ding parents for doing something like this; not for failing to cover the information, but for failing to cover it in the order that some external person happens to think is best. Is that fair?

        Also, how do we determine what essential knowledge is? Is it absolutely essential that a child have the periodic table memorized? Ask my elementary school teacher and she’d say “yes!” Now ask me if I’ve ever used that information since graduation. Being familiar with the periodic table, sure. Knowing how to look up information on the periodic table, great. But having it memorized?

        Public schools have “core subjects” and “electives,” where they decide that some subjects are absolutely essential while others are just nice to haves. We have limited time, kids can’t possibly be expected to know everything, so we have to prioritize. I might think it’s more important for a child to spend time on art theory than trigonometry – yet in my school, trig was a “core subject” while art theory was an elective that was actually cut from the offering while I was there for budgetary reasons. And yet, I’ve found far more practical use in my day-to-day life from art theory than I ever have from trig.

        I am all for offering up a sample platter of subjects for kids, particularly in elementary school, so that they can see where their interests might lie. But as soon as you get any deeper than that, it becomes a real matter of debate what information ought to be considered essential and what can just relegated to the “nice to have” category. And the thing is that some school board’s opinion on the matter may well not match up with either my nor my child’s priorities. A big draw of homeschooling is the freedom to focus on areas where children are most engaged.

        As for a “better way to test,” your question is rather loaded. How about rephrasing that as “a better way to assess”? In which case, I’ve already answered in another comment – portfolios. Incidentally, it’s an assessment system that many private schools are now using as a replacement for test-taking, since it gets around most of the problematic aspects of tests.

      • stanz2reason

        Because right now, that power is in the hands of politicians and school boards, both of whom have a rather horrifying track record.

        While far from perfect, I think you’re overreacting here.

        A standards checklist could very well ding parents for doing something like this; not for failing to cover the information, but for failing to cover it in the order that some external person happens to think is best. Is that fair?

        Fair to whom? There is a expectation that kids should have adequate knowledge on various subjects. If you’d like to focus on math when the student is younger and then put more emphasis on history the following year or two, there’s no reason why this couldn’t be done. Having standards that are flexible to reality is good policy. I’ve at no point suggested that holding tightly to a rigid standard is the best or only way to educate the population. But at the same time having some sort outline of what the child should be expected to know is kind of a no brainer.

        Also, how do we determine what essential knowledge is? Is it absolutely essential that a child have the periodic table memorized?

        Again, you’re getting ahead of yourself. I think smart policymakers will be able to try and access which skills will be most helpful to the next generation and offer appropriate classes, while continuing a general education involving basic knowledge. I feel you’re ignoring the mental discipline created by learning things ‘we never use after we graduate’. Aside from that, perhaps memorizing the periodic table might not be useful to people who aren’t chemists, but the average person might be served by having learning that oxygen & helium are 2 different things. Memorizing all the presidents or state capitals might not serve you much in your life, but knowing the difference between Washington the president, Washington the city & Washington the state is important. In addition, without exposure to such things, we’re discouraging our future chemists or historians or mathematicians, etc. by failing to introduce them to these things.

        And yet, I’ve found far more practical use in my day-to-day life from art theory than I ever have from trig.

        Think about how engineers use trig when designing new products. Every car, every plane, every building. If you use or live in any of these things you’re benefitting from some kid at some point in his education being exposed to this, finding he/she was proficient in this, pursuing further education to study it to finally build it for you. You personally benefit from this having been taught whether or not you were any good at it or use it in your day to day life.

        A big draw of homeschooling is the freedom to focus on areas where children are most engaged.

        … which is fine, so long as you’re doing your job and not raising a child who will be lacking in the skills needed to be a productive member of society.

        As for a “better way to test,” your question is rather loaded. How about rephrasing that as “a better way to assess”? In which case, I’ve already answered in another comment – portfolios. Incidentally, it’s an assessment system that many private schools are now using as a replacement for test-taking, since it gets around most of the problematic aspects of tests.

        I have no desire to sift through comment threads and find how you try to explain the semantic difference between ‘testing’ something and ‘an assessment system’.

      • tsara

        SATs and the sort of test you mentioned above — standardized tests determining which options are available to you in the future — seem pretty silly to me.

        Ontario’s regulations have a test that I think is a sensible minimum standard for education: in order to receive your Ontario Secondary School Diploma, you must write a basic literacy test, and you must pass it. The results of that test do not determine anything else or go anywhere else. You don’t even get to know how well or how badly you did; all you get is a pass or a fail. And if you fail? Take it again next year. Last year’s results won’t count against you.

        The Ontario literacy test doesn’t test grammar or spelling or any specific material. It only requires you to be able to follow the instructions it gives you, and for the person or machine marking it to be able to read the answers you give.
        (I, having my brain, found it difficult, but I sometimes have trouble remembering instructions for how — or even what — I’m supposed to be writing because the content of whatever I think of tends to displace it. Still, I passed on my first try.)

      • tsara

        (Also, they do accommodate special needs if your school has the facilities and someone qualified to invigilate with those accommodations.)

      • MrPopularSentiment

        I never had to take that since my American High School diploma transferred, but my in-laws had to take it (or something very similar) to have their education accepted. If we’re only talking about testing for that kind of extremely basic proficiency, I’d be fine with it.

        I’d also note that many colleges have their own requirements (or will accept test scores as part of their consideration). For example, when I was applying to my university, I had the option of providing my SAT scores (which I had, since I went to high school in the US) if I felt that it would help my case. It wouldn’t have since I’m a pretty awful test taker, and I had a lot of other stuff to pad out my resume, but it was an option. I think that a lot of Canadian schools do require SATs for homeschool graduates as a replacement for a more typical grade record.

      • tsara

        In my class (of roughly a hundred students) only two people failed the test the first time, and one of those was because the student, erm… fell asleep and was actually snoring through the entire thing. The very strict old woman who was invigilating spent the entire time glowering at her. (And no, I have no idea why the invigilator didn’t just wake her up.)
        As far as I can tell, the point of the test is to determine whether or not you can read and follow directions well enough to fill out your tax forms.

        I have mixed feelings about tests like the SATs. On the one hand, I’m really good at them and enjoy writing them (I signed up on a whim, forgot about that fact immediately afterwards, was sent an email the day before the test letting me know where I was supposed to be and when and what to bring, and when the results came in? 97th percentile).
        On the other hand, they’re a pretty terrible predictor of future performance (evidence: my GPA is 1.9 and I am on academic probation).

        I feel like someone should contact an insurance agency, give them a huge pile of data, and ask them to… I don’t know, figure out an accurate set of predictors of future performance and a set of skills (plus or minus a body of information) it is in everybody’s best interests* for everybody to have/know. Also get them to figure out what method or combination of methods would be most likely to get the highest proportion of people to learn those skills (again, plus or minus some body of information)… and, while we’re at it, an accurate way of measuring a person’s grasp of a skill or concept.

        *the individual, the government, society at large: everyone’s best interest. I can elaborate further, if you like.

  • Slow Learner

    All parents wishing to home school should have to:
    1) register their intent to home school with the relevant local authorities, both the school their children would otherwise attend and social services/equivalent
    2) register a proposed curriculum with the educational authority.
    3) enter their children for any standardized tests compulsory for state school students.
    4) if standard tests do not exist, or are deemed inadequate by local authorities, submit a report on each child’s work at least annually, including samples of work completed.
    5) permit social services access to talk to their children alone provided this is requested at a reasonable hour, and that social services rearrange the appointment unless they have evidence of abuse or neglect.
    There may be points I’m forgetting, but I think that would make the core of a reasonable system.
    Oh, yeah – they must put their children through all required immunisations, and ensure they receive regular medical, dental and where necessary optical care and be prepared to prove it to a social worker.
    Basically they can set their own curriculum and schedule, but they can’t take their children completely off the grid.

    • trinity91

      I think your immunization thing is going too far. There is a significant number of parents who homeschool because their children CAN’T be immunized for various legitimate reasons (allergies to vaccine ingredients being the predominate one) who can’t feasibly send their kids to school because it exposes not only their child but other children to a host of diseases. Homeschooling those children is the best possible outcome for everyone.

      • Slow Learner

        I would accept that – children must be immunised unless there is medical advice against for a specific child, e.g. due to allergy, and homeschoolers should have to provide either certification of immunization or a doctor’s note justifying why no immunization.

    • Stacia R

      By law, parents are allowed to NOT vaccinate their children, so that can’t be enforced. There are plenty of kids in public school who aren’t vaccinated and use exemptions.

      AND not everyone can afford full medical care for their children, whether public or home schooled. So again….

      • Slow Learner

        Well that law should change – the only exemption from immunizing your children should be medical, and healthcare for school-aged children should be free.
        (Well, bluntly healthcare for everyone should be free, in any nation which can afford that, so throughout the First World at least, but care for children should be pretty uncontroversial)

  • ILoveJellybeans

    I would say that homeschoolers should be registered with their state, with a yearly meeting to see the children’s work and what they have been learning. That sounds pretty reasonable. Maybe that should take place in the child’s home, as well as being able to see that the house isnt knee deep in cat poo and used needles and with baby cages on the walls, and that the children arent starving and covered in bruises, its easier for the parent so they wouldnt have to take their textbooks and examples of the child’s work out somewhere.

    I think that the parent must not be a registered sex offender, had a child removed by CPS, or have been charged with any crime involving children. I think maybe they should also have finished high school as well, I dont think kids would have a chance being taught by someone who only did school until 8th grade.

    I disagree with teaching children creationism only, being incredibly controlling over their children to the point where anything that is not explicitly Christian (or any other world view that the parent subscribes to) is banned…but I think that banning it would maybe go a bit far and unfortunately would infringe on peoples religious freedoms.

    I think the child abuse laws are fine the way they are, from the examples that you put on a previous post. I strongly disagree with spanking, but I think it would be a waste of time to take children away for it (unless it has crossed over into actual abuse, I would definetly consider hitting children with an object or anything that causes bruises or welts to be abusive, or hitting babies, like what the Pearls advocate), when there are children who are being starved, molested and tortured slipping through the cracks from CPS already being overworked. I think that maybe people should do their best to educate others on how harmful it can be to spank children though, and try and eradicate it that way.

    • Nan Mcv

      Let’s try this one:

      “I would say that parents should be registered with their state, with a yearly meeting to see the children’s meals and what they have been eating. That sounds pretty reasonable. Maybe that should take place in the child’s home, as well as being able to see that the house isn’t knee deep in cat poo and used needles and with baby cages on the walls, and that the children
      aren’t starving and covered in bruises, its easier for the parent so
      they wouldn’t have to take their food and examples of the child’s
      meals out somewhere.”

    • MrPopularSentiment

      You don’t have to be homeschooling to have an unsafe/unhygienic home. That’s why I disagree with home visits – we don’t do these on a routine basis for all kids, and the problems an unsafe home poses don’t suddenly go away just because the child is only potentially there from 3pm to 7am.

      (Same with starvation since children may not be provided with any food at school – I know some schools do this, but I’ve never been to one where this was the case. The only difference it would make is that children are coming into contact with people who may notice dramatic physical changes. But just visiting a home won’t tell you much about whether or not the children are being fed.)

      As for mandating anything specific on the curriculum, that gives me the heeby-jeebies, especially with what some school boards are making mandatory in public schools these days (such as all the “teach the controversy” stuff. I do not want to have to teach my child about ID or Creationism in his Science class. If anything, that may well be my reason for homeschooling in the first place. And since the current process for setting curricula is so political, the whole concept of making certain things mandatory for homeschoolers to cover makes me very nervous.

      (Dale McGowan has written about his own experiences of butting heads with his daughter’s teachers over evolution:

      So yeah, until we’re safe from Creationism in public schools, we just don’t get to come into homeschools and specify what they can/can’t teach.

      • Anat

        Re: food: In the US students whose families meet certain income criteria are entitled to free lunches, students at a somewhat higher bracket get reduced-price lunches. I don’t know of US public schools that don’t provide lunch? Provision of free breakfast is less consistent.

      • MrPopularSentiment

        If we’re talking about neglect, that may or may not be tied to income and a parent who is neglectful may never apply for such a program.

        But yes, the high school I went to in the US did not provide any kind of free/discounted lunches. It was in an affluent district, though, so there may have never been a need for it.

        Here in Ontario, I believe that these lunches are provided through donations, not through public funds. I may be wrong about this, but I heard about it through a religious organization that providing the money to schools in my city to offer these lunches but requiring that the schools include little notes with the lunches about how they were “provided by the church of such-and-such,” and there was a bit of bruhaha about whether that counted as proselytizing.

      • Anat

        How do you know your high school did not provide free lunches? The students wouldn’t advertise being recipients of those. It is possible to provide those lunches discreetly. In my district the students receiving free lunches stand in the same cafeteria lines as those paying for lunches, they scan cards just like many of the paying students (some students pay in cash, if their parents don’t have lunch accounts for them). But this is an aside. Also, schools in my district provide emergency lunches for students who have neither a packed lunch nor the means to purchase lunch. It is very minimalistic, PBJ or a cheese sandwich, but an effort is made that nobody goes completely unfed.

  • Jayn

    One thought that had crossed my mind is the state providing a curriculum for homeschoolers to use. Someone in the comments here mentioned having a friend who found HS regulations to be helpful in making she she was providing a good education for her child. I’m not even saying make it mandatory to follow it, but it would give parents a good baseline to work from to assess their child’s learning as well as their own ability to teach, especially in subjects where the parents might be weak themselves.

    • Slow Learner

      Yes, this sounds helpful. Make it obvious and easy to find out what most children are expected to learn.

    • Lana Hope

      Bringing school home is painful. Not worth it. I’d rather just enroll in school.

    • LyricalPolyphony

      Just give parents the option to buy the textbooks/workbooks their local school is using. I don’t know why we can’t already do that.

      • Sally

        Perhaps you can. I think I would have been allowed to borrow textbooks (not sure about teacher’s guides because those are so expensive, but parent could pay for). But homeschoolers who use curriculum may very well prefer not to use textbooks. The main textbooks I used were for math. Most other things we used were “real” books (i.e. trade books; think literature and non-fiction books you could get at the library). The advantage of this approach is that it’s *so much more interesting* than textbooks. Wow, what a difference! I wouldn’t have wanted the school’s textbooks.

        But there are people who homeschool with textbooks and workbooks. If they can borrow from the school, that might be a good thing.

  • Staceyjw

    There is only one rule I would like to see enforced:

    NO HS for adopted or foster kids, period, no matter when they were adopted.

    These kids are at the highest risk of abuse and maltreatment, they need all the checks and balances possible.

    • Libby Anne

      You do realize this would mean no gay or lesbian couples could homeschool, right? Unless one of them is transgender, at least one will be an adoptive parent, and often both.

      • Alice

        I understand there is a high risk, but it seems unfair to the children to ban it entirely. What if a kid is being viciously and relentlessly bullied in public school and the administrators won’t do anything about it? It would also mean a home-schooling family with several biological kids would have to send the one adopted kid to public school, and that kid would feel more like an outsider. I think it would be better for a social worker to look over the foster parents’ curriculum. I assume social workers regularly check up on foster children anyway? With adopted children, social workers could make home visits and oversee curriculum for a year or two, but I don’t think the regulations for adopted children should be dramatically different than biological children, especially if the child was adopted a long time ago or if the parents fostered the child for a while before adopting.

      • Kat

        If at least one adoptive parent means no homeschooling, then that could be a problem for some straight parents as well — any stepparent who legally adopted a spouse’s child would be ineligible to homeschool. Of course, stepparents who don’t adopt the kids from previous relationships would presumably not run afoul of this restriction, so there’s a massive loophole right there.
        I get the point about wanting to protect higher-risk kids (which often includes adopted and foster children), but I don’t see a blanket prohibition on homeschooling them as a viable solution. It excludes too many people who would homeschool for valid reasons while still letting plenty of abusers slip through the cracks.

      • kisarita

        Stacy I’m afraid that doesn’t fit in with the legal framework of adoption. The whole function of a legal adoption is to create a legal parent-child relationship equal to any other. That’s why there can be no laws that specifically relate to adopted children. (I believe some systems allwo for monoitoring for an initial time period- but none after that).

        Libby Anne, not all gay folks parenting together means one is adopted. There are legal precedents for some gay partners to be automatically recognized as their partners child parent. On the other end of the spectrum, like many straight step parents, many gay step-parents hold no legal parental status at all, adoptive or otherwise.

        But that’s besides the point. It’s really a misuse of gay rights, in my opinion, to say that a child welfare regulation should not be allowed because it disproportionately affects gay people (if the regulations is not specifically directed at gay people, that is). Whether or not gay people are disporportionately affected can not become the litmus test as to the appropriateness of these measures.

      • Libby Anne

        In my state the other partner has to adopt to get any legal rights. I guess I don’t know how it is in other states. And I wasn’t saying it should be a litmus test, I was just pointing it out.

    • Suburbint

      I think this is overly harsh. Besides Libby Anne’s point about gay and lesbian couples being automatically banned from homeschooling, I have known several wonderful, loving, truly amazing couples who have homeschooled children from a variety of horrific backgrounds (including crack babies and Haitian orphans) with good outcomes. Perhaps adoptive families should have higher supervision for children from abusive situations or children with known learning and behavioral issues, but to ban homeschooling for adopted children outright creates a second-class citizenship for those children and their parents, depriving them of a choice that might actually be beneficial for that particular family.

    • Shaney Irene

      I’m with Libby Anne and Suburbint on this one.

    • Lana Hope

      No, I don’t think that would be a good idea. I spent the last two years homeschooling such children because their mental illness was making school difficult a painful coping experience. They are back in school, but yes, there is real reasons school should not be required. But I do think stating a purpose and plan for children with handicapes or other special needs should be required to homeschool them. I could even see requiring visits and such to the public schools to insure the kids are on track with what is expected.

    • ILoveJellybeans

      I disagree.

      Some parents of children with disabilities choose to homeschool because theyre struggling to cope in school or their parents think they would benefit from one on one tuition. Adopted children are more likely to have mental illnesses or developmental delays due to fetal alcohol syndrome/trauma they have witnessed/neglect, and some people choose to adopt children with severe disabilities and these children may find it hard to cope in school.

      It also would be unfair for people who homeschool their biological kids, but then adopt one, and have to send that child to school. Then theres also the issue Libby Anne bought up about gay couples not being allowed to homeschool as most of their children are adopted. I am a lesbian, and I dont plan on homeschooling when my future kids come, but I at least want to know its an option if I have a kid who would benefit for various reasons.

      I think other regulations (for everyone, not just adopted kids) would work better and be more fair, as well as maybe a bit more extra oversight on making sure that adopted parents are looking after their children, and maybe a limit on the number of children you can take in over a certain time period (I have seen blogs by people who adopt a handful of new children a year and I dont think its fair on them as theyre not giving the children time to adjust, especially with international adoptions)

    • Kate Baldwin

      Also, it would surprise me if it were legal for a state to have special requirements for adopted children that don’t apply to biological children — there must be all kinds of precedent stating that once your adoption is completed, you’re the child’s parent, period, end of story. Perhaps state regulations could discourage people wanting to adopt from choosing homeschooling . . . but that would still leave you with the problem of families consisting of a mixture of adopted and biological children. I’m not sure this could work.

  • AAAtheist

    Up front: I’ve never been either a homeschooling parent or a homeschooled child. Having neither experience, I’m not sure I should be posting, but here I go, anyway.

    My education was completely done though public schools until my high school graduation. I was bused to a more affluent (read: white) high school via integration laws that existed at that time.

    I looked up my state’s homeschool regulations since I have no direct experience.

    One that that stood out to me was the high school diploma/GED or equivalent requirement for a parent or guardian to pull their children (with 15-day notification to our state’s education superintendent) from the public school system. That’s all it takes. Graduating class rank and educational accomplishment of the parent/guardian don’t figure in. I think they should. Parents/guardians that maintained a “C” average through high school might be qualified to homeschool, but I can’t help feeling their children might be shortchanged somehow.

    Our state’s education superintendent has the right to review students’ homeschooling portfolio after one year to determine whether or not basic educational standards are being maintained and to continue or discontinue homeschooling based on the evidence. To me, this doesn’t seem to be enough. I think parents and guardians should also have to at least submit beforehand an outline detailing how they intend to achieve our state’s minimum educational requirements (“[providing] instruction that includes, but need not be limited to,
    language arts, mathematics, science, social studies, art, music, health, and physical education”). One or two people can accomplish this? I’m not a parent, and I might be a little lazy, but this sounds exhausting to me.

    Furthermore, and tellingly, there’s nothing in our state’s regulations about abusive or potentially abusive home environments. I’m sorry, but a situation so rife for potential abuse should require background checks on potential homeschool educators. I also think homeschooling should be considered a privilege, not a right, for parents/guardians to exercise.

    I believe homeschoolers should have to jump though the highest possible scholastic hoops and exercise the most stringent ethical standards before they’re granted the right to homeschool. I also think homeschooling should be administered in tandem with the nearest local public school (building in automatic oversight).

    • LyricalPolyphony

      What if parents coasted through high school and then grew up and are now perfectly capable? Limiting homeschooling based on parents’ grades seems excessive to me.

      Most homeschool parents that I’ve seen (I was homeschooled all through school, and I homeschool my kids) don’t do their own curriculum. That would, indeed, be prohibitively exhausting! We buy package curricula (workbooks, textbooks, et c) and I keep abreast of ed standards through my state’s board of ed website. (I actually think general ed standards should be higher in America, where I am- looking at my state’s recommendations I can’t imagine how a kid could NOT pass them without some serious neglect. )

      I have to charitably disagree with your basic premise here- homeschooling should be a right, just like having children in general; the state shouldn’t get involved more than is necessary to catch abuse and stop it. I don’t think any government has the right to “grant me the privilege” of teaching my own children. I get that there are abuses, and I support reasonable regulation for that reason. But I’m a fan of the “innocent until proven guilty” approach, not the reverse.

    • Nicole Ar

      No way! I wouldn’t want the school holding some sort of grudge. Besides, why do we care so much how qualified the parents are when we have teachers who DO NOT TEACH AND DRAW PAY CHECK from taxpayers for it!!

      • Victoria 1

        I don’t know of any large-scale teaching scandal of the type you are referring to. Do you have citations?

        Really, can’t we discuss home-schooling without slamming public-school teachers who are almost all hard-working, responsible individuals who do the best they can, care deeply about the kids they serve, and often dip into that small pay-check from the taxpayers to cover basic supplies because of budget cuts.

        Also, professional teachers at least have to have a BA or BS, a teaching certificate, and often a masters to teach. Is it too much to expect parents who plan to educate their children to have a GED? I support home-schooling, not home-indoctrination.

      • trinity91

        see and the statistics we do have available (how many students graduate from high school and college) say that you are wrong. Teacher’s are failing their students. Whether that’s because they are bad teachers or because they are stuck with a shit system is something that we do need more information on in order to judge, but I understand Nicole’s response because our money is being wasted.

      • Victoria 1

        The problem I have with this is what I have seen over the last 30 years or so. We complain about a governmental service (transit, schools, CPS, whatever) not performing as well as we would like, often because it’s underfunded. Then we decide they’re “wasting our money” and cut the funds further, causing more problems with the service and more complaints. Lather, rinse and repeat.
        Are there problems, sure. However If you look around the world, you see ways they could be fixed. A longer school day. Disallowing dropping out after the 9th grade. (Seriously, what kind of first-world country allows that?) More training and better support for teachers. We know all this. We just don’t want to pay for it.
        That’s why, as mentioned in another post, our school performance is so uneven around the country. Schools are mostly supported by property taxes. That means schools in a prosperous area will do very well, and schools in a poor area won’t. To fix that, we have to re-distribute tax money from rich districts to poorer ones, and that is politically very difficult.
        What would you propose as a solution?

      • MrPopularSentiment

        You are absolutely right that defunding a service for underperforming while underfunded is absurd. But there are also some structural issues with the public school model that can make it harder for good teachers to do their jobs well. I have quite a few friends who are teachers and every single one of them will vent about how frustrated they are at having their hands tied by the administration, or by the fact that they have to somehow find the time to give individual personal attention to 30 kids in a 45 minute class period.

        So yes, a huge part of the problem is that we need to stop “not wanting to pay for it.” And some of those problems can be solved (or at least helped) by better funding, and some are structure.

      • Victoria 1

        And you are absolutely right that there are structural problems, some of which we can address. If I were queen, I would, first of all, limit administration, both in numbers and power, and give teachers much more latitude in the classroom. The issue of personal attention is one funding may be able to address, by making for smaller class-sizes.

        We can’t fix everything. I don’t know about you, but I work in the private sector, and I have a little ritual for cursing my administration, and I perform it almost daily. Problems with administration aren’t limited to the public sector or to education. They are part of the human condition.

        One of the things I would address is the attacks on teachers. People complain about the teachers’ unions, but remember why teachers unionized to begin with. Perhaps because they were mostly women, they were paid crap, had few benefits and were treated baldy. Somehow, many people (Scott Wilson of Wisconsin, Chris Christy of New Jersey come to mind) think the solution to their budget problems is to go back to treating teachers badly. This is part of why I see funding as central.

        Pay your teachers reasonably. Understand that everybody will get sick, so see to it that they can afford to go to the doctor. Understand that most of us will live to get old, so see to it that they are able to retire. (Those things should be true for everybody, which is why I favor a single-payer system for both medical and retirement pensions.) If teachers weren’t under almost constant attack, the teacher’s union might be more reasonable.

      • Sally

        My vote is the system, because even where there are bad teachers, the fact that they stay on because of tenure is part of the system.

      • Anat

        A big part of the problem is local funding of schools. Schools serving poor students are underfunded. Well funded schools serving non-poor students are doing fine.

    • MrPopularSentiment

      I failed a whole lot of my classes in high school and barely squeaked by (and wouldn’t have at all if certain things hadn’t happened as they did). It had nothing to do with not being academically proficient (as my later university career amply showed – I made Dean’s List 3/4 years and graduated with high honours), it had to do with not feeling engaged by my teachers. I happened to go to university, but it was a toss up for me at one point – which has absolutely no bearing on the amount of studying/learning that I’ve always done on my own from home.

      So requiring that a parent was successful in a public school environment really isn’t indicative of how successful they might be teaching in a totally different environment. In fact, let’s say I had never gone to university and was riding solely on my high school transcript to be able to homeschool my own kids, I’d say that my experience and lack of engagement in high school would actually be very useful for me, because I’d know what not to do.

  • Jolie

    I’m having serious doubts whether homeschooling in and of itself should be legal (different culture maybe? I’m European); but assuming it should be, I think regulations should be something along the lines of:

    -at least one of the parents should do a pedagogy course comparable with what primary school teachers do (I’m not necessarily requiring -like- years of training, it could be more concentrated, but it needs to ensure the parent basically knows how to teach). The course should be acredited by a State institution, taught by certified professionals and entail a final examination; the parents’ right to homeschool would be dependent on passing it; sitting the examination, in turn, is only permitted with a certain number of classes in the course attended (at least 1/2+1).

    -if the child being homeschooled has any special needs, the parent would need to do, apart from the mandatory course, a course on specifically how to respond to those needs; same conditions apply.

    (BTW, I would also be in favour of public, free- and possibly mandatory- parenting classes for all parents; less extensive and not on the same level I’d require of homeschool parents; but still something).

    -mandatory visits from social workers/counsellors to absolutely ALL families who homeschool: at least once every 3 months or so; not only to ensure no actual abuse or neglect happens; but also to offer guidance, advice and resources to parents on how to ensure the child gets a chance to develop all sides of their personality better (for example: Mr. X, your daughter is making visible academic progress in all fields, but she would benefit from having more contact with people from different cultures of backgrounds- here are some ways in which you could improve that; why not sign her up for a foreign exchange programme for the summer?)

    -standardised tests for all, at least twice a year, on all important subjects- including science, civic education, at least one foreign language and perhaps also “history of religions” addressing in a mather-of-factly-this-textbook-does-not-tell-you-what-to-believe way the major world religions. I do not believe homeschool parents should get away with teaching children dinosaurs and humans lived at the same time or that global warming is a hoax!!!

    Now, one I’ sort of on the fence with… Even assuming I’m fine with parents homeschooling at primary and secondary school level, I’m not sure about high school level… I think you sort of reach a point when you can be best taught by qualified professionals- and it’s too much for one average person to teach you both high school level algebra and high school level literature- so I’m really not sure if that would be “reasonable” or “going too far”, but I’d consider a regulation along the lines of: Homeschooling at high school level can only be done through the employment of qualified personal tutors with a degree reasonably related to the subjects they are teaching; or through enrolling in online classes taught by qualified teachers. The more I think about it, the more reasonable it seems to me…

    Finally, one more recommendation/policy (not really a regulation, since it’s not something that can be made mandatory): groups of homeschooling parents should be involved, in the same way as public schools, in foreign student exchange programmes (like, for example, Comenius Partnerships- for the unfamiliar or other kind of transnational twinning. Homeschooling groups should be encouraged to form partnerships/twinnings with public schools in other countries, rather than with other homeschool groups- and give their children the chance to experience different forms and systems of education for a few days/weeks/months as appropriate by age.

    Am I HSDLA’s worst nightmare or what? :P

    • Michelle Kleinman

      Every three months? Where I live (NYC), there are enough homeschoolers for the city to have a central homeschooling office. Additionally, the Administration of Children’s Services has enough to do investigating abuse cases and chasing down deadbeat parents. Moreover, that’s invasive to the homeschool parents who are responsible, and ensuring that their children receive both an adequate education and adequate social skills. Finally, wouldn’t that put stress on the parents and the children?

      • Aatu Koskensilta

        The relationship between social workers/counsellors and parents, homeschooling or otherwise, need not be adversarial. Social workers can offer advice and support, and serve as advocates for children and families with special needs. The fact these people would also be in the perfect position to notice signs of abuse or neglect is almost incidental. In this ideal model — which works to some extent in Finland — I see no reason why the occasional visit from a social worker should be particularly stressful. What the practical realities are in NYC or the US in general I haven’t the foggiest, naturally, but I think it’s a good idea to be clear on whether we’re talking about problems inherent in some model, or problems introduced by the failures and shortcomings in attempts to put them into practice.

      • Jolie

        Somebody further down mentioned every family having sort of a caseworker-councillor; this is what I had in mind- someone who offers guidance and support along the way, rather than someone who exists primarily to make sure abuse doesn’t happen.

      • Nicole Ar

        You know nothing of how social workers are. They ignore abused kids. They harass kids who are in good homes.

        “What the practical realities are in NYC or the US in general I haven’t the foggiest, naturally, ”

        Which is why you are wrong. Maybe social workers in Europe are different. I grew up in the US. I had a lot of experience with the government social workers growing up. These aren’t people who should have power to decide what’s what with kids.

      • Aatu Koskensilta

        I’m sorry to hear that. There are social workers in Finland too who will ignore abused kids or harass kids who are in good homes. (Recently there have been a few horrible examples of this.) But this is certainly not the intention, and in many cases social workers do offer support and advice, and serve as advocates, helping to navigate the unfortunately rather convoluted twists and turns of various support systems that are in place to help families and children with special needs. The wellbeing of your kids, or yourself for that matter, naturally comes before any idealistic hopes or trust in the ability of government workers to live up to their mandate.

        My perhaps too academic ruminations weren’t intended to suggest any particular insight into the realities of the situation in the US or NYC in particular, and certainly not that I know better than people who have to actually deal with these issues. Rather, I hoped merely to offer an alternative perspective, a few observations that might (or might not) prove useful when thinking about and around homeschooling regulations.

      • Sally

        I appreciated your explanation of Finnland’s system. It is helpful to hear how things are done in other countries.

    • Nicole Ar

      The Europeans on here have seen so many stories of worst case scenarios. I knew a girl when I was in hs who was homeschooled until I think 5th grade. She spoke of her experiences and those of the kids she knew. She was in a co-op and took outside classes specifically for homeschooled kids. I remember she said she took a swimming class specifically for home schooled kids and went on field trips with her co-op. The parents in the h/s co-op would teach each others kids so the environment was often more like a very small class. She said most people sent their kids to school between 5th grade and the start of hs. The parents that homeschool for hs usually used video lectures. When she went to school. She went to a Christian school that had k through 12 and one classrooms worth per grade. One of the kids from that school came to my HS and graduated like 6th or 7th in my class at 15 or 16 years old. He had been at the top of his class at the xtian school.

      Again, I wasn’t h/s’ed and don’t have kids but I would h/s kids if I had them, mostly because I would want them to learn more than what they learn in any American school. If I didn’t homeschool, I would probably work with them over the summers and give them extra assignments. I already, when I babysit, try to be productive with those kids by reading with them, drawing, coloring, teaching good dental habits and so on. My teachers wasted so much time when I was in school and mostly I learned from my mom or I self taught. Most of my teachers were HORRIBLE. Only my 5th/6th teacher, 1 Spanish teacher and an English teacher were good. They played favorites for cheerleaders and crap. They bullied students and I had some experiences in elementary school that were so bad that 30 years later, I still can’t type about or talk about them.

    • Nicole Ar

      Oh, and I just want to add, every situation I’ve encountered (and I know about 3 homeschoolING parents, plus I’ve talked to kids who went through it) the parents do it because they want better for their kids. If parents are lazy, they don’t home school. Sending kids to school is a lot easier. It’s so odd to me that people are thinking something else. If American schools were decent, many people wouldn’t home school. While Christians started the trend, it’s been picked up by many parents who want better for their kids.

      • Rosa

        If you look back through Libby Ann’s articles, there are well documented problems in many school districts of parents who pull kids out under existing lack of homeschool regulation, just because it is easier. Actual homeschooling isn’t easier than getting a kid to school every day – one of the things we’re trying to talk about is a level of regulation that would eliminate these parents.

        I’ve personally tutored kids who were “homeschooled” because their parents couldn’t get them to school regularly – especially in rural areas, keeping a vehicle running can be a big enough barrier that homeschooling seems easier. For parents struggling with some kinds of mental illness (depression is the one I’ve seen) or addiction, almost anything can be too much of a barrier.

        All of their parents had great intentions and terrible follow through. By the time these kids were put back in school (usually at grandparents insistence or because parenting became too much for the “homeschooling” parent and the kid got shipped off to their other parent) they were a year or two behind even though they were all quite competent and several had been advanced when they started. There’s unfortunately nothing stopping a smart, loving, and well-intentioned parent from having problems that prevent them from effectively homeschooling.

      • Sally

        Good points.

      • Sally

        “If parents are lazy, they don’t home school.”

        This is what I used to think until reading the stories on this blog. I realize this is not necessarily the case. Yes, I think the movement started with involved parents (and it wasn’t just religious, there was kind of a secret movement of highly educated, a bit off the grid, parents who homeschooled in the 70s (I think that was when) for lifestyle and academica reasons.

        I’ve also had a nagging realization for years that some unschoolers really give their kids rich experiences and some absolutely do not. I know at least one family that did not, and I’ve seen the results for those kids; not good. The mom wasn’t lazy; she was just so sure that what she was doing was right and had this weird philosophy that any structure at home was bad and that you could do it all somehow by walking in the woods and taking relaxed dance classes… well, anyway.

        Libby Anne’s posts have shed light on the fact that there are people who claim to homeschool when they don’t at all (presumably once their kids are old enough to ignore).

  • victoria

    1.) Some sort of not-overly-intrusive testing and oversight procedure. I’d be in favor of allowing either a comprehensive norm-referenced test (like ITBS) or whichever test is the primary one used to determine statewide compliance with NCLB yearly, especially at the younger grades. Whoever is running the oversight needs to be concerned not just with where the kids are in absolute terms, but whether they’re improving or falling behind.

    1a.) I do think there needs to be some sort of alternative assessment procedure available by request. Special needs kids are often the ones who have the toughest time with the modern assessment culture in schools, and I know of a lot of situations where parents have pulled special needs kids out of public schools because the schools simply could not or would not provide a good educational experience. To insist on the same things that are problematic for those kids in the public schools would put these parents in a real double bind. At the same time those kids are at increased risk of abuse or educational neglect. Perhaps a quarterly or semiyearly in-home meeting to observe how things are going and to discuss plans until the next visit would be appropriate.

    2.) Yes to the idea of suspending the right to homeschool if parents have an open investigation by CPS or one in which abuse was substantiated. I would go so far as to mandate that homeschooling NEVER be permitted without judicial permission in cases where someone in the home has ever been convicted of sexual or physical abuse of a child.

    3.) I am not sure how I feel about mandating a yearly physical by an actual physician, but I’d want to put it on the table for discussion.

    4.) For high schoolers, I’d want a way to ensure that the kids are on pace to make appropriate progress towards graduation from high school by age 18 or until they get a GED or enter college (community or otherwise) full-time, whichever comes first. I’m not sure how you’d do that but I think it’s important. So many of the stories I’ve read about kids who want to leave QF/CP families but can’t do so stem from the kids not having enough education to make a life for themselves outside the family unit. Again with some sort of exemption available for students with profound special needs.

  • Feminerd

    I agree with the vast majority of those. I don’t like the annual home visits, mostly because social workers are already overworked and underpaid, and I dislike the idea of homeschoolers sucking up more public resources. It does also play into the idea that homeschoolers are held to a higher standard or assumed guilty of child abuse. Additionally, as Libby’s pointed out, many abusive homeschooling parents specifically teach their children to hide from and lie to CPS. Doctors, on the other hand, still have quite a bit of authority that could be used for good. I’d suggest mandatory annual doctor visits (like Mexico does for its cash welfare program). If the family is wealthy enough, they’ll be covered like any well child visit by insurance, and if not they’ll get insurance subsidies and/or Medicaid or CHIP coverage (well, assuming they live in a state with any sort of decent coverage. Red states are notorious for having really crappy coverage). It’s also something everyone should be doing anyways.

    I also agree with Staceyjw that adopted and foster kids should not be not eligible for homeschool. The potential for abuse is just too high.

    Jayn has a good idea with a state curriculum, or at least a state list of expected known things. Developing a whole curriculum just for homeschool parents would go above and beyond, and I’d definitely like that, but it is a lot of work and resources. Still, a decent non-Christian curriculum would be good.

    I, personally, would prefer to ban all private and homeschooling. I think it’s a drain on society, enables the type of cultural bubbles we all know are problematic, and leeches resources away from the common good. That said, it’s not gonna happen, so mitigating both the potential and real harms of homeschooling is a good idea.

    • Conuly

      In addition to required doctor/dentist/optometrist visits, I would hope for decent health care funding allowing for *home visits*, if desired. A doctor visiting the house for a fever or routine checkup would be able to *see* if, say, the family was living in minor squalor which exacerbates health issues. Obviously the more extreme families wouldn’t agree to this, but those people who just aren’t on the ball and who need a little help would be able to be identified and offered assistance.

      • Feminerd

        Yeah, but only if every family has access to home doctor visits. I have huge objections to treating homeschooling families better than public or private schooling families.

      • Conuly

        Yes, I’m definitely thinking every family should have access. Apparently, infants in poor families do much better with home visits by nurses, which is where I got the idea.

  • Question Everything

    I think that homeschool parents also should register active students each semester (or whatever the traditional schooling period is in their area) with local school boards. Keeping track of who is being schooled is as important as knowing what they are being taught. That will also help in other areas, like the home visits and such.

    Also, every public school I’ve been to has had various other offices besides teachers that were rather important – councillor, nurse, and so on. These are important positions, independent from the teacher, who students can go to with issues as needed. Even (or perhaps especially) in a homeschooling scenario, there need to be people the kids can go to with issues that can be addressed without shame or fear of punishment.

  • AnotherOne

    I was a homeschooled child. My experience was negative, and while that does tend to bias me against homeschooling and incline me toward strict regulation, I try to be even-handed and openminded. (This is just to give a sense of where I’m coming from).

    My sense is that when it comes to regulation, we need to be pragmatic and realistic, and we need to prioritize very basic legislation targeted at reducing the worst abuses. Right now it seems the worst abuses occur in situations where people aren’t homeschooling at all, but rather taking advantage of lax regulation and using “homeschooling” as a cover for abuse or neglect.
    Some of these situations could be prevented by laws prohibiting people convicted of child abuse or neglect or other relevant crimes from homeschooling. Other common sense legislation would include regular monitoring of families who are currently under investigation for such crimes, and possibly of those who are homeschooling children at a statistically high risk of being abused (i.e., foster and adopted children).
    The second type of legislation would be registration and curriculum requirements designed to reduce the number of people who claim to “homeschool” while doing nothing to further their children’s education. Growing numbers of people seem to be realizing that if they say they’re “homeschooling,” they can avoid being held accountable for getting their children to school, and they don’t have to answer to truant officers or school administrators. Even minimal registration and curriculum requirements could serve as a deterrent for many parents who take this approach.

  • Q

    I don’t mean to be rude or argumentative, but I have a question about all this: why should home schooling be legal in the first place? It’s obvious from the stories Libby Anne has posted these last few days that regulations must be put in place to keep children who are home schooled safe from abuse/neglect. But why spend all the extra money regulating home schooling when it could just be outlawed? I do not understand why there is a need for this when public school is available. Could someone explain?

    • Libby Anne

      My answer? Because we live in an era of school choice. Because sometimes it is helpful to tailor education to meet a child’s individual needs. There are all sorts of other reasons but my thoughts are scrambled at the moment. One reason is that it’s not politically feasible of course, but that’s not my only reason. I like having homeschooling available for when the system fails a child, as it sometimes does. Wow, this thought is very unformed at the moment. But anyway, yeah, I’m in favor of regulating homeschooling but not in favor of banning it.

      • Jolie

        Sorry, internet ate my comment.

        A possible solution would be that parents wishing to homeschool apply to the board of education/appropriate authority explaining why public schooling would be appropriate for the personal needs and circumstances of their child; the board of education would review applications and grant parents the right to homeschool if they can prove public education would genuinely be inappropriate for their child or that the child would significantly benefit, in comparison, by being homeschooled; and deny it if there is no good reason to homeschool.

      • Jolie

        why public schooling would be * inappropriate; sorry

      • Nan Mcv

        You’ve obviously never fought a school over an inadequate IEP for a special needs child. Nice to think they’d just say,”You’re right, we’re not capable of providing for this child.” Sure.

    • Shaney Irene

      If the public schools were successful 100% of the time, I think banning homeschooling might be justified. But kids in public schools face a whole host of potential problems, from bullying, to poor teachers, to even something as simple as having severe peanut allergies. Homeschooling allows for those kids who are being failed by the public school system to have other options.

    • Alice

      Plus there could be special circumstances like a child who has to be on bed-rest for months, parents who travel all the time and don’t want to leave their children behind, etc. Home-schooling makes it easier for genius kids to not be bored to death, especially since a lot of public schools are cutting advanced classes. I know one guy who was home-schooled in high school because he was in a traveling theater group, and it was a great experience. The bottom line is that freedom is something Americans strongly value, and so it’s better to try to solve most of the problems with regulations than to ban a freedom entirely. I think home-schooling does more good than harm, as long as there are checks and balances to try to protect as many children as possible from abuse and neglect.

      • MrPopularSentiment

        Not to mention kids who are gifted in some areas but not in others. Gifted programs in schools are often all or nothing, so kids who are, say, very gifted in some areas but developmentally delayed in others can struggle a great deal.

      • tsara

        I agree with you on the problems for students whose psychoeducational profiles show huge variation between different areas of intelligence.

        I went to a very good school with a low student-teacher ratio and a decent reputation for helping students with educational difficulties to succeed. Despite that, it took until the middle of grade ten for anybody to realize that the difficulties I had were a ‘real’ problem and not just bad habits or laziness. In the middle of grade eleven I was finally tested, and they found that my working memory is in the third percentile.

        This was very surprising to the school, as my grades had been steadily improving from kindergarten up until I hit a brick wall in grade ten, and I’d been one of the top students in the school from grade seven until that brick wall.

        My education is still suffering from never having learned, for example, executive functioning skills (which do not come naturally to me).
        On the other hand, I don’t know that homeschooling would have been any better even if my parents had recognized that I’m a bit abnormal before enrolling me in school.

      • Conuly

        That affected both me and my younger niece. In my case, the school flat out told my parents they could provide me with special services for my fine and gross motor skills, speech therapy, and gifted classes, but not all at the same time. My parents picked the last two, for better or for worse. My handwriting is still awful, though I at least did eventually learn to tie my shoes. I know people who today still have to fight to get their kids to have special help for Asperger’s and still be I the gifted classes.

        The younger niece is somewhat dyslexic. She spent a year in a gifted class, with her teacher convinced she couldn’t read and thus wasn’t suited for the class. Actually, her reading ability is just fine (and I never could figure out what her teacher was seeing that we weren’t) though she can’t spell worth a darn and needs serious help there.

      • Christine

        Unfortunately a lot of people, including teachers, seem to think that gifted classes are just there to show how smart the kids are. They don’t understand that there are very real needs addressed by the classes. (Kids identified as gifted are more likely to have undiagnosed learning disabilities – basically they’re smart enough that no one notices, unless they’re really bad.)

    • ILoveJellybeans

      There are plenty of legitimate reasons why people homeschool other than to force religion on them:

      Children who are gifted and are bored in regular schools, but not emotionally ready to go on to a grade level higher than their own.
      Children who have disabilities that make it hard for them to cope in a school environment and would benefit from being taught one on one, or are missing a lot of school due to illness or hospital stays.
      Children who are getting severely bullied in school
      Children from families who travel around a lot-they deserve the right to an education, and there are many reasons families might do this that shouldnt be stopped just because they have children.
      Children who live in areas where the schools arent very good, and the parents feel they can do it better (although I think in areas where schools arent good, more needs to be done to improve them)

      • Q

        Thanks for all the replies! I can see where the homeschoolers are coming from now. In my area, homeschooling is generally frowned upon, but I think that may have more to do with the fact that the public schools around here are pretty good. There are AP classes for the gifted, special education/individualized education plans for disabled children, and bullying is simply not tolerated (when I was in school, a girl was bullying me for about a week. I told my teacher, and the girl was immediately sent down to the VP. The VP called me in class later and told me that the problem had been dealt with, and that I was to go directly to him if she started up again. She stopped bothering me from then on). It guess that’s why it never really occurred to me that people would want to homeschool for those reasons (though I think that if schools are not performing to these standards, they need to be improved). Still, homeschooling should definitely be highly regulated, not just to minimize abuse/neglect, but to make sure that the child gets the best education possible.

      • Nicole Ar

        I went to a so called “good” public school. I received no formal education until 5th grade. I went to school, but I was not allowed in the classroom. I was put in a room by myself all day for 7 years.

      • Mishellie

        May I ask why this happened? I’ve just never heard anything like this before…

      • Niemand

        I was put in a room by myself all day for 7 years.

        Sounds just like being home schooled. Possibly by less sympathetic teachers. People in the US are reluctant to spend money on public education and devalue teachers and then are shocked-SHOCKED!-to find that their public education often doesn’t measure up.

      • Sally

        “Sounds just like being home schooled.”
        It’s those kinds of statements that make homeschoolers scoff at input from those who don’t homeschool. Are there some people doing such a thing? I think we know from Libby Anne’s posts that there are. Is this the norm? Well, with the unschooling, relaxed homeschooling, support groups, conferences, co-ops, group field trips, etc. that many (can’t say how many) homeschoolers are involved in, this statement really seems uninformed to me (if it’s intended as a blanket statement and not to describe a very weird and unusual situation). But to be fair, that statement does highlight what some people do think is the general rule!

      • Alice

        I was home-schooled K-12, and I was by myself at least 85% of the time and did my schoolwork on my own. Both parents worked a lot and didn’t have much time or money to take me to social activities. Church on Sunday and Wednesday was it. I could have gone to more church youth group activities if I wanted, but I was the weird, socially-awkward kid so going to youth group gatherings was like getting teeth pulled.

        I know plenty of home-schoolers are social butterflies, but too many home-schooling advocates make the blanket statement that ALL home-schoolers do a lot of social activities and have no social problems. That makes me upset because it is just as much a stereotype as the hermit stereotype. It is telling the children who are isolated and socially awkward, “You don’t exist. You’re the only one who *thinks* you are having these problems. The reputation of the home-schooling movement matters more than helping you, so smile and lie through your teeth whenever people ask about socialization, or you are a traitor to your people.” That may sound overly harsh and dramatic, but that’s exactly how I felt. I’ve read several home-schooling stories online that are like mine. In some cases, the kids did do several social activities but it just wasn’t enough, and they didn’t get to interact much with non-Christians and non-home-schoolers.

        I know you weren’t saying all home-schoolers are the same.
        I think it is fair to say most home-schoolers do a lot of social activities, but the home-schooling world also needs to acknowledge that isolation and poor social skills are big risks that should be taken seriously, not laughed off or denied.

      • Sally

        “It is telling the children who are isolated and socially awkward, “You don’t exist. You’re the only one who *thinks* you are having these problems. The reputation of the home-schooling movement matters more than helping you, so smile and lie through your teeth whenever people ask about socialization, or you are a traitor to your people.”

        I hear you; I really do! Just to clarify, what you’re talking about is a problem I agree homeschoolers are taught by each other not to talk about. In fact we make fun of the idea. On the other hand, what I was talking about was a kid literally kept in a room 7 hours a day and the sort of stereotypical idea that homeschooling is generally tantamount to that.

        But to your point- I stopped homeschooling one of my kids for the very reason you describe. When I started hanging out with other homeschoolers (as in the parents since I was a parent), I was very quickly indoctrinated in the “socialization, eh, our kids are better socialized than those kids who interact all day with only same age peers.” Sure, there’s a point there. My kids DO relate very well to adults and they are the kind you can take anywhere because they are just mature about being out in public, even early on. And we did all kinds of stuff: church, support group, conferences, eventually a co-op, park district sports, swimming lessons, neighborhood kids to hang out with … but it was never a good fit *socially* for one of my kids. I can be honest about that with my closer homeschooling friends, but I sure can’t with wider circles. It’s really taboo to admit.

        Are typical homeschoolers putting their kids in a room alone to study for 7 hours a day? No. But is isolation still an issue even for some kids who do a lot of stuff? Yes.

      • Alice

        Thank you for understanding, and I understand what you saying. I’m glad you saw what was happening with your child and were willing to do whatever was best for each of your children. I think the culture almost trains parents to ignore the gut instinct they have when their child is struggling socially and/or scholastically. And I think it takes a lot of courage for parents to stop home-schooling because it becomes so much of the family’s identity and because of how people both inside and outside the culture may react.

      • Nan Mcv

        “…the home-schooling world also needs to acknowledge that isolation and poor social skills are big risks that should be taken seriously, not laughed off or denied.”

        We do discuss these issues. But not in front of pubic-school enthusiasts, who typically respond with cries to “Regulate! Regulate!”

        Forcing all homeschooling parent to jump through hoops does not solve the problem of abused children whose cases are dropped by CPS. Nor does it address the problems of child abuse and wife abuse by the Dominionist fundamentalist protestant quasi-cult subculture.

        All it does is to portray homeschooling families as “guilty by association” – which is pretty funny, since (as several commentors have pointed out) – the isolationist types DON’T associate with the rest of us.

      • Sally

        “I was put in a room by myself all day for 7 years.”

        I’m so sorry this happened to you! I don’t know if you weren’t receiving the perhaps special ed services you deserved (?) or there was some other unacceptable reason. What you descibe sounds like a technique of using an isolation room where a child who gets emotionally overheated can cool down. These are not allowed in all states in public schools, and I don’t think they should be allowed in any public schools. Isolation in an accute hospital setting with proper safety procedures, yes. Isolation spaces without doors and properly monitored by specially trained staff in therepeutic schools, yes. All day for 7 years, absolutely not. You should have received treatment for your situation (and specialized teaching) so that you could spend your time in the least restrictive environment. It is actually federal law that children be educated in the least restrictive environment possible. What you describe sounds more restrictive than a hospital or therapeutic boarding school.

        Again, I am so sorry this happened to you!

        PS I’ve taken some educated guesses here. I don’t mean to be invasive, and if I’ve guessed wrong, please feel free to ignore this post (except that I’m sorry this happened!). But if I’m anywhere near the right track, you should know what you experienced was probably illegal.

      • Nicole Ar

        Also, I watch the show dance moms, and so it’s on my mind that child actors, athletes (like gymnasts and dancers and such) and so on would be homeschooled.

      • Rosa

        States that have a lot of child performers, like California & New York, developed very stringent schooling rules for those children, because their educations were so often neglected (and their money stolen) by the family members who were supposed to be keeping their best interests at heart.

        California’s is the strictest: licensed teachers on set every day, minimum of 3 hours of schooling every school day for each child actor, and the studio teacher is responsible for the child’s general wellbeing, timing work, preventing engangement in dangerous work, etc.

      • Rosa

        sorry to double post, I cropped off the end of the last one on accident – most of the reality tv shows take place in states with none of those protections for child performers, so the kids you see on them are usually not covered, either by the education protections or the financial ones.

      • victoria

        I competed in the national finals of a music competition when I was in high school. (Very much an “I’m just honored to be here!” situation.) The person who won was being homeschooled for about two hours a day in their academic subjects to free up the rest of the day for music practice.

        At the time that absolutely horrified me. It was actually one of the things that put me off the path from pursuing classical music professionally; I felt like if that’s what it took I wanted no part of it.

        Then again, I just looked this person up and they’ve been immensely successful — and they went to top-notch universities for undergrad, masters, and doctorate. I know someone else who followed a similar path to a doctorate in the arts and a performing/teaching career, though her academic education until high school was much dodgier. It can work.

      • kecks

        not necessary. in germany potential future elite athletes can attend sports schools (some boarding there, some living at home nearby; most of these schools are free, no fees involved, public schools) where they get training sessions in the morning in, then some school, then more training, supervised homework time and so one. these pupils also usually have the option to stay one or two years longer to get the necessary school work done in between all the practice time. there also schools like that specialisinig in art or music and i think there is even a circus school like that in berlin. so no need to homeschool to do extraordinary stuff as a child here. (homeschooling is illegal here anyway.)

      • Nicole Ar

        I would prefer to home school if I had kids. I don’t think I could trust teachers after the horrifying experiences I had in school.

    • Conuly

      Even in a really great system, there will always be some kids who are not well served by the schools in their area (particularly if there aren’t many options there when things go wrong!)

      This can include children who are very sick (and their siblings, if secondary infections are a concern), who have disabilities that are difficult for the schools to handle (or that can’t be handled close to home), who are very bright, who are particularly bullied, who live in a very rural area far from schools or in an area that is particularly dangerous or where the schools aren’t good, who travel a lot, or who have particular schedules (such as young actors or serious musicians) that preclude a seven hour day. (Nobody will deny that a class size of one is likely to move faster than even a small class in school!)

      Ideally, many of these things can be improved. But they can never catch every single child. Nothing works for every child, and right now many people really do have trouble with their local schools.

      • Monika Tillsley

        I agree but I can’t help but think the more people that pull out the more the problems can be ignored and the less people remain in the system working to improve it.

        Not that any of that is necessarily a reason to keep individuals in a bad situation. I keep going back on forth on this problem and I don’t know the best solution.

        Also I really worry about the quality of the homeschool education. Being a teacher isn’t an easy job that just anyone can pick up.

      • Conuly

        I agree that pulling out probably doesn’t help the system as a whole, and it certainly isn’t the best option for everybody. Many people can’t or don’t want to homeschool, and they shouldn’t have to to ensure a decent education!

        “Also I really worry about the quality of the homeschool education. Being a teacher isn’t an easy job that just anyone can pick up.”

        Suffice to say that I know enough about teacher training to wonder if a degree in education really makes that much of a difference. Also, what with the emphasis put on parent tutoring and peer tutoring and Teach for America today, I don’t think the schools agree with that either. And of course every child has some uncertified teachers – their swim teachers or Little League coaches are teaching just the same as their classroom teachers are, but nobody claims they cannot do this just because they haven’t been taught specifically how to teach.

      • Sally

        I agree teacher training is largely a myth. You learn “how” to teach on the job! The one exception, imo, is special education where you do learn problems, characteristics, and techniques for working with specific disabilities. Homeschool parents can educate themselves on these issues, but whether or not all do who should is another question.

        I had more support in person and online as a homeschooling parent than I ever did as a public school teacher. That’s partly because the internet wasn’t going much in the 90s when I taught and it was by the time I was homeschooling. But in neither case was my general ed. teacher training particularly helpful.

      • Conuly

        The area of teacher training is one where I wonder if we could make some serious improvements to public schools. Better and more useful teacher training could go a long way.

      • Nicole Ar

        “Being a teacher isn’t an easy job that just anyone can pick up.”
        Including the teachers that get paid by tax dollars.

      • MrPopularSentiment

        I’ve had this conversation a few times when I’ve discussed the possibility of homeschooling my child. Someone always comes out to tell me that the system will never be fixed if people who have problems just withdraw, that I should instead keep my child in a public school system – even if he is terribly unhappy, even if he is so unhappy that he commits suicide as many public schooled kids who are bullied or otherwise failed by the system do – because I “owe” it to everyone else to “work from the inside.”

        And that attitude just astounds me. I am not about to martyr my child. Yes, we should fix the system, and I am totally on board with trying to fix it. But I will not ever do so at the expense of my own child. As far as I am concerned, the social contract comes in a distant second to my duty as a parent to my child.

      • Jayn

        I tend to see this as a bit of a catch-22. Parents don’t want to martyr their kids while trying to get things sorted out (and I’m not about to say they should–whatever downsides there are to public schooling can have effects lasting well past your school years). But the more parents who pull their children out, the less pressure there is to actually change anything, because the kids who need those changes most aren’t there any more. And I do worry that when it’s easier to remove a child, schools will be less willing to makes those changes, instead trying to find ways to force those children out of the school setting.

        I don’t have an answer, but it is frustrating that many people have to resort to individual solutions to what are often systemic problems.

      • Nicole Ar

        The best schools in the US are still worse than the worst schools in places like India.

      • Anat

        Simply not true. Look at the TIMMS results – summarized here.

      • Conuly

        The worst schools in India are kids with no schooling at all, so… Yeah, I don’t see that.

      • swmr1

        All I’m getting from your posts is that you are angry about your upbringing (which doesn’t make any sense the way you describe it – not in school until 6th grade but not in a classroom and somehow abused by teachers – as if this is the norm???) There are lots of great public schools in the U.S. My kids go to three. I went to four growing up. Your situation sounds too crazy to generalize about the rest of us!

    • LyricalPolyphony

      Because some parents do a much, much better job than their local school would do, and because up to the line of neglect/abuse (not just physical; educational, mental, et c) parents should, in my very libertarian opinion, :) have the right to educate their child as they see fit. Compulsory education is a wonderful thing, as an educated society is a wonderful thing and not everyone can or should homeschool, but children can be educated in a variety of ways successfully. Then, too, there are the kids who would not be well served by their local school- from severe allergies, to special needs…. some schools have wonderful special needs and advanced/gifted programs; others do not. Because not all schools can be guaranteed to fit the needs of the child on even a basic level, other options should always be available.

    • Nicole Ar

      No one was able to keep me safe from the ABUSE-physical assaults that I endured at the hands of my teachers.

  • Shaney Irene

    Homeschooled child here. I would like to see regulations that ensure that homeschooled children are being taught and cared for, and not being abused or neglected, but also would allow for freedom and flexibility in how and what the children are being taught. So definitely registering as homeschoolers with the state at very, very minimum. I’m not convinced of the effectiveness of submitting a curriculum or portfolio for review. I’ve heard one too many stories of the parents doing the work for the children. I’m not convinced of the effectiveness of standardized testing (for homeschool OR public or private school), but it seems to be the best option with what we currently have. I’m totally for coming up with better assessments for all areas of education, but in the meantime, it’s probably most feasible for homeschoolers to just take the same assessments as public schoolers. Granted, I also see a lot of problems with this…many parents homeschool to have more educational freedom, or because their children have learning disabilities, and just because a 2nd grader doesn’t test at a 2nd grade level doesn’t automatically mean that the parents are being neglectful and shouldn’t be allowed to homeschool, it may just mean that the child is struggling, and putting them in public school or private school won’t automatically make anything better. Perhaps require some sort of home tutoring (by a fully qualified educator, of course) if homeschooled children aren’t testing up to standard, but not necessarily requiring that they immediately be put in public or private school. Require annual doctor visits/checkups, but not home visits (looks like automatic suspicion of homeschoolers for abuse). And definitely don’t allow parents convicted or being investigated for any crimes involving children to homeschool without supervision. To me, that last one is just common sense.

    • Lana Hope

      Yea I’ve though of the problem, too. But a portfolio will catch some people. Some people are not educated enough to do it for their kids, are just too lazy.

      • Shaney Irene

        I see what you’re saying, and I think you’re right, a portfolio requirement would at least weed out some of the lazier parents. The question, at that point, becomes whether it catches enough parents to make the added burden on the educational system worth it, which I guess it probably does. And there should definitely be other assessments to catch the parents that are doing the work for their children.

    • MrPopularSentiment

      “I’ve heard one too many stories of the parents doing the work for the children.” – I feel that any assessor who can’t tell the difference between a 2nd grader’s handwriting and the handwriting of an adult pretending to be a 2nd grader has no business being an assessor.

      The problem with testing is that it conflicts with a very important criticism of education – which is that testing may actually get in the way of learning. If standardized testing is mandatory for homeschoolers, that gets in the way of one of the big reasons why many people choose to homeschool in the first place.

      • Libby Anne

        The problem with testing is that it conflicts with a very important criticism of education – which is that testing may actually get in the way of learning. If standardized testing is mandatory for homeschoolers, that gets in the way of one of the big reasons why many people choose to homeschool in the first place.

        Where are you getting this exactly? Because my parents were some of those homeschoolers who opposed “teaching to the test” and standardized testing, but after fifth and eight grade they had us each take the Iowa Basic Skills Test. This isn’t a teach to the test kind of test—and indeed, we did nothing to prepare for it—it simply measures students’ competence in each subject area and lets students know where they stand compared to other children one each subject. My parents loved it because it let them know where we were ahead and where we were behind, and my siblings and I loved it because we saw it as a challenge to show how much we had learned. And no, it wasn’t required by our state and no one but our parents saw our skills. So I think it’s wrong to put using testing as an assessment tool completely off the table, or to think that it would be somehow antithetical to homeschooling.

      • MrPopularSentiment

        Oh, I’m not at all saying that it is antithetical to homeschooling, since that depends entirely on why the particular family is homeschooling in the first place.

        As for being off the table, I think the problem is that we’re all using the word “test,” but we’re referring to two very different concepts: 1) the standardized tests that have been all the rage recently and that go into quite a bit of detail, forcing teachers to devote increasing amounts of class time to teaching test material, rather than taking the time to make sure that everyone is keeping up and engaged, and 2) something much more general and low pressure that is used just as a competence assessment.

        I’m honestly having trouble understanding what #2 even means since I have no experience with anything like that. I’m rather test-averse due to my own experiences, and the experiences of people I’ve grown up with. When/where I was going to school, tests were THE standard by which students were measured, so our focus was on cramming-and-forgetting. The end of term tests were high-stress because failure meant being held back or having to go for summer school. When I lived in England, placement at the equivalent of high school level rode entirely on a single test – so I ended up going to a really underfunded school where, in the words of my principal, we were only being “minded” until we aged out.

        But if there were a test that really was as positive as you make it sound, fine, yes, I might be okay with that. My only remaining concern would be about the order in which things are taught – there are legitimate reasons to want to prioritize reading/math early on and leave writing until later, or to cover some aspects of history first and leave others for a few years, or some other combination.

      • Conuly

        “I’ve heard one too many stories of the parents doing the work for the children.” – I feel that any assessor who can’t tell the difference between a 2nd grader’s handwriting and the handwriting of an adult pretending to be a 2nd grader has no business being an assessor.

        You haven’t seen my handwriting! Both nieces had neater handwriting at 7 than I’ve ever managed. Even my neat writing looks childish. A combination of lefthandedness, serious fine motor issues in childhood, and the fact that few, if any, teachers really seemed to want to teach handwriting (even if they had the time, which with 20 other students they definitely didn’t) will do that to you.

  • Niemand

    Home schoolers are claiming to be running a school. Regulate them like a school. Make sure that they are teaching appropriately, that the school is safe for the children, that any special needs are seen to.

    • Libby Anne

      That’s part of the problem! In many states, private schools are not regulated in any way. There are literally no requirements. In fact, states that do regulate private schools have exemptions for “church schools,” giving them no regulation at all. In some states, homeschoolers actually register using the same paperwork as private schools, and then facing no oversight whatsoever.

      • Niemand

        That suggests that the problem is wider than just home schooling. It also explains things like the 4th grade “science” test that has been going around the internet recently which showed that the poor child had been taught that dinosaurs lived 4000 years ago, Noah’s flood was real, etc.

        Let me try again. All schools, public, private, or home, should be required to meet basic teaching and safety regulations. They should be required to demonstrate that their teachers have at least a BA in a relevant field or equivalent experience, that their curricula are appropriate for the child’s age and mental status, that they have facility, if necessary, for supplemental education for children with dyslexia, retardation, ADHD, etc. They should also demonstrate that their building(s) is/are safe, that there are no other dangers to the children, etc.

      • Rosa

        it’s a separate and serious problem. Unaccredited private schools are often nearly off the radar, and in some places they’re quite large. I have a lot of friends who went to private religious elementaries and they vary ridiculously widely, from the YEC-and-workbooks-in-cubby types to very academically rigorous.

      • MrPopularSentiment

        Do you really think that you need a BA in, say, science to teach elementary-level science?

      • Christine

        Not always, but failure to have one can result in some really messed-up lessons. At least in a public school this won’t be every teacher. Examples in math, not science, but the point stands: a teacher telling a student that she is *wrong* for saying that a circle has many many sides (she was too young to have learned infinity, and apparently in this teacher’s world a circle has one side); or a teacher not understanding that the path a car on a ferris wheel will travel is the same shape as the wheel itself. (I went to a enriched math & science programme, so my friends came from all over the city, and we shared stories of our worst math teachers. Those are the ones that stand out.)

      • tsara

        I’d say that you need at least the math skills and reading comprehension level necessary to understand and explain the material, and the research skills to know where to find answers to any questions that you can’t answer yourself.

      • Feminerd

        Yes, absolutely! Or at the very least, a minor in the subject. Kids ask a lot of questions, and you need to know the answers to be able to respond at all appropriately (even if the answer is “it’s really complicated” or “I don’t know but let’s find out after class/next time”). You know how they say you really know a subject if you can explain it to a fourth grader (ie, 9 year old)? That means you have to actually know the subject. Reading a 4th grade textbook does not convey any serious understanding of, well, anything. It’s the teacher’s job to add to that textbook, which they can only do if they know what they’re talking about.

      • MrPopularSentiment

        No, you don’t. You really don’t. And I’m sure that any teachers reading the comments will agree that expecting teachers to know all the answers is completely unreasonable, even if they have an educational background in the subject.

        The pedagogical model of the expert teacher at the front of the classroom with the receptive students before them is very much falling out of fashion in educational circles. A homeschooling parent is perfectly capable of teaching the material with the aid of a textbook (or other guide). If a difficult question is asked, parent and child together can head to the internet or to a library to find engaging and informative resources to assist them.

        But also, this makes a demand of homeschooling parents that is not even made of public school teachers. Yes, public school teachers generally have at least a BA, but at the elementary level, one teacher teaches every subject, and I can guarantee you that they do not have a BA in all those subjects. In Ontario, you don’t even have to have an undergrad+ degree in the subject to teach at the high school level (you have to have a degree, but not specifically in that subject).

        So unless you are proposing that we do a complete overhaul of the educational system, the demand is utterly ridiculous.

      • Anat

        I must say, in my elementary school (in Israel) I had a specialist teacher for science in grades 5-6 (and my friends did since grade 4, but I moved in from a different town) and it made a huge difference compared to learning from a generalist teacher. I also had a specialist teacher for math in 5th grade (but alas not in 6th) and that too was a great experience. I really do think we need to introduce specialist teachers in academic subjects by the middle of elementary school.

        Come to think of it, my daughter’s elementary school had some kind of math specialist as a support person to the class teachers.

      • MrPopularSentiment

        In the UK, I believe I was about 13-14 when we first started to have specialized teachers.

        I did my elementary education (age 4-11) in Switzerland. I started off in a village school where one teacher taught everything, then went to a private school that had specialized teachers. The one teacher who had to teach every subject had lots of materials, hands on experiments, and field trips to supplement whatever she may not have known. On the other hand, the private school was very classroom-based, where we’d just sit and take notes while the teacher lectured at us.

        Maybe in a perfect world, we’ve have specialized experts *and* hands-on activities and field trips, but we don’t exactly live in a perfect world. And given the choice, I’d take the untrained teacher who gave a lot of freedom for exploration.

        I also think that, for the elementary age range, having a consistent caregiver/teacher may be more important to a child’s emotional well being than having someone who can more expertly drill them on knowledge. By all means, get some background, but I don’t think that’s really the most important thing at that age. Imparting a love of learning and the basic skills needed to discover information on their own is far more important at that age than memorizing facts that they most assuredly won’t retain into adulthood.

        I would argue that that is still largely the case at the middle school level provided that educators have access to a lot of resources to delve into greater depth as needed.

        By the high school level, it does get more complicated. But even then, I don’t think that requiring homeschooling parents be formally educated at the undergraduate+ level is necessary. They may well be self-learners who are perfectly capable to understanding and imparting the information, for example. Or they may be using resources such as professionally-developed study plans, field trips, online resources, books, etc. There’s so much available these days that there’s really no reason why we should be forcing ourselves to keep to that Expert Lecturer model.

      • tsara

        A complete overhaul of the educational system sounds like an excellent idea to me. It definitely needs some work.

      • Christine

        Unless the regulations have changed in the last couple of years, a teacher has some post-secondary eduction in what they primarily teach. (I know that you get teachers lumped into other areas sometimes, but as I said before, it’s not as harmful if it only happens sometimes. If they aren’t currently, elementary schools should be required to try to have a mix of teachables as much as possible.) You can’t just declare something to be a teachable because you want it to be. I could do science, or pretty much any math course, maybe physics, but I wouldn’t be allowed to do biology (with an engineering degree) and definitely not English.

        At the elementary through high school levels, you need to have an understanding of the subject that goes well beyond what the student is trying to learn. That level of understanding isn’t enough to realise what you don’t know. Nor, if you do realise that you are lacking, is it really enough to allow you to find the information you do need on the internet.

        And as an aside, Ontario is actually a horrible example to use as a benchmark for what is required in schools. We still haven’t recovered from the determined effort to destroy the school system.

  • Chelsea

    My husband was homeschooled and is still a conflicted supporter of homeschooling. I support people choosing to homeschool for practical reasons (lack of available public schools, special needs or bullying, etc.) but I’m strongly opposed to people homeschooling for moral reasons (i.e. because they think their kids are property and want to control every aspect of the kids’ lives). To that end, I think homeschool regulations should be designed to provide support and assistance to parents homeschooling for practical reasons, and to strongly discourage homeschooling for moral reasons.

    1) Homeschool parents must register each child with the state twice a year.

    2) Homeschool parents must have graduated high school or have a GED; they should be required to pass a state-run pedagogy course and additional courses if their children have special needs.

    3) Homeschool families should have mandatory visits from a social worker several times a year, where the kid is alone with the social worker.

    4) One poster mentioned that in some Quiverfull families, children are sometimes deprived of an education so that they are incapable of being self-sufficient when they turn 18. Homeschooled students should be required to take a state-run standardized test at the end of middle school to determine if they are on track to graduate by age 18. If they do not pass, they would be required to attend public high school. Even for the students who pass the standardized test, homeschooling at the high school level should be allowed only by qualified tutors or online courses taught by qualified teachers. I would also suggest that the state employ a number of qualified subject tutors specifically for homeschoolers, so that students whose parents are lacking in knowledge in a certain subject area can have ready access to someone who isn’t.

    5) Homeschool parents must not be registered sex offenders, have had a child removed by CPS, or have been charged with any crime involving children.

    6) A standardized state homeschool curriculum should be made available for homeschool parents’ information and guidance, although it should not be required.

    7) I don’t agree with my fellow posters about requiring frequent standardized tests. Standardized tests are terrible pedagogy, and some parents homeschool to escape them. Plus, this negates the whole point of being able to come up with your own personalized education plan. If you want to learn advanced math only for the first 7 years of your education, and THEN learn to read afterwards, you should be able to do that. If you want to study only history for a couple of years because you’re super interested in it, you should be able to do that. I think when you graduate you should have basic skills in all of the major content areas, but I don’t think requiring you to obtain those skills on a certain schedule is helpful. I would support only requiring two standardized tests: one at the end of middle school to determine whether you can continue to be homeschooled, and one at the end of high school to ensure that you have enough skills to get along in society.

    8) Adopted or foster children who previously attended public school should be required to be interviewed alone by a social worker and to sign off on their willingness to be homeschooled.

  • Alice

    A really important question in this discussion is what level of education should the regulations expect? Enough to be prepared for college? For the working world? To be well-rounded and well-informed members of society? Just to have the bare minimum of survival tools like reading, writing, and math? These are all very different goals, and some of them would require a lot more regulation.

    • victoria

      I definitely don’t think college prep should be the default expectation.

      1.) I would say students coming out of high school should be able to read, write, and calculate well enough to understand basic contracts (a lease, a line of credit, etc.) and anything they’d need for their day-to-day activities (being able to conduct basic business without getting ripped off and being able to understand and follow medical advice are examples of things that everyone should be able to do; certain career paths and personal situations would of course require a lot more).

      2.) People should have the qualifications and abilities to enter further study in at least one field that is of interest to them and within their reasonable capabilities. (Someone who has a great job offer coming out of high school doesn’t need to forgo that, but they should at least have the possibility of entering school or the military open to them through their high school experience. People don’t have to be able to do everything. But they need to be able to do something.)

      I am personally a big fan of a rigorous liberal arts education because I think it makes for well-rounded people. But when you’re talking about regulating education for a huge variety of people in diverse circumstances I think it’s better to figure out what society and individuals can’t do without and to not regulate the way education should look past that point.

      • Shaney Irene

        I think your point number 1 is excellent.

    • Sally

      I think we have to remember there is a bell-curve in intelligence. There are also bell-curves for other competencies. I think regulations for homeschoolers should be minimal, below grade-level even, because I think the goal should be to make sure kids aren’t being “not schooled.” I don’t think we can get into IQ testing everyone, deciding what they should know when (see explanations about various innovative models of education), and try to ensure an ideal education for homeschoolers. We just are trying to weed out abuse and educational neglect.

      For a really interesting movie about how public schools have forgotten about the bell-curve and are expected to treat everyone like they’re ivy-league college bound, see the movie “Race To Nowhere.” Point being, let’s not try to replicate public schools in homeschooling through regulation.

  • lollardheretic

    I find all this stuff fascinating. I wasn’t HS’d, but I did go to a private school (Christian) from preschool through 8th grade, because my parents knew I’d get a better (i.e. more rigorous) education there. They were not particularly religious. We did not go to the church associated with the school (or at all). Public HS.

    I think registering with the state is a good step.

    I’m an English professor and I’m so stringently against the new testing crap that’s come up that I can’t articulate it. The tests are not created by teachers, not approved by teachers, and don’t measure anything other than “did they memorize stuff” which is NOT the same as educating a person. SO, no testing. No approved curriculum either, in some cases. The folks making the curriculum choices at this point might know less than the homeschoolers who are very dedicated.

    But I think homeschooling should come with things like CPS checks. Since we’re removing kids from a required reporting situation, then someone needs to watch them. One of my friends was home schooled and it was great for a lot of reasons–she did very well in HS, in college, and got a phd. Her family is Christian, but her mom was very concerned about education–more than indoctrination–and so she and her brothers got a good education. A CPS check wouldn’t have hurt.

    Requiring things like doctor’s apps, orthodontists, etc. seems to me to run the risk of making homeschooling an option only for the wealthy. That’s a problem since some lower income folks choose it because they can do better than the poor schools.

    To recap: regulation via registration and CPS checks,

    I’d like parents to have the options for benchmark checks. Are my kids learning the same thing as kids in their grades?

    Also, Texas just made it legal (a “Tim Tebow law) for homeschool kids to play on sports teams at local high schools. i think if you’re going to do this, then you need to follow the school’s curriculum, or at least the state standards. You can’t have it both ways. You’re kid doesn’t get to play football but then (worst case sceario) not learn to read.

    • Shaney Irene

      I totally understand that CPS checks make sense in light of homeschoolers not automatically being in any mandatory reporting situations. However, it feels like a double standard to me (why do homeschoolers get home visits but public students don’t?), so is there some way where the kids could be put in situations where they’re in contact with mandatory reporters, but not necessarily getting visits from CPS? Some examples: Mandatory meetings every x months with a local school administrator, mandatory yearly checkups with a health professional, etc.

      • Victoria 1

        I don’t think it qualifies as a double-standard, since by taking kids out of the school system, you are removing them from the most-likely means of having abuse or neglect spotted. In a school setting, the teachers see the same kids every day. Without that consistent contact, you need to have someone outside of the family as a safety-net.

        I don’t think CPS should be seen as the enemy here. They can, and should, be able to offer help and suggestions, as they do in other countries, without it turning into a battle. For some reason, we seem to have a uniquely adversarial relationship with such folk. Does anyone know why?

      • Shaney Irene

        I agree that CPS shouldn’t be seen as the enemy. But, I do think there is something that feels more invasive when an outsider comes into the home, than say, if the family were required to meet with a CPS worker somewhere outside the home. Yes, kids in school are in a situation where abuse or neglect is much more likely to be spotted, but they don’t have people coming inside their homes. That’s where I see the double standard–not in requiring kids to have contact with people outside their family, but in who gets home visits and who doesn’t. Does that make more sense?

      • Victoria 1

        I would have no problem with a scheduled office visit, as long as there was some opportunity to speak to the child alone, out of the parent’s hearing. Not because I suspect home schooling parents of abuse, but so the child can speak freely.
        I would suggest a follow-up home visit if the office visit raises any red flags. How’s that?

      • MrPopularSentiment

        Totally. My home is sacred. Having someone come in when I don’t have any choice about it just feels really violating. I think you need a really strong reason to require access to someone’s home.

      • Alice

        “Does anyone know why?” Some people have had bad experiences with CPS workers, and so organizations like HSLDA assume that all CPS workers are the same.

      • MrPopularSentiment

        My only run up against child abuse stuff was when my son had an accident when he was first starting to crawl – he burned his hand. We went to the hospital and, instead of treating his hand, just kept me for ages asking leading questions to suss out whether I’d done it to him on purpose. Fine, that’s great, I’m glad due diligence is being done, but the problem is that burns get worse if you put off treatment. No one thought to do both at the same time, or to do first aid on my son and THEN ask me questions, and then do the finishing touches, or anything else. They let my son’s actual injury get worse because of potential harm. That’s a problem. And if that’s the attitude CPS (and policy makers) have, I have no trouble seeing why there might be a perceived adversarial relationship.

        Aside from that, I have a friend whose mother works for CPS and another friend who does specialized follow up care when CPS has been involved, and both are the most outspoken people I know about how dangerous and problematic CPS is. Someone in another comment mentioned ignoring serious abuse cases while hounding families that that are more free-rangey or have an accident-prone child, for example. Both have also complained about how cases are handled – for example, the one whose mother works for CPS has said that if your child goes to the hospital three times within 5 years for different things – no matter what those things are – a file is opened. That means that any call at all, even if it turns out to be unsubstantiated, results in a full investigation. It’s a policy that probably looked good on paper, but in practical application means that a parent whose kids are very active and engaged in sports could very well end up having to spend a lot of time and stress dealing with CPS.

        Like I said, I haven’t been involved with CPS itself at all, but I can understand the fear given the number of horror stories. That’s not saying that we shouldn’t have CPS at all, I do think it’s necessary, but the idea that everything would work out great for homeschoolers if we’d just involve CPS because people who have nothing to hide have nothing to worry about just… well, it just seems really pollyanna-ish to me.

      • Victoria 1

        I’m sure you’re right about systemic problems with CPS. They are pretty much part of the human condition. Whenever we try to treat individuals with a rules-heavy system, we’ll muck it us.

        Since you understand the need for CPS, and have seen some of its problems, if you had the power, what changes would you make to it?

      • MrPopularSentiment

        “Whenever we try to treat individuals with a rules-heavy system, we’ll muck it us.” – That’s exactly why I’m so iffy with a lot of the proposals about homeschooling that have been made here. The more rules we pile on, the more harm we do to non-abusive families that really are trying to do what’s best for their children. We have to find a “sweet spot” between trying to catch the baddies without harming the goodies.

        As for CPS, I have no idea. I imagine that burn-out is probably a huge part of the problem, so better pay, a smaller limit on case load, and periodic psych evaluations would probably help. From what I’ve heard, the big reason that CPS will sometimes neglect to act on the really serious abuse is that it’s “more trouble than it’s worth” – both emotionally and in terms of paperwork and fighting red tape. I don’t really know what the answer is there, but I guess I’d start with addressing the causes of burn-out and see where we go from there.

    • Slow Learner

      “Requiring things like doctor’s apps, orthodontists, etc. seems to me to run the risk of making homeschooling an option only for the wealthy.”

      In societies which don’t provide universal healthcare, there may be some people who would have to choose between immunising their child, and buying textbooks for their child. It is precisely for people like that, free public education exists.
      If someone can’t meet all of their child’s basic physical needs, why should they be allowed to set themselves up as the sole person to meet their child’s mental needs?

      • Alice

        Yes, but do young people really need to go to the doctor regularly? I was a healthy child and teenager, and besides immunizations and frequent check-ups as a small child, I only needed to go to the doctor a handful of times growing up. My parents had the insurance and money to go more often, but I just didn’t need to. As a teenager, I had braces for several years, which improved my appearance but was hardly a physical necessity.

      • Slow Learner

        It depends. I was a sickly child, who needed regular medical attention, and probably would have died several times over before reaching adulthood without it.

        As an adult, I’m quite healthy, and expect to live as long and as healthily as your average adult.

        So I admit to a personal interest here.

      • smrnda

        Everybody should go to a doctor regularly, because leaving things go until you’ve actually got problems can make things a whole lot worse. I’m 100% sure this isn’t your point of view, but I encounter a lot of people who argue that people go to doctors ‘too much’ whose main point is to argue that people without insurance aren’t at a disadvantage since we don’t really *need* to go to a doctor until you’re in enough pain to end up in an emergency room, or that when your insurance gets so lousy that you can’t afford to go the rationale is that it keeps people from making frivolous visits.

        I’m also a person with 2 diagnosed disabilities so regular medical checkups are necessary for me, and at least one condition was a lot worse when I was younger just because my parents weren’t that into getting me to doctors enough.

  • Suburbint

    These all presuppose that homeschooling parents must register with the state on a yearly basis.

    – Parents should be required to take the same tests that public school teachers take in order to be permitted to teach. I don’t think that parents need to be tested on particular subjects in order to teach higher grades; I believe that parents can learn higher grade subjects alongside their kids while still guiding their work in such a way that the students truly do learn from it. In our state all teaches have to take a basic reading/writing/basic knowledge/critical thinking test in order to become certified, and while it is shockingly easy, I have known several homeschooling moms who would have failed it completely. Those types of people should not be in charge of another human being’s education, regardless of how young the children are.

    – Parents should submit a yearly goal summery, including samples of curriculum to be used, intended outcomes, and a sample lesson plan. States should have the right to veto curriculum based on educational content alone; not religious beliefs or worldview presented, but on whether or not the content inside will get the child to where her peers are at the end of the school year. We had a family in our homeschooling group growing up who bragged about how advanced their children were, claiming that their sixth grader was in 12th grade, when in actuality, due to the workbook-based curriculum they used, I could get my chinchilla to “pass” all the way up to twelfth grade, if I could only train him not to eat the pencil.

    – Sex education must be a mandatory subject. I don’t think it is right or reasonable for a state to require a homeschooling family to provide information on birth control, sexual acts, or gay and lesbian sex if those topics are uncomfortable or morally reprehensible to the homeschooling family, but they should be providing the basic information at the appropriate ages. Elementary students should know what their own and other people’s private parts are called, and junior high students should know why the changes to their bodies are happening and how babies are made. Not providing children with this basic information is dangerous, and I have seen it lead to tragic consequences.

    – The children will participate in yearly standardized testing with whatever testing program the local public schools are using. The child will test in a public school classroom at whatever grade level the parents registered him as at the beginning of the year. If the student does not perform satisfactorily (i.e., if he would be held back or sent to summer school if he were a public school student) then an improvement plan will be implemented in order to get him up to standard. If the student still does not meet expectations, the parents can lose their approval to homeschool that child until he is at grade level, and perhaps for the rest of the child’s education.

    – In my fantasy world that I have created here, each homeschooling family has a caseworker who is qualified as both a social worker and in education. This caseworker will meet with the entire family every year in the family’s home, and speak with the family as a whole, and then the parents and each child individually. She will have a list of regular questions that are asked to all homeschooling families at their yearly meeting, as well as the autonomy to ask other questions based on questions or concerns that she has after meeting with the entire family. Families that raise a “red flag” will have additional supervision, ranging anywhere from more frequent meetings with the caseworker, to losing the privilege of homeschooling (either for the year, for one specific child, or forever,) to more stringent CPS involvement if that is warranted. Children will be provided with a number by which they can reach their case worker at any hour of the day or night, if they need to contact her for any reason.

    – One of the questions that the case worker will ask older (high school aged) children is what their goals are following “graduation.” She will then speak with the parents to learn how they are helping their child move towards these goals, and suggest resources that will be beneficial. If the parents are not engaged in helping their child in this area, that warrants further discussion and possibly intervention on the part of the case worker.

    – Any family that does not agree to any and all of these oversights in homeschooling will not be granted permission to homeschool. If they are found to be homeschooling anyway, there will be criminal charges, fines and possible prison time, and a full scale CPS investigation of the family.

    I know some of these may seem overly intrusive, and that the dreaded nanny state could horribly abuse it’s power and snatch all of these precious little children away from their god fearing parents — at least, that’s what HSLDA warned us about on a regular basis while I was growing up as a homeschooled child — but I have seen at least one family whose homeschooling did a great disservice to their children for each of these guidelines that I would implement, were I the Queen of Homeschooling Legislation.

  • Aatu Koskensilta

    Let me offer a few comments from a Finnish perspective. In Finland homeschooling is legal (unlike in some other European countries), but very rare. Recent estimates put the number of homeschooled students at somewhere around 400. This is not because there are any particularly arduous legal or administrative hoops to go through. You just have to inform the municipality officials you’re going to homeschool and discuss the arrangements. A local school is required to provide a more or less detailed curriculum to follow. In addition there are tests on each subject (mathematics, Finnish, history and civics, biology, geography, Swedish, English, religion or “life stance education”, and so on) once or twice a year. The law does not in fact mandate any specific method of monitoring the students’ progress — all it requires is that advancement be appropriately supervised — but in practice virtually all or all municipalities opt for testing. If you homeschool the municipality has no obligation to offer free textbooks, free lunches, remedial instruction, etc. but as the ministry of education goes out of its way to remind, municipalities are free to offer such services.

    By American standards all this is probably very stringent and exacting, but by European standards it’s positively lax. And in fact it has been suggested that homeschooling should require a license or permit, allowed only in cases where education at a public school is for some reason or other impractical or outright impossible. Behind this suggestion is a fear that US style, often religiously motivated homeschooling should become more common, and result in precisely the sort of problems with abuse and isolation documented e.g. on this blog.

    I can think of a few reasons why homeschooling is so rare in Finland, most of which explain equally the almost total lack of private schools. First, we have an excellent public education system, with highly educated teachers. Second, since the curriculum is fixed for any sort of education, homeschooling does not, at least in theory, give license to teach anything way out of mainstream, or not to teach some subjects at all, beyond that any parent already has, of trying in general to get their children to believe this and that by various methods of indoctrination and edification. There is thus no great incentive to homeschool based of purely cultural or religious reasons. Third, Finland is a largely secular nation, and in particular does not have the sort of “culture wars” that seem to plague the US. In particular, evolution is mostly (or, totally, compared to the US or even the UK) uncontroversial, most people don’t object to comprehensive sex ed, etc. For these reasons among others, people usually don’t choose to homeschool unless forced to do so by medical reasons, or, sadly, occasionally because of bullying and the failure of the system to react appropriately (or, at all). As a rule, this goes even for the religious.

    Now, I think the current regulations we have in place are reasonable and sufficient. There are problems with child abuse in Finland, as gruesomely demonstrated by recent cases where the authorities were informed of problems but failed to act, resulting in the death of a child, but to the best of my knowledge these don’t have anything to do with homeschooling. This is not because Finnish parents are more moral or better people, but simply because there is no culture of homeschooling of the US sort, and because there are only a few hundred homeschooling families. It’s simply not an option that occurs to most parents, abusive or not. If the situation were different, as it so apparently is in the US, stricter regulation would be called for — especially in absence of a working system of universal healtcare, welfare, education, etc.

    Now that I’ve written this, I’m not entirely sure what my point is. But perhaps it offers a useful perspective from the outside, so to speak.

    • Nicole Ar

      Not all American do it for religious reasons. It’s just that they were the pioneers in the US. One of the other reasons why parents do it is that the schools are so horrible, even the private schools aren’t that great. -I was not homeschooled but asked my mom to homeschool me. I was hoping she would do it after work and felt bad that I was asking so much.

      • Aatu Koskensilta

        Sure. The salient difference is that public education is consistently excellent in Finland. So when people choose to homeschool their child when there’s no apparent pressing reason forcing them to do so, it is natural to worry they’re doing so effectively to deny their child access to an education that’s in accordance with the values, goals, and requirements laid out in the national curriculum. (This, as I explained in another comment, is a basic human right that every child has on the Finnish view.) I don’t think anyone is worried about parents who are able to do a better job of educating their children than the public schools could!

      • Lana Hope

        You hit it on the nail. The American education system has a lot of gaps, and its not consistent from school to school.I have been around most of Europe (I know European countries are not equal by ANY means, but some of the countries impressed me), and the fact that Americans don’t teach kids to speak a foreign language bothers me immensely as well. If I lived in a country like yours, my need to homeschool would be minimal.

        Before America can justify those restrictions, they need more consistent education in their own schools.

      • Suburbint

        We will never achieve more consistent education in American because, as my daughter likes to jokingly say when I ask her to do something she doesn’t want to, “This is ‘Merica!” (you have to picture it said like a man with chaw in his mouth, holding his rifle at a gun rights rally.)

        Too many right-wing or even right-leaning voices in this country raising a fit about everything from sex education to how many times a week their kid should be allowed to get French fries in his school lunch.

        I love the freedoms guaranteed by our Constitution, but thanks to those freedoms and that good old gosh derned American fightin’ spirit, we are far from the point where the citizenry will trust the government (both state and local) enough to make our public schools truly excellent.

      • Rosa

        Well, many of our states are as big as European countries. (California & Poland both have 38 million people; New York and Florida have 19 million while Romania has 18; Sweden, Georgia, North Carolina, and our state of Georga are all about the same population; Finland, Wisconsin, and Minnesota are all around 5 million and are all notable for academic success).

        Any one state can have great standardization and success given enough political will.

      • Nan Mcv

        The idea that religiously-motivated homeschoolers “were the pioneers” is a fallacy.

    • ihana1

      How I would have loved to have a Finnish education! I did spend my 8th through 10th school years in Helsinki, and excelled. Cut to the next year in an American public school. Alienation, disappointment, expulsion ( not from school but from my parents home- too much freedom, they said). I looked into immigration when I was 18, but alas, you Finns don’t want many Americans. My peers from my time in Finland are all excelling in the world, doing incredible things, not to mention they all speak five languages. I totally missed out. I’ve often brought up the conversation of high school and having the option of ammatikoulu (sp- it’s been a long time), as something we should have here. Belatedly, hyva vappua! (again with the sp and poor keyboard on my iPad).

  • Lana Hope

    I was also a homeschooled child – 1st -12th grade. At the bare minimum homeschool parents should have to register, meet with the schools to discuss a plan, meet with the children alone once a year, and submit a portfolio (that should include writing samples, math activities, etc). I would like to see more homeschool kids participating in extra cirricular school activities or city sports to help insure they are not isolated. We can’t make that a rule as there are various reasons kids cannot do those things, but we definitely should make it easier for homeschool kids to participate in those things.

    In addition, anyone who has ever been guilty of child abuse of any child, ever, whether their own child are not, should not be allowed to homeschool. Period. If you do not have a GED or high school diploma, you should not be allowed to homeschool. And homeschool students should be required to pass a very basic test on a foreign language, or else take a foreign language at a high school.

    • kisarita

      Agree on the child abuse thing definitely! Monitoring is n o way enough!

  • Tracy

    I’m homeschooling, but I can only comment on the regulations in Texas and Ohio, as those are the only two states I’ve homeschooled in. Texas has NO homeschooling regulation. When I pulled my oldest daughter out of school,
    all I had to do was write a letter to the superintendent informing him of my
    intention to homeschool. After that, there were no requirements and no other contact with the state. I definitely think there needs to be more regulation than that. My concern is that with such a low level of regulation, too many homeschooled children are going to become barely literate adults, which hurts society, and from the reactions and negative stereotypes that would likely ensue, would eventually hurt the homeschooling parents who really are trying to give their kids a better education.

    Ohio, on the other hand, was perfect. At the beginning of every school year, I registered with the school district, which consisted of sending the superintendent a letter assuring him that I would teach all the subject areas and briefly outline how I intended to do that. Then, at the end of the school year, I had a choice of either taking a standardized test or having a certified teacher review a portfolio of the work done that year. I never felt that these regulations were invasive or hampered my choices on how to educate my daughter, and by following them, I was given a degree of separation from parents whose children were just truant.

    Now for the points:

    Requiring homeschool parents to register their home schools with the state.

    Yes. I can’t imagine why any parent would be against this.

    Requiring homeschool parents to submit an annual curricular plan for review.

    I don’t see anything wrong with this, so long as the parents aren’t required to stick with it if it’s not working for their child. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve dumped my lesson plans and switched to something else.

    Requiring homeschooled students to take some sort of annual testing.

    I think this depends on what they use the test results for. If it’s just to show progress from the previous year, fine. If it’s to show proficiency or you can’t homeschool anymore, then that’s not fair. Plenty of public school children aren’t
    proficient. When I pulled my oldest out of school, she’d been through Pre-K, K, and 1st grade and still couldn’t count to ten or name her alphabet letters, and instead of dealing with her learning disabilities and placing her in a lower grade or special class, they just trudged on without her. The material was so far ahead of her, it was pointless. So when I started homeschooling, I stepped her back and slowed it down, and she started learning again. But there’s no way she could ever have scored “proficient” on a standardized test. But she wouldn’t have had she stayed in public school either.

    Requiring homeschoolers to turn in annual portfolios displaying their work.

    This certainly worked well for me. I would say that it would be difficult for
    families who unschool (a homeschooling style that doesn’t use formal curricula
    and emphasizes child-led learning), but if the requirements are left loose to accommodate different styles, there shouldn’t be a problem. I knew unschooling families in Ohio that kept journals and reading lists instead of actual work samples, and this was acceptable during the reviews.

    Requiring that homeschool families have an annual home visit.

    From what I know of Child Protective Services, their resources are already spread thin. Maybe a single visit where the case worker can inform the children of their rights and tell them who to contact if they are being abused. Other than that, I think it’s a waste of resources. I mean, no one would suggest that single mothers of pre-school children with live-in boyfriends, which is probably a higher risk group, be subject to this every year. I say wait until there is an indication of a
    problem for regular visits, and make sure the children know their rights.

    Barring those currently being investigated for child abuse from beginning to
    homeschool, or at least requiring that they be monitored if they do so.

    I agree with barring.
    Also if the investigation proves abuse, bar them from ever homeschooling.

    • LyricalPolyphony

      Seems reasonable to me!

    • DetailsDetails

      I agree, Ohio’s regulations are reasonable and non-intrusive.

      Homeschooled-in-Ohio (pre-OGT, not sure how that works with
      homeschooling – maybe someone will chime in) experience here: the
      standardized tests were fairly easy. It wasn’t specific information like
      you’d get in an end of course final, just grade-appropriate skills. I can’t stress how simple and basic these tests were. A lot of it was just ability to read (I remember teachers doing most of the reading out loud for K-2 with us being instructed to read the same section after them or short bits on our own), listen, and do math somewhere within a few grades of where I should have been.

      Ideally, the test is administered by a teacher or non-parent adult and the
      school we were part of seemed to require this. I’m not sure that’s a
      state requirement, though.

      Also, I’m not sure there’s anything really done with the tests. I was one of few in my graduating class to complete Ohio’s requirement of 3 years of high school math including Algebra II. My fellow students may have been doing math for 3 yrs, but afew said they went no higher than algebra 1/2 or I. Eek. They couldn’t have been scoring above a grade level of 10 or so, but they still graduated. Also, these parents weren’t just HS graduates – both of my bf’s parents were professionals with graduate degrees and she didn’t get past algebra 1. Not because she was unable to; she did well in college.

      While it may be required to register with the school board, I don’t think that information is used in any way. My younger brother’s education was completely neglected – no one noticed or checked in when he was no longer registered. He got a GED soon after us nosy older siblings made noise.

      The Ohio regulations are a starting point – the school district should know about children being educated in the region, there should be testing done to show progression year to year as a baseline (and, if the child has no learning disabilities, that progression should be age/grade appropriate) or work clearly done by the child to be reviewed by a teacher to show competence (as someone pointed out, sometimes parents do the work). Someone should be keeping track of who is registered year to year and following up if they are not registered in the future with a letter requesting a meeting or phone call. If the children are being homeschooled in the district without registering and do not provide basic lesson plan and end-of-year required material (test, teacher reviewed material), CPS should be involved.

      People who have been convicted of child abuse must not be able to homeschool. People who are being investigated for child abuse must have over sight; requiring the children to be enrolled in an online school like Connections would be an option. My sister-in-law is a teacher who works for an online school and it sounds like there’s a fair amount of interaction with students and ability to observe by the teachers.

      • DetailsDetails

        Also!! I have a cousin who played a few sports and did science/math in public school with other subjects at home and a few friends did “summer school” at the local HS to complete their lab science requirements. That’s a huge plus and I know not all states/school districts allow part time status; they should. It’s really good for the student.

        Since kids often have to meet minimum grade requirements to participate in sports, I don’t think homeschooled kids should be able to have access to just the goodies (esp. b/c I’M SURE there’s some weird, competitive sports thing related to it that I don’t know about – like the kids who get held back so they’ll be big for their grade) so simultaneous enrollment in at least 1 academic class seems reasonable.

    • Lucreza Borgia

      Visiting with a certified teacher who reviews the portfolio could be counted as contact with a mandated reported, no?

      • Meg

        I feel like…everyone should be a mandatory reporter (in some states, they are – but there should be training for everyone). USPS employees, the gas/water/electric meter readers, waste collectors, all get to see something of the house/families. Librarians, retail or grocery store associates, bank tellers, etc also get to see people/families somewhat regularly and witness a lot.

        People who abuse their kids aren’t going to be taking them to the doctor unless they have to – but they do make a hell of a lot of noise at home sometimes and they do freak out and hit their 2 y/o in parking lots.

        The “clergy” requirement needs to be enforced more heavily – if it comes out that church leadership knew about abuse and did nothing or tried to hide it, they need to be penalized for it. I’ve heard lots of stories of church interference in abusive situations and none end in a church or church staff getting fines or jail time. A lot of kids to do church activities and the staff of summer bible schools, awanas, etc all need to be trained and considered mandatory reporters.

  • galacticexplorer

    In my opinion, all homeschooling parents should be required to register with the state and take yearly tests. Should a student fail the test, the parent would be given a certain time period to justify the failing (mental problems with a doctor’s note, or perhaps an extenuating stressful circumstance) and the child would be allowed to re-test after a period of time. The parent would also be required to submit a record of their curriculum for review to ensure that the failing was not a result of poor education. If there is a consistent pattern of failure without reasonable justification, the child would be required to attend public or private school.

    I think that requiring all homeschoolers to submit a curriculum for review is a bit intrusive and also very time-consuming. However, parents should be encouraged to keep these records in case they are ever brought under review if a child fails to test.

    Convicted child abusers should not be allowed to homeschool. Period. Those under investigation may homeschool, but should be subject to frequent CPS visits and close supervision until cleared of all charges.

    In order to graduate high school, homeschoolers should be required to submit a completed transcript for review by the state to ensure that they have met education standards. This is also to ensure that a child has access to meaningful documents that will allow them to be successful later in life (I know a young woman whose mother never created any sort of record or transcript of her schooling and she is just now realizing that her education is basically meaningless. She will probably have to get a GED, despite graduating highschool).

    • MrPopularSentiment

      Should children who fail in public school be forced to attend private or home school?

      Or, to rephrase, why are the consequences for failing so different between homeschools and public schools?

      • tsara

        “Or, to rephrase, why are the consequences for failing so different between homeschools and public schools?”

        Because teachers at public have demonstrated that they are qualified (by some standard or another) to teach and to be responsible (at least in a limited capacity) for the well-being of their students.
        A small proportion of students failing the class or passing the class despite not having the ability to demonstrate afterwards that they absorbed any of the material at all is a result of the teacher being human. (not that there isn’t room for improvement or change in those standards or in the imperfections we accept) (Also, if the teacher is demonstrably terrible, that teacher should be out of a job. There are many, many qualified teachers who are jobless.)
        One home schooled student failing hir coursework or passing hir coursework but being unable to demonstrate afterwords that zie absorbed any of the material at all is much more likely to represent a significant portion of that teacher’s students and therefore much more likely to represent a problem with the teacher (rather than they system or the student) than with a public school teacher.

        Additionally, one bad teacher is much less likely to have a huge effect on or very much authority in a public school student’s life than one bad teacher for a homeschool student.

      • MrPopularSentiment

        Except that there are many children who never graduate, or ones who graduate lacking in what many would consider to be essential skills – and certain school districts are most prone to this.

        It’s also ignoring the specifics of the situation. For example, let’s say a parent removes their child from school for a reason – bullying, harassment, failing academically, etc. Putting that child back into that environment could very well be worse.

        I think that if we’re going to interfere with a family’s ability to homeschool, we need to exhaust our other options first. If a child is not thriving, let’s talk to the teaching parent(s) about where the weaknesses lie and how to improve. If the child continues not to thrive, have the parent attend a course to help them learn to better provide for the educational needs of their child. If the problem still persists, then we can talk about requiring that the parent provide alternative accommodations (maybe that’s public school, maybe private, maybe that’s enrolling the child in distance learning courses, etc).

        This is what we do in most other instances – we work WITH parents rather than rushing in and making sweeping changes. Because again and again, what we’ve seen is that the government stepping in and making huge changes from the outside just sets up a hostile dynamic between it and the parents and, frequently, results in worse outcomes for the children. So if a parent is found to be abusive, we generally do parenting classes and other forms of intervention rather than taking children away (immediate danger aside).

  • JKPS

    I’m not in love with “Requiring homeschooled students to take some sort of annual testing.” I think schools already place way too much emphasis on testing, and I don’t want to see homeschooling fall into that same ditch.

    But with that said, “Requiring homeschoolers to turn in annual portfolios displaying their work” seems to solve that problem nicely. You don’t have to worry about performing for some standardized test.

    In fact, even having an option between the two would be fine with me.

    I’m also not terribly certain about the annual visit. That would be a lot of taxpayer money. Maybe having an annual visit for the families that trigger a yellow flag? Like if they do turn in a portfolio and it’s subpar to the point of ridiculousness, then they get a visit. Something like that.

    I think I fully agree with the rest of your ideas. And after a certain point, like when you start high school, I think you shouldn’t be allowed to homeschool unless the student is getting accredited. But I know there are other schools that aren’t always accredited, so I’d have to think more on that.

    Oh, and I was homeschooled for 3rd, 4th, part of 6th, 7th, 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th grade. My parents stopped teaching me after the 7th grade and instead I took online courses and some courses at a local church. I was also accredited, which many of my friends weren’t (the homeschooling program we did – Veritas Classical Schools – is now accredited). It was a great experience for me personally, but my siblings did not like it and they chose to go to public & private school for highschool (yes my parents gave us a choice). We were all religious but not extremely so, and my siblings and I are all atheists now (or my brother might be a deist).

    • Aatu Koskensilta

      As I mentioned elsewhere, the law in Finland does not specify any particular method of making sure homeschooled students are advancing as they should, according to the expectations spelled out in the curriculum set by the ministry of education. In practice, a homeschooled student will be assigned a teacher (or several teachers) at a local school whose responsibility it is to make sure everything is going as it should. They will discuss the initial teaching plan with the parents, offer feedback and advice, and then check with the student a few times a year. The “tests” I mentioned may, depending on the subject, consist of an informal chat, essentially an oral examination in a format appropriate to the age of the child, inspection of a portfolio, of essays, drawings, etc., going through algebra problems, and so on. If there’s a problem, the teachers will discuss the arrangements with the parents, offer suggestions as to what might be done to remedy the situation, or where to get help with this problem or that, make a detailed list of topics to cover in more depth, and so on. Naturally, if they suspect abuse or neglect, or if they feel the parents are simply incapable of offering an education that would meet the requirements set out by the ministry of education, they will alert the authorities, who will then in all likelihood look closer into it and decide what to do.

      All this is of course predicated on the existence of a standardized curriculum, which I gather would very much be against the ideals of at least some American homeschooling advocates. But given the existence of such a standardized set of expectations what a child of certain age should know, what sort of tasks they should be capable of, what have you, I think the system is very reasonable, and does not dictate any particular method of teaching to homeschooling parents.

  • Sheena Young

    In addition to the regulations mentioned in the original post, I have a few ideas. I was not homeschooled, but I did spend significant time in a teacher education program (I dropped out because of the emphasis on standardized testing).

    Local school districts, teacher education programs, teachers conferences, etc. could allow/encourage homeschooling parents to take classes, attend seminars, and otherwise participate (on a low cost/free/sliding scale, if at all possible). This would be especially helpful for methods/pedagogy/”teaching techniques” classes, developmental psychology, and classes that involve the basics of identifying and teaching for learning (and other) disabilities.
    Likewise, give those parents access to college courses (even the free online classes, like through Coursera) for their own use.

    Of course, I’m probably being an ultra-Pollyanna here. But I do think that most homeschooling parents who value the education aspect more than control would take advantage of free or cheap classes, and that could potentially make those parents better teachers.

    • Sally

      I attended the types of workshops you describe but at homeschooling conferences (usually very well done). (I also attended teacher conferences as a public school teacher).

      • Sheena Young

        Awesome, someone has already had the idea and gotten it started :)

  • Becca

    Speaking as a public school teacher here:
    -There should be some measure of progress of student learning. I think this would either be opting in to the standardized tests the state does (not that I like those), or providing a viable alternative. This could look like a portfolio or capstone project. Ideally, alternatives would be approved upon by teachers. For instance, it would be ridiculous to say that a child passed 10th grade English by making a marshmallow peep diorama of one book.
    -I think some kind of home visit would be ideal, especially for someone just starting homeschooling. Maybe a tiered system, like twice a year the first year, once a year for three years, then every other year after that.
    -Parents should have to register as homeschoolers. That would put kids in the system, and would also allow for background checks that would pull up abuse records. Those with abuse records should not be allowed to homeschool.
    -I don’t think turning in a yearly curriculum is necessary. This would be really complicated for non-traditional models, like “un-schooling”, and would be very difficult for someone who is not a teacher to show adequately. I believe that with some oversight of educational outcomes (like I stated before), this wouldn’t be an issue. Potentially, if it seems like the students are not actually learning or progressing, this could be some kind of probationary thing to get the kids on track.
    -I actually like the idea of it being a sort of license system. You would have to apply for the initial license then have it renewed. Renewal would be based on factors like student growth, acceptable topics covered, and no red flags for abuse. This seems very sensible.

    Hah, if you could check out the rubric that I get evaluated on, this would seem super easy by comparison! Real teachers need to get a degree, pass tests, pass background checks, and demonstrate mastery of practice. Homeschooling parents should be required to at least do a little paperwork.

    • Mel

      I think Becca’s ideas are reasonable. I graduated from private schools and am a public school teacher. My two concerns are student safety and adequate education. Student safety could be helped by a yearly or biyearly conversation with a social worker who could be employed by an outside agency like the Department of Health or a community-based health group. For the vast majority of home-schooled kids, it would be really boring since they are well cared for. For families who are struggling, they could get help from the government or local community orgs.

      Yearly curriculum is a joke. Turn in a portfolio or take a standardized test (yuck). A certified teacher could check to be sure the kid isn’t lagging way behind in any major subject and could give the parents some help/remedial work if needed.

      I think home-schooling works well in many cases but there does need to be protection from abuse or educational neglect.

  • aim2misbehave

    As a former homeschool child:
    -I 100% agree that anyone convicted of any crimes against children, or in the middle of an investigation, or with at least one suspicious child death in the family, should only homeschool under close supervision from CPS.

    -Requiring that the children get yearly medical checkups. In order to keep a balance between the parents’ personal/religious choices they can choose any board-certified medical professional such as a M.D., D.O., or P.A.
    -Requiring that all high school students be enrolled in some kind of program for them to earn a diploma. Whether it’s an online school (in fact, apparently some public schools here in California are providing free online options) or having the student take the appropriate tests that their public school peers would take (like regents tests in NY) for a diploma, just figure out something so they aren’t stuck diploma-less.
    -Requiring some kind of annual assessment of the child’s work.
    -Providing specialized training for CPS/DCFS workers, or if the jurisdiction is large enough having a number of workers dedicated to primarily homeschooling cases, on what to expect and how abuse might play out differently and so on.

    • Rosa

      my only quibble with this would be to have parents choose a *kind* of medical professional (say, “female NP midwife”) and then get the specific one at random – just to prevent situations where the physician is a personal friend or co-religionist who will cover up for abusive parents.

      • victoria

        I don’t know. I see your point, but the doctor-patient relationship is a pretty individual thing. One person’s “overly paternalistic” is another person’s “just right” and I really don’t think it’s a good thing to tell people they can’t see the doctor they want. There may be some way to identify doctors who are the physicians of record more often than chance in these cases, however, and to specifically exclude them.

      • Rosa

        if the purpose is to get neglect or abuse repoted, it has to be someone who’s not in cahoots with the parents.

        One of my college roomates had never been vaccinated for anything; her parents didn’t believe in it. Her mom knew a doctor who signed a form saying the kids were vaccinated, so she could live in the dorm. So we got to live with this lovely disease vector in a dorm full of people (who thankfully for us and her had mostly had been vaccinated and didn’t have compromised immune systems). Similarly, I had friends whose parents were doctors who would prescribe for them (which I don’t think is illegal) and also just send birth control pills or antibiotics in the mail since they knew we were all broke & uninsured (which is totally illegal.) I’m sure in both cases the doctors thought “well this is against the rules but I’m doing what’s right.”

      • MrPopularSentiment

        Yikes! I’ve had some doctors who don’t listen to me at all and just write prescriptions. When I was a teenager, I had one diagnose me with depression and stick me on meds (that made me feel really ill and fall asleep in class all the time) after just 10 minutes of talking to me.

        I mean, really… There are some awful doctors out there (remember, 50% of doctors graduated in the bottom half of their class!). Telling me that I can’t choose a good doctor for my child is just… really awful.

  • Monika Tillsley

    I don’t really have much to add here. I think Libby’s list looks good. I would not have homeschool parents convicted of child abuse under monitoring because my ideal would be they are never allowed near children in any capacity but that might not be realistic!

    Similarly in my ideal world I would not allow any homeschooling or private schools and there would be a national curriculum. From what I have seen the Finnish system is close to ideal and has very good equity for all students.

    • Aatu Koskensilta

      For those interested, the Finnish National Core Curriculum for Basic Education is available on-line at The national curriculum is a framework, providing a basis for defining more detailed and specific local curricula, including those for homeschooled children. It’s mostly just the sort of woolly fluff you’d expect from bleeding-heart social democrats. It says, for instance, that “the underlying values of basic education are human rights, equality, democracy, natural diversity, preservation of environmental viability, and the endorsement of multiculturalism. Basic education promotes responsibility, a sense of community, and respect for the rights and freedoms of the individual.” In addition there are more down-to-Earth sections laying down a set of educational goals for a given subject at a given level, required subjects, rules for school-home cooperation, and so on. Any local curriculum must adhere to these values, goals, and requirements, but there’s considerable leeway allowing schools and homeschooling instructors to decide on their preferred teaching methods.

      The basis of (legal and otherwise) thinking about education in Finland is the idea that access to quality education is a human right every child has. This right can never be overriden by a parent’s right to decide what sort of outlook, attitudes, ideas, and so on, they might wish to instill in their children. The motivation for allowing homeschooling is not to enable parents to deny their children this right — where education is taken to mean education in accordance to the vision expounded in the national curriculum. Rather, it is to make sure children can enjoy a good education (on this meaning) even when they can’t do so in a public school, for some reason or other. At this junction it’s a salient point, and something I forgot to press earlier, that homeschooling in Finland does not refer exclusively (or even mainly) to education at home by parents. It includes the education of children who are hospitalized for extensive stretches of time, who need to live in a specially structured environment because of disability, trauma, etc. by instructors with (University level) pedagogical training — indeed any sort of basic education outside the public school system or a private school counts as “homeschooling”. The rules are the same for “homeschooling” of all flavours.

      Against this background it’s understandable some people are worried that currently anyone can choose to homeschool their children, for whatever reason, without having to demonstrate an actual pressing need. In Finland, the option of homeschooling exists to guarantee all children access to good education, in the sense of the national curriculum, not to guarantee parents a right to deny their children such an education. I’m obviously biased, but to my mind this is eminently reasonable, at least given the high quality of education at our public schools. If homeschooling was being used as a tool to deny a basic human right to children, we’d obviously have to tighten the regulations.

      As for private schools, they too must follow the national curriculum. Also, they can’t charge any special fees or tuition, and are funded exactly the same way as public schools. Here the intent is to prevent the emergence a distinct class of “good schools” for the children of the rich, and make sure, as far as possible, everyone has equal access to good education.

  • LyricalPolyphony

    I’m for regulations, but not generally for quite as strict ones as some here. :)

    First, I think homeschooling regulations should be aimed at protecting from educational neglect. Child abuse is horrible, and we should work our collective societal patooties off to catch and prevent it, but- the state’s job should not be, in my opinion, to make sure you don’t have an opportunity to abuse your child. Those opportunities (being alone with your child, exerting a great deal of influence over your child, et c) are a fundamental part of parenting. That’s why child abuse is so horrible- it’s exploiting what should be the relationship between our most protected little people and the people they are supposed to be able to trust. The state’s job should be to step in immediately if abuse is suspected and figure out what’s going on and take appropriate action. Someone else brought up a good point- we don’t treat single moms with live-in boyfriends like they need to prove they’re not abusers. It’s a balance- but I’d generally go with innocent until proven guilty. Treating all homeschoolers like they need to prove they’re NOT abusers is not something I’ll ever be ok with.

    Requiring homeschool parents to register their home schools with the state.

    This is a no-brainer. Districts should be funded based on the number of kids using their services, too, not just the number of full-time enrolled students. I’d support more opportunities for selective, optional integration with the local schools- giving homeschooled kids the chance to take their science labs with the school, do extracurriculars, et c. This would be especially good for kids whose parents can’t afford to do this stuff on their own.

    Requiring homeschool parents to submit an annual curricular plan for review.

    I think this is good. It could be very simple- even something like “here’s the curriculum we’re using. We plan to complete this list of books this year.

    Requiring homeschooled students to take some sort of annual testing.

    In theory, yes a thousand times. In practice, the tests that the public schools have now are horrible. I’d support something basic like the Stanford Achievement Test.

    The goal should be a basic proficiency in math and decent reading/writing/communicating skills as well as basic citizenship. Basic human anatomy and health are also important. Anything above basic facts in History, science, et c can be caught up on later; basic skills are necessary for survival. I would support a choice or combination of either a portfolio of work samples or annual testing. Homeschooled students should not be held to a higher standard than public school students, and parents shouldn’t be required to put their child in school if the child is struggling. If a child is falling behind, the school should send a monitor (trained educator, of course) on a monthly or weekly basis to help. If the child improves, the frequency of visits should incrementally lessen. This, while under the auspices of appropriate educational care, could also help catch abuse going on. If the child still struggles, parents should either take advantage of special ed programs at the school or submit a statement that they can provide the same level of care offered by the school in their district with the lowest level of ed assistance. The monitor should verify that they are, in fact, doing this. If parents are getting the child help and the child is still struggling, it’s probably not a problem that would be solved by sticking the child in a classroom.

    Barring those currently being investigated for child abuse from beginning to homeschool, or at least requiring that they be monitored if they do so.

    If parents are under investigation, the rules should be the same as for a child struggling academically. Monitor visits. Keep in mind, there are some children, like those with severe allergies, that would risk their health or possibly their lives by being forced to attend a school that cannot give them the specialized care they require.

    Putting homeschool parents who have previously been convicted of child abuse or child sexual molestation under monitoring from CPS.
    Yes. This is another no-brainer.

    I would not suggest mandatory doctor visits. Unless the child is sick, preventative care should fall under the choice of the parent. The same with immunizations. People here are currently allowed to opt out of those for religious reasons; homeschoolers should be no different. If the child has problems seeing or hearing that could be solved with a device or treatment, the parents should provide them with that if they have the means, take advantage of assistance if it’s available, or be required to prove that the child will not have their learning impaired by the condition.

  • Nicole Ar

    I say give them a syllabus and hold final exams or periodic exams for the kids. I wasn’t homeschooled, don’t have kids, but would home school if I had them and I could get a husband to agree to it, at least until about 4th/5th grade. I don’t want my kids graduating hs at 19 or 20 because teachers kept holding them back which they usually do for 1st and 2nd grade based on garbage. You have kids graduating at 15 and kids graduating at 20. Yes, most are 17 or 18. Also, in the best districts, the schools are still bad. A 6th grader in Europe knows what an American HS graduate knows plus several languages. Even some “developing” countries have better schools than us. In college, I had a study partner who was from Nepal. He asked me, “Um, why are Americans so dumb-not you-but the others?” I said, “because our schools are horrible.”

    • Anat

      Actually the education systems of some US states are doing very well on an international standard. For example Massachusetts does better than Finland and many other European countries in Math and Science (though not as good as Korea and Taiwan). OTOH states like Alabama are way down somewhere.

      • Aatu Koskensilta

        There are certainly US states (and individual schools) that do very well by any standards. The thing about the Finnish education system I’ve tried to emphasise in my comments here is that it is “/consistently/ excellent”. This is surely something that goes some way to explain why homeschooling is so extremely uncommon in Finland even though, unlike in many other European countries, regulations aren’t particularly exacting or strict. Another important factor is that you’re expected to teach the national curriculum in any case, so unless special circumstances force the decision on you it’s usually simply somewhat pointless to homeschool your children, an undertaking that as a rule requires massive effort for little benefit.

      • Anat

        In the US providing schooling and education is a power of the states, so each state should be considered as an independent entity in this regard. The correct way to compare is each state on its own. Averaging them all makes as much sense as averaging the education systems of all EU members.

      • Joline

        And that’s the problem. You’ll find in the US that excellent school districts typically have lots and lots of money. We simply don’t allot the money that other countries do to our educational system.

        So wealthy people pay lots of money to cherry pick the good schools and poorer kids get shafted by in large. This gets compacted with people who claim that science education goes against their religious ideals.

        We’re an EXTREMELY Christian nation, and people have difficulty separating that from government, particularly when it comes to education.

    • Sally

      “I say give them a syllabus and hold final exams or periodic exams for the kids.”

      This would fit a school-at-home model. It doesn’t fit unschooling, relaxed homeschooling, or even literature based homeschooling (what I used). I didn’t want a syllabus from the local school district. I wanted to use a different model and instill a love of learning.

      That’s not to say I didn’t look up our state standards online (perhaps that’s what you really mean by syllabus?) to see how we were comparing. But I didn’t work off the standards (syllabus). I actually did the same or better just naturally.

  • Stacia R

    What about those who are unschooling and don’t use any curriculum or do any testing?

    • Lana Hope

      unschoolers can submit portfolios, and take basic reading, writing, and math tests. If their kids can’t do this, they should be homeschooled. I don’t think cirriculum is necessary to learn those things.

      • Sally

        I’m assuming you meant … they shouldn’t be homeschooled…
        Yes, what to do if they don’t meet a minimum is another issue. It might not be straight to public school, but there definitely should begin a relationship with someone monitoring at that point, imo. I do think this would be rare, btw.

      • Lana Hope

        oops, I’ll edit that. And yes, I agree with that.

    • Sally

      You’ve just defined unschooling at least for some years. Unschoolers start out with no curriculum or tests. Eventually when the child wants to learn something, you might very well pull out textbooks (but probably not tests; I can explain why if this isn’t obvious). So I’m suggesting that by 5th grade the child should be able to read, write, and do math at a minimum level (not necessarily 5th grade level because they might be “better late than never”). Yes, a test would be given (or portfolio accepted). This would be imposed on the unschooler; not something unschoolers would likely choose.

    • Joline

      I think that regardless of how you are teaching your children, there should be some milestone markers that kids need to hit at a certain age. Had I been given my way I would have never learned a wit about economics or grammar. To get along in society you need certain skills. I think proving that children are progressing in those skills is reasonable.

  • Staceyjw

    My biggest wish would be this:
    NO HS for ANY ADOPTED, or foster, kid. Period.
    They are at the highest risk of abuse and need as many checks and balances as possible.

    Of course, NO HS for abusers, or sexual offenders, or violent criminals or other dangerous felons. This is the bare minimum, IMO.

    • Hilary

      Hi, I’m Hilary. Background – public schools k-12, good, bad, indifferent. Father was a public school teacher for over ten years. No background with homeschooling other then reading these stories. Liberal Jewish Lesbian. Undergrad BA, biology major, chemistry minor, work in Biotech manufacturing. And unless I get stranger-raped, conceive, and thus have a baby, I’m adopting with the woman I’ve lived with for the last 13 years. If the child(ren) I adopt need to be homeschooled, I should *with reasonable proof of good parenting and educational standards* be able to do that. Personally, I’d rather send my kids to a good local public school, but what if that doesn’t work? What by your standards should I do if I adopt out of foster care, pour my heart and soul into a difficult child, and find the public schools only make it worse? Keep sending an already traumatized, already wounded, already unable to trust child into a situation that hurts them more?

      If I adopt a newborn without any other problems, and my kid is bullied beyond anything I can influence for having two Jewish moms, what should I do? I live in Minnesota, USA, and while our state house legislature is voting on 5/9/13 to legalize same-sex marriage in MN, in the Anoka school district several high school children committed suicide over being bullied for being gay. Do I have your permission to home school my child if the school district would rather he or she kill themselves then stop the bullying? / frustrated sarcasm / Because *of course* as a homosexual Jew I’m going to be following fundamentalist Christian child rearing cough abuse cough manuals, and with my paycheck coming from working in a protein biochemistry lab I’m teaching YEC. /eye roll/

      If I have to be a homeschooling parent, I would !ABSO-FUCKING-LUTLY! show a twice a year portfolio of work, support testing, let a social worker drop in any time they want 24/7, register with the state, and any other legal safeguard to protect my child. Given the most likely scenario I’d have to choose home schooling, I’ll probably already have a team of therapists and social workers on hand enough for a pick up base ball game.
      I agree that the most vulnerable need the most protection, but to just say ‘period’ is to be deliberately blind to the fact that humans and human families are not one size fits all. Adopted and foster kids, more then any other, need a lot of flexibility in their lives to help them thrive, AS WELL AS full checks and balances to prevent further abuse.

      • Lana Hope

        Great points, Hilary. I used to homeschool some adopted children – and it was because of the reasons you pointed out. They had to get a break from school. Now they are back in. In some ways I think adopted children may have more likelyhood to need to be homeschooled, but i don’t want to make a sweeping argument like that (given my experience was with high needs adoption).

      • Hilary

        Thanks Lana. I’m pretty leery of making sweeping statements about anything in human nature and experience, since each person and experience is unique. One person’s bad experience does not cancel out another persons good experience, and vise versa. Sometimes I think saying, “My experience with xyz was horrible, therefore everything associated with xyz is horrible and will always be horrible” can be a way of silencing other people just as much as “My experience with xyz was fine, so nobody else has any reason to complain.”

      • Lana Hope


  • Sally

    I’ve been
    participating in these discussions over the last few weeks and have given a lot
    of opinion already. I’ll try to sum up where my thinking is now. I will say
    that before participating on this blog, I probably would have said no
    regulation at all. My argument would have been, who homeschools unless they
    want to go to the trouble of being with their kids all day and doing what’s
    best for them? It’s easier to just send your kids to school, so the honor
    system makes sense. My view has changed somewhat over the last few weeks.

    I’m a former public school teacher (regular and special ed. elementary), former homeschool parent, and recent public school substitute teacher.

    -registration with local school district (or state) – yes

    -high school diploma/ GED for parent- yes

    -founded child abuse or neglect – no homeschooling (I’ve seen some people say no if “charged”; I think it has to be founded.)

    -investigated for abuse but was already homeschooling – may continue to
    homeschool unless CPS deems too dangerous (depends on accusation) (I don’t want
    kids put in ps just because someone made an accusation)

    -withdraws from school while being investigated – no homeschooling

    -annual social worker visit for all homeschoolers – no (too nanny state; we don’t
    do this for kids 0-5; too witch-hunty)

    -proof that child has contact with mandated reporter X times a year – maybe.
    I’m leaning towards this. But you can’t call it that. Don’t know what to call
    it yet. This could be Girl Scouts,soccer & swimming lessons, homeschooling co-op not made up only of your friends (how do you prove that?), or a health and safety class provided and required by the state for all school aged children.

    -regular testing – no (same problem as public school standardized testing)
    -rare testing or portfolio check – yes (to preserve innovative educational models)

    -paperwork, enough to discourage the laziest parent but not so much as to
    burden the rest – yes

    -turning in a plan – no (because of child-led learning models)

    -turning in a record of what you did do for the year – yes (but not too detailed, no one wants to read a daily diary)

    -proof that you’re doing something – maybe (See below)

    There are three main things I want to accomplish. 1) Catch as much abuse as possible to the same level that we catch ps kids being abused (addressed in list above) 2) Preserve tremendous freedom in how education is provided. 3) Make sure education is provided by the time the child grows up.

    If you’re not familiar with unschooling, it can sound like a “do-nothing” approach to
    education. But in fact it is a very much do-something approach. What exactly
    depends on the child- but the basic idea is that you live life *richly* (you
    don’t just lie around watching TV and playing video games for 12+ years) and in
    that process, children discover and follow their passions. By around age 12, they “major” in something like dance, theater, computers, medicine, whatever they’re passionate about (at their level, of course).
    This is not thestyle I used, but I think it is valid and we can’t have legislation that cuts this off at the knees. So that means a lot of trappings of traditional school can’t be applied to homeschoolers. But what of people who don’t unschool, they
    really “not school” (a term I think I’ve coined recently here)? These are people who do let kids watch TV and play video games for 12 years. Sure,
    they take field trips, join Girls Scouts, and learn to read, but that’s pretty
    much it. I think that’s a whole discussion in and of itself: How to
    preserve the innovation of unusual educational models but prevent kids from
    growing up with no education. Options might include the following: turning in
    a record of what you’ve done (rather than having to show a plan before you do
    it; this allows for a child-led model but still shows you’re doing something),
    testing at 5th, 8th, and 12th grades only and only 3-Rs; portfolio as alternate to testing.

  • Joline

    I think that regulations should really be in place because I would like to see a partnership with public/private education and homeschool education. It would be wonderful if we as a country valued educating our children enough to give more funding to educational institutions (including secular homeschool groups)

    1. Having a committee appointed to have a review of curriculum annually would be nice. If a parent notifies said committee that they feel under prepared for a topic, then a tutor/other option should be arranged.

    2. Have annual testing provided at a public institution. I’ve known people whose parents did the annual test to get around the fact that their 14 year old couldn’t add.

    3. HELP parents who are failing. Offer tutors, going to public or private school part time, whatever the child needs.

    While no one is going to stop abuse, there should be people looking for that as well. Saying that abuse happens and we won’t regulate at all to stop it is the same thing as saying “people kill other people, regardless of laws, so we don’t need laws for that”

    1. Currently the CPS is overwhelmed and under funded. This leads to cracking down too hard or letting people fall through the cracks. I advise having each home school group or area given a sort of social worker or advocate. A person that will check in once a year or so and make sure that everything is okay. Give the children their number, let them know to call it if they need help. That person’s contact should be given to the children every time they take an assessment and they should have access to a phone.

    2. Children should have more contact with mandatory reporters. I know that this will cause people who ARE good parents to be investigated, but I’ll take that if it means that there will be a decreased chance of a child dying of bleach wounds or tied to a bed.

  • trinity91

    I was homeschooled and went to public school for my education. The homeschooling was not the greatest experience in the world, but it was certainly a better option than the public schools in the area. Public education in our country is absolutely awful. It at best leaves the children in it’s care with a lack of inspiration and motivation to learn. Our entire education system needs a complete overhaul and until that happens I think that alternatives to our current system such as private schools, charter schools, and homeschooling are our best bet. That being said I think that there are reasonable rules which should be mandated for every child whether they attend public school, private school, or are homeschooled. Each parent must register with the local education department which school (including homeschooling) their child(ren) attend. Most homeschooled children still participate in activities outside the home. Homeschool co-ops, private sports teams, scouting, etc are all things that homeschool kids still do. These people should be mandatory reporters. Homeschool parents should have to write a detailed letter about their teaching philosophy and say how they intend to teach their children. Public school parents should have to do the same, and include meaningful ways that they intend to be an active part of their children’s education. If there are red flags in any of those letters than parents should have to submit a portfolio at the end of the year with the student’s work (for public school children this should be only assignments that the student completed at home). Standardized testing has been proven to not work. Instead at the end of every year each teacher (whether public, private or homeschooling parent) needs to create a test covering the material the student learned that year and the student must get 70% in order to be considered proficient. If a 1/3 majority of the students under a teacher’s charge (or under a homeschooling parent’s charge) fails the tests than the teacher should be required to take additional training classes, and the student is not allowed to advance grades. Most community colleges have remedial teacher courses. If a teacher (or homeschooling parent) does not meet the goal for the next year (2/3 of the students in said teacher’s class must pass) than the teacher loses their ability to teach. This is by far a better system to see a student’s progress because some schools teach different material in different grades (as an example my high school had the majority of it’s students take biology as sophomores because the local middle schools failed to cover enough material for students to be able to learn a lab science effectively. Our SBA’s had biology questions on it which none of us could answer because we hadn’t taken the class yet.) so students would actually be graded on material that they actually were presented with. I

    • Sally

      While I have concerns about several of these ideas, I do appreciate the spirit of what you’re saying. Rather than singling out homeschoolers and saying you have to send you child to public school if you don’t meet a minimum standard, you’re saying everyone educating a child has to meet a minimum standard in order to continue educating children.

      I could get into concerns about putting it all on one test and exactly what to do when people don’t meet the minimum, but I mainly want to critique the idea of 70% proficiency. Don’t forget there’s a bell curve for IQ. It’s not possible for every child to get 70 % unless you teach below grade level. And no, you can’t change that by putting everyone below 70% in special ed. There are kids who have low IQ but do not qualify for any true special ed. services. These kids are above mentally challenged but below average – they’re commonly called “slow learners” (no reference to one of the posters here :)). This is something being completely ignored by the current testing and “standards” movement.

      We also can have problems with unschoolers and better-late-than-early readers. But by some age, there ought to be a minimum expected.

      But that said, I do appreciate what you’re saying about expecting minimums for all educators, not just one group.

      • trinity91

        see and I disagree. Yes there are always going to be students who fail miserably at anything. The thing is though that most students with help can understand enough of the material to get a C on a test. A 1/3 failure rate is three percentage points above the bell curve. It shouldn’t be hard for a teacher to get assistance for those who are failing, and of course those students who already have an IEP or who need one would have additional help with those tests, and they may be expected to meet different levels in order to pass. Some of them would be given more time, some get additional reading help etc. With the program of the actual teacher (or homeschooling parent) gets to test their child on what they actually did. So, an unschooled child has a real interest in reading. Their parent would have the student do an oral presentation style book report on a general theme of the books that the student read throughout the year. Another is really in to science and nature, so their parent would have them prepare an end of the year science project which covers all the different aspects of nature that they learned about. A third might be really into art, so their parent would have them spend a couple of months working on a project with a particular style that they learned about that year. It’s very feasible to maintain the spirit of unschooling while still making it clear that the student is learning. A traditional homeschool parent who uses a full curriculum would take questions from the review sections of their textbooks and workbooks and compile a random assortment of questions based on the material that was covered, or they too might do a project style final where the student had to cover reading comprehension, grammar, science, mathematics, social studies etc into a project. An example of such a project might be to take a time period of history and have the student research information from all areas of the life of that person, and they would be then do a presentation as if they were a teacher lecturing about those specific people and their life. A public school student would probably end up with a test that is not much different from the normal end of the chapter tests that a student already takes. Does that address some of your problems with it?

    • Anat

      Evaluating teachers based on students’ performance is problematic because it assumes nothing else limits students’ performance. Did the students arrive at the beginning of the year with sufficient skills and background knowledge to succeed? Are there factors in the home environment that interfere with learning (poverty, unstable family situations, lead exposure in childhood etc)?

      As for Charter Schools and Private Schools, most of their success can be attributed to their admission/expulsion processes – they can select and keep those students that are most likely to succeed anyway. IOW they are for a large part a scam. Another important factor in many such schools is smaller class size. Which cannot be applied in public schools if their funding gets reduced.

      • trinity91

        a teacher’s job is to educate children regardless of their circumstances. If they cannot do so then they should not be teaching. If the students had a teacher the year before who failed them then the current teacher needs to step back a few steps and reteach the material that the other teacher failed to teach. As I clearly said though the students would not be able to move on to another grade until they could pass the test of their current grade so that would only remain a problem for the students prior to implementation.
        Charter schools cannot expel students just because they are failing to meet educational bench marks because they are still public schools and are still held to that standard. As far as private schools go, it really depends on the area they are located in. I would support applying the same standard that a school cannot expel a student for failing educational bench marks to private schools.

      • Conuly

        “a teacher’s job is to educate children regardless of their circumstances. If they cannot do so then they should not be teaching.”

        That’s rather like saying that a doctor’s job is to cure people, no matter what, and if there ever is a case they can’t cure or a patient who won’t take advice then they shouldn’t be practicing medicine.

      • Anat

        Many charter schools make it very hard for ‘undesirable’ students to enroll. See

        Special Report: Class Struggle – How charter schools get students they want.

        And they can get rid of students who don’t meet their expectations in similarly underhanded ways.

        Also see

        Effects of Charter Enrollment on Newark District Enrollment

        In Newark charter schools have a significantly smaller percentage of special ed students, poor students and ELL students than nearby regular public schools. One way or another, selection is taking place.

      • Hilary

        Anat, thanks for speaking up. My father taught kindergarten for several years in inner-city, disadvantaged schools. He did his best, but one year he had ~30 kids and 100% turnover. Not one child he started with was still with him at the end of the year, and each child who left was replaced with a new kid. All of them were on free lunch, and most of them didn’t speak English at home. Some had never sat down at a table to color, or held a book, or sat quietly with other children before coming into his classroom. He quickly had to take down the little pup tent he set up in the book corner because a few children started reenacting what they saw at home . . . . sometimes I helped him on weekends organize materials, sea shells, blocks, crayons, books, I watched him put in 10 hours a day some weeks to get everything ready and buy supplies on his own. But there is only so much he could do – should he have lost his job if 30% of those kids couldn’t recite the alphabet and count at the end of the year?

    • victoria

      “Public education in our country is absolutely awful. It at best leaves
      the children in it’s care with a lack of inspiration and motivation to

      I think you meant “its.” But more to the point, it’s not true. Among the people I went to high school with are a playwright who was (last I heard) running a successful experimental theater, an MIT astrophysicist working to put people on Mars, entrepreneurs doing cool things, professors in esoteric areas, a cinematographer, etc. — and those are just the people I know about (I’m not in touch with many folks I went to high school with). We had music groups that performed literally all over the world. The classes in the area I went on to study in university were comparable to the graduate-level courses I took in terms of the amount of work expected of us and the rigor of classroom discussion. The school was supportive of people who wanted to do independent study or to dual enroll at local colleges. It wasn’t a perfect experience, but looking just at the educational experience it was pretty unimpeachable.

      I have no idea why anyone who’s education-centric would be high on charters. Yes, there are a few high-profile successes, but students as a whole perform no better in charter schools than in traditional public schools *despite* the fact that charters often have stricter policies than traditional publics when it comes to expelling students.

  • elizabeth

    I couldn’t get posting to work last night, but I waded through the comments and I don’t think much has changed about my thoughts. Maybe a few additions. The only thing I’ve changed my mind about is whether or not people should be able to just homeschool. It didn’t occur to me to question it before, but I’ve found objections to anyone being allowed to homeschool to be persuasive.

    Some people have argued in the comments that homeschools and private schools both make it easier for people to pull their kids from school rather than fixing their local schools. I think they’re right. This cements privilege and I don’t think that’s appropriate. If people have the time to homeschool and their local public school sucks as much as they say it does, that isn’t a valid reason to homeschool. Why aren’t they just volunteering as a classroom aide? Why aren’t they getting involved in their local school board? Etc. If they don’t have time to do that, they don’t have time to homeschool. For those people, homeschooling should be a last resort after they’ve tried working within the system to fix it.

    There should be bureaucratic hurdles to homeschooling. But they should be liberal to allow for educational freedom. If a parent wants to homeschool to unschool and has a plan for approaching it, that’s one thing. If a parent wants to homeschool to do exactly what their local public school should be doing but isn’t because of lack of resources, it’s just poor citizenship for them to not try to fix their local school first.

    I don’t know how much of this is politically feasible, but if I could wave my magic wand and have a system of regulation for homeschools in place, it would look something like this.

    1. Any parent can apply (not simply notify) to homeschool. They need to have an explanation for why (bullying, their child is too bright and the school is too small/underfunded for appropriate level courses, the family travels a lot and the child would benefit from flexibility disability, whatever). If the parent isn’t planning some special curriculum (advanced, unschool, special ed, etc.) and doesn’t have extenuating circumstances (bullying, athletics, disability, moving around, etc.), the parent should offer a reason why the public school isn’t working for their child. They need to document the steps they’ve taken within the system to remedy their problems.

    This would require that school systems have someone on staff to review cases and whatnot. But if kids are removed from the classrooms and their parents are educating them at home, school taxes are still being collected to pay for those kids. Creating such a position would require moving revenue, not generating new revenue.

    2. Homeschool students participate in the same system of standardized tests as everyone else. I hate standardized tests, but no one has a viable alternative. Even if they are only used to compare homeschool students to their private and public school counterparts so that policy makers can evaluate how various educational options perform, that’s still important. We owe future generations data to make informed decisions.

    As far as guaranteeing that children are actually educated, I don’t think an annual curricular plan is reasonable unless it’s very flexible. That sort of misses the point of homeschooling for educational reasons. Submitting portfolios is open to abuses–parents can just make them up and not educate their children.

    Test scores can be used to evaluate how well homeschool students are learning. It’s not perfect, but it’s something. Students’ scores can be compared to scores of their peers. There can be a few peer categories to chose from as part of the home school application process. If someone is homeschooling because their local public school doesn’t have the resources to deal with their developmentally disabled child, then specify in the homeschool application that your child will be judged relative to children with similar disabilities. If the local public school is horribly underfunded and the locality can’t be convinced to raise school taxes and a parent thinks they can do better at home, they need to do as good as or better than their local school.

    If a child severely underperforms relative to their peer group, they can have a year of probation during which they can try to fix the problem. If significant improvement doesn’t happen, those children can be returned to their local public school. Parents would be allowed to appeal the decision for the next school year.

    3. Homeschooling families should be required to submit to periodic, surprise home visits. I don’t think a scheduled annual home visit is enough. And I don’t think only prohibiting parents from homeschooling if they’ve already been caught
    abusing their children goes far enough.

    Homeschooling can completely eliminate a child’s contact with mandated reporters. An abusive family can lay off the violence for a couple of weeks before a scheduled home visit to avoid obvious bruising. If it’s annual, that gives them a whole year of violence before anyone is going to check again.

    If the visits are unscheduled and more frequent, abusive families are either more likely to get caught or they are going to have to take steps to keep their abuse from being uncovered. And if they’re anything like my parents, those steps involve substantially less abuse. Given my upbringing, I’d call less abuse a win.

    Visits don’t have to be through cps. They don’t have to involve a social worker. Maybe this is another job of the people who review applications of families who want to homeschool. If a family applies to homeschool, it should constitute consent to let their children be interviewed periodically in the home. That gets around the whole unreasonable search and seizure thing that HSLDA keeps bringing up relative to CPS investigations. Anyone who doesn’t want random home visits can make them stop by sending their child to public school instead. But they shouldn’t be allowed to keep their child away from mandated reporters entirely.

    The reviewer would probably be closer to a school counselor than a teacher. In public school, we could make an appointment with them at any time, but if we didn’t we’d randomly get called into their office 2-3 times a year and miss about 15 minutes of class. It was a little annoying but not onerous. It wouldn’t substantially interfere with homeschooling and it would give kids one more adult in their life they could try to contact in case of emergency. They could ask kids a few small-talk questions about their home life and what they’re learning. This lets the reviewer build up a bit of a relationship with them over time and keep an eye out for signs of abuse.

    4. There should be discretion about allowing parents who have been convicted of child abuse to be allowed to homeschool their children. There is a whole host of problems surrounding poverty and abuse. Most glaringly, poverty is sometimes labeled neglect. Some places don’t even bother to offer enough assistance to help families fix the problem, they just lose their kids. It sucks, particularly since it’s so easy for families in the middle class and higher to hide actual, malicious abuse.

    If parents who have been convicted of abuse want to homeschool, their application and homeschooling plan needs to confront the cause. If someone sexually abused their kids–there’s no coming back from that. But take, for example, a poor family. One partner got written up for neglect before they married. Since then, they’ve managed to improve their financial situation and have some stability. Maybe the abuse earns them a red flag and some extra oversight, but they should have as much right to apply to homeschool as anyone else.

    5. This isn’t just a homeschool thing: All kids should have to attend mandatory, age appropriate, annual seminars on their rights. These can be rolled into public school curriculum relatively easily (I think they already are in many places). But students in private schools and home schools should get access to the same resource.

    No parent should be able to unschool their child about the child’s right to bodily autonomy. No one should be allowed to keep their child from finding out that rape isn’t a normal part of a spanking under the pretext that sex education is evil. Private schools shouldn’t be allowed to not teach kids about wrong-touching just because they’re all good Christians so wrong-touching will just never come up. My parents kept me homeschooled and in private Christian schools until I was old enough that I wouldn’t receive education about my rights in a public school system that assumed they’d already covered it in their curriculum so that everyone already knew it by the time they were in high school.

    Private schools should have to make sure all their students get this information. They shouldn’t be allowed any kind of religious exemption. And no one should be allowed to homeschool without making sure their kids get this information. This has to come from an outside source–that’s why I say a seminar. It can be accomplished in an hour or two; it isn’t onerous. Parents shouldn’t be allowed to teach this material simply because the parents whose children most need the information are guaranteed to lie to their children about what their rights are. It should be part of the process of getting an annual homeschool permit or however the approval process is handled.

    The consequences of children not knowing their rights is devastating. Kids need age-appropriate sex education. When they’re young they at least need to be taught about wrong touching; when they’re older they should be told about the existence of birth control and emergency contraception. They should be told they have the right to say no, even to adults/parents/authority figures/etc. Teens should be told about hotlines and runaway shelters. If they live someplace where spanking is legal, kids should know where the boundary is between a legal spanking and an illegal beating. They should know they are allowed to call the police on their parents. They should be given the opportunity to report abuse at the seminar and be sent home with relevant information so they can report abuse later.

  • Rob F

    Some thoughts:

    * I’m not sure having a state/province curriculum and making it mandatory is the best way to go unless it is done carefully. Suppose the wingnuts win and mandate, in their state/province curriculum, abstinence only, creationism, subordination of women, etc. Would you, a homeschooling parent really follow it? If you refuse to follow that hypothetical curriculum or want the right not to follow it, you are doing exactly what the wingnuts are doing now. It is completely unprincipled to do it, and support it, merely because you agree with it, but be opposed to it when the wingnuts are doing something you oppose. Basically, be careful if you give yourself/your side much power, as the next election might give it to the other side.

    (FWIW, I think experts [like scientists and scholars] should set the curriculum; namely, biologist/physicists/chemists etc should set the science curriculum; sociologists, historians, lawyers, political scientists etc should set the social studies curriculum; musicians and musicologists should set the music curriculum; linguists should set the language curriculum; and so on. If that was done, if the setting of curricula was taken out of the hands of elected officials, political appointees, and creationist dentists, then I’d be more willing to along with the suggestion of a mandatory curriculum).

    * The idea of registering with the state/province sounds reasonable. I’m ot sure it’s necessary forit to be “renewed” each year. Would careful recordkeeping make that unnecessary? Perhaps someone from the district, each (or whatever the month prior to the beginning of the school year is) August, could phone or contact to reconfirm.

    * Homeschooled students should be allowed to attend public/private/other school part-time. This can “make up for” (for the lack of a better term) for what the parents (possibly) are simply unable to teach. Languages (both foreign and English ([if ESL is necessary]) and music come to mind as possible examples.

    * Child abusers should definitely not be allowed to homeschool. The only
    other group would be, I suppose, parents of deaf children who don’t
    know sign language.

    * I think that immunizations and newborn screening should be mandatory for everyone, with only medical exemptions being allowed (does anyone know of any actual medical reason newborn cannot be done, anyway?). This makes issues with homeschooling and immunizations a moot issue.

    • Rob F

      And in reply to myself, some of the motivations for homeschooling concern inadequacies of the public system. Those problems with the public system should be addressed. For example, if I had my way I’d increase pay for good teachers and make it easier to fire incompetent one, make the school year year round, and as said above put experts in charge of curriculum.

    • Alice

      And requiring home-schoolers to use a particular curriculum defeats most of the purpose of home-schooling. However, offering curriculum as an optional resource is fine.

  • JA

    “-Requiring homeschool parents to register their home schools with the state.
    -Requiring homeschool parents to submit an annual curricular plan for review.
    -Requiring homeschooled students to take some sort of annual testing.
    -Requiring homeschoolers to turn in annual portfolios displaying their work.
    -Requiring that homeschool families have an annual home visit.
    those currently being investigated for child abuse from beginning to
    homeschool, or at least requiring that they be monitored if they do so.
    homeschool parents who have previously been convicted of child abuse or
    child sexual molestation under monitoring from CPS.”

    Seems pretty reasonable. Not sure why some would take umbrage to this.

  • Winifred

    I’ve read most, but not all, of the comments, so please forgive me if I’m repeating something that was already said. I’m a public school graduate from southern Indiana, with a well-educated and extremely liberal immediate family.

    So, I don’t think the way to approach this is “what is a reasonable
    restriction on homeschool parents?” Rather, we should ask, “what is the
    minimum we owe homeschool children?” and I think the obvious answer is,
    the minimum that we owe all children. And given that basic opinion, I’m not sure how easy it is to have this
    conversation (home school regulations) without also talking about public
    school regulations, because in the end, they are both actually
    conversations about the same, different thing: what children are
    entitled to, and what we, as a society, owe them.

    This really struck me when I was reading some of the comments that favor more stringent home school regulations. From that perspective, the idea of a home visit every three months seems pretty relaxed and reasonable — it’s not getting the kid alone for 6 hours 5 days a week. On the other hand, some of the educational restrictions I’ve seen proposed are insane. A high school-level homeschool instructor must have a college degree in the subject they’re teaching? I can think of only 5 instructors in my whole public high school with 3,000 students who would have met that requirement. Most had a degree in secondary education or phys ed. (It showed; the AP history teacher thought Voltaire was Russian, and two of my science teachers in high school were Creationists, that I know of.) (Incidentally, I actually agree with this idea too; I just think it should also be implemented in public school, and that if it isn’t, it’s not fair to push it onto homeschoolers.)

    • CarolynTheRed

      All aspiring teachers in my jurisdiction must have a degree in their subject, and something like 10 half credits in a second teachable. (There’s some exceptions, particularly for tech and skills subjects like auto mechanics where university education isn’t a likely way to learn).

      • MrPopularSentiment

        Are you in Ontario? That’s the requirement here for getting into the B.Ed. program, and you need a B.Ed. degree in order to teach, but once you have that degree, you could get hired to teach any subject (or, at least, be asked to “fill in” for whatever time period in any subject).

        So your Math teacher may well have their degree in English and minor in Science (and only be trained to teach those two subjects).

        Also, that’s only for the High School level. At the Elementary and Middle School level, you only need one teachable and, of course, Elementary School teachers teach all subjects anyway.
        So the idea that a homeschooling parent needs an undergraduate degree in every subject they plan to teach just seems like a huge double standard – especially given the resources available to homeschooling parents.

    • Conuly

      Those requirements really SHOULD be in place for middle and high school teachers.

  • Conuly

    Some commenters say that homeschoolers should have to take the exact same tests as kids in public school, no exceptions.

    While I see where they are coming from, I think they either happen to live in an area with wonderful and reasonable standardized tests, or they haven’t been paying attention.

    The state of testing in the US right now is a mess. Paradoxically, many tests both fail to ask questions on the actual level purported (fourth grade math tests in NY ask kids to identify the correct operation in word provlems, not actually perform the operation and get the correct answer!) and are full of tricky issues that need special work to get right (so a kid who is working a year above grade level can get dinged for not knowing they have to write out “First I added. I got 9, which I know is the right answer because I counted as well….” to “explain their thinking” – whether they showed their work or not!

    And of course there are questions with more than one possible correct answer, questions (like the infamous pineapple race one next year) where clearly the test maker didn’t understand the excerpt, and so on.

    The testing system needs a huge overhaul. If you’re not convinced, go pick up a few back tests or test prep books (all the testing companies make money hand over fist selling prep books to schools and parents) and judge for yourself if you like what’s going on in your area with regards to testing.

  • Jackie

    I have been homeschooling my daughter for 7 years. We register with the state each year and supply attendance reports. Testing is required at certain grades, but is not to be given to the school district.

    I do not believe the state should have any rights over homeschooling when they can’t even get the public schools to graduate literate students! I am a school teacher–taught in both public and private schools. Teaching the test is not what we do in homeschool. My daughter’s lessons are taught according to her learning style and somewhat to her interests.

    We have used everything from textbooks, workbooks, homeschool co-op classes, DVDs and CDs like Teaching Textbooks and Drive Thru History, to online curriculums like Time4Learning and Khan Academy in our homeschooling journey. They are every bit as good, actually better, than the traditional brick and mortar classroom.

    Home visits are an invasion of privacy. The supposed idea of visits and portfolios is to insure proper learning is taking place. If teachers are to be included in evaluating the homeschoolers work then it is crazy. They do not know the student’s strengths and weaknesses. They can’t properly gauge the progress. And who is to say they are superior to the homeschool parent? I know I taught with way too many public and private school teachers that didn’t have a clue. I certainly wouldn’t have put my child in their classroom. Just because you have a degree in teaching doesn’t mean you can teach. Haven’t you ever been to a doctor who was lousy? Have you ever used a lawyer that was crummy? Have you ever gone to a high-priced salon only to have your hair ruined? Having a certificate or a degree is not assurance of quality!

    I would like to also mention that statistics have proven homechoolers consistently score much higher than their traditional school peers. Many colleges now actively recruit homeschooler because of their scores and discipline toward study.

    As for abuse, I have seen lots of abuse in the public school arena. Public and private schools are not immune from abusive teachers, students administrators, and situations. The news and media report almost weekly about teachers having inappropriate relations with students. You hear about teachers who physically abuse students. Isn’t that also bullying?

    Just my 2 cents as a homeschool Mom and former teacher.

    • Conuly

      If I went to a crappy doctor, I wouldn’t just assume I should treat myself. I’d find a better doctor.

      If your kid is learning well, even a lousy *teacher* ought to be able to evaluate if she is on grade level – and if they can’t, surely you could find one who could!

  • MrPopularSentiment

    There are many different educational philosophies, and I think that
    all of the major ones out there are pretty legitimate – at least for
    some kids/teacher combinations. So I think that any regulation we get
    into needs to keep these philosophies in mind. Requiring that
    homeschooled kids take the same standardized tests that children in
    public schools must take, for example, negates the whole reason for
    homeschooling in the first place for many people.

    I also have
    some trouble with requiring a curriculum outline at the start of every
    year because a) that conflicts with some legitimate educational
    philosophies such as unschooling, and b) it feels like it’s just
    busy-work, since it would be far too easy for parents to get around it.
    It would take all of about 10 seconds for groups like the HSDL to put up
    templates that parents would just print off and hand in. So I think
    that this is potentially onerous (for parents who are not using that
    educational model), is potentially quite silly (if they aren’t even
    required to follow the plan), and doesn’t actually tell the school much
    salient information.

    For “problematic cases” where abuse/neglect
    is a potential factor, I think that parents who have had substantiated
    child abuse/neglect charges made within the last, say, 18 months don’t
    get to homeschool. If they’ve have substantiated child abuse/neglect
    charges made at any time, home visits and social worker attention makes

    If a child has a history of truancy and is suddenly
    pulled for homeschooling, it makes sense for the parents to have to
    speak with a social worker to assess fitness and seriousness about
    actually educating their child before the homeschooling can begin (or
    soon after if the social workers have a bad backlog, since I could see
    chronic truancy and homeschooling being both caused by bullying, and I
    wouldn’t want a child to be forced to endure bullying for even longer
    just because of bureaucratic backlog). If they pass, they pass and are
    treated like other homeschoolers. If they fail, they can either re-enter
    the public school system or they can attend special
    courses/programs/co-ops to teach them how to homeschool properly.

    an abuse/neglect case is currently open, they can still start
    homeschooling, but the investigation doesn’t just end. And social worker
    visits/talks with the child would ideally increase in frequency. Just
    as an example, when I was a wayward teen, I had to meet with my social
    worker twice a week. On Tuesday nights, I had to go to her office with a
    bunch of other kids and we had to sit through presentations on how to
    use contraception, how to spot the signs of abuse, anger management,
    etc. On Thursday nights, I just had to spend time alone time with the
    social worker – what we did was at her discretion. She said that with
    some of her cases, they just sat in her office and talked, and she
    functioned something like a therapist. But with me, we usually just went
    out to dinner, saw a movie, things like that. The point is just to have
    frequent contact with the social worker and to build trust, so that I’d
    feel comfortable (and have the opportunity to) talked to her about
    whatever bad stuff might be going on in my life. Something similar makes
    sense to me if there’s any question as to whether there might be
    neglect/abuse going on in the home.

    So that’s all for cases where
    there’s actually a reason to suspect that abuse/neglect might be going
    on. For everyone else, I think the following makes sense:

    parents have to notify their school board at the start of every year
    (or upon moving) of intent to homeschool. This is just a no-brainer. I
    think it would be awesome if, when they send this in, they were given
    the opportunity to speak with grade-appropriate teachers for advice and
    perhaps provided with a packet of resources (such as books, or a list of
    secular/religious curricula available). Not as a mandatory thing, but
    just as part of the school board’s obligation to make education
    available to all children of appropriate ages within their districts. It
    just seems like a nice thing to do, you know?

    -Parents can
    choose to either take a test or submit a portfolio of the child’s work
    at the end of each year for review. Even in unschooling, stuff is
    getting done and being learned (and, honestly, if you can’t show
    anything that your child is producing, you rightly have no business
    homeschooling). This is sort of like a retro-active curriculum, I guess.
    If the work is insubstantial or fails to show that sufficient learning
    is going on, parents are brought in for an interview with whatever board
    does the review to talk about where weakness lie and how to improve. If
    the problem persists (and follow up may be done sooner than a whole
    year later, given the flagging), parents must take a course/program to
    learn more about how to properly homeschool. If the problem still
    doesn’t seem to resolve itself, it makes sense for authorities to ask
    that parents provide an alternative for their child – which may mean
    sending them to public school, or it may mean having to start using a
    professionally-produced curriculum or perhaps needing to engage a tutor
    for the subjects that are showing problems.

    -I think that school
    boards could do a lot in the “honey” (rather than the “vinegar”)
    category to foster a good relationship with homeschooling families, such
    as allowing parents to pick and choose specific courses that they would
    like their kids in public school for. For example, they might give
    homeschooling families a timetable of classes offered every year so that
    parents could enrol their children in math, or PE, or something similar
    – dropping them off just for that class and then picking them up. Also,
    including homeschooling families in events such as special Fair Days,
    contests, or extra curriculars, would be fantastic. Not only would this
    help parents create the best educational environment for their kids, it
    would also help defeat the “all or nothing” attitude that I think is
    currently helping to foster the “us versus them” mentality between
    homeschoolers and public schoolers. If more people are able to just pick
    the best bits from each camp, it would severely water down the
    “gub’ment schools are evil!” rhetoric (or, at least, diminish the
    percentage of their audience that would be receptive). I know some
    families who are homeschooling because their children are gifted in some
    areas but struggling in others (there’s a name for it that I’ve
    forgotten, it’s something like 2E, or Twice Gifted, something like
    that). Because public schools often force the kid to either be in a
    single grade level or to be in the gifted program, they just can’t “fit”
    and it ends up being very harmful to their education and self-esteem.
    But if parents could keep them in public school for the courses where
    the kid does have a good fit, and then make alternative arrangements for
    the others, that’d be wonderful!

    -As for contact with mandatory
    reporters, that’s more difficult. As I’ve said far too many times
    already, I’m really uncomfortable with home visits. Also, having been a
    “good kid” who had a single outburst of rage that got me into legal
    trouble and involved in “the system,” I can see how potentially harmful
    it would be to lump kids who are perfectly happy and have nothing bad
    going on at home in with kids who are going through some serious stuff. I
    think it would be great to encourage kids to get out and participate in
    their community, such as by offering generous tax breaks for
    extra-curricular activities such as sports participation, art classes,
    that sort of thing. As for making it mandatory, I think that’s much more
    difficult to navigate. One idea that we bounced around in the comment
    section of another post was to have a class, maybe once or twice a year,
    where all kids – whether they are going to public school, private
    school, or homeschool – are brought together for a little presentation
    for an afternoon. Topics might include things like “good touch/bad
    touch,” proper signals to use while biking, safely crossing the road,
    the importance of good nutrition and dental hygiene, recognizing
    unhealthy relationships, fire safety, etc. By treating all kids as
    equal, it’s not singling out homeschooled kids, and it’s presentations
    that all kids could benefit from. It would also ensure that children are
    exposed to the idea that it is possible for them to be mistreated by an
    adult and to know what to do if that happens.

  • Tom Boston

    All these requirements that you have for homeschooling parents are
    pathetic! It has been proven over and over that the average homeschoolers
    perform better than the average public school students. That is a fact whether
    you like it or not. The test scores for
    most public schooled children are wretched and the education level is near the
    bottom of the list compared to students in most countries. You want homeschoolers to report to public
    schools??? It should be the other way
    around. This is a government of the
    people for the people. The government should
    be reporting why the public school kids are able to graduate without being able
    to read at a 6th grade level. I pay the administrators
    and teacher’s salary with my taxes. They
    should submit an annual curricular plan for review by me, take some sort
    of annual testing written and proctored by me, turn in annual portfolios
    displaying their work to me, be subject to annual and unannounced visits and
    inspections by me. I as a tax
    paying citizen of a community and they are subject to me!

    I have a much greater interest in the
    success of my children and their education then any school teacher who is
    interested in the good pay and summer vacations instead of the proper education
    of my children.

    You are so brain washed. Perhaps you should consider reading a book
    for yourself. You might learn something.

    One thing I can agree with you is that
    “parents who have previously been convicted of child abuse or child sexual
    molestation under monitoring from CPS.”

    • Libby Anne

      All these requirements that you have for homeschooling parents arepathetic! It has been proven over and over that the average homeschoolers perform better than the average public school students. That is a fact whether you like it or not.

      Where? Believe it or not, you’re wrong. There has been no randomized study of homeschoolers’ test scores. We literally are in the realm of anecdote. And the high scores in the volunteer-based studies we do have? The difference disappears when you correct for things like race, income, and marital status—in other words, the kids in these studies do just the same as their public schooled peers, and just as well as they would do if they were in public school. Similarly, when you correct for variables, homeschoolers do better on the SAT verbal section and worse on the SAT math section. So much for your “homeschoolers are geniuses” trope.

      You are so brain washed. Perhaps you should consider reading a book for yourself. You might learn something.

      Are you aware that I was homeschooled K-12 by parents much like you? I’ve read many books, and I think for myself. That’s very different from being brainwashed.

  • Gillianren

    I haven’t read all the comments, but I read several talking about special laws for adopted children. About how vast numbers of adopted children are abused and so forth. Can I ask for a citation on any of this? I’m a birth mother, as it happens–apparently the first one to comment here, based on the discussion of adoption I’ve read here. My daughter’s parents chose to homeschool her for part of her education–she has also gone to both public and private school–and while I wasn’t thrilled about it, it wasn’t because I thought they were using it to cover up abuse.

    I’m probably going to write a piece about being a birth mother and how my experiences don’t seem to line up with either extreme in the abortion debate. (I am pro-choice and was before I gave her up; I am mentally ill and was before I gave her up. I was diagnosed before I was the age she is now, in fact.) However, I have also come to believe that the majority of claims about adoption haven’t been updated since open adoption became a thing. I can’t prove that, I admit, but I know that my own feelings would have been extremely different if I’d given her to people I never met and then never saw her again.