HSLDA Jubilant That Iowa Homeschool Parents Won’t Be Required to Teach Their Kids

And now we have HSLDA’s response to the changes in Iowa’s homeschooling law.

Revolutionary Improvement in Homeschool Law

Dear Iowa HSLDA Friends and Members:

On May 22, the Iowa Legislature passed a bill that (with the governor’s anticipated signature) will revolutionize Iowa’s homeschool law when it becomes effective on July 1. Most families know very little about the bill, House File (HF) 215, because the Network of Iowa Christian Home Educators (NICHE) and HSLDA opted for a quiet but effective legislative strategy and did not ask families to make phone calls.

In other words, HSLDA didn’t even bother to ask the advice or input of actual homeschooling families in Iowa, and took the stealth approach instead. I will soon be posting some thoughts from a homeschooling mom about how much Iowa’s laws and standards benefited her and her children, which makes me wonder if HSLDA and NICHE made this effort quietly in an effort to avoid opposition from homeschool parents.

Under Iowa law, homeschooling has officially been labeled as a type of “competent private instruction” or CPI—a category that includes four separate education models: homeschooling with a supervising teacher; homeschooling without a supervising teacher; homeschooling with the assistance of a public school; and non-accredited private schools.

HF 215 creates an entirely new option: “Independent Private Instruction,” or IPI, that is far simpler and involves dramatically less red tape than has historically been connected with CPI. Here is a side-by-side comparison.

Notice that HSLDA’s concern here is the red tape. Not the well being of actual children, the red tape. This goes well with what I’ve said before—HSLDA’s clients are the homeschooling parents, not the homeschooled children. HSLDA’s concern is to spare parents some red tape, even if doing so removes provisions that actually protected and safeguarded homeschooled children’s interests in obtaining an education. This becomes obvious as HSLDA runs through the changes.

1. File Paperwork only in Response to a Written Request

In the past, CPI has required the filing of a form at the beginning of every year. IPI does not require that a family file any routine paperwork.

No paperwork.

2. No Supervising Teacher or Annual Assessment

Under CPI, homeschool families have been required to teach under the auspices of a licensed teacher (either one they choose or one their public school chooses) or submit a year-end assessment showing adequate progress. Under IPI, no licensed teacher and no proof of progress is required.

No proof of progress.

3. No Immunization Information or Blood Lead Testing

Under CPI, homeschool families have been required to submit immunization information the first time they file the CPI form for a child, and blood lead testing must be administered for children within certain age ranges. Under IPI, immunization information is never submitted and blood lead testing is not required.

No immunizations.

4. No Number of Days per Year or Quarter

Under CPI, families must provide 148 days of instruction per year and 37 days per quarter. Under IPI there is no requirement for number of days of instruction.

No required days of instruction.

5. New Required Subjects

Under IPI there are four required subjects families must teach every year: math, science, reading and language arts, and social studies. Families should keep documentation to show they are providing instruction in those four areas. Under CPI there are no subjects that must be taught.

Four required subjects, but no oversight to ensure that parents will actually teach them. So basically, if Governor Branstad signs this law there will be nothing at all ensuring that homeschool parents in Iowa teach their children, and very little requirement that they actually teach anything in the first place. How does HSLDA feel about this change?

HF 215 is truly a gift from God for homeschool families. NICHE deserves a huge “THANK YOU” from the entire Iowa homeschool community for their awesome work spanning many years on IPI. If you are not a member of NICHE, please consider joining and supporting this worthy organization.

Getting rid of provisions ensuring that homeschool parents educate their children? A gift from God! Really, that’s HSLDA in a nutshell.

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.

  • Ismenia

    Libby-Anne, all your fascinating coverage of homeschool regulations prompted me to find out what the law is here in the UK. I was not impressed with the result. No required subjects, no requirement to inform anyone if the child is not enrolled in a school (if they are removed from school it seems to be a different story). The website I read advised parents that home visits from the Local Education Authority are potentially dangerous and advises meeting elsewhere without the children (apparently you should never allow LEA staff to talk to the children alone). It notes that refusal to allow informal visits from the LEA can lead to a referral to social services and suggests that if there are no other grounds beyond the fact that you homeschool it can be challenged legally as a malicious referral.

    Just as you note in the US, there is no acknowledgement that some abusive parents might homeschool to cover abuse or that some might neglect the children’s education. Lots of talk about rights of parents to decide their child’s education but the child’s right to an education is just a presented as a legal obstacle, easily avoided because the law is vague about what that education should consist of. I might bring this up with a secular organisation I’ve become involved with soon.

    • Sophie

      I’m curious which website you looked at because when I did a similar search I didn’t find anything like that attitude. I did notice that the laws relating to homeschooling are minimal but I assumed that was down to it not being very popular here.

      • Ismenia

        http://www.home-education.org.uk/ Especially the legal section. I have no idea how popular it is here or if problems are common, although I’m going to try to find out.

  • Alee

    Libby Anne, I don’t know if this is a typo, but #5 looks like it includes new subject requirements, not the other way around. Unless “CPI” and “IPI” are intended to be switched. Although, even if it’s correctly quoted and there are new subject requirements that parents “should” document, there doesn’t seem to be any way for the school district or state to enforce this (or even find out whether or not parents are following this rule), and there are seemingly no consequences for not teaching the four subjects. It just seems like a way to avoid criticism of the law ( “it’s protecting kids! See? There are required subjects!”)

    • Darcy

      Yes, I noticed this and was wondering the same thing. Typo, perhaps?

      • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

        I’m not sure, actually. You guys are right, that’s how it is in the HSLDA release. They may have it wrong, but I am on my phone right now, not my laptop, and can’t search through the actual bill to check. I changed the post to align with how it now reads—because requiring four subjects but not having any way of assessing or ensuring that they’re actually being taught, doesn’t do anything. That’s how it currently is in the other states without reporting and assessment and it amounts to no requirement at all.

      • Alee

        It’s strange that HSLDA is in support of new subject requirements at all, but I think it really is just a way for the creators of the bill to fend off criticism from people who say that the new law will essentially mean parents won’t have to teach their homeschooled kids anything. Now they can point to this particular wording and say, “Well actually parents DO have to teach their kids at least these four subjects, which makes this new law totally reasonable.” Except the problem is that without supervising teachers or yearly assessments, no one will ever know if parents are actually teaching their kids these subjects or not. HSLDA is certainly well aware that without simple accountability measures in place, these new requirements will never be enforced, which I guess is why they don’t have a problem with it. Basically, I think this whole 4 subject requirement thing is just a smokescreen to deceptively attempt to pacify people who feel like homeschooling needs safeguards, when in reality, the new requirement does absolutely nothing. This is all just speculation, of course, but I just can’t find another way to explain how HSLDA and the authors of this bill would want to remove ANY AND ALL SAFEGUARDS for homeschooled children, but would also want to add new subject requirements. My only conclusion is that they know the new requirements are bullshit.

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

      I checked and it’s correct. Homeschoolers are technically still required to educate on those four subjects, but there’s no assessment or evaluation or any way of ensuring that they actually do, and there’s no definition of what it means to teach those subjects. So, a family could say they taught science if all they did was, say, go on one nature hike, which makes it seem to me like if you get in trouble, it’s very easy to get out, since there’s no standard of what teaching those should look like.

  • Saraquill

    Not testing children for lead poisoning and failing to protect them from preventable diseases is a gift from G*d? I say that this writer be tested for drugs.

    • Gillianren

      Okay, I know there are some people who don’t understand the science of vaccines and think they’re bad, but blood lead testing? There are people opposed to that? I literally had no idea!

      • Nebuladance

        It’s not the lead testing they have a problem with but the fact that it would require their child to be exposed to a nurse or nurse technician to do the test. These professions are required by law to report anything that seems suspicious of child abuse, and HSLDA opposes this because they contend it is subverted in order to target homeschooling parents. So no lead test means no opportunity for some mean-spirited nurse to report you for child abuse just because you’re homeschooling, see?

      • Gillianren

        Well, that doesn’t make it better, though it does explain it.

      • Petticoat Philosopher

        Gotta watch out for those evil nurses…

      • Dan F.

        Part of this is historical memory for the homeschooling community too – 25 or 30 years ago it was much more common for homeschooling parents to be reported for abuse by neighbors/nurses/doctors/even relatives etc. because those individuals thought that “homeschooling” itself was child abuse. Now with homeschooling being much more common and understood (and I suspect because many more people are homeschooling for the educational benefit and not religious reasons) I think that this concern is likely overblown although I haven’t followed the issue for some time now.

    • phantomreader42

      Test them for lead poisoning, it causes brain damage.

  • http://twitter.com/#!/dameocrat Dameocrat

    This law is terrible. I re-posted your heads-up at the Iowa blog http://bleedingheartland.com, I re-posted despite my eyesite problems and the fact typing is difficult for me. I am probably not an ideal representative of your cause.

    One question. Why did you not get involved in the issue until after the Democratic leaning Senate passed it? Branstad like most modern republicans, and a certain percentage of conservative Democrats, made his career by pandering to people who don’t want any regulations on anything. It is unlikely he will line item veto this.

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

      What it says in HSLDA’s statement—it was a stealth move on their part. I would have gotten involved earlier if I had known about it earlier. I didn’t.

      • http://twitter.com/#!/dameocrat Dameocrat

        It was announced on several Iowa evangelical blogs, like caffeinated thoughts, several months ago.

        http://caffeinatedthoughts.com/2013/02/iowa-house-passes-education-reform-bill-the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly/

        I have posted about it a couple of times before on bleedingheartland.

        http://www.bleedingheartland.com/user/Dameocrat/comments

      • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

        I don’t live in Iowa or read any Iowa evangelical blogs. I’m not sure how I can be faulted for not knowing every legislative move that affects homeschooling in every state. I wish there was a way I could know all that, but at the moment, I don’t have a way. I didn’t know about this particular bill until someone sent me a link last week. :(

      • http://twitter.com/#!/dameocrat Dameocrat

        Seems this new home schooling anonymous organization needs to start paying attention to the state houses and the christian activist blogs. They need to follow the example of “People for the American Way” and “The Southern Poverty Law Center” and act as watchdogs.

        It is easy to do today with Google News Search.

        I would add, that Caffeinated Thoughts is pretty gleeful as well, but they were hardly stealth in their agenda.

        http://caffeinatedthoughts.com/2013/05/iowa-legislature-approves-landmark-home-education-legislation/

        The radical dominionists and their neoliberal dem friends passed alot of bills that many people are unhappy with, including a property tax bill that only helps the one percent, and will insure austerity.

      • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

        homeschoolers anonymous is a place for homeschoolers to share their stories. It’s not about legal activism. I agree with you that there needs to be an organization like you describe, though, and really hope someone with the time and energy will start one.

      • Staceyjw

        So start it up!

      • http://twitter.com/#!/dameocrat Dameocrat

        I have other issues I am involved with. I am not a homeschooler!

      • Matt

        Why are putting the onus on everyone else?

      • http://twitter.com/#!/dameocrat Dameocrat

        I would ask the same question. You’re the homeschool victims. Not me.

  • asfdasdf

    Lots of other states already have this kind of homeschool law. It’s not some kind of monumental change.

    I pulled my kid out of school so I could decide what is best for him.
    I live in a state with basically identical laws to the one mentioned
    above and I stay here for that reason. I choose. I decide. I take
    responsibility. The state had their chance, they fucked it up, now I
    will take care of my child and his education and I will live in a place
    that allows me to do that.

    • http://loosviews.livejournal.com BringTheNoise

      And you’re willing to sacrifice the life and health of a lot of other children for that.

      That is what you are doing. You might not like it, but you are. Consider that the next time you talk up the great “freedoms” you have.

      • Metatron

        BringTheNoise can you elaborate on how parents making a choice to home educate their child “sacrifices the life and health of a lot of other children “

      • http://loosviews.livejournal.com BringTheNoise

        Homeschooling is fine, Completely unregulated homeschooling (as has been reported many times on this blog) gives abusive parents a lot of opportunities to be abusive with little or no way of being found out. That is the price of having zero regulations in this area.

      • phantomreader42

        Metatron, why is it that you are unable to home educate your child so long as there exist even the most basic requirements to ensure that you are providing an actual education and not abusing that child? Are you really that shitty a parent? Because if you actually ARE qualified to educate your child, then you should be able to demonstrate that you are doing so. If you demand to “educate” your child with no oversight whatsoever to ensure the child in question is actually being educated, then that suggests you are either abusive or incompetent, and neither of those is in the best interests of the child.

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

      I know lots of states have that kind of law. I think I’ve said it before, but I grew up homeschooled in exactly one of those states. And you know what? I saw kids whose parents didn’t lift a finger to educate them, and there was nothing there offering any sort of oversight or standards to protect against that. And that’s wrong. I want those states’ laws changed just as much as I want Iowa’s laws to stay the way they were. In fact, I think Iowa had pretty much model homeschool laws in basically every respect.

      As for you deciding what’s best for your kids, you are aware that not every parent is a good parent like you, right? You’re aware that there are parents who abuse their kids, and parents who homeschool but don’t actually educate their kids (and I’m not talking about unschooling here, to be clear)?

    • Alee

      There is a difference in not trusting parents and parents being held accountable for the well-being of their children. Reasonable standards of accountability help children and parents. It’s the same reason there are standards for what you can put into food that you sell or what kind of chemicals you can use on your crops. It’s not to limit your freedoms; it’s for the well-being of the people you sell those products to. In the same way, kids are not property of parents. They are little citizens of the world who deserve the right to an education. Homeschooling regulations like requiring kids to balee registered with the district as homeschooled and being given yearly assessments are ways to ensure that educational neglect is not happening. Saying this is not trusting parents is like saying having to take a driver’s test is not trusting people to know how to drive. It’s ridiculous. If you know how to drive, you won’t have a problem with proving it by taking a test. And if you are actually teaching your kids, you shouldn’t have a problem with them taking grade level assessments.

  • Jules

    Most homeschool families create a learning environment that is every day…not just 5 days a week (except for holidays, teacher work days and breaks) and not just 9 months out of the year. The class day does not “end” with the closing of books, rather discussions about topics being learned with real world application ensue 24-7, 365. Because the “teacher” actively participates in the children’s learning, it is much easier to find this kind of “learning” at any given moment. There are still assessment tests that need to be taken in order for kids to get scholarships and college admission; so accountability is present. Homeschooled kids are well represented in National Spelling Bees and Geography Bees…most often outperforming their “school educated” counterparts. Common Core forces teachers to teach to tests and it fails in instilling characteristics of a well rounded student which include: critical thinking skills, creativity, personal accountability and innovative thinking. There is a reason that more and more families across the nation are choosing to homeschool their children. Do YOUR homework….after all, any good “journalist” knows to do their research and to maintain and UNBIASED and balance approach to any news story.

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

      I’m not a journalist, I’m a blogger. As it so happens, I was homeschooled from kindergarten through high school. Nothing you’ve said here is new to me, or anything I haven’t heard before. This, though, is incorrect:

      There are still assessment tests that need to be taken in order for kids to get scholarships and college admission; so accountability is present.

      This assumes that all homeschool parents homeschool for educational reasons, and that all homeschool parents want (and know) what’s best for their kids, and that all homeschool parents want their kids to get into college. It also goes against my experience—I knew homeschool kids who *weren’t* being educated, and growing up in a state with no assessments or even reporting, there way for anyone to discover this or protect these children’s rights to an education. And, are you aware that organizations like Vision Forum, No Greater Joy, and Advanced Training Institute warn homeschool parents against sending their kids to college? In some Christian homeschooling circles, it’s explicitly taught that what really matters is passing on your religious beliefs, and if your kid can’t ever read or do algebra but their eternal soul is saved, you’ve succeeded.

  • The_L1985

    The HSLDA couldn’t be more obviously evil if they tried. And I am deeply concerned for all the homeschooled children of Iowa.

  • hjkasdf

    Why do you assume that homeschool parents aren’t going to teach their children unless they’re forced to? I don’t understand how any of this new law is bad. I wish they’d adopt it in CO. It amounts to trusting parents, just like we assume to trust they love their children and want the best for them in terms of nutrition and sleep. And I know you’ve seen bad homeschooling situations. I’ve seen tons of bad public schooling parents–and teachers– who neglect and abuse their children and waste their children’s education. Giving parents less freedom does not guarantee they’re going to do it “the right way” or that “the right way” is good for all kids, all the time, and giving them more freedom does not mean they automatically are going to neglect their children. You sound like my mother-in-law, who believes all homeschooled children are merely being homeschooled for their parent’s convenience–for the slave labor of free babysitting and full-day housecleaning.

    • http://loosviews.livejournal.com BringTheNoise

      Why do you assume that homeschool parents aren’t going to teach their children unless they’re forced to?>

      No one is assuming that this is true of ALL homeschooling parents, but it is true of SOME parents, and not having any oversight allows them to carry on with this and do more damage to their child.

      It amounts to trusting parents, just like we assume to trust they love their children and want the best for them in terms of nutrition and sleep
      And when a child at public school is not being fed properly or denied the sleep they need, there are mandatory reporters there to mnake sure someone steps in and looks at the problem. The problem is not that homeschooling parents are always bad parents, but that without oversight, the bad parents who homeschool can do a lot more damage.

      You sound like my mother-in-law, who believes all homeschooled children are merely being homeschooled for their parent’s convenience–for the slave labor of free babysitting and full-day housecleaning

      Not all, but some. Are you putting your freedom from a little paperwork above their right to a real education?

    • Alee

      I just realized I submitted my reply to the wrong commenter. I was posting from my phone and hit the wrong reply button. Needless to say, this was a response to your post: There is a difference in not trusting parents and parents being held accountable for the well-being of their children. Reasonable standards of accountability help children and parents. It’s the same reason there are standards for what you can put into food that you sell or what kind of chemicals you can use on your crops. It’s not to limit your freedoms; it’s for the well-being of the people you sell those products to. In the same way, kids are not property of parents. They are little citizens of the world who deserve the right to an education. Homeschooling regulations like requiring kids to be registered with the district as homeschooled and being given yearly assessments are ways to ensure that educational neglect is not happening. Saying this is not trusting parents is like saying having to take a driver’s test is not trusting people to know how to drive. It’s ridiculous. If you know how to drive, you won’t have a problem with proving it by taking a test. And if you are actually teaching your kids, you shouldn’t have a problem with them taking grade level assessments.

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

      Do we assume that public school teachers will teach the kids in their charges, and so decide to go to an honor system without assessments or any oversight whatsoever? No. We have standards. And sure there’s room for improvement, but I don’t see you or anyone else arguing that public school teachers shouldn’t be held accountable for actually educating their kids. Why do you want homeschool parents given a free pass? Sure, lots of homeschool parents homeschool in order to give their kids a better education, but not all do, and even so, lots of public school teachers get into teaching because they have a passion for teaching kids and we still hold them up to standards and have accountability for them.

      In what way did Iowa’s regulations “give parents less freedom”? They still got to pick the curriculum, choose how they wanted to homeschool, direct their children’s education, etc. They simply had to file a piece of paperwork each year and have their kids assessed annually to make sure that they were making progress. That’s not about taking away or even limiting freedom, it’s about putting safeguards in place to ensure that homeschool parents are actually educating their kids. And those who are educating their kids won’t have any problem with these requirements!

      As for giving parents more freedom not meaning that parents will automatically neglect their kids, I want to point out once again that I’m not talking about homeschool parents who are working hard to teach their kids here. I’m not worried that they’ll stop doing so. I’m talking about the families on the margins who are only making sure to keep up with stuff because of the regulations (and they do exist), those who don’t educate and are caught under the current regulations, and those who may decide to use homeschooling as a cover for abuse or truancy now that there are no requirements. As for the ones on the margins I was talking about, I knew homeschool parents who didn’t educate their kids who would have had the requirement mean that they either send them to public school or actually lift a hand to educate their kids. Do I think those kids would suddenly have gotten a brilliant education? No. But at least they would have, you know, gotten an education.

    • Arakasi_99

      The only people gaining more freedom with the change in Iowa’s law are those parents who choose not to educate their children. If the parents are not responsible enough to file paperwork once a year, check their children’s progress against a standard, and ensure that they receive basic medical care, then I don’t think that they are responsible enough to be teaching.

    • phantomreader42

      Why assume homeschool parents aren’t going to teach their children unless they’re forced to? Possibly because there are well-documented instances of homeschool parents doing exactly that, and of homeschool organizations supporting them in doing so? Or maybe it has something to do with that guy who kept kids in CAGES, the guy HSLDA called a HERO?

  • sarc

    This change better restores stewardship of children to their parents rather than the God-rejecting government.

  • Bryan
  • taco

    This truly is wonderful news!


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