“There Was No Accountability”

I was recently talking to a new friend of mine, a young woman named Sarah who grew up homeschooled in the same state I did. We were talking about things like co-ops and curriculum when she admitted something.

“You know, I never actually studied science.”

“But how?” I asked.

“There was no accountability,” she responded, shrugging.

I nodded. She was right—the state we grew up in has no subject requirements or assessments, and no registration requirement.

“We had the Apologia textbooks but we never did them,” she went on. “Mom would invoke unschooling, but she was just using that as an excuse. She meant well, it’s just that there was no accountability.”

One common response to the idea that there should be some oversight of homeschooling is that parents can be trusted to educate their own children and want the best for them. The problem with this is that accountability isn’t something only bad people need. It’s something good people often need too. Can you imagine going to work without having anything at all to ensure that you actually do what’s in the job description? Sure, in those circumstances there are some people who would still do everything they were supposed to, but there are lots of people who would slack off. Accountability isn’t a bad thing and it’s not something to be afraid of.

Another response is that oversight of homeschooling wouldn’t do anything because bad parents would just find ways around the law or ignore it entirely. This response assumes that the problem is limited to “bad parents.” I asked Sarah if she thought some requirements and assessments would have made a difference in her situation, and she responded in the affirmative. “My mom isn’t a bad person,” she assured me. “She’s just the kind of person who needs accountability. If there had been some sort of assessment, she would have made sure we actually made it through those textbooks and learned those things.”

I don’t understand why understanding these concepts is so hard, especially when the homeschoolers I grew up among were among the fastest to argue in favor of—and talk about the importance of—accountability.

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