Why Not Regulate Homeschoolers?
I was asked in the comments to my post, The Beast Look At Homeschooling, why I believe that regulation of homeschooling is a slippery slope and what would be appropriate oversight to prevent abuse.
My opinion is that parents are responsible for their children, the state is not. I do not believe that the state should take charge of children unless there is a dire circumstance such as obvious abuse. I do not believe that the state should be checking on children in order to make sure that they are not being abused. In order to simplify my thoughts, let’s consider the following.
It is just as easy, if not easier, to abuse a child before they reach school age. So, if we’re going to worry about school aged children being abused, why not worry about pre-school aged children being abused? Should parents who plan to keep their children home from pre-school have to notify the state of their intentions? Should officials be doing welfare checks on babies and toddlers to make sure that they are well cared for? Should they be making sure that they have their own bed, are eating nutritious meals and are not spending the day watching TV? Who is going to decide what a nutritious meal is? Who is going to decide if they should be allowed to sleep with their parents? Who is going to decide how much TV they should be allowed?
That is how I feel about it. Children spend 5 years at home, learning what their parents decide to teach them and when they turn 5, suddenly they have to be schooled. If the parents chose to keep them home, that should be their decision. Each child has his or her own time table for learning and his or her own learning style. I believe that many children learn best at home. If the parents want to send them to school, that is their business. If they wish to keep them home, that is also their business. I do not believe that they are going to suddenly start abusing them when they turn 5.
I agree that if children want to learn and the parents won’t let them, that is abusive. I also believe that if they do not want to learn and the parents force them, that may very well also be abusive. But I still don’t know who would determine at what age the state should start demanding that a child be tested and who would determine the minimum they need to know. Again, children learn at different rates and in different ways. I really do believe that overwhelming majority of parents want what is best for their children. Therefore, I am opposed to testing. What children are forced to learn in school is usually forgotten quickly and often does them little good in life anyway. I lean towards self-led learning. There are so many things to learn, nobody knows everything and who is to say what is important?
The idea of checking up on all children to protect the very few who are being abused reminds me of the government listening in on all phone conversations in order to find the few terrorists. It takes away the rights of many and the few who are guilty probably still won’t be caught unless someone reports them.
[…] My opinion is that parents are responsible for their children, the state is not. I do not believe that the state should take charge of children unless there is a dire circumstance such as obvious abuse. I do not believe that the state should be checking on children in order to make sure that they are not being abused. . . It is just as easy, if not easier, to abuse a child before they reach school age. So, if we’re going to worry about school aged children being abused, why not worry about pre-school aged children being abused..? Why Not Regulate Homeschoolers? […]
Actually, I don’t have a problem with the level of oversight in this quote:
I certainly would not like the USA to end up like Germany though.
I respectfully disagree. To be honest I’ve seen too many homeschooling train wrecks to think that turning a blind eye and hoping for the best is the solution. Here’s a few of my thoughts.
1. If homeschool regulations included installing hidden microphones inside homes so that classes could be monitored then I agree that it would be akin to the government listening in on our phone calls to find terrorists. However, if the regulations include registering with the state and an occasional interview/evaluation I would say it’s more comparable to requiring passports/photo IDs and occasional TSA search for air travel.
2. If there are no legal standards for educational neglect then there is no way to enforce them. My own state used to require homeschooling families to either document regular test scores or to keep annual portfolios (although they were generally only checked if concerns were reported). Several years ago these regulations were done away with and it is now illegal for the state to administer testing without parental consent. At my mother’s church there is a homeschool family that numerous people have reported to CPS. There is no evidence of physical abuse or neglect but the 6 children ranging from 6-15 are all but illiterate (even the 15 year old is unable to read fluently) and most cannot even perform even basic addition and subtraction. When approached the parents are proud of the fact that education has taken a backseat to teaching “godliness”. However because there are no longer any laws governing homeschooling there is nothing that can be done to help these kids and I believe that the system is failing them.
3. If homeschooled kids are to be awarded diplomas it only seems fair that they demonstrate they’ve met the same criteria that every other diploma-seeking student has met? And if homeschool parents are uninterested in helping their kids obtain a diploma can it really be considered schooling? I also believe that for parents who oppose standardized testing that portfolio submission would be an acceptable compromise.
4. In general I dislike slippery slope arguments as it is essentially claiming that the only way to safeguard from one extreme is by another extreme. The same slippery slope could be used to argue banning homeschooling altogether (as in Germany). The fact is that homeschooling can be wonderful. It can also be horrific. I’ve personally seen examples of both. I don’t think that the best answer lies in either extreme.
5. It’s true that young children are generally under the sole jurisdiction of their parents. It’s also true that no matter what safeguards are in place that many abused children will slip through the cracks. However I don’t necessarily agree that homeschool abuse/neglect is rare. Where I live homeschooling is often employed by religious fanatics who want to isolate, control, and believe in extreme forms of discipline. I don’t necessarily think this comprises the majority of homeschool families but I do believe that it’s a significant enough minority that we can’t ignore it.
I agree about diplomas. If they are given a diploma, it must mean something. If they are homeschooling without a ISP, they would need the child to take the GED or some other test.
You make some good points which certainly should be considered.
Couldn’t have said it better myself – in fact, I’m bookmarking this.