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More regulation for homeschooling?

January 27, 2014 - Andrea Johnson
Should homeschooling be better regulated?

That's a question I've been wondering about for the past few years, every time I read the occasional story about homeschooling gone horribly wrong. The story that has probably gotten the most attention is the case of Hana Williams, an Ethiopian adoptee who was homeschooled by her adoptive parents and also beaten, malnourished and left to die of exposure in Washington state in May 2011. The parents were convicted of her murder and sentenced to prison.

Homeschoolers are quick to say that these cases are rare and there are also reports of child abuse by families who send their children to public school. That is certainly true and I have met many parents who do a wonderful job of homeschooling their children. I suppose the difference is that while children who attend public schools can also be abused, the abuse is likely discovered sooner because teachers, principals and other parents are more likely to see signs of abuse and report it to the authorities.

The most successful homeschooling parents make sure that their children have many opportunities to participate in lessons and activities in the community and learn from a challenging curriculum, sometimes more challenging than is offered by the public schools. But there is also the occasional case of a family that takes advantage of lax regulations to pull a child from public school mainly to hide abusive conduct. Sometimes that can result in a case like Hana's or like some of the horrible stories that can be found at the site Homeschoolers Anonymous.wordpress.com This site is filled with sad stories of abuse and educational neglect suffered by the now adult children of homeschooling families.

States differ widely regarding regulation of homeschooling. In Texas, for instance, there is little to no regulation. Parents do not have to announce their intention to home school to the school district or register their children with a district, no particular certification is required and there is no curriculum approval required. Until fairly recently, North Dakota was considered one of the stricter states regarding homeschooling, but the Legislature eased many of the requirements during the last session. Parents who have a high school diploma or GED can now homeschool their children without supervision by a monitor, for instance, though parents without a high school diploma still must be under supervision for at least the first two years by a licensed teacher. Children who are homeschooled must take a standardized test in grades four, six, eight and 10, but their parents can now opt out of the testing requirement for philosophical or religious reasons if the parent holds a four year college degree, is a teacher or has passed a teaching exam. Unlike some other states, North Dakota law does require that homeschooling parents teach certain subjects, teach for a certain number of hours per day and a certain number of days per year, and that they notify their school districts of their intent to home school and offer proof of the child's identity and the parent's qualifications to teach as well an address. One Texas parent recently told me that she would find North Dakota's restrictions on homeschooling unreasonable.

What regulations, if any, do you think are reasonable?

 
 

Article Comments

(60)

EarlyBird

Jan-29-14 6:30 AM

As far as car mechanics if you have been to one lately they just start to replace parts until they get it right when they are lucky. R&R remove and replace is called being a mechanic.

EarlyBird

Jan-29-14 6:28 AM

"You can't expect to function in 2014 with a 1950s country school education from 1950s textbooks."

I would guess 75% of the politicians are from the era you say we shouldn't expect to function. You are a smart cookie, now it makes more sense why the government is in so much trouble all the time.

AndreaJohnson

Jan-28-14 6:22 PM

Two separate things. You can't expect to function in 2014 with a 1950s country school education from 1950s textbooks. Hopefully most homeschoolers don't try to do that, anyway, any more than public school teachers do. Mechanics with that kind of background are probably still in use in Cuba, which has nothing but 1950s cars because of the embargo.

Laws can be changed and often are.

EarlyBird

Jan-28-14 1:35 PM

"We live in the world as it is now, not as it was or as we wish it might be."

That relates very good to the subject of homeschooling, obviously some people are proactive in their wishes.

AndreaJohnson

Jan-28-14 1:19 PM

We live in the world as it is now, not as it was or as we wish it might be.

EarlyBird

Jan-28-14 1:17 PM

"They can't figure out what's wrong with my car without hooking it up to a machine that tells them what's wrong with some computer module or component."

I personally don't think that is in any way an advancement of anything but car sales. Right turn Hal.

AndreaJohnson

Jan-28-14 12:41 PM

Anyone who has had his car repaired lately would be struck by how things have changed. They can't figure out what's wrong with my car without hooking it up to a machine that tells them what's wrong with some computer module or component. High school classes teach that sort of thing using pretty advanced equipment. Yes, they still do a lot of hands on lessons, but the kids also need the technological know how. Check out the auto classes some day at Magic City Campus.

PoeticJustice16

Jan-28-14 12:07 PM

Of course Republicans want to increase homeschooling -- because it would mean a drop in the number of women in the work force.

The reality is -- it’s largely women (80%) who are doing the homeschooling.

locomotive

Jan-28-14 11:26 AM

Some things just can't be captured in a textbook, lectured about in a classroom, then regurgitated back onto a test.

A classic form of educating was the master - journeyman - apprentice model, where the master showed what he knew in a hands-on fashion.

How about modern young men and boys that don't function as well in a strictly traditional classroom? Allowing for the differences in learning styles, that some kids "get it" in different ways than what is traditional, is a modern-day revolution in many public, private and home schools.

There's nothing new under the sun. Everything that's old is new again.

Most of the mechanics I know did NOT learn their stuff strictly by classroom and/or textbook, but by trial/error, by talking to/working with more experienced mechanics, and mostly by just doing it.

Everybody: get your hands on Gatto's book if you want your educational presumptions challenged big time.

EarlyBird

Jan-28-14 10:11 AM

Heck we don't have to wait for the future, the current leaders have over qualifying talent in sports and extra curricular activities already. Clap your hands if your happy!

EarlyBird

Jan-28-14 10:08 AM

"What constitutes an education is vastly different now than it was 200 years ago or even 50 years ago."

That is a sorry truth, you said it all in one sentence. It has strayed far from the three R's. Our leaders of the future will have over qualifying talent in sports and extra curricular activities.

AndreaJohnson

Jan-28-14 9:44 AM

What constitutes an education is vastly different now than it was 200 years ago or even 50 years ago. My grandfather did just fine with an eighth grade education. These days it's difficult if not impossible to get a decent paying job without at least a high school diploma or at least an associate's degree. Jobs are more technical, so a certain amount of math and science and technology knowledge is essential for a mechanic's job or welding or any of the other so-called "blue collar" jobs. I have my doubts that that sort of thing can be taught with an 1950s one room schoolhouse education. Parents who limit their kids to that sort of education are really limiting their options and neglecting their education.

As far as community watchfulness goes, I think that is less true than it used to be in North Dakota. There are too many new people.

EarlyBird

Jan-28-14 8:33 AM

Homeschooling and the one room schoolhouse are very much alike. Americas greatest generations were educated in one room school houses.

EarlyBird

Jan-28-14 8:02 AM

Andrea you seem to think the USA was built by educated people, very very wrong it was built by people who did not have the time and luxury of education. As a matter of fact most people who did get any schooling would get it from people who did not attend college. You discredit the people who built this country with their sweat, blood and common sense which is something that cannot be taught.

locomotive

Jan-27-14 9:41 PM

North Dakota is still about "community" in spite of the vast influx of people from different areas of the country.

It used to be (and in some ways, it still is) that your neighbors know you: when you take your garbage out, if you mistreat your dog, if you let your cat out at night, how many cars are in your driveway, how many times you mow your lawn in summer, if you shovel your walk in winter, and sometimes, where you work, where or if you go to church, or when you come home from the grocery store. I'm serious...

But if the "Smith" kids were homeschooling, and while the community was watching, if things appeared somewhat "normal," the neighbors left them alone to do their thing.

If in the beginning, the ND homeschool regs are thoroughly followed, school districts generally don't bother homeschoolers. I think it's because the community is also watching them. Big cities don't have that, but many ND neighborhoods still do. JMO

AndreaJohnson

Jan-27-14 8:54 PM

I have no idea what regs would be effective. The woman from Texas thinks North Dakota regs are too tough. Maybe freedom is more important to people than identifying a small number of abuse cases or ensuring kids are educated to a top standard. I am personally skeptical that someone with less than a high school diploma can do an adequate job. This state seems to share my caution. But I do think there ought to be a better way to stop some of these horrible abuse cases.

locomotive

Jan-27-14 8:47 PM

Just wondering, Andrea...

Should homeschool regulations be one-size-fits-all-states (national regs) or should state legislatures continue to pass/not pass regulations that they consider fit for their resident homeschoolers?

There are gov't bureaucrats that don't believe in "local control" of education. Some parents have had difficulties when their parental choices have conflicted with the school's educational offerings - sex ed or "values curriculum" is one area in particular.

Should parents have any say in the education of their children? Or should the experts have the only say? (Spoiler alert: this is one of Gatto's points in his book.)

AndreaJohnson

Jan-27-14 8:24 PM

There, too. I think that has often been reported by other teachers.

locomotive

Jan-27-14 8:17 PM

"In schools, even if one teacher is abusive, there are hundreds of eyes on a kid every week."

I'm talking stuff in recent headlines, like teacher-student sexual abuse.

AndreaJohnson

Jan-27-14 7:56 PM

In schools, even if one teacher is abusive, there are hundreds of eyes on a kid every week. I read several reports of kids who were legally withdrawn from school to be homeschooled within days of a teacher reporting suspected abuse. Then the investigation was dropped and the kid ended up in the headlines years later either dead or severely abused. As lot of these cases seem to be in Texas, which doesn't regulate homeschooling. If a family is extremely isolated, there may be no friends or family to report educational neglect.

locomotive

Jan-27-14 6:56 PM

"...the difference is that while children who attend public schools can also be abused, the abuse is likely discovered sooner because teachers, principals and other parents are more likely to see signs of abuse and report it to the authorities."

By this, you must mean "parental abuse." But what about teacher-student abuse? Is that discovered sooner?

An excellent resource for thinking people and public schools: John Taylor Gatto's "The Underground History of American Education." Gatto was a public school teacher in New York for over 20 years and received the Teacher of the Year award as well, before he wrote his book. Great stuff...

locomotive

Jan-27-14 6:53 PM

"Hana Williams, an Ethiopian adoptee who was homeschooled by her adoptive parents and also beaten, malnourished and left to die of exposure in Washington state in May 2011. The parents were convicted of her murder and sentenced to prison."

This is the correct outcome to an unfortunate case such as Hana's.

According to NDCC, the district superintendent is to be the first to check up on whether a child is actually truant from school. Parents can be arrested if their children are truant, and Social Services can be called upon to bring charges of educational neglect as well, depending upon the circumstance. In ND, these should be the avenues to pursue FIRST, before going to the default of further regulating homeschoolers who have been abiding by the law.

redneck

Jan-27-14 3:02 PM

i think he was doing the job because he liked the field of teaching, so he was very motivated, it made everybodys job nice from the board to the cooks in school very good leader.

AndreaJohnson

Jan-27-14 2:48 PM

I'd qualify that -- if one of the parents didn't have a college degree, the principal may have been the official teacher monitor. Up until a few years ago, the state did require monitoring for the first two years for a family that didn't have a parent with a four year degree or a teachers license. The monitor was supposed to spend about an hour per week in contact with the family and report back to the superintendent twice a year. Now it's only required if the parent doesn't have a high school diploma or hasn't passed a teaching exam.

AndreaJohnson

Jan-27-14 2:46 PM

Maybe the family liked having him come visit. It sounds like he was helpful and friendly. But no, it's not the law.

 
 

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