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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 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



Jan-31-14 2:30 PM

The state made some adjustments in the way schools are funded a few years ago, so there were some changes. But schools only receive funding for kids who are students. Homeschoolers who required a monitor were monitored by a district teacher, so it counted as half enrollment. Those are only a tiny percentage of homeschoolers since most parents were able to teach without monitoring. It only was required for the first two years if the parents did require a monitor.


Jan-31-14 1:38 PM

Well, half the money is still money. I haven't heard much about new funding formula either.


Jan-31-14 8:16 AM

School districts don't receive per pupil aid for homeschoolers who don't attend the school. They used to get half a payment per student if a monitor was required. I don't know if the new funding formula changed things. If they're property owners, they do pay school taxes like everyone else.


Jan-30-14 4:58 PM

I'm talking ND now: if a homeschooling family has submitted information to the school district census taker (how many kids, what ages), the school district will get money for those homeschooling students. Plus, homeschool families have to pay their property taxes, of which the school district gets a portion.

Don't worry, the public school's finances are not disturbed by homeschoolers taking their kids out of the system.


Jan-30-14 11:16 AM

== continued ==

Different states have different guidelines for homeschoolers. There are a handful of states where students submit lesson plans and curriculum a few times a year and present portfolios of the child's work throughout the year to the school superintendent. There are states like North Dakota that require testing at certain grade levels. Then there are states where there is no regulation at all. One suggestion I saw is that parents might be required to bring the children with them to register their homeschool, so the school office sees the kids. Another suggestion would call for a heightened level of scrutiny if an abuse complaint had ever been made against a homeschooling family. That sounds reasonable to me.


Jan-30-14 11:12 AM

How do you know? I don't have any reason to believe abuse is any more prevalent in a homeschooling family than anywhere else, but there aren't any statistics. There are a handful of horror stories about abuse, neglect and, in rare cases, murder of homeschooled kids whose parents withdrew them from school when teachers called CPS to report possible abuse. Homeschooling does make it harder for any abuse that exists to be detected. If kids aren't required to take standardized tests and their parents aren't required to submit a portfolio or some other evidence of work done, there also isn't any real way to tell if kids are actually being educated.

I suppose the question is whether kids actually have a right to a certain standard of education and whether the government has an interest in seeing that they get it. I don't think anyone should outlaw homeschooling or that the government should visit someone's home without cause, but I do think a certain amount of regulation is a good idea.


Jan-30-14 10:24 AM

Just keep in mind, boys and girls, that "education" and "schooling" are not the same thing.


Jan-30-14 9:14 AM

Again, the concern is with people who do NOT educate their kids or abuse them and use homeschooling as a way to avoid scrutiny. There are some of them out there, judging by the stories, and some state laws make it easier for their parents. I don't think there's any real way to say what "most" homeschoolers do. There is a lot of anecdotal evidence but it is so unregulated that there aren't stats about numbers being homeschooled or test scores or curriculum or who has a computer. There are many, many people who do a great job of homeschooling, but also some horror stories.


Jan-30-14 8:06 AM

No, I wouldn't say every job requires a college degree, but high school and technical schools do teach STEM. Good homeschoolers find a way for kids to learn science, math and technology too.


Jan-30-14 7:40 AM

Some oil jobs do require training but I haven't seen one that requires a college degree. The same with farm technology, when a farmer buys new technology the salesmen gets them started and when the farmer runs into trouble they call the salesman. I know young men who have made millions in farming and ranching and have no college time at all. They watch the markets to decide what to plant. The work is hard, hours are long and the wages are low is why most people don't do it.


Jan-29-14 11:34 PM

My iPad and auto correct are going haywire. I don't doubt that there's still a lot of learning by doing and physical work involved in farming and the oil fields, but I also know that that isn't all there is to it these days.


Jan-29-14 11:29 PM

How do farmers market a business in the current economy, decided what to grow and how to get the best yield? That takes a certain amount of training. High school vo tech classes are teaching kids skills using equipment they'll use in a workplace and that homeschoolers don't necessarily gave access to. I would assume your nephew benefited from some of those classes. Junior colleges offer some of the same classes, but kids usually have a head start if they took those classes in high school. North Dakota is lucky to have so many well paying blue collar jobs but that also is not the case right now on many states. I would suggest you check out your local high school's vo ag department.


Jan-29-14 5:28 PM

You'd be wrong about that. Oil field jobs do require some technical knowledge. So does truck driving and farming these days. Williston State has various programs that educate people who want to work in the oil industry.


Jan-29-14 10:48 AM

I'm so far behind the leader passed me and I'm in second again. lol


Jan-29-14 8:56 AM

Adults who haven't kept up with technological advances also run the risk of falling behind at work.


Jan-29-14 6:54 AM

Learning is just as natural as being born for children. If people were born without being inclined to discover and learn I doubt the human race would exist. I don't think anybody makes people learn but we can put the information in front of them that they need to learn in order to function as an adult. Although there seems to be a great difference in how teachers approach the students that can affect learning.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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