Friday, March 7, 2008

Homeschooling Threatened

California ruling could put homeschooling in jeopardy

I don't know all the particulars of the case, having seen different versions from different news outlets, but this ruling has riled me up. The judge believes parents are not capable of educating their children unless they hold a teaching certificate in the appropriate grade and, perhaps more disturbingly, that "keeping the children at home deprived them of situations where (1) they could interact with people outside the family, (2) there are people who could provide help if something is amiss in the children's lives, and (3) they could develop emotionally in a broader world than the parents' 'cloistered' setting." He didn't rule about one family's situation. He ruled that homeschooling in any circumstance should be illegal in California (which I'd heard had fairly homeschooling-friendly laws).

I agree that children should interact with those outside the family and should have people they can approach if having problems at home (which could just as easily be a fear for a parent's health as their own), but I disagree that the answer is to outlaw all homeschooling. Rather than depriving parents of the right to determine the best way to educate their children and their families, we should be putting in place procedures to check in occasionally. (Don't ask me what those would be; I'm not in a position to suggest policies for the state of California.)

I take offense at the judge's demeaning comment about the parents' "cloistered" setting. There are a lot of horrors out there around our schools. Last week when I was in Seattle, I heard from a teacher who interviewed a student for a magnet program. This student was willing to endure a long commute on a city bus and one reason he gave was the dead body he saw out his school window the previous week. Is this the "broader world" the judge would have us abandon our kids to? I know not every school is like that, but he didn't talk about this particular family, he made a ruling for every single family in California, comprising over 150,000 homeschooled children.

I admit, one of the reasons I want to homeschool my children, at least in their early years, is to protect them. I want to protect them from unnecessary homework, standardized tests, labels (from the schools themselves, not just peers), and from people they should respect (teachers) who profess ideas antithetical to our faith. More than anything, though, I want to provide my children with a loving, fun, amazing experience as they grow intellectually, academically, physically and emotionally. Right now, we believe homeschooling is the best way for our family to do just that. The thought of a judge threatening our right to do what is best for our children is infuriating.

Thank goodness we live in Kansas. I only hope no one here gets any ideas. (Technically, there are no homeschooling laws in Kansas. Homeschooling families establish a "private school" with a little form and then have to meet certain criteria. We do have to show the "teacher" is acceptable, but since either of us could teach at a private school here in Kansas, that shouldn't be a problem.)

Update on 3/10/08: Find more information here, at the HomeSchool Association of California. Click here to sign a petition to request depublishing of the case. You do not have to be a resident of California to sign the petition.

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