by Rosemary Ward Laberee
Homeschooling is an educational choice often misunderstood and much aligned. It is the
favorite whipping boy of the main stream media’s education coverage. This essay parses
the misguided efforts of a new organization which has goals of promoting more oversight
in homeschools and which naively hopes to guard against bad parenting – an ever present
iniquity found disproportionately more often in families who send their children to school
than in families who do not.
It was with great interest that I read The Washington Post Magazine’s article, by Lisa Grace Lednicer, on this new enterprise – The Center for Home Education Policy.
Greater Home Education Monitoring (March 2, 2017)
The young people who run this organization were homeschooled and their goal is to help those who do not like the homeschool life their parents have designed for them. The Center for Home Education Policy wants to help young men and women “escape” their homeschools, and, rather presumptuously, will offer some basic life skills support in the process.
Sarah Hunt and Carmen Green are rather accomplished young people (Rhodes Scholar candidate and Georgetown Law). They have an outstanding command of the king’s English, did well at college, and clearly know how to get a job done. This puts them head and shoulders above most of their brick-and-mortar-schooled peers. They are not poster children for some backwoods, Bible-thumping, slop-‘dem-hogs-or-else kind of parenting. I bet that the parents of these enterprising young adults are exceedingly proud of them, as well they should be.
The goal of The Center for Home Education is more government regulation of home education, but as this essay will point out, there are errors and omissions in their petition.
The most obvious problem is this: The Center for Home Education Policy zooms in on fundamentalist Christianity as a culprit while ignoring other forms of religion-motivated, segregating, educational options. This is troubling. If The Center for Home Education Policy truly cares about the isolating and rigid circumstances which can be found in extremely religious homes, and if they care about how hard it is for the young lives trapped there, then it would definitely need to put a wide-angle lens on the camera. Christians are not the only home educators out there. What about the solitariness of Amish children? What of the detachment of children in conservative, orthodox Judaism? Finally, what about the confinement, oppression and degradation of young Muslim girls? These cultures represent huge homeschool communities – why doesn’t the Center for Home Education Policy “go there”?
I think it is because they would not feel comfortable stomping around the sacred grounds of a culture they do not know, even if it does have practices which offend their sensibilities. Maybe they have more respect for the rituals of these religious cultures than for their own? Regardless, their approach to helping home educated youth seems biased. They appear to be on a targeted witch hunt, and it robs their goals of integrity and sincerity.
On the claims of abuse and starvation in these fundamentalist homes, it is imperative to point out the difference between families who are truant and families who home educate. Truant families do not send kids to school. Neither do they homeschool. They do nothing at all because they are bad people. Legislating home education will do nothing at all to save kids from bad parents and creating a police state where kids are checked up on regularly steps into a very menacing space. The corruption in large governmental, bureaucratic departments which aim to “help children” is legendary. Relying on any agency to verify the integrity of a homeschool (against whose standards?) has a distinctly Orwelian stench. Bad people who fail to send their kids to school ALWAYS claim to be homeschooling. Hunt and Green have erroneously conflated these two groups.
Think. How many public-school kids suffer at the hands of bad parents? Tragically, too many to count. Why don’t we blame public education for this? Why don’t we seek some oversight in these families? If a few of the 1.8 million homeschool kids are mistreated in their homes, this is a terrible thing. But here is a much worse statistic – thousands and thousands of kids, who are not homeschooled, are mistreated in their homes each year. Thousands of kids who attend public schools are victims of abuse. Kids who attend public school are also much more likely to be murdered – while AT the school. Child abuse is ghastly and heart-breaking and for the sake of those victims, I think we should interpret the data correctly.
Hunt and Green explain that many kids who were homeschooled in isolating circumstances need very basic life skills training and academic remediation as well. I have caught one or two rare glimpses of this, so I do not disagree entirely. But it is very disingenuous to suggest that this is common in home education. It is not common. It is rare. It is, however, very common to meet a middle schooler who attends a public school and who still cannot read. Of the young people who fill our prisons and who drop out of high school or college, the overwhelming majority went to a public school. (That is a very scary outcome.) Now, THIS looks like a good space to occupy if you want to make a real difference to the kids.
You see, the question that does need an answer is this: Why are so many young people who come out of our nation’s public schools not prepared for college, for life, and for self-sufficiency? Here is a problem that needs a solution, but it is not a problem generally found in homeschool homes.
More importantly, today’s headlines have revealed how public school students are narrowly formed around a bubble of progressive, politically-correct, left-of-center orthodoxy. The shocking events on our nation’s college campuses show us how very intolerant and viciously protective that isolating piece of society can be. (Here, I am referring to the isolation which public education molds.)
Now – take a look at the Nation’s Report Card