Should Homeschooling Have State Oversight?

This article was published in my local paper and underlies some of the general issues we’re struggling with in America currently, besides the obvious homeschooling issue.

Home-Schooled Needs Oversight

These stellar test scores are why we should make sure homeschoolers get the benefit of the Dept of Ed’s wisdom. Look we almost match the worldwide average. That’s what I think when I think America, average!

The article explains that in Idaho the law says that parents are responsible for the education of their children and that if parents choose to educate their children outside the traditional school systems then they may do so without state interference.  That’s right, in Idaho there are no standardized tests for homeschoolers, no teacher oversight, and no year-end portfolios.  You don’t even have to let the local school district know that you are homeschooling or that your children exist.  When we moved here we just started homeschooling and have been ever since without any state involvement of any kind.  It’s pretty much educational heaven on earth.

Of course the point-of-view of the paper is that this is bad.  Parents can not be trusted to provide an adequate education for their children.  What about those kids who fall through the cracks?  What about well-intentioned parents who are just too stupid to teach their kids?  And what about the truly horrific stories of abuse, hidden more easily behind a homeschooling veil?

This debate underlies a more fundamental debate in America today.

Freedom or a perfect world with no victims?  Which is it to be, because you can’t have both now can  you?  In the end Freedom means we let others have freedom as well.  It means sometimes people make the wrong choices or act contrary to their own self interest or the interest of those around them.

The catcher is that this is a false argument because there is no such thing as a perfect world with no victims.  There is no Utopia.  If the state has total control does that mean the state will be perfect and fair and efficient and meet all my needs and make all the right decisions for me?

In places where the state has achieved near total control how has that turned out?  France, both right before the revolution and during . . . tens of thousands dead.  Bolshevik Russia . . . 20 million dead.  Communist China . . . 65 million dead.  North Korea . . . 2 million dead and counting.  Remember these were all places that promised a utopia, places where fairness was universal and the wealth was spread evenly, a workers paradise.

That’s right, you won’t even see the USA on this list.

But back to education.  How is the state controlled school world going?  The dropout rate in California schools is 24.4%, nearly a quarter of all high school students.  The dropout rate nationwide is about 31.2%.   Only 31% of public schooled eighth graders read at or above grade level.  Only 3% of those eighth graders read at an advanced level.  47% of adults in Detroit, Michigan are functionally illiterate, half of those have a high school diploma. The literacy rate for the United States as a whole is between 65-85% depending on how you define literacy.  Graduating seniors have a math proficiency rate of 32% nationwide ranking 32nd in the world . . . GO USA!  Further, the longer kids are in public school the worse they do on standardized test scores.

Anecdotally, I have a good friend whose child’s 5th grade teacher decided she wasn’t going to teach math at all that year and so she didn’t.  I have another friend whose daughter was slightly behind in math and was stuck in the “dumb class” for several weeks without her parents’ knowledge.  It took the rest of the year for her mother to undo the psychological damage, but the child was caught up to speed in her math in a matter of a few weeks.

Homeschoolers SAT scores are 67 points above their traditional schooled counterparts.  Eighth grade homeschool students score in the 80th percentile on average, while their public schooled counterparts score at the 50th percentile (50% would be the definition of average).  Nobody talks about homeschool dropouts, because honestly with mom and dad as your teachers is that even an option?   When comparing states with heavy homeschool regulations versus those with light or no regulation, there is no difference in test scores among homeschooled kids.  There is also no difference between homeschool kids whose parents have advanced degrees or those whose parents have only a high school diploma.

The average annual cost for public schooled children is $9666 and for homeschooled kids the average cost is about $546 per year.   But even homeschool parents who spend much less, $199 or less per year, still score at or above the 80th percentile, as high as homeschoolers who spend more.   The education level, household income, and race of the homeschooled kids had little affect on their achievement either.  But on public schooled kids the effect is dramatic, with minorities scoring at least 25 percentage points lower than whites and asians.  And poorer public schooled kids scored much lower than their wealthier peers.

What about the homeschooling horror stories?  I’d really like to see the statistics on that one.  What percentage of public schooled kids are abused or neglected as compared to homeschooled kids?  And is it easier to hide if you are homeschooling?

So I agree with the articles concern about kids who fall through the cracks, we just don’t agree on where those cracks are and which group of children is at risk.  And we certainly don’t agree on the issue of freedom vs. control.

Give me a comment, bring it on!


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3 Responses to Should Homeschooling Have State Oversight?

  1. Nanette Justus says:

    I hope you plan to send a letter to the editor. Others, in addition to home school parents, need to know the facts, and you did a great job of spelling them out!

  2. Christy says:

    I think there can be a balance. I don’t know exactly how, but I think states should be able to check into a child’s education if they wish. In Ontario, where I live, the schoolboards can only check in if there has been a complaint reported, but it still gives them the possibility of doing something for those occasional situations of neglect, while at the same time allowing people lots and lots of freedom.

    I recognize lots of people fall behind at school, and I don’t think it makes sense to try to insure that children are exactly in grade level or anything. I think the problem with a child whose education is neglected at home is that it often comes alongside general neglect and/or abuse. The problem isn’t the child is a little bit behind on math or something, the problem is the child can barely read or the parent has no intention of teaching the child anything that would allow the child to escape the parent’s control. The book Triumph, but Carolyn Jessop, talks about homeschooling within the FLDS, and she has a plea there for homeschooling parents elsewhere to allow the state to look into homeschooling… just to make sure the kids are learning a little, just so that the state has that tool it can use in the really nasty situations.

    • Layers of Learning says:

      You make really good points. I’ve read Escape as well. It was amazing to see how much control Jeffs had over so many people, children and adults alike. Safety and welfare of children should always be put first. The trick is to allow some oversight to ensure human rights and safety without allowing a total infringement on freedom…a fine line to walk.

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