Monday, March 19, 2007

NJ Court Describes Unmonitored Homeschooling as "Shocking"

Full Disclosure: I am a homeschool parent.

A tip of the hat to my friend Aaron at The Shekel for commenting on this case on his blog. I had forwarded the original article to him because he comments on the law there (among other things). He gave a very nice analysis from a lawyers perspective, and he encouraged me to comment here from the homeschool parents perspective. Here is the original article, from Constitutionally Correct.

My first thought is that the fact that the judge is "shocked" that there is no monitoring by the school district is a great example of how low our Republic has fallen. It used to be that there was no meddling at any level with the right of parents to educate their children in whatever way they wished, including not educating them at all. It's none of the court's or the State's business how a child is being educated. Yes, I know - in a perfect world. The compulsory school attendance laws and State-funded public education have become entrenched in our country over the last hundred or so years. That doesn't make it right, and there is much to indicate that it is very wrong.

[And, for the record, I believe it is foolish for any parent to not give their children the best education possible, to prepare them to take care of themselves in the world. It isn't 1800 any more, and you can't get by without knowing how to read and write and calculate. Those days are long gone.]

Secondly, the court takes on the air that schools are a necessary way of detecting abuse of children, because they are "supervised". There is a broad implication here that home educators are somehow abusing their children, which wouldn't happen if they were in the public school system. Obviously the court has not read a newspaper in the last couple of years and seen the increasing number of teachers who are sexually abusing their students. They have also missed all the hue and cry about "bullying" and the establishing of "Bully-free zones" in some local schools, because of the children who are being beaten up by their peers in these wonderful public schools we run. Not to mention the increasing indoctrination of children in those same public schools of the supposed normality of aberrant sexual practices, and the demonization of those who disagree.

So I would ask the Court what exactly it is which makes public schools and public educators any more safe than home schools and home-educating parents? Indeed, I would go so far as to say that there is less abuse per capita among home educators than there is in public education. But the few bad apples in home education don't invalidate the entire idea and practice of home education, and the results certainly speak for themselves. But the systemic failure of the public education system - the illiteracy rates, the failing infrastructure, and the lack of real education in areas of history, science, literature, and civics - also speak for themselves. The more I learn about the last 50 years of public education, the more I realize that I was ripped off, and kids today are even more ripped off!

Third, I have to suspect the fathers motives in bringing this up. Since this is a divorce proceeding, I think he is using every trick in the book to get custody of the children, or at least to impose his will on his ex-wife through the big stick of the State. This woman has borne and cared for this man's seven children, very likely to the detriment of her own career. Now he gets to criticize her because she can't (in his opinion) educate all seven "adequately". The Shekel correctly points out that "adequately" has no definition, and both he and the father in question propose the public school standards should be used. To which I say: Why would you do that to children you supposedly love? (Sorry, Aaron. That isn't reasonable at all!) Additionally, I know several families with that many kids being home educated by their moms very well, thank you very much. In fact, if you gave me a few minutes I could come up with some families with *more* than seven children who are being home educated by their moms very well. It is possible to do and do well, and without any evidence that these children are being ill-served by their mom, I must conclude that this is just pure spite on the fathers part. Plus, if you weren't getting a divorce from her, you would be able to support your family by being there and providing for them, instead of quitting on them.

[Yes, I know there are lots of reasons for divorce, but it's so easy to quit any more that we just go to that option first and that's the end of it.]

I know there is a lot more that could be said on this subject, and others much more eloquent than I have weighed in on it. For a treasure trove of truthful information on home education, go to the HSLDA website. That would be the Homeschool Legal Defense Association. Or to the Vision Forum.


Aaron said...


I'm not using public education as a yardstick for a measure of an adequate education, the court is when it states the education must be equivalent to public or parochial schools.

One would expect though that homeschoolers would be providing an education that exceeds public schools but of course the equivalency issue would still be problematic - especially in subject areas where home school parents have substantial disagreements with the curriculum at the local public school.

Scott said...

Here is your comment I was reacting to:
'The father even "stipulated the he does not object
to continue home schooling, but only if each individual child is receiving
equivalent instruction to what is offered in the public or parochial schools." Which is quite reasonable on his part.'

You are correct that the majority of homeschoolers are looking to exceed the education given at public schools. And equivalency is not as big of an issue as you might think. As more and more homeschooled children are entering college, the institutions are finding that homeschooled students are the kind of kids that any school would want to have, because they are for the most part self-motivate, self-disciplined, academically advanced over their public-school counterparts, and they are low-maintenance - that is, they don't give the schools any trouble with behavioral or discipline issues. The armed forces are finding the same thing and they are actively recruiting homeschoolers.

The parts of the curriculum that home educators have the most problems with are the moral and philosophical ones. For instance - they don't want their kids sexualized in first or second grade. They don't want their moral teaching undermined by the schools mandating Multicultural indoctrination. The nuts and bolts of primary education: spelling, grammar, arithmetic, algebra - all these things are the same. 2+2=4 is always the same. You may have different methods of getting there, but the result is what counts. When you get into things like "did man evolve from apes or did God create him?" or "is the universe billions of years old or is it several thousand years old" then those things get into philosophy and worldview, not academics (despite what "academics" tell you)

But that's another topic completely!