I’m a Liberal, and a Democrat. Even I Know Regulations Won’t Fix Homeschooling
This is my response to the Philosophy and Public Policy quarterly piece on homeschooling regulations by Robin West. There are many things to talk about. I chose one - why homeschool regulation using tests, measurement, and visits don’t make logical sense.
I’m a secular homeschooler. I really prefer logic and evidence as proof of things. And I have yet to see the logic or proof that homeschool regulation “works”. There are many examples of regulation that already exist, and it has not yet been shown that regulations reduce abuse or deal with any of the other assertions in the PPP article.
Homeschooling is on the rise. But it’s not because of abusive parents wanting to hide things, or because of an anti-immunization frenzy. The rise is caused by the school system pushing out families who really want to do the best for their kids, but cannot accomplish it. And most of the families who are deserting the schools have been pushed a lot before they finally get pushed over the edge. This has been slowly building up over the past 5 - 10 years and it’s not getting better. Because this is becoming so obvious, parents with very young children consider homeschooling as a tenable education option years before it’s time to make a decision about formal school. (This is also a significant part of why we’re seeing a rise in non-religious based homeschooling, and why 70-80% of the population of our California homeschool how-to seminars are populated by parents with children under 4 and parents who just pulled their child out of school, or are thinking about it.)
I think research into why parents leave school would be very revealing. When I field calls from families wanting to know how to homeschool, they share stories not only of various forms of physical and psychological abuse, but abuse of authority and lack of schools seeing their kids for who they are. Instead, it’s a race to see which kids can fit into the mold of what is expected of them and the parents and the kids can no longer hold out in the rat race.
The increase of regulations, testing, mandates, and benchmarks hasn’t made schools better. These top-down efforts haven’t fixed problems of meeting individual children’s needs. It certainly hasn’t helped many kids in the most need of help. If these fixes don’t help school, how can they ever help homeschoolers? Why insist on a solution that has not shown to consistently work? And that’s just for student achievement. That’s not counting all of the failed attempts to keep abusive teachers out of the system, abusing and molesting children right under the noses of all of the regulations and watchful eyes of everyone in school. It just doesn’t add up. There is a huge missing piece of logic of how the system, which can’t even keep these abusive teachers out of schools, can possibly do a fair and adequate job of finding the bad homeschool apples without an enormous burden on the 99.9% of the other homeschooling parents.
Homeschooling is not perfect. But regulation is not the answer. I have my suspicions of what the answer is, but it’s not government regulation on testing results or benchmarks. If that worked, failing schools would be very easy to identify and fix. And we’d very rarely see problems with teachers not doing their job, or worse, harming students.
It’s my hope that Robin West is on a true search for helping children and our society. If so, then we can move on beyond the tired old conversation of left vs. right and rethink education entirely, and get away from measuring and educating-by-numbers schooling. Instead, we all need to work towards finding a way to educate our children in the true sense of the word, so they can live full lives and make our American society a better place one child at a time.