Homeschool Regulations? Who's Watching the Watchers?

There are many ways to address the subject of homeschool regulation, and I've often thought about how to approach it myself.

 Should homeschooling be regulated?

I could cite sources about how successful homeschoolers have been and continue to be, the colleges that actively recruit homeschoolers for their enthusiasm and self-motivation, and gladly offer them scholarships.

But the headlines always sound so grim.

are standard fare for a fear-mongering media looking for the boogeyman under every child's bed.

To those who fear that homeschooling can be used as a shield behind which abusive parents can hide, I could point out that most child fatalities due to abuse take place before a child is school-age. The assumption that more government regulation would prevent abuse is debunked because abuse and even child fatalities are experienced every year in daycare centers, preschools, and foster homes. What about the young people abused while they are attending a public school? Should we do away with summer vacation? After all, children are usually home under the care and supervision of their parents during the summer months, and can remain 'unobserved' by mandatory reporters.

Let's deal in facts instead of unfounded and prejudiced assumptions. Studies show that child abuse is "interrelated with poverty, domestic violence and substance abuse."

Major Risk Factors for children

  • Younger children, especially under the age of five.
  • Parents or caregivers who are under the age of 30.
  • Low income, single-parent families experiencing major stresses.
  • Children left with male caregivers who lack emotional attachment to the child.
  • Children with emotional and health problems.
  • Lack of suitable childcare.
  • Substance abuse among caregivers.
  • Parents and caregivers with unrealistic expectations of child development and behavior.

Homeschooling is not listed as a risk factor, or a basis for suspicion of abuse, and yet it is often spoken of in terms that lead the public to believe that unless homeschooled children are supervised and observed by the state, there is a real risk of abuse.

So--let's compare suggested homeschool regulation apples to . . . other apples.

  • Since most cases of child abuse take place in the home before a child is school age, then the obvious solution is mandatory day care, or regular home visits by social workers to ensure the safety of these children. 
  • If children need to be observed on a regular basis by mandatory reporters, they should attend school all year, or submit to weekly or monthly check-ups by professionals to ensure they are not being abused.
  • Because as many as 1/3 of children under 18 are considered obese, parents should submit shopping lists, menu plans, grocery receipts, exercise schedules, and submit to regular weigh-ins to prove to CPS that they are making sure their children are eating healthy food and exercising regularly.
  • The detrimental effects of television watching have been explored by the American Academy of Pediatrics, and their recommendations are as follows: under 2 years old not watch any TV and that those older than 2 watch no more than 1 to 2 hours a day of quality programming.

The first 2 years of life are considered a critical time for brain development. TV and other electronic media can get in the way of exploring, playing, and interacting with parents and others, which encourages learning and healthy physical and social development.

As kids get older, too much screen time can interfere with activities such as being physically active, reading, doing homework, playing with friends, and spending time with family.

Why not pass their recommendations into law?

Do you see a pattern emerging? It's a very slippery slope that folks would like homeschoolers to take a ride on for no other reason than daring to be independent of the public education. Do we really want to buy into a nightmare of regulation and invasion of the home - as if that would do anything to truly keep kids safe and in a nurturing environment?

Here's the bottom line--the media continues to focus on homeschoolers because that's easy pickins. Most people use traditional schools, so homeschoolers are those other people. Since the media has been so effective at creating the homeschoolers-are-religious-fanatics-or-hippie-throwbacks stereotype, any family who homeschools and is also religious or crunchy is a double-whammy of weirdness.

Although the media loves to preach about tolerance, avoiding all forms of discrimination, and allowing private lives to stay private, these principles only apply to certain groups of people. Christians, conservatives, and homeschoolers need not apply for the same respect afforded the Mainstream Media's Darlings. Even celebrities who are or have been substance abusers and those who admit to sexual molestation and rape are excused for their excesses and crimes simply because they are famous. There is no outcry for families to be subjected to investigations and government regulation, and even when bad behavior is reported in the news, their children are seldom if ever removed from their homes.

It is intellectually dishonest and blatantly hypocritical to call for the regulation of homeschooling families when the real risk factors for abuse have nothing to do with a family choosing to educate their children at home.

To call for regulation of homeschooling is to attempt to criminalize a fundamental, Constitutional, parental right. To believe that a child unsupervised by the state is automatically at risk for abuse puts every single child in America squarely in the lap of the government.

The big, snuggly-wuggly government.

Here are links to sources for you to consider:

Schools often keep the state in the dark: "The state knew of fewer than 22 percent of the 189 disciplinary investigations conducted by the districts."

Creating Safer Havens: A heart-breaking list of cases of child abuse by caregivers and teachers.

Special needs children more likely to be bullied by other kids and physically abused by teachers ..."the case of a 14-year-old boy with post-traumatic stress syndrome in Texas who died when a 230-pound teacher placed the child face-down on the floor and lay on top of him. The teacher was punishing the 129-pound student for not staying seated in class. While the teen's death was ruled a homicide, a grand jury did not indict the teacher, who is currently teaching in Virginia.

At Teaching Tolerance: According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, over the last 20 years there have been hundreds of allegations of school personnel using restraint and seclusion in abusive ways on children. It's happening disproportionately to students with disabilities, often at the hands of untrained staff. Many of these students bear haunting physical and emotional scars. And in a number of cases, students have died.

Reading is FundamentalThirty-three percent of 4th grade public school students are at or below the “Basic” level on the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reading tests. Twenty-six percent of 8th grade public school students performed at or below the “Basic” level on the NAEP reading test (NCES, 2009).

More government regulations, more state oversight, more intrusion into the privacy of our homes--these are not the answers, because the questions being asked are not the right questions.

The purpose of the Constitution was to define the powers of government and limit the scope of that power to ensure the freedoms of American citizens. Our children will not be safe or saved from abuse by invading homes with unConstitutional oversight and putting them in the hands of an unwieldy and unfeeling bureaucracy.

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