**This response was started before it was revealed that WRAL heavily edited and misrepresented the comments made at a budget oversight committee hearing on March 8, 2022, in what appears to be a continuing vendetta against school choice of any kind. Regardless, comments from certain state legislators after hearing from constituents prove that the threat to education freedom is real, and my sentiments remain the same.
For anyone who has been homeschooling for longer than 2 minutes, the recent WRAL article titled “Homeschooling oversight: With over 100,000 students in home school, NC lawmakers consider increased tracking” (Leslie, 2022) is no surprise. It is just another appearance of the same argument that has been thrown around for ages, posing the question – “who is in control? Parents or government?” Maybe the better question is “who has the child’s best interests at heart?” Parents or government? “Who can better provide for the needs of the individual child?” Parents or government? “Who does a better job of considering the needs of the whole child – physical, academic, social, emotional, spiritual? ” Parents or government? “Who does God give authority to in the raising and education of children?” Parents or government?
Parents choose to homeschool for a hundred different reasons. The recent exodus from the public school system during the covid pandemic has much to do with health concerns, both physical and emotional. For some parents, homeschooling is a temporary solution to an emergency situation, after they watched their child flounder and suffer in a very stressful school environment. But other very valid reasons to homeschool include desire for a more flexible family schedule, ability to individualize education for the unique needs or interests of the child, school curriculum that contradicts a family’s core beliefs and values, desire to strengthen family bonds, the need to protect a child from bullying or unhealthy relationships, special needs that are not being adequately met. There are a myriad of reasons why parents have decided that the public school program or atmosphere is detrimental, or at least not optimal, for their child. Modern technology, access to educational resources and a robust homeschool community have given more and more parents the confidence and tools needed to provide a meaningful home-based education for their own children.
As a longtime home educator who has homeschooled my own five children all the way through graduation and also walked alongside hundreds of other families as a leader in a large local homeschool community, larger regional homeschool community, and enormous online homeschool community, I can tell you that comparing homeschooling and public schooling is often like comparing apples to oranges. State law gives home educators a great deal of freedom and latitude, which is exactly what is needed to provide a meaningful, individualized education because children are not widgets. They do not all learn the same way or need the same things. Homeschoolers in North Carolina are free to choose any curriculum or teaching method they wish. Homeschoolers are free to set their own schedule and time frame, allowing their students to advance according to their readiness and mastery level in each individual subject. Oftentimes, homeschool curricula is tweaked and adapted to take advantage of individual interests and opportunities that a family might have. Life skills, real experience, and strong relationships provide a strong foundation for other learning. This type of individualization is just not possible in a traditional classroom setting or under the bureaucratic oversight of the government system.
Charlotte Mason, Classical, Montessori, hands-on Unit Study, delight-directed, literature-based, computer-based, Unschooling – these are just some of the different educational philosophies and approaches that can produce thoughtful, capable, well-rounded, educated adults! Homeschoolers come in all flavors and ideologies, which their family choices will reflect. Some families embrace traditional, teacher-directed education methods, others relish an innovative, child-directed approach, and still others might find a mix of several methods works well for them.
Physical, emotional and educational growth doesn’t occur on a neatly predictable timetable for all children. There are children who are ready to learn to read and write at age 4 and others who aren’t ready for those particular skills until many years later. Because of each child’s unique brain development and biochemistry, unique experiences and environment, unique interests and temperament, milestones will be met at different times and learning will occur in different ways. (Margaret Semrud-Clikeman, 2015) Parents as educators can determine how their children are learning through daily interaction. Traditional education assessments like tests and grades can be used but aren’t necessary in a one -on-one tutorial or family setting. Assessments that expect all children to follow the public school timetable are not appropriate in a non-traditional school setting, where flexibility allows for a different timetable and also for focus on things that public education doesn’t necessarily value – life skills, character development, family relationships, creative abilities, learning a trade, etc. Looking at home education through a public school lens, evaluating and assessing based on metrics that apply to institutional, standardized learning, just doesn’t make sense.
The need for more regulation from a system that has enormous problems already within itself could only seem advantageous if there was proof that more regulation produced a significantly better outcome for all students being educated at home. However numerous studies show that home educated students are doing great, and surpassing their public school counterparts! (Brian D. Ray, 2021) Many homeschool families band together to create co-ops and other opportunities for group learning and enrichment. Sports, dances, field trips, science labs, band programs, drama groups, honor societies all have been created by homeschool parents with talent and motivation to provide better options for their children.
If government leaders were truly concerned about improving educational opportunities for all students, they would not be regulating, but encouraging. They would expand school choice instead of restrict it. They would listen to concerns of parents who want schools in their own neighborhoods that reflect their own values. They would provide tax-breaks so that more of a home educating family’s resources were available for education purposes. They would applaud families for taking on the responsibility of educating their own while still supporting public schools for those who cannot. They would address the reasons why people are fleeing the government-run education system in ever increasing numbers, and truly pursue education reform to create diverse, flexible, innovative, family-supporting solutions for educating our children. But since that isn’t happening, the government should leave homeschooling families alone to do what they are doing well, and focus on the fixing the issues in the institutions that they currently control.
Leslie, L. (2022 March 8). Homeschooling oversight: With over 100,000 students in home school, NC lawmakers consider increased tracking. WRAL. https://www.wral.com/coronavirus/homeschooling-oversight-with-over-100-000-students-in-home-school-nc-lawmakers-consider-increased-tracking/20177231/
Ray, Brian D., PhD. (2019 September). Research Facts on Homeschooling. NHERI/ National Home Education Research Institute. https://www.nheri.org/research-facts-on-homeschooling/
Semrud-Clikeman, Margaret, PhD. (2015 March). Research in Brain Function and Learning: The Importance of Matching Instruction to a Child’s Maturity Level. American Psychological Association. https://www.apa.org/education-career/k12/brain-function