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Is Homeschooling Unconstitutional?

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Guest blogger Pam weighs in on whether homeschooling parents should be credentialed.

Yesterday, the California Court of Appeal in Los Angeles heard arguments on the rights of parents to home school their own children. This comes on the heels of a recent poll in Parade magazine that asked: Should homeschool parents be credentialed in California? So far, about 64,000 people have voted and 95% say no. The question really boils down to this: Are we parents capable of making decisions and caring for and guiding our own children, or should the government make decisions about our competency?

The question makes me, a homeschooling mom, laugh. Because every day, all of us as parents, are teaching our children--from the time they pop out of the oven until the day they die, because long after we have gone our lessons will stay with them. Should every parent be a certified nurse to deal with the needs of a newborn, should we all have associate degrees in early child development by the time our kids are 2? The truth of the matter is that if you can read and write, you can teach your child. Who taught them to speak, eat with a fork, play games, use the potty, get dressed?

Unless mentally or physically challenged, parents are every bit as qualified to teach their own child as any stranger who graduated from any teacher education program at any school. I have a teaching credential, and I can assure you it makes me no more competent than parents who homeschool without one. Let's not lose sight of who has a child's best interest at heart and who cares more for their welfare and success. That would be the parent.

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17 comments so far | Post a comment now
Anonymous June 26, 2008, 9:30 AM

I think there needs to be some sort of qualification. Unfortunately, there are some parents who homeschool who have no business doing so. You may be qualified but what about all the kids who are homeschooled and not getting a proper education because the parents are doing it for the wrong reason.

Susan Ryan June 26, 2008, 9:55 AM

Is it possible that there are some teachers who have no business doing so?
What are the proportions compared to homeschoolers? Where should our society focus be in relation to those proportions?

What does “proper education” mean in the credentialed public schools? What are the “wrong reasons” for homeschooling?

Just some generic questions that came to mind reading the generic concerns of anonymous.

Jodi June 26, 2008, 10:36 AM

Parents have no rights when their children are at school. IF a parent wants to pick them up early they have to have approval and can be denied. If a parents religious beliefs are not allowed to be spoken at school the children are taught to keep quite even when confronted or challenged. If your child doesn’t learn exactly like most of the class then the child is classified as a slower learner. As far as parents HAVING SOME SORT OF QUALIFICATION ,just because a teacher has a degree does not qualify them to teach all children better. If a parent chooses to teach, I believe they are more qualifed than any teacher out there when it comes to understanding their own childs needs. There are definately great teachers out there. I have had a few that I am very thankfull for. Thank goodness there are that few that makeup for the ones that choose to shatter and crush the children. Teachers are very influential people in your childs life. Parents need to be strongly aware of that. Not all good comes from it and no matter how much time you spend with your child in the evening or on weekends your role is secondary compared to the teacher that is with your child all through the day teaching/raising them . I in no way am trying to sound harsh ,but if how you raise your children to believe or act in any way conflicts with the school, your child is the one that will have to convert. Think about it.

Dana June 26, 2008, 11:38 AM

Amen to this post and to Susan and Jodi’s comment.

How easy people forget that the massive failure of state education CAUSED the mass exodus to homeschooling.

This isn’t about academic success; this is about control. Were it about academic achievement there would be no argument as homeschooled children outperform state-educated children by an alarming margin, end of story. If teaching credentials were all it took to guarantee success then where is all the success in our state schools? That was rhetorical.

Beckie June 26, 2008, 12:19 PM

I agree with Anonymous up there. As a homeschooling mom, I am often confronted by parents who I feel should not be homeschooling.

Heck, I often see parents who have no business having kids! Maybe we should regulate them too! You need to take a test, and be certified to get pregnant and have children! And then be constantly retested to make sure you are qualified to take care of your children at what ever level they are. Recertify at age 2! Continuing education classes on how to finger paint with your kindergartener, or how to help your 4th grader with homework! Fail a test, no problem, the government will be happy to take your child from you while you receive the necessary training to successfully raise your child ;)

Paula June 26, 2008, 1:55 PM

It’s fine with me that parents home school their own kids, but up to a point. There are very few parents I know who would be able to teach their high-school aged children chemistry or calculus… these are things that should be taught by someone who has a degree in those areas. I don’t see how the average person could teach an entire high-school curriculum without having any sort of degree or credentials.

Jennifer June 26, 2008, 2:26 PM

Paula, I have just finished *very* successfully homeschooling our teenage son, who is now in the running for several academic scholarships due his high ACT score, grades, and extensive community service. What you may not understand is that homeschoolers have a very different approach to education from that of the schools. We teach our children how to teach themselves. Knowledge does not, in fact, reside only in the minds of teachers. Knowledge can be obtained everywhere today. One only needs the discipline to seek out information and make it one’s own. My children can learn anything that they need to know, and they won’t ever be dependent upon anyone else to further their educations, which will continue for the rest of their lives.
The current crackdown on homeschooling is a tactic by the teacher’s unions to secure the future of their jobs. The success of homeschooling is threatening to the teacher’s unions, and frankly, I think they should be concerned. They should channel their energy into making their schools better and more competitive with homeschooling, and leave homeschoolers alone. Homeschooling is working for the vast majority of those educating in this innovative way.

a. June 26, 2008, 2:34 PM

Jodi, are you kidding me?
People do not have to ‘keep quiet’ at school regarding their religious beliefs. They can talk about it all they damn want to. They can have prayer at the flag pole. They can even form clubs. What they can’t do, however, is force their religion on all the other students by talking about their religion to people who didn’t ask to hear about it - such as leading prayer over the intercom, at assemblies, or to everyone in the cafeteria, etc. Why? Because that infringes on the rights of those of other religions (or no religion at all) to have to listen to that.
I’m guessing you’re one of those people who get offended over ‘Winter Break’ not being called ‘Christmas Break’ and people wanting ‘In God We Trust’ removed from money despite the fact that this country was NOT founded on Christianity and that ‘In God We Trust’ was added in the 1950s.
And while I have absolutely no problem with homeschooling, to insist that you’re better qualified at TEACHING than someone who is specially trained to teach - that is a load of BS. Is 1-on-1 better than 1-on-30+? Yes, usually, of course. Are you going to be more attentive to your child’s needs than most teachers? Most likely. Are you going to want your child to succeed more than most teachers want your child to succeed? Probably. Do those things make you better at actually TEACHING than a teacher? Highly unlikely. Again, I have absolutely no problem with homeschooling at all. Just moms whose giant boners for homeschooling cause them to insist they’re better at teaching than someone who is way more qualified than them to do it. Wanting to teach your kids yourself doesn’t automatically mean you’re going to be any good at it.
@ Susan: Of course there are some teachers who shouldn’t be teaching. Keyword SOME. All teachers have to earn degrees in teaching. They have to constantly keep up with education. By default, most teachers are better qualified to teach than your average parent.
I am so, so glad I wasn’t homeschooled. Public education made me smarter than my own mother. She failed a basic math class in college. Her ‘best’ subject was English, yet she can’t spell and hardly ever gets her homophones right. Her grammar is atrocious. When I came home from school in the sixth grade, exited about having just learned about Pangea and the Continental Drift, she told me it was BS! I can’t even imagine the horror of how stupid I would have turned out had she homeschooled me.
Some parents really, really should not be teaching their kids. And my mom isn’t even the worst of them.

Paul June 26, 2008, 2:38 PM

The original intent of the state legislature was to require teacher certification in public schools to safeguard the taxpayers’ funds. This type of accountability appears frequently in other government programs as well.

That’s why private schools that don’t use public funds do not have the same requirement. Similarly, we don’t have taxpayers’ funding of homeschoolers who use the private school affidavit, so there is no justification for mandatory certification of homeschool parents or testing of homeschoolers. The affidavit is enough. As a homeschool parent, I directly fund the education of my own kids. So accountability starts and ends with me, and not with the state.

Moreover, the state is taxing me to (mis)educate someone else’s kids, while I spend my valuable time educating my own. The state claims to have a vested interest in the education of our children. That’s what the tribunal said, but I say that my vested interest is far greater than that of the state’s. Take a look at the results of public school education in California and you’ll see that the “state’s vested interest” looks more like a lack of interest.

On a final note, my kids are doing exceptionally well. They are several years ahead on all academic levels. Forcing them into a school would be a real injustice since they wouldn’t fit in with kids 3 years their senior.

foxymama June 26, 2008, 3:09 PM

Wow - some angry moms and dads here. It works for some kids (home schooling) and not others. A parent and credited teacher can both be effective or yes, ineffective at what they do. Know your child, know his or her needs and from that figure out what sort of schooling situation works best. My kids are in a public school that embraces differences - whether they be students having gay parents, needing time off for a family vacation, varying religious practices and many other things. Find a school whether that be at home or a red brick school house that works for your kids…

And Paul - taxes are a part of life…whether they be for public schols, roadways, national parks, etc. Pay them becuase you want good things to happen in your community. The taxes people are paying in my community are going towards good things. Don’t be so angry at the system, channel that anger and try to make your community a better one for your kids and other people’s kids. While I’m certain your children are doing great at their studies, mine who I’ve mentioned are in public school are doing quite well too. Teach your kids that no matter where they come from and what life brings them they are great.

citizen June 26, 2008, 4:21 PM

Re: Paul’s “Take a look at the results of public school education in California and you’ll see that the “state’s vested interest” looks more like a lack of interest.”
The problem with CA’s schools is not a lack of interest, but a lack of a Mexican Border. In Los Angeles Unified School District more than half of the students don’t speak English! How do you expect these schools to operate on an already tight budget? We need to get control of our borders and immigration policies so that we can get control back with our education system here.
I believe all homeschoolers should be held accountable for their children’s grades. Kids should be tested by an outside party so that fairness is ensured, and kids who are failing should be put in school. What other profession can you just demand placement in without experience, a degree, or some sort of certification? June 26, 2008, 4:45 PM

I was an education major for 3.5 years of college before changing direction and degrees. Having sat in on 88% of the required classes of teachers, I can say that they may be more qualified than some parents on the street, but certainly not all, as most education curriculum is really common sense.

In order to homeschool you most likely need to be a stay at home parent…or have the ability to have your days free. This most likely means that you are college-educated or married to a college-educated spouse who is able to provide for your family (and in an economy like we have today that is no small task). I would assume this means that the homeschooling parent is most likely fairly intelligent.

Back when the country was founded and all children were homeschooled the literacy rate was over 90%. Today, 1 in 5 high school graduates are unable to read their diplomas. You do the math!

Marie June 26, 2008, 5:32 PM

There are many teachers who have no business teaching our children today. We are a homeschooling family and we love every minute of it. My son is excelling in every subject and his little sister is absorbing everything. The time we spend with our children is priceless and what we are instilling in them will care them for life. The minute they are born we are teaching them and we must not take that for granted. We choose to put our children first inside of having the big house, fast cars, expensive vacations and designer clothes because our children are so worth it.

Paul June 26, 2008, 5:43 PM

I don’t have to be happy about paying taxes when I think that they’re being wasted. Approximately half of our state budget is spent on education. I pay a lot of state income tax and property taxes in addition to federal taxes. I’ve owned property and worked since I was young, however I had kids late in life. So, I’ve been subsidizing a lot of other people for a long time.

Username “foxymama” said that I should accept that taxes are a part of life and that I should want good things to happen in my community. My answer to that is that I can leave the state and take my taxes elsewhere to another community that is more tolerant of homeschoolers. Furthermore, by homeschooling my kids, I AM helping to improve the community. I’m paying all these taxes but I am not costing the public school system one single penny!

Susan June 26, 2008, 7:22 PM

I’m not all that interested in the ‘qualifications’ of the teacher. The child’s learning piece of it is the significant end result.
I understand that *some* teachers have problems teaching (directing a classroom). But let’s do some proportional math.
Public schools have somewhat accurate enrollment stats because they use public funds/taxes. I’m seeing a 2005 figure of $64.2 million public school kids.
2005 stats say about 15% of kids were in private schools; which is not dependent on public funds/oversight and might include homeschoolers as a very small percentage.
~2%/1.5 million homeschooled in a conservative guess.
1.5 million children as compared to 64.2 mil.
Besides the many public school successes, there are dropouts, pushouts, horrific graduation rates,growing adult education centers, expanding remedial college classes that are some of the results of my tax money.
The public school piece of it was with oversight and billions in tax monies. What is the government and their credentials going to do for homeschoolers?
a., you might find homeschoolers are a little protective of their rights, (I think you used a different term), because there always seems to be some entity coming at us. Government, unions; those with a little oompphh behind what they want to do to our families.

Bookpackingmama June 26, 2008, 10:48 PM

“Qualified” - who determines exactly what qualified entails. Does a bachelors’ qualify? or maybe a master’s or a doctorate? If you polled 10 different people, you will get 10 different answers. Becki has it right. Why stop at qualifications for teaching? Why not have qualifications for who can parent? Really education is not what is in question. What is in question is the parents’ right to educate their child. Education teaches a child to value life and those in his/her life. Education teaches respect for others, other’s property and respect for God. So the real issue here is not whether a parent is qualified to teach her child but whether the parent will teach the child what the “government” or the NEA deems educational.

Crimson Wife June 27, 2008, 12:22 PM

Do we require 100% of auto repair and maintenance to be performed by state-licensed mechanics simply because certain things would be difficult for the average person to do it himself/herself? Of course not! We’re free to decide for ourselves which things we feel competent to handle on our own and which things to outsource.

The same goes for homeschooling. Simply because I don’t feel confident in my abilities to teach certain things doesn’t mean that I can’t effectively homeschool. There are many resources available to help cover subjects I don’t feel up to teaching myself- co-ops, tutors, community college courses, online classes, and so on.

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