I have been in the states for a month now, and I noticed something. I never see a school bus go by, and I see kids constantly outside on their itouches picking up internet at the house across the street. So I asked why the kids aren’t in school. It turns out that only one family on the block sends their kids to school (they drive the kids), and the other two families are unschooling.
In the case of one family, the boy, around age 10, is staying with his aunt. He’s “homeschooled,” but living with his aunt right now which translate into no school.
The other family has a boy who had trouble getting along with teachers, who was suspended from one school for a while, and so his grandparents, who are raising him, finally gave up and are “homeschooling” him. But the grandmother has an illness and stays in bed most of the day day; its very unlikely he’s doing school as he’s wandering around constantly outdoors (actually the grandmother admits they don’t do any school). His older sister and his birth mother never finished high school.
May I say these are the stories HSLDA doesn’t tell us when they talk about why homeschool families shouldn’t have any regulations? I was disillusioned when I was a kid. Almost without exception everyone in our homeschool group did some academic schooling. Some called it “unschooling,” and by that they meant child-directed learning. For example, if a child had an interest in learning world history, perhaps the family allowed the child to study world history that year instead of making them do state history like every other kid in the 8th grade, and they might study history without a textbook in favor of other means the child suggests. Some people used the ACE curriculum that has a lot of holes (you can read my review of it here), but they still studied and learned something. Academic wise, most of my friends (and my family included) turned out very well when all was said and done.
But see, just because most everyone I knew in the homeschool group learned reading, writing, and math doesn’t mean there wasn’t many other homeschoolers who slipped in the cracks. Last night I started thinking about my homeschool friends, and I thought of a quiverfull family from church whose children never learned basic writing and math skills, who never studied, and whose eldest daughter hasn’t been able to pass the GED. These people, sadly, are not uncommon. They just may not be the majority of homeschoolers.
But here’s the thing I keep pondering. Just because “most” (and I am not sure if that’s true or not. Not every homeschooler joins the homeschool groups) homeschool kids get educated doesn’t mean they all do. And even if its a minority of homeschoolers who get no education at all, that’s still not acceptable. Every kid has a right to an education. But whether its one homeschool kid out of ten who is uneducated, or one out of 50 or one out of 500, every kid who doesn’t get an education is still one kid we let down.
I often hear, in response to this problem, about how public school kids often slip through the cracks too. They do, especially in inter-city schools. But here’s the difference between an uneducated homeschooler and an uneducated public schooler: we *know* and we *acknowledge* that we let down the public school kid, and that’s why we have remedial programs at community colleges to give them a second chance. If an educator stands up and says he wants to reform intercity schools, he will get a pat on the back; if an educator transforms an intercity school, he gets a standing ovation. But if someone mentions reforming homeschool laws, then everyone gets offensive. Why?
I *don’t* have the answer to this because I, too, *don’t* like regulations. But I wish I would see some honest homeschool leader and parents sit down and admit that some homeschoolers are slipping through the cracks, and I would like to see people brainstorm together what could be done.
So with that said, I’m brainstorming. What do you THINK the state or otherwise could do to ensure that all kids get an education? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
P.S. My friend Sharon, who grew up in ATI and was taught that college was evil, is applying for a scholarship to go back to college and get her education. She has been instrumental in my life in encouraging me as I’ve fought through my past, and I can vouch for her character and integrity. Please vote for her essay.