Parents who chose to educate their children at home do so because at some point they find themselves frustrated with the school system and have decided that the government school experience is simply not a beneficial experience for their children. In most cases, they would even find it to be detrimental in many ways including spiritually and emotionally as well as intellectually. Sometimes this decision is made prior to what the state considers "compulsory age" sometimes it is made later as parents begin to recognize the damaging side-effects of systematic behavior and they decide to independently educate after suffering a negative experience.
Either way, the new home educating parent inevitably becomes concerned about education laws and begins to worry about complying with the regulations that their state requires regarding homeschooling. They are not alone. Even the less stressed veteran home educators get their paperwork ready each September for the coming year so that they can be in compliance with the state's "regulations".
What is regulation?
In the United States today, there are four different levels of regulation. Basically what this means is that there is a varying degree to which the state officials will interfere with how a family chooses to pursue their children's education - independent of the government system. Some states are considered "high regulation". Home educating parents who reside in these states are expected to report attendance, transcripts, curriculum records, a list of materials used, grades etc... and the children are expected to take state standardized tests in order to show proof that they are learning according to state standards.
Other states are considered moderate or low regulation wherein less reporting and/or testing is expected, but the parent must still notify and maintain contact with a school official who is to supervise the family and ensure that what and how the children are learning comply with state standards. Some states do not attempt to interfere with the privacy and freedom of the individual family in matters of education. These are the states wherein the concept of liberty is acknowledged and appreciated. Here, it is realized that the United States Constitution protects basic human freedoms; and included in those freedoms is the right to free exercise of religion (or lack thereof) and freedom of speech. This includes the way we teach and educate our children.
Unfortunately, there are only ten states that currently acknowledge this personal freedom. And so most home educating families across the nation regularly comply with local government demands with little to no complaint.
I've often wondered about this. Us "Independent Educators" are rebels by our very nature. We chose to educate at home because we did not feel (for one reason or another) that the typical school atmosphere was going to be the best option for our child. Yet in most states across the country, we feel forced to adhere to state regulations and restrictions on how, when, where and with what materials we educate our children. It's blatantly counter-productive and yet it goes on. It goes on, my friends, because we accept it.
Even though many parents do not approve of or appreciate state education intervention, many home educating parents simply fill out the forms with whatever information the state wants to just be done with it. They feel that it's best to just cooperate in order to avoid conflict. While I understand wanting to avoid conflict, I must ask the obvious question. Of what use is cooperation other than to perpetuate the idea that it's okay to enforce restrictions? I believe that we accept this kind of intrusion into our private parenting decisions, because we have sadly become accustomed to asking permission for everything. Despite how we go on about being grateful to live in a "free country", we seem to have forgotten the true meaning of being free. When we allow ourselves to be 'regulated' and we allow this kind of intrusion into how we parent, and we allow the state to get entangled in our relationships with our children - we are essentially giving up part of our liberty and a thick slice of that freedom we so enjoy priding ourselves on.
Does society need education regulation?
Critics of home education (often ignorant and misguided) support state regulation and argue that without it there is no way to oversee what and how the children in our society are learning. They boldly assume that parents are not equipped to teach their own children, and insist a burden upon independent parents to prove that they are so worthy, on a regular basis.
It may sound like a nice idea, for a collective society to want to 'ensure' that all children are 'properly' educated. But there are many problems with this theoretical concept. The most obvious one being that 'properly educated' is a matter of perspective and opinion. The concept also assumes that we all desire to live in a collective. The majority of Americans who value liberty - do not.
Because our modern public education results are far beneath the global intellectual average - we also know that the current state systems are failing miserably so whatever it is the 'public' considers 'properly educated' is severely lacking. Perhaps this is the culprit behind the mass misunderstanding of individual freedom in the first place. The clear lacking in intellectual ability is another huge reason that more and more parents are choosing to take on the responsibility themselves. Simply put, the "State" is failing our children.
With this in mind, why on earth do any of us agree to allow the miserably failing "State" to dictate how our kids learn? Home educating parents have made a well thought-out and informed decision to educate their children without the school system. They have deliberately rejected government regulated schooling because they know it has failed our culture intellectually and proven to damage children emotionally, physically, spiritually and mentally; which has in turn damaged our society in these ways. A cursory glance around at our world today or even a simple perusing through the magazine rack at the supermarket exemplifies this sad truth fairly well.
So this begs the next obvious question; why do we allow the very system we deliberately and intelligently rejected, to impose itself upon our parenting and relationships with our children? We decline participation in the school because we know their methods are harmful and inadequate, so why would we comply with the very same standards outside of its walls? And if we are outside of its walls, then why do we assume we are subject to its rules? I do not comply with the rules of the YMCA because I am not a member of the YMCA. Are you following?
Another way of asking this is, exactly why is the government in charge of how my child learns? Where is this in our American Constitution? Who decided that the state should direct my relationship with my children including how I chose to guide their learning? It is as if we are still on a leash and have simply been let out in the yard because we made enough noise, but never out of the fence. And we are okay with this? We call this freedom to educate?
What about child abuse?
Another argument is that the government must ensure that children are not being abused or neglected. Naturally, I agree that those who abuse and neglect their children should indeed be stopped. However, to enforce regulation on us simply because we educate at home (which we indeed have the right to do) assumes that we are automatically guilty (or suspect) of abuse and therefore subject to warrant-less 'search' and forced to 'report' our innocence on a regular basis.
I'll remind everyone that in America, we are innocent until proven guilty, not the other way around. Let me not forget to mention that the State already has its hands full with all the abused and neglected children that are within their jurisdiction in the public school system.
A violation of humanity
In summary, State regulation of home education is a gross and blatant violation of freedom and liberty as Americans. It perpetuates because we allow it. We allow it because we are so conditioned to ask permission for everything from our government....Permission to drive, to run a business, even to marry the person we love....
When you take a moment to step outside the 'box' and really look around, you see just how insane it all really is.
Our children belong to us. They are not property of the State and therefore are not subject to regulation by the state.
Fortunately, I live in a state that recognizes this and offers no attempt to restrict or regulate a parent who endeavors to Independently Educate. If you too live in such a State, I urge you to be diligent about the legislation and keep up to date so that this freedom remains properly protected!
If you do not live in such a state and either currently home educate or are considering it, I urge you to find the audacity within yourself to challenge the 'system' and break free from the matrix. Oppression only happens to those who give permission to be oppressed.
Home education should not mean Home regulation. They are our children, they are precious, and they are human beings. Educate, appreciate and love them.
About the Author
It is a way of looking at parenting from outside the box and making deliberate informed choices for our family; a bold and audacious journey into the art of active Parenting that shakes the foundation of 'normal' as we learn to unplug from the doldrums of status quo and begin to dramatically improve the entire family dynamic!
In addition to her publications, Laurette delivers this positive message as a Motivational Speaker for home education organizations and events.
You can also listen to Laurette's web radio show at Unplugged Mom Radio: http://www.unpluggedmomradio.com.
Read more of Laurette's inspiring thoughts on her blog titled The Unplugged Mom: http://unpluggedmom.com/
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