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Commentary

Homeschooling Must Be Decriminalized: Parents Really Do Know Best


     
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It’s that time of year again. Every fall, as students return to school, the education debate intensifies. This year it is especially visible in California—even though the state pumps $45.7 billion a year into K-12 public education, California’s public schools are still among the worst in the country. Critics of public schools are arguing for alternatives to public education, including school vouchers and charter schools. However, hardly anyone is citing the merits of homeschooling, the most successful and affordable alternative to date. Instead, liberals and defenders of the public school system attempt to criminalize and stigmatize homeschooling as deficient in educating and socializing children.

Being a product of a homeschool education, I can attest to the value of homeschooling and the lack of truth in its detractors’ claims.

Like most homeschooling parents, mine chose to become my primary teachers and homeschool me because they were dissatisfied with both the public and private schools in our area. At the same time, my mother started a weekly program where home-taught students could meet and take classes in a more formal classroom environment. Because I worked at my own pace in homeschooling, standard lesson plans that were calibrated to the slowest students at private or public schools would take me less time to complete. My book studies were supplemented with hands-on projects. For example, we would hold science class in the garden, our art class would visit applicable museums, and every year we would take a “history trip” to visit the nation’s famous sites.

Because my schooling was time efficient, I was able to undertake non-academic pursuits that I loved, including professional theater classes. I also started and ran my own baking company when I was twelve. In high school, I did a stint at a parochial school, but because the pace was so slow compared to what I was used to, I opted to take classes at my local junior college instead—an experience that prepared me well for college. When the time came, I took the SATs, scored well above average, applied for college, and was accepted into the schools of my choice. I am not the only homeschooler who was sought by numerous colleges. In fact, Stanford University admissions official Jon Reider said, “Homeschoolers bring certain skills—motivation, curiosity, the capacity to be responsible for their education—that high schools don’t induce very well.”

Although there are no restrictions on homeschooling at the federal level, and it is never once mentioned as illegal in California law, the California Department of Education (CDE) has regularly tried to undermine parental freedom to teach children at home. The most egregious example was a statement made by the CDE, since toned down, which said that any homeschooled child is a truant. Social service workers have also harassed families by forcing entry to private homes, privately interviewing, and strip searching children, simply because the children were not enrolled in a formal school.

Why is the state attacking homeschooling? The answer is simple. Homeschooling is proving that parents know what is best for their children and is exposing the utter failure of the public school system. I’m convinced that Nobel laureate economist Milton Friedman was right when he said: “There is no other complex field in our society in which do-it-yourself beats out factory production or market production. Nobody makes his or her own car. But it is still the case that parents can perform the job of educating their children, in many cases better than our present education system.”

Where public education has failed, homeschooling is producing exceptional future leaders. Furthermore, the decriminalization of homeschooling won’t make the public school system any worse than it already is.

The only appropriate government involvement in homeschooling would be the passage of legislation designed to protect and sanctify parents’ rights to educate, such as the Homeschool Non-Discrimination Act, which is currently being considered in both the House and the Senate. The Act expressly states that the federal government has no control over home education, and it would clear up several areas of law that have troubled homeschooling families for many years.

The liberty to educate one’s children is among the most innately possessed, and it is time that the federal government takes steps to protect it. Thus, passage of the Homeschool Non-Discrimination Act is crucial—both for homeschooling and for parents’ rights in general.


Ariel Dillon served as a public policy intern at The Independent Institute in Oakland, California.






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