Home schooling in the U.S. is an ongoing and often neglected practice. It has taken place in the country for centuries, and is traditionally fueled by religious and moral ideologies upholding the parent as the only true “teacher” of their children. In more recent years, and as severe issues in school safety and educational standards disturb many parents, home schooling is on the rise. Nevertheless, it is filled with regulations and policies which differ vastly from state to state, and what is then necessary is a federal establishment of the uniform policy which both protects the rights and privacy of the family unit while assessing the learning growth of the students. As the following supports, the existing regulations for home schooling are too disparate and must be altered on a federal level. This effort is essential to secure adherence to public school standards of achievement in home schooling environments, and this is a governmental accountability crucial for the well-being of home schooled students.
There is no need to question that the state of education in the U.S. profoundly impacts all of society. If parents are particularly invested, the actual learning of students today will essentially define how the nation evolves, just as the current Department of Education generates controversy in its intents and policies. Home schooling has then taken on greater importance, which in turn demands that its traditionally independent nature be examined. While parents have the right to home school, the greater reality is that educational standards regarding types of instruction and growth levels must be in place and are too likely to be ignored under the various state policies. These regulatory impulses hinder growth and put harsh demands on those wishing to home school their progeny. If we look at the education at home as a cooperative effort between parents and their communities, than quality education is to be consistently provided at home, just as traditional institutions may benefit from strategies developed by parents. As the following supports, existing regulations for home schooling, currently highly variable by state must be altered on a federal level to secure adherence to public school standards of achievement, and this accountability is crucial for the students that are being homeschooled.
The 1980’s saw the beginnings of a significant increase in the numbers of children that are being home schooled, with an annual growth of between fifteen and twenty percent (Vieux, 2014, p. 556). What is not usually recognized, however, is that home schooling was long an integral aspect of American society, dating back to colonial days and also powerfully influenced by religious and moral beliefs; in a very real sense, in fact, home schooling was promoted in prior eras to encourage moral character rather than instruct in learning (Gaither, 2017, p. 35). If the society has evolved, it remains true that home schooling exists largely as an undefined reality and one in which the intents and abilities of the parents are crucial, even as the nation simultaneously insists on protecting parental rights. The question then arises: to what extent, if any, is the federal government entitled to monitor how individual parents choose to educate their children? As noted, an immense issue here is the varied ways states enable home schooling; only fourteen states, for example, require parents to notify state official of their intent to home school. Other states impose strict standards, as in requiring testing of the homeschooled children over time (74 Media, 2017). These realities clearly indicate a social system that is at best fragmented and ill-defined. It is unreasonable for the government to radically interfere with how parents choose to raise their children, which also reflects educational choices, yet it may not be rationally ignored that, some exceptions notwithstanding, many parents lack the skills and education necessary to provide meaningful education. This is, in fact, the core issue and demands that a federal response devise a means by which standards are assessed and promoted while the rights of parents are upheld.
To begin with, there can be no understanding of the complexity of home schooling matters without recognition of how political influences affect them. Unfortunately, even research here is affected by political concerns, and studies are often designed to support generalizations dependent upon the state’s or region’s emphasis on public schools as superior to home schooling (Kunzman, Gaither, 2013, p. 5). Political ideologies vastly influence how a particular region will promote or restrict home schooling. For example, an attorney for the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) affirms that government regulation of home schooling must be minimal at best (Devine, 2014). This in turn strongly indicates a more liberal stance, as opposed to the more politically conservative view that children require public education. At the same time, highly conservative Christian Right communities, as with the HSLDA, oppose governmental involvement in how parents decide to educate their children. Consequently, and hardly surprisingly, elected representatives tend to reflect the belief systems of their constituents, so conflict with home schooling reflects political disparities. However, even as extremists object to government interventions, some regulation is still seen as reasonable. This being the case, then, a uniformity of federal regulations in place to monitor learning in home schooling, without being unduly intrusive, is all the more necessary.
When issues of student socialization are examined, a range of potentials is seen, as traditional public schooling inherently demands interactions with peers, which is generally perceived as necessary for social development. Conversely: “Homeschoolers occasionally express a greater sense of social isolation and appear less peer-oriented than public school students” (Kunzman, Gaither, 2013, pp. 20-21). Along these lines, the home-schooled student also lacks the advantages of peer interaction as assisting in learning itself. Then, another matter exists in instructional options. For example, the Internet increasingly allows for online instruction in both home and institutional environments (Wixom, 2015). In the classroom, a teacher may monitor student activity on the Internet, but the home schooling parent who assigns a task to the child and leaves them to accomplish it on their own may be enabling undesirable online pursuits. At the same time, many parents fear negative social influences on their children in the school system, particularly in urban environments. This multifaceted reality in itself then supports home schooling provided it encompasses some peer socialization and reflects parental attention as a safeguard. To that end, moderate governmental oversight is legitimate, if not necessary, as reasonable parents would accept such moderate authority.
Given the vast importance of education to the society, it is inevitable that approaches to schooling be complex. Socialization, for example, influences student commitment to learning, in negative or beneficial ways, just as the government’s mandating of federal regulatory agencies would require adjustments in school funding. This, in turn, reintroduces the political element, as officials on state levels usually have discretion in how funds are allocated. The complexity more demands that a universal set of standards be in place and equally address primary concerns. Today, for example, Ohio insists on a college-educated person working with any home schooling parent who lacks such education (Wixom, 2015). This defies the HSDLA stance asserting that parents have a “God-given right” to teach their children as they see fit (Devine, 2014). Common ground is urgently needed, then, and federal study and establishing of reasonable regulatory policies are the only rational answer to the issues.
As the previous sections elucidated, the Department of Education has created myriad problems and questions that must be answered, but it has posed few if any solutions. The reality is that home schooling is a viable and intelligent alternative to pushing children into schools that do not provide adequate one-on-one attention, fail to provide students with any challenges with necessary infrastructure and support, and totally dismiss the political, religious, and moral views of the parents. Classrooms have become at best indoctrination centers and at worst a total waste of time. The solution: comprehensive reform that puts the decisions so critical to a child’s upbringing in the hands of the parents and not the taxpayer. As previous sections have touched on, there are many political elements involved and the complexity of “set standards” are a direct product of this chaos. In order to reinvigorate the schooling process the most critical step is to welcome home schooling, to affirm it, and to incentivize it through tax rebates for those who take childcare and education into their own hands.
The problems that currently exist within the paradigm would largely disappear if half of the students stopped going to school. School overcrowding would no longer be a problem. Students who lacked valuable education at home would begin to receive the education they truly need when the class sizes diminished. This would ensure that the most marginalized of all members of society would receive the attention they desire and require in order to become productive members of society. However, the existing system does not allow for this in any capacity. Therefore, providing tax incentives to those interested in home schooling would create a solution so persuasive that voters would affirm it, taxpayers would willingly contribute, and politicians could easily ascertain bipartisan support for such a bill.
One of the only arguments against home schooling that receives any merit at all is that it lacks proper socialization. The argument that these anti-home schooling propagandists are so prone to invoke is that public schools harbor socialization simply by forcing students into classrooms and lines. However, there is little to no evidence that this benefits students in any substantive way. The socialization argument is best defeated by simply citing the lack of solid evidence in its defense. Perhaps socialization is truly something students benefit from and perhaps this is uniquely available at public schools. However, if this were to be true, the onus of proof would be on the plaintiff. This means that the homeschooling community should not concern itself with such baseless claims until evidence far greater than Kunzer and Gaithan’s platitudes can be found.
The truly economically and socially disadvantaged in society would benefit from this proposal. As homeschooling tax deductions, credits, and incentives are presented, many of the students who do not need public schooling would no longer have to receive it. Instead they could be schooled at home, from educated parents who would understand what they need to teach their children, and the children would be able to get a far greater education. In addition to this, the students who are marginalized and do not have opportunities for education at home, would receive a far better in-school education. The school of the inner cities would receive more funding and would have smaller class sizes. This means students who perhaps have parents who struggle to read or cannot understand basic mathematics would still be able to receive a solid education, which is their right as Americans. This is important work that can begin to take place as soon as people realize the value and importance of incentivizing homeschooling.
Americans have long valued personal freedoms, and this is reflected in how increasing numbers of parents choose to home school their children. However, this creates serious problems for state governments, as seen in how different states approach the subject. The problems are as well exacerbated by how social, political, economic, and other forces are inextricably connected to how students learn and develop as adults. It is then past time that the federal government assumes the responsibility to create a policy on a national level, and no longer permit individual states to decide on regulatory responses. Such a federal response must be sensitive to parental rights, but this may be done through only the requirement that home schooling is known to the government and that all concerned agree to permit annual or semi-annual assessments of the children’s learning. As the above reinforces, existing regulations for home schooling, currently different from state to state, must be altered on a federal level to enable and promote adherence to public school standards of achievement, and such an overseeing accountability is crucial for the home schooled students.
- Devine, D.J. (2014). Opposing views on homeschool regulation. World. Retrieved from https://world.wng.org/2014/08/opposing_views_on_homeschool_regulation
- Gaither, M. (2017). Homeschool: An American History. New York, NY: Springer.
- Kunzman, R., & Gaither, M. (2013). Homeschooling: A comprehensive survey of the research. Other Education, 2(1), 4-59. Retrieved from
- Vieux, A. (2014). The politics of homeschools: Religious conservatives and regulation requirements. The Social Science Journal, 51(4), 556-563. doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.soscij.2014.06.004
- Wixom, M.A. (2015). State homeschool policies: A patchwork of provisions. Education Commission of the States. Retrieved from http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED558071.pdf