Apparently, as part of this domestic dispute, the Superior Court became aware that “so many [homeschooled] children are left unsupervised.” No home visits are conducted. No lesson plans are reviewed. No testing is performed. Further shocking the court: the State of New Jersey Department of Education Homeschooling Frequently Asked Questions:
1. Parents/guardians are not required by law to notify their public school district of their intention to educate the child elsewhere than at school.Even more troubling in this case:
2. The law does not require or authorize the local board of education to review and approve the curriculum or program of a child educated elsewhere than at school
3. No certification to teach is required to be held by the parent.
4. No standardized test(s) are administered to the children.
- The mother was unaware of the books used by the school district.Wow, lots to worry about. Let’s examine these concerns a bit more closely.
- The children may not be receiving “equivalent” instruction.
First, no home visits were conducted. While legal requirements differ as to the constitutionality of home visits, most states do not allow these because they violate that “zone of privacy” we all enjoy within our homes. Generally speaking, if government authorities wish to enter a private home, they need a compelling interest and enough evidence to procure a search warrant.
Second, no lesson plans were reviewed. Homeschooled students are not under the care of the public school system; therefore, public school officials have no authority to review curriculum or lesson plans. The public schools are responsible for the children they educate; parent/educators are responsible for the students they educate. Just because the public school is not performing this task does not mean it is not being accomplished. Many homeschool parents purchase pre-written lesson plans, or have educational materials reviewed by fellow veteran homeschoolers. Is the problem the fact that no “objective” governmental agency is policing homeschool parents? We allow the American Medical Association to police doctors and the American Bar Association to police lawyers. Why can homeschool parents not police their own kind?
Third, no testing was performed. When educational officials talk about “testing,” they are almost universally referring to standardized tests like the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills or the Stanford Achievement Test. While these exams have been around since I was a child and while they can play a roll in an overall educational plan, if children do not take them, it does not mean the students are not being tested. It just means they aren’t being tested with those tests. Homeschooled students are tested every day using unit exams, math drill sheets, spelling quizzes, and the like. Any and all of these “tests” are sufficient to determine if a child is acquiring subject matter knowledge. In fact, in most cases, these subject matter exams and quizzes actually cover more areas of knowledge than standardized tests, which tend to focus exclusively on language and math skills.
As for the New Jersey homeschool guidelines:
1. Parents/guardians are not required by law to notify their public school district of their intention to educate the child elsewhere than at school. Ok, even I must admit that some level of notification may be a good idea. The filing of a notice of intent, for example, such as we have in Connecticut, would suffice to notify the school district that the education of any given child will be the responsibility of the parent.
2. The law does not require or authorize the local board of education to review and approve the curriculum or program of a child educated elsewhere than at school. This is perfectly understandable as the school district has authority only over those children in its care. To allow any greater authority would permit public school interference with private schools, parochial schools, some charter schools, and any other non-public school institution that educates children. Sorry, no one should have that much power. Remember, the United States was modeled on the idea of limited government.
3. No certification to teach is required to be held by the parent. Believe it or not, the National Home Education Research Institute has determined, through numerous studies, that the educational level of parents and the lack of teacher certification of parents have absolutely no impact on the academic achievement level of the student. Yes, counterintuitive though it may be, repeated studies bear this out as reality.
4. No standardized test(s) are administered to the children. As stated above, just because standardized tests are not used to track student progress does not mean that children are left unexamined. Periodic subject exams are sufficient to determine if children are acquiring subject matter knowledge.
And in reference to the additional concerns of the Court:
- The mother was unaware of the books used by the school district. In an era when it is well understood that public schools are failing our children, is it really so horrible that homeschool parents choose to utilize educational products other than those used by a failing system? The plethora of materials available in every subject area is truly astonishing and is equally available to both public school educators and homeschool parents alike. Just because parent/educators are unaware of or are not utilizing the same curriculum as the public school does not mean they are using a substandard product.
- The children may not be receiving “equivalent” instruction. Now we come to it, the crux of the Superior Court’s concern. How does the state KNOW that homeschooled children are, or are not, receiving an education equivalent to the education they would receive in the public school? Simply put, it doesn’t. Nor should it because public schools do not have authority over children who are not in their care. Does that mean that the educational progress of homeschooled children is not being monitored? By no means! Their educational progress is assessed constantly by parent/educators, and current homeschool statistics tell us that the education received by homeschooled students is currently superior to that of publicly educated children. If such an exemplary condition of monitoring and equivalency is insufficient for the New Jersey Superior Court, then the justices should say exactly what they are thinking: WE DO NOT TRUST PARENTS TO DO THIS JOB. If the Court does not trust parents to accomplish this task, what is the basis for this lack of trust? I would like to know because current homeschooling statistics do not support such a position. Homeschoolers are doing a better job than their public school counterparts.
Now, I will be the first to admit that homeschooling is not for everyone. It is not “just another educational option” that should be considered if parents are unhappy with their local public school and are unable to afford private education for their children. Homeschooling is a demanding, child-centered (oftentimes, God-centered) lifestyle that requires parental dedication over a period of years, not just from September through June of the current educational term. It is also not an “educational option” that will yield historically excellent results if parents “hire out” the teaching to virtual schools, online schools, or privately contracted teachers. Parents MUST BE INTENSELY INVOLVED in the curriculum planning process; parents MUST DO THE TEACHING; and parents MUST ASSESS STUDENT PROGRESS in order to maintain the level of excellence that homeschooling is famous for. If you, as a parent, are unable to commit to this level of dedication, then homeschooling may not be for you.
Statistics about the efficacy of homeschooling can be found on the website of the National Home Education Research Institute at www.nheri.org.