“Homeschooling Summit: Problems, Politics, and Prospects for Reform” is an invitation-only meeting slated for June and, so far, appears to be one-sided with an agenda against homeschooling. Shortly after the summit was announced, an article in the Harvard Magazine was published on “The Risks of Homeschooling.” Understandably, this event and article have ruffled some feathers in the homeschooling community. You’re probably thinking, I don’t homeschool my kids so why does it matter? On the surface, this is about home education, but the real issue here is about parents’ constitutional rights to decide what is best for their child.
As a new homeschooling family just finishing our first year, we have a unique perspective. Our oldest son attended public school from kindergarten through 2nd grade. However, our ambivalence with the public school system started early on. After a series of events in 2nd grade, we no longer felt it was physically, mentally, or emotionally safe to send our child back to public school. Private school was not a feasible option so homeschooling became our only choice.
I have always been intrigued by homeschooling. I have met a handful of homeschooling families but never imagined that we would join the rapidly growing trend. Our first year has been a bit chaotic, due to a move and COVID-19, as well as dealing with quite a bit of unrealistic expectations ingrained from his former public school teachers. (Ex. A teacher felt eraser marks were sloppy and repeatedly told students to get the answer right the first time). Overall, we’ve had many successes and truly enjoy the flexibility homeschooling provides. Our 3rd grader and preschooler are thriving!
Why Do Families Homeschool?
The reasons one may choose to homeschool vary widely. Some families homeschool for religious reasons or because a child’s chronic health condition cannot be managed appropriately in a public school setting. Others homeschool because of bullying and a district’s inability to ensure physical safety and emotional well-being. Homeschooling also allows a child to participate in competitive sports or to deeply study an activity they enjoy, such as music or acting. Many families cite the public school system’s inability to meet their child’s needs despite having IEPs and gifted programs. Some homeschool just because that’s what they want to do!
Massachusetts Homeschool Law
This summit has some of us worried that, down the road, our rights to educate our children at home will be taken away, or significantly restricted. There’s also fear that the summit attendees will use the current struggles of the public schools’ social distance learning against us. In a nutshell, current Massachusetts law requires the parent to send an educational plan to the school district outlining the proposed curriculum, method of instruction, a form of assessment to ensure educational progress, and the competency of the parents. You do not need to have a diploma or a degree, just a vested interest in the education of the child. The school district must approve this plan on an annual basis for each child. Plans cannot be denied but districts can request modification or augmentation if areas are lacking.
Homeschooling is a Fundamental Right
The Harvard Magazine article claims that homeschooling “violates children’s right to a ‘meaningful education’ and their right to be protected from potential child abuse.” It goes on to say that homeschooling, “may keep them from contributing positively to a democratic society.” This couldn’t be further from the truth but I implore you to read the article for yourself and form your own opinions on the matter. Simply put, there are advantages and disadvantages to both public school and homeschool.
Let me be clear: This is not about public school vs homeschool. This is about having all options available to families to educate their children in the manner they feel is in the child’s best interest. This may change over time, too! Some start off homeschooling, go to public school and then back to homeschooling. While others will do the opposite. There is no right or wrong way.
Melba Pearson, a homeschooled Harvard graduate, penned an eloquent response to the Harvard article. Pearson writes that, “This article speaks directly against constitutional rights to parent your child as you see fit and exercise free speech. It speaks directly against those ideas of liberty and freedom that are fundamental to the success of our nation.” You may not be affected by this topic. You may not feel that this issue should be on your radar. I get it. We are passionate about what is most important to us and may disregard topics that are not part of our daily lives. The big picture we ALL need to be looking at is the potential for infringements on our Constitutional freedoms. If we give them an inch, they will take a mile.