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More regulation for homeschooling?
January 27, 2014 - Andrea Johnson
Should homeschooling be better regulated?
That's a question I've been wondering about for the past few years, every time I read the occasional story about homeschooling gone horribly wrong. The story that has probably gotten the most attention is the case of Hana Williams, an Ethiopian adoptee who was homeschooled by her adoptive parents and also beaten, malnourished and left to die of exposure in Washington state in May 2011. The parents were convicted of her murder and sentenced to prison.
Homeschoolers are quick to say that these cases are rare and there are also reports of child abuse by families who send their children to public school. That is certainly true and I have met many parents who do a wonderful job of homeschooling their children. I suppose the difference is that while children who attend public schools can also be abused, the abuse is likely discovered sooner because teachers, principals and other parents are more likely to see signs of abuse and report it to the authorities.
The most successful homeschooling parents make sure that their children have many opportunities to participate in lessons and activities in the community and learn from a challenging curriculum, sometimes more challenging than is offered by the public schools. But there is also the occasional case of a family that takes advantage of lax regulations to pull a child from public school mainly to hide abusive conduct. Sometimes that can result in a case like Hana's or like some of the horrible stories that can be found at the site Homeschoolers Anonymous.wordpress.com This site is filled with sad stories of abuse and educational neglect suffered by the now adult children of homeschooling families.
States differ widely regarding regulation of homeschooling. In Texas, for instance, there is little to no regulation. Parents do not have to announce their intention to home school to the school district or register their children with a district, no particular certification is required and there is no curriculum approval required. Until fairly recently, North Dakota was considered one of the stricter states regarding homeschooling, but the Legislature eased many of the requirements during the last session. Parents who have a high school diploma or GED can now homeschool their children without supervision by a monitor, for instance, though parents without a high school diploma still must be under supervision for at least the first two years by a licensed teacher. Children who are homeschooled must take a standardized test in grades four, six, eight and 10, but their parents can now opt out of the testing requirement for philosophical or religious reasons if the parent holds a four year college degree, is a teacher or has passed a teaching exam. Unlike some other states, North Dakota law does require that homeschooling parents teach certain subjects, teach for a certain number of hours per day and a certain number of days per year, and that they notify their school districts of their intent to home school and offer proof of the child's identity and the parent's qualifications to teach as well an address. One Texas parent recently told me that she would find North Dakota's restrictions on homeschooling unreasonable.
What regulations, if any, do you think are reasonable?
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